Tales From a Mobile Game Studio

Chris Wilson
Jan 10 · 6 min read

Why are we here? And why should you care?

If, like a lot of people here on Medium, you own or work for a startup, you’ll know what life is like at a small company.

You spend your days putting your heart and soul into doing meaningful things that add value to your business and help it to grow — and beyond that?

Well, that’s pretty much it.

There are no rules or processes. No formal structures or hierarchies. Nothing to take your mind off doing what you do best: getting shit done.

When you’re small, you and your teammates share a valuable, precious togetherness that’s so hard to put a finger on, and so easy to take for granted.

It’s the kind of togetherness that comes from sharing risks with each other — risks like swerving the safety of the corporate world, putting your livelihood on the line and starting something new as a team.

It’s the kind of togetherness that comes from making every single decision together — from your office curtains to your company logo; from your earliest prototype to that first new hire.

It’s the kind of togetherness that drives your early success — the tacit knowledge that you’re all on the same page, all striving towards the same thing, and all going about it in the way that each of you knows how, and what, to expect from one other.

It’s almost a collective consciousness — the silent cognisance that you and your teammates know what you stand for, how to communicate with each other and what makes each of you become the best versions of yourself (and by natural extension, your company). And there’s no need to formalise it or schedule meetings to discuss things like ‘values’ and ‘culture’.

Not least in the mobile gaming industry in Finland, where the focus is very much on letting your games do the talking — as it should be — with little need for manoeuvre around that.

At Futureplay, when we started out we packaged this into a motto that perfectly encapsulated the way we believed we should go about our work: no bullshit.

But — as Bob Dylan once said — the times they are a’changin’, and as we’ve grown to a fully-fledged company of 35 people, the need to articulate our intangible togetherness as something more concrete has become more pressing.

As is the case with any company that grows quickly, it has become important for us to find ways to define our culture together so we know what to expect from one another, and can continue to grow ourselves and our company.

And in 2019, much changed.

We started working on things we could only have dreamt about implementing before. We ran full on-boarding programmes for our new joiners; we held personal development and well-being workshops; and we even created previously-unheard-of-but-actually-super-important-stuff like personnel plans.

In recognition of our growth and the fact that we could no longer rely so heavily on our tacit knowledge, we also opened up discussion around our values, hosting a company-wide offsite day #Futurefuel.

The goal? Find ways to concretely articulate our collective consciousness.

This would then act as a reference point to make us even stronger, help us grow faster and become an even better place to work.

Staying true to our flat hierarchy with no top-down chain of command, it’s been important that we evolve this together, as a team. Naturally, as a group of 35 people who care passionately about something that means so much to us, this has brought with it a lot of conversation. And we’re not at the end goal yet.

So, why are we blogging on Medium?

Don’t get me wrong — our working life is not all conversations on our values and what we stand for.

First and foremost, we make mobile games — and that’s the way it’ll always be.

Our values are the meta which drives that core.

And Medium provides a valuable opportunity for us to combine these: our competence (the stuff we love doing on a daily basis) with the more abstract side of life at a growing startup — our culture, our company and how we care for one another (all of which form the reason why we’re doing what we love here at Futureplay, and not anywhere else).

Up to now, that’s been stuff we know implicitly, but have tended not to formalise out in the open.

We’ve published a few articles here in the past. Our most recent article We blew our brand marketing budget on influencers even went relatively viral (and bagged us a cool $35 as a result — thanks Medium).

Coming into 2020 we wanted to step this up with regular pieces that would allow us to share more between us, as well as with the outside world.

So our new blog Tales From a Mobile Game Studio is split broadly into four categories — or the four Cs that act as the umbrella for our company values: Competence, Company, Culture and Caring.

And we’re not governing it with an iron fist — far from it.

Everyone on our team is encouraged to contribute to what will be a safe space for discussion with one another, share knowledge with the outside world and contribute to building their own personal brand.

As well as being able to continue our own conversation, we also want to create a space that will act as a go-to for people seeking out information on mobile game development. Whether it’s technical case studies, code tips and tricks or guides on how to build an art portfolio — the idea is that you’ll be able to find it here.

And on a leadership level, you’ll also find articles about how we try to nurture our culture whilst maintaining our autonomy and flat hierarchy, as well as pieces on motivation, responsibility and self-management.

You might even get a sneak-peek of life behind-the-scenes at Futureplay’s remote office in Vietnam next month.

In a nutshell, you’ll get an open, honest window into life at Futureplay — one of Finland’s biggest independent mobile gaming studios.

Pretty cool, right?

But what’s the point?

You might be asking yourself: what’s the point? If Futureplay really is a mobile game studio that really does focus on making mobile games, why are they starting a blog? That’s so 2008!

It’s a valid point — and it’s one that’s come into my mind on more than one occasion too: Nobody else is doing this, so why should we?

But the more I’ve pondered it, the more it’s stood out as the right thing to do.

Because what good is it only doing things that everyone else does? How can we stand out in an ultra-competitive space if we don’t give people another reason to notice us?

Sure, we’re not looking for investment right now. And we’ve no pressing need for recruitment either (though if you’re very good at what you do then do check out our careers page).

But there’s lots in the pipeline for 2020, with our current games continuing to prove popular and fresh prototypes heading into production. So who knows what our needs might be this time next year?

But more than anything, at a time when we’re growing, this blog will help keep us close to one another.

Not only will it give us a new way to articulate and evolve that intangible togetherness, but also — and even more importantly — ensure that we never lose it.

This is some of us being together a long time ago. (We really need to get some new photos.)

Tales from a mobile game studio

Blogs, case studies and other mobile game development…

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