Hocking critcises "Viking" culture of dev studios

LucasArts creative director says "we can do better", calls for more female developers

LucasArts creative director Clint Hocking has challenged the industry to improve the working environment at its development studios.

In a column for Edge magazine, Hocking compares the culture at most studios to that of the Vikings, "Minus the literal rape and killing, of course."

"Game development studios and their teams are largely staffed in the same way that Viking longships were crewed. Consequently, the culture is overflowing with beer and pent-up aggression, and a very significant portion of our overall cultural output is fart jokes. I think we can do better."

Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066, and suggests that establishing a more balanced culture within the games industry is the key to both future stability and reaching a "truly mass market audience."

The top priority, as Hocking sees it, is to bring more women into game development, so that studio culture better reflects the structure of society as a whole.

"This means that we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace, one in which female artists, designers, programmers and project managers would want to be employed. It involves reaching out to universities and colleges to help them attract more female applicants to their programmes, enabling us to benefit from a greater number of female graduates."

"Like the Viking expansion itself, this transformation probably needs to be driven from the bottom up. Like it or not, the culture onboard your ships is the culture you're exporting. Fart jokes have their place in culture, but when fart jokes become your culture you have a problem."

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Latest comments (32)

Jenny Black Looking for employment ex student 10 years ago
'Fart jokes' aren’t the problem, there just childish that’s all, sure over sexualising woman is part of it, but honestly, most woman know how to detail with that sort of thing, were not that weak.
I'm a female Graduate from a BSc Computer science computer games programming degree, I'd Love to get a job in games even if it wasn't in development. I know other fellow woman games students who would love a job in games but simply can't get one. I think the problem isn't encouraging woman into games its the fact the few that do want to work in games, can't get a job in it.
May be the way to get more woman into games is to simply help female graduates who do want to work in it to get the experience to get a job, AKA Web based Game dev. groups which are recognised by the industry on a CV or even experience in local games devs?
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship10 years ago
"Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066"

Normans == Vikings.

Sorry, I'm a terrible pedant when it comes to these things :(

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 6th July 2011 10:48am

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Kalli Karlsson Business Man, Strongman Games Ltd.10 years ago
He's might be right,

But his metaphor is all kinds of wrong, uninformed, uneducated and insulting.
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Show all comments (32)
Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd10 years ago
Clint just criticised beer.. I think a bit of me just died
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 10 years ago
I think is demening to the Vikings. Their cluture was more advanced than fart jokes, beer, rape and pillage.
They where a highly advanced and industroius race who had trading links with many other clutures and races.

As for getting more women in to the industry, I worked with some women who where some of the best QA staff I have ever worked with.
I think a ballenced team is more important than 'just having more women' but the industry is still more attractive to men as is most IT related jobs including coding and testing.
Even where I work today there is a distinct bias in some roles gender wise but the same is true for other roles including HR and finance so its not as clear cut as it can appear.
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Gillan Martindale10 years ago
You could say the same of sexual and racial minorities as well. Possibly it would be better to just try to increase diversity across the industry as a whole.
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RJ Festejo Creative Director, Microsoft10 years ago
Are there still studios that behave that way? I'm not sure I've come across one... I've come across individuals that fit that description - but never a whole studio. The 'challenge' seems a little dated to me :-/
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Nataska Statham Producer, Imagination Studios10 years ago
I agree with Ron. Are there any studios that have such culture mentality? I've worked with many studios in Europe and have also worked in Asia, and have never come across a 'beer and fart' mentality.

True, more often than not I'm the only girl in the studio and have been taken for the secretary many times, but even that is changing. As more girls study and have an interest in game development, we're now seeing a healthy mix in the average game development studio.

There are a lot of things that need fixing with game development in general - work conditions, benefits, work hours, training - but I'd say that the office culture and the attitude of the people who work in the industry in general is one thing we are really good at. It's a work hard, play hard culture that's great for any creative industry. I feel sorry for anyone who experiences the kind of office environment described in the article, but I have yet to come across that experience with game development.

Btw, Vikings were also farmers who colonized most of Northern Europe and Britain, so they were not all that bad ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nataska Statham on 6th July 2011 2:03pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
"Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066"

What a crock of ****. Someone obviously doesn't know their history - the Normans were lucky as hell, and certainly no more liberal:)
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Ewan Lamont CEO, Legendary Games10 years ago
I'm with Fran and Nick on the History

The Normans were Vikings and the Saxons were... well Saxons stupid analogy and dated point
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Andrew Clayton Executive Editor, Side Story Games10 years ago
If he had talked about hiring more good, happy, qualified employees instead of talking about generic "female" employees I might agree with him. Gender should be irrelevant, quality of work is the real factor.
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Armando Marini Product Development, Big Viking Games10 years ago
I think everyone is missing the point of the comment. Many developers are still primarily staffed by men, and of those men many are immersed in geek culture. What Clint is trying to point out is that if games are to appeal to a broader audience, the team make up should be more balanced.

I'd applaud more women on staff.
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Guys seriously, normans aren't vikings thank you very much.

Whilst 1066 might be famous for conquest of England by Normans I think Hocking here refers to the battle of Stamford Bridge that same year where King Harold II defeated the Norwegian Vikings of King Harald III.

Though if my memory serves well it was there a single viking on the bridge challenged the entire English army, only to end up stabbed from beneath said bridge after hacking through several soldiers. Way to go for an inspiration toward civilization.

In fine: vikings < balanced civilization < the French.

There's a cool BBC video game about 1066, check it out:
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Jesse America Executive Producer, Mystic Box B.V.10 years ago
A very cool look at the entire 1066 thing is Channel 4's 1066: The Battle For Middle Earth.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 10 years ago
Armando, You make a good point but you can ballence a team in many ways just 'hiring more women' is not going to really help that much unless everyone has a passion for games and as its been pointed out that right now in the game industry and in the wider IT industry the tech roles (programming and what not) are more attractive to men but other roles including project management and appeal more to women.

Its not about gener but getting fresh blood with new ideas and opinions in to sutdios to make the games of the future which in turn will lead to more people looking to enter the game industry and futher ballence teams along many lines including gener.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
@ Ewan. I'm afraid you misunderstood me:) Harold Hardrada was a Viking.

And the battle of Stamford Bridge was a battle between Viking cultures. I think he was referring above to Hastings (or, more precisely, Battle:)).

Anyway, this is all besides the point of the article:)
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
I'll put it another way. historically, Hocking doesn't know what he's talking about;)
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Howard Parry10 years ago
Vikings, Normans, Saxons... it's what's inside that matters.
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I don't think there are many disagreeing with the point of the article."... we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace.... reaching out to universities and colleges to help them attract more female applicants to their programmes..." Noone is saying hire more women unless they are the best for a particular job. It is just that there is a dearth of women at the hiring stage. Something that groups like Women in Games Jobs within the industry are working hard to do something about.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 10 years ago
If he wants to do better, he has to support free agency.

Free agency is the traditional route of art. Has been, for hundreds of years.

That will put control into the hands of the key creators, and achieve it.

It sure as hell should not come as some top-down command dictate from an administrator (corporate or otherwise).
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Robert Potter Programmer 10 years ago
@Philippe: Norman is equivalent to "Northman", and was another word for viking. Yes, the Normans were vikings.
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hooray Clint Hocking. too crude a portrayal, but the industry in general is overdue for some maturation.
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online10 years ago
The gaming industry is stuck in a studio system that Hollywood, the often quoted holy grail of many game developers, has abolished decades ago.

And yes to what Clint says. At least story wise, 95 percent of games wouldn't even make soap opera standards.
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I think this is just another case of a developer seeing something that works and making a blanket statement. Yes, a more mainstream culture in the studio is unquestionably viable. But some of us are just overgrown kids who still read comics and argue about which superhero can beat up which and we happen to also make great games despite (or perhaps because of) not always being politically correct. That philosophy has also been viable for many companies for many years (would the GTA franchise ever have come about if Rockstar was concerned with maintaining a "balanced" culture?). There's room for both philosophies in the industry, in my opinion.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus10 years ago
I want the best people making the best games. I don't give a crap if they're male, female or if they have a third set of genitalia that hasn't even been discovered yet.
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ10 years ago
I think it's a nice observation as a whole, even if he's taking the beer and farts things a bit far, I think it's still a nice metaphor at least for a largely male-infused workplace.

I miss girls. Sometimes I start to wonder if they were real at all.

I seem to remember them being at high school. But then, my memory isn't 100%.

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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ10 years ago
In all seriousness, though, we have some very talented women working here!

But sometimes I do yearn for a more 50/50 kind of environment, like I see out the window in the real world.


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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven10 years ago
I agree with Daniel.
Balanced studios make more balanced games, most likely for a broader audience. While the 'viking' studios might make the more niche games. They're both needed for a healthy industry.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 10 years ago
I think the greater problem is that we have to many Geeks in the Games industry. I'm a loud, proud geek, but I do tire of every game trying to be Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Avatar. If that's all film was, it would be a wasted medium.

Gaming at least in the mainstream is a wasted medium, at least until we get a shifting demographic. Obviously we do have fringe exceptions; Jenova Chen and Jason Roher are obvious exceptions.
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Emily Knox Studying Creative Digital Media, Teesside University10 years ago
As more girls are growing up with video games as a hobby, more will consider it as a career. I think this is something that will change gradually on its own over the years.
Before changing my degree route I originally started on a games programming course. I remember lecture 1, of around 200 students I could see just one other girl. I've heard female programmers being referred to as "the unicorns of the games industry".
However with the huge rise in tuition fees, I can imagine the overall number of graduates studying games programming, art and design declining, and therefore also the number of girls. But perhaps it will be more balanced by then.
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Rui Martins Senior Software Developer 10 years ago
The real problem I believe is the "culture" in this Industry.
The ideia,that because we love what we do, we have to work like slaves, with almost no social life, with impossible schedules. And as soon as the product is finished or something goes wrong, firing the working crew is the first weapon on the arsenal.
This industry must change and value the people that work in it, since they usually are some of the most qualified and hard working people I have worked with.
If a programmer, for example, has to be that good to thrive on this industry, why isn't he payed at the same or higher level as in IT business, and the same goes for graphic artists, musicians, etc...
The companies in this business get the largest slice, instead of distributing it by its workers.

This mentality must change.
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Gemma Suen Games Artist, Oysterworld Games10 years ago
Some comments mention that not having enough 'females' specifically isn't the problem. Well, I disagree. As adult and non-sexist as we all are, we can't deny that too many men or too many women in one environment does cause an imbalance. Whether we are aware of it or not, there will always be a more manly influence to games, therefore a different interest/demographic. So yes, it does matter, and I agree with Hocking's view. Although not entirely sure about Vikings vs whoever. Bringing in more variety of workers will bring a better balance.
Hopefully resulting in more people taking interest in games, resulting to even more balance. It's already taking a turn for the best so this issue should solve itself eventually. As for Vikings, I assumed he was just using that as a metaphor for white male dominance that's pretty common in the gaming concept.
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