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Loot Drop's Brenda Brathwaite

On the talent acquisition battle in social gaming, fun before profit and Facebook growth

With a history of 25 years in game development, from Wizardy to Def Jam Icon, Brenda Brathwaite has now moved into social game development, working at LOLapps (Ravenwood Fair) and gravitating to a company she helped co-found, Loot Drop.

GamesIndustry.biz took the opportunity to catch up with Brathwaite following the Game Developers Conference, where she had taken part in a number of sessions including the impassioned Game Developers Rant, to discuss traditional developers moving into the social space, perceptions of the two markets and why the 'strip mining' mentality is on its way out.

GamesIndustry.biz You're currently working in the social space where it's crowded with content and there's a lot of excitement - what does Loot Drop need to do to stand out and make an impact in that market?
Brenda Brathwaite

We've already done it. The first thing that we needed to do was to get great tools, designers - and we really have a motto for the company - 'believe in fun'. We really deeply want to create fun engaging games for people in Facebook. Someone said about a month ago that there was a talent acquisition war. I really believe that if you have great people who are really focused and have the career built on making great games for people, and you stick to that and focus on fun, that will prove to be a successful strategy. It certainly worked for John Romero, lead designer on Ravenwood Fair, and what I tried to do with that title as well. I think it's the top six title on Facebook. That strategy is putting itself out and that's a fine forward strategy. That's what we intend to do with Loot Drop as well.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you think there is a talent acquisition war? And are you finding it difficult to attract the right skilled staff to Loot Drop?
Brenda Brathwaite

Well on the first question, is there a talent acquisition war? Absolutely. It's in two parts. In the San Francisco bay are where many of these social companies are there is an ongoing engineering war - and that's been happening for God knows how long. And the social space has certainly exasperated that war. And then you can also see with just a cursory glance of the media will tell you that there is a designer acquisition... I don't know if I would call it "war", but a battle - going on. You can see that in announcements, everything from Louis Castle joining Zynga to Gordon Walton going to Playdom. So a lot of the vets from the traditional games industry are coming over into high ranking positions in the social space.

A lot of coders who want to make the jump from the traditional space to the social space get rebuffed because people won't see Flash on their resume

We've been really fortunate with Loot Drop in that all of us on the senior team have 30 years experience. We're closing in on three decades each. In our coders the most junior programmer we have has 16 years game industry experience. Everybody is super-experienced, not just in traditional games but you also have to have your foot in social games too.

Luckily we've had to do zero recruiting, absolutely zero. I can't even tell you how fortunate we are. It's something I've said 100 times behind the scenes - when we announced Loot Drop and during and after GDC, the amount of IM's, DM's, text messages, emails that I've received that have said, "let me know if you've got an opening" has been overwhelming. Way more than I ever would have expected. Obviously when you go from company A to company B there's always a couple of people who will ping you, but this has been overwhelming.

GamesIndustry.biz That's an encouraging sign, not just for your business but for the entire social gaming scene. That there's so much interest and activity in it.
Brenda Brathwaite

Yes and no. The people that are coming to us are not saying "hey, we'd love to break into the social space". They're saying "hey I want to join Loot Drop". It's very specific.

GamesIndustry.biz So it's not an exodus of talent from the console space?
Brenda Brathwaite

There's some people that want to come over from the console space. One really odd thing I've actually seen is a lot of coders who want to make the jump from the traditional space to the social space get rebuffed because people won't see Flash on their resume. I'll look at those resumes and I'll see 20-30 years of game industry experience and ten different languages, and this is somebody who could probably pick up Flash in a week. If they can master those I'm not worried about their confidence in Flash. A lot of games industry coders are picking Flash up very quickly and moving to that, but obviously the games industry functions on C++ so that's where their tremendous proficiency lies. There are odd stories about coders being turned away - brilliant game industry coders who have 20 years of experience and algorithms in their head that are worth their weight in gold. There's so many stories like that, it's very surprising to me.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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