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“At the creative level, everything takes a little bit longer to connect. I'm sure there is more wasted work, because you're doing more handovers instead of collaboration."
- Tristan Rattink, head of studio, Hyper Hippo Games
Last week, we profiled a number of different studios that transitioned to remote work after the spread of COVID-19. In our conversations, almost every studio we spoke with was forced to acknowledge that, while their employees remained as eager and motivated to work on game development, it's become more and more clear that this "new normal" comes with its own strenuous set of conditions for developers.
Though the technical challenges of this approach bring their own trials, the human variables are proving more difficult to document, but far more impactful all the same. At Hyper Hippo Games, head of studio Tristan Rattink said that while remote work hasn't directly impacted live development on AdVenture Capitalist, it's interfered with prototyping on new titles, since developers can't jam as easily in remote spaces as they can in an office.
He credited the simple activity of just looking over a colleague's shoulder and giving a yay or nay on a new idea as being impossible without extra handoff time.
There's also another key reality for developers trying to be creative or productive from home---many of them are housebound with their kids. Netmarble USA president Simon Sim said this has been a proactive part of his company's approach, and he's worked to make sure kids feel included if they happen to barge into meetings.
But that's a solution that only covers some domestic challenges. As kids participate in remote learning, their bandwidth use or noise level could impact a parent hard at work. A numbers-focused developer can look at this as a nuisance, but many supervisors we spoke to said they're trying to factor that into the process.
At Blizzard, VP of HR Jesse Meschuk, along with chief information and security officer Mark Adams and chief legal officer Claire Hart explained that childcare has been a big focus of the company's COVID task force. (The company just did a huge take-your-child-to-work day initiative). “We can’t look at productivity without looking at preventing burnout,” they explained. “Working from home in times like these can make people feel undue pressure, and we’re working to ensure our teams don’t feel that way.
“Many of our folks have children who are also having to stay at home, and we want those employees to feel supported and that they have flexibility.”
All of this is before you take into the psychological impact of a deadly virus that might be right outside the front door.
For more insight on the work studios are doing to adapt to COVID-19-driven remote work, be sure to check out our full story with additional insight from Phoenix Labs, Ubisoft, and other companies.