Kratos' Boss: The Studio Head of Sony Santa Monica Speaks
May 21, 2012 Page 4 of 4
At the beginning of the day, you referred to Todd as a "visionary". I guess my question is: How does someone get into a lead position where they can get the creative reins? As you say, there's so many things to juggle; how do you select for that? When you said the word "visionary", you didn't say he's the best person that excelled; you said that he's a visionary. It seems to me that you're selecting for a creative vision, not for the business stuff.
SS: Yes. Todd's been a designer for, as I mentioned earlier, many years in the franchise, so he knows the core of who Kratos is and all of the storylines that have come along and enhanced the last decade of God of War gaming.
He's also somebody who's a great leader; I think that's another important piece. How does that person band the team around them and really inspire people to bring greatness every day? Certainly Todd's the leader and the visionary, but he's not in there drawing every nook and cranny of this game; it's way too large.
But how can he bring out the best in the people he works with and whom he has brought up and inspired for the quality experience that we are known for? A lot of that discussion happens when we look at somebody like Todd or whomever else might want to decide to put their hat in for that game director role.
Do you believe strongly in career development: people staying, getting skills, and moving up? You were talking very early on about making sure it's a place where people want to work. Do you feel strongly about retaining talent, training people, developing careers?
SS: Absolutely. If they want to be there, I want to do everything I can to make them happy and productive. We do what we can within the confines of what the production demands are, but, if somebody who is a great level lead wants to direct the game, we will sit down and talk about that. That'll be a long, ongoing discussion, and what we want to see is not only vision but the leadership skills in that person to make that leap.
And then, of course, how does the team feel about it? Yeah; okay. So-and-so wants to be the next game director. If the team isn't up for that, then it's not going to happen. All of that needs to be taken into consideration, again, because we are such a collaborative style of development.
We are data-driven. The engineers give us the tools as designers and artists to make the game, and it gives us a tremendous amount of control over that experience. Therefore, those people who are on the ground, developing the product, have a big say in where this franchise is going; but someone like Todd needs to be in there going, "I like that, but it's not going to work. This is interesting, but not right now. This is where we need to go."
And those people then need to fall in line behind that. The culture and the atmosphere and the support and kind of the love that we give the team is really critical to that whole working. It's really a piece that we spend a lot of time looking at.
Something that strikes me about Sony is that it has a lot of women in leadership positions compared to some of the other publishers. Is that just a coincidence, or is that because Sony is egalitarian about talent?
SS: Interesting question. I guess I have to say it is something about Sony. They're giving opportunities, and the politicking is maybe a little bit lower than what you would see in other institutions. You come in and work hard at Sony, and you're going to reap the fruits of that. I think we, as women, just probably work hard and are able to show that maybe a little differently than others. I'm really proud of the fact that Sony Santa Monica is 22 percent to 25 percent female. I'd like to see that grow, giving opportunities to see more females in those leadership roles.
It's kind of interesting, in that God of War is one of the most hyper-masculine games that I can think of.
SS: Yeah. But Kratos is hot, so you put a woman in charge of making sure that that maintains itself, like Whitney Wade; that's awesome, right?
I guess so. (laughs)
Do you like it when ideas bubble up from below and surface rather than everything being handed down?
SS: Oh, gosh; we have a ton of bubbling up. It does depend on the director; as you know, we've had a variety of different personalities in that role whom I think we're all very proud of. Some bubbles happen more frequently with some directors than others, but I think, with this team right now, there's a lot coming from those people that are in there, making that minotaur look as good as he does.
Again, I think it's Todd's leadership style: He's going to sit down and take a good, hard look at what that person's suggesting and see how that fits within the experience as a whole. And that's his job! You can't -- these days -- put a $60 million product out there and have a team day-to-day there, lockstep with you as a leader and visionary, and not incorporate them into the process. It's just way too risky.
For our audience, it's always interesting to find out how studios operate because they want to know what other studios are doing -- for a lot of different reasons.
SS: Yeah. I love talking about it, because it's basically an opportunity to drive talent our way, and the more talent we can get the better we're going to be. And I'm proud of it!
We've worked hard to maintain this atmosphere and this creativity that I think is oftentimes shut down by big companies. They want the title on time; they want it with 300 people; and you've got to ship it day-and-date with four other different platforms. It's crazy out there right now, and I'm really happy that Sony gives us the breath to have the control over a lot of decisions and the people. I think we've done well because of it.
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