And the celebration was filled with play and childish joy....
It is Funday Factory’s sixth birthday and as the playful factory we are, we decided to celebrate with softice ad libitum, and a talk about why PLAY is so very essential to our work culture. Read how management and employees use play to develop and design industry-leading games.
Anders Leicht Rohde, Founder and CCO at Funday Factory
Six years ago you decided to quit your job as Creative Director at Krea Medie to create your own game studio in Aarhus. What motivated you to take the step?
Basically it has always been my dream to start my own company, ever since I decided that games was the industry for me. After my studies, I immediately started working as a game designer, and quickly felt that I could do stuff better on my own (read: If I was in charge). So when the opportunity appeared with Max Schläger Nielsen, (Chief Product Officer & Founding Partner at Colibo A/S) I grabbed it. It was a huge decision for me, and I felt on very shaky grounds for a lot of the first years of Funday Factory’s lifetime - fake it till you make it is oh so true in this case. Things are easier now though and I've never looked back.
You have created a culture at Funday Factory where play and fun goes hand in hand with awesome processes and high quality. Why is play such an important part of the culture?
To make fun games you need to have a fun workplace. It might seem like it's a decision I wilfully took, but in my mind there was never any discussion. When I started Funday Factory I had this idea of it being a place I'd love to work myself, and I've tried to keep true to that ever since. I think we all need to play to better understand what we are doing, be happier at our jobs and help each other get the best out of the 8 hours a day. It's better to spend that day laughing with great colleagues than sulking at your desk alone. A perfect bi-product of that is that people who are happy actually work harder, smarter and are way more productive than the other way around - I didn't know that when I started Funday but now I do, and that just makes me even more happy that we try to play a little every day.
Kristian Bang Nørgaard, CEO at Funday Factory
Three years ago you were given the depeche as CEO of Funday Factory. At that time the game studio had ten employees and just landed a co-production contract with Kiloo, the developers of Subway Surfers. Today the game studio provides jobs for more than 30 people.
What role do you think play had to do with the success and how do you encourage the employees’ playfulness?
Basically: We make stuff that should be fun and playful - so we need to support playful fun everyday in the office and in our lives. It is serious business to have fun, and to create the right circumstances for others to have it!
How exactly do you make sure that the game developers know what kind of fun the users want?
POA - which is the abbreviation for our Process of Awesomeness - helps with that. By asking questions, gaining insights into target groups, testing on core audience and ages, reading, discussing, doing and being humble yet ambitious we enter the mindset of our users. Like kids playing with someone they want to be friends with!
The first version(s) of POA that we used in the summer and fall last year has slowly drifted into becoming a mindset and a part of the Funday culture today. A bit more dynamic and invisible in the everyday life, but that’s only a strength I think. There is always a strong feel and ambition to create the best of games with passion and fun integrated into the process.
We go to work, to have fun!Kit Neel Hansen
Game & Universe Designer Anders Rauff-Nielsen, also know as ARN due to the number of employees named Anders, has been part of the Funday Factory family for a year. ARN has more than ten years of experience within the game industry and use play to create better games.
By adapting a playful, explorative approach to the way I do my work, I truly believe that I am able to help create better, more innovative and more fun games. By continually nurturing my playful self – be it by climbing trees with my daughter, playing WOW on a Sunday evening or through playful interaction with my colleagues –
I continue to hone my proficiency in playing and there by my proficiency creating new play experiences. It is with play as with everything else – you need to practice if you want to be good at it.
Why is play important to you?
I really think the famous quote by play pioneer Brian Sutton-Smith frames my thoughts really well. He said: “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression”. To me that resonates really well – partly because it emphasizes that work and play are not opposites and thus not activities to be engaged in separately, but more importantly because it frames play as an important, natural part of life, and as a state of being, more than merely an activity.
Employees talk about fun at work
Emil Kjæhr started as a Creative Producer but his love for games and great game designs quickly moved him in the creative direction turning him into a Game Designer. Emil has a background in the indie game scene and has been actively jamming since 2007.
How do you use play to understand your target audience - primarily kids?
To be honest, I'm pretty childish so I already gravitate towards kids’ tween shows like Adventure Time, Amazing World of Gumball and Steven Universe (plus classics like Invader Zim). And with two children aged two and five, I get to sit down and see what makes them "tick" in terms of traditional entertainment like playing with toys, as well as television and digital apps.
I'm a big fan of testing our games early to prove that at the core it feels fun - it should feel fun and playful - basically, it should feel like a toy. This allows me and the team to see how kids react to the digital toy, and adjust; in doing this, iterative testing becomes a play-powered dialogue between us as designers and the kids as play experts.
How does playing make you a better Game Designer?
Playing keeps me grounded as a designer; It allows me to approach the games I work on at "eye-level" when I need to (which is often where I like to start working) - and then flesh out the toy by adding meaningful (and playful!) layers on top once I've seen it in the hands of the players.
To me it's all about delivering a playful experience, and using all methods available to me as a designer, to deliver a playful experience to players as effectively as possible. By playing board-games and digital games at work, playing with apps on the train and goofing around with my kids at home, I get to expand on the references for what fun means to me and the people around me. This gives me a solid and ever-expanding frame of reference to take with me and translate into playful experiences we create, be it for toddlers, preschoolers, teens or adults.
It's all about Play
An important aspect of play is that the act of playing is a goal in itself, not a means to an end. Play, playfulness and playful interactions between people make life better, and there is a lot to be said for making play a part of your way of life, and not just a temporary activity you engage in from time to time.Paid to Play
Just like Emil, Kit Neel Hansen has been part of the Funday family for 2,5 years. She works as a Producer and loves her job. As a person, she too is very playful and loves to have fun but her view on the value of play is also very much grounded in the desire to create great processes:
I think it becomes more and more important because of what we do. At first, you wish to work in a company where you have fun. But at Funday factory it gets to be a necessity.
1) Because we need to have a playful environment to do what we do.
2) Because I get confirmed every day that fun, laughter and play solve everyday issues and challenges in the most positive way. Without play and fun, to me this would just be a normal factory.
To sum it up, we at Funday Factory do our best to hold on to our childish selves. We believe that by adding play to our everyday life, we are able to motivate and inspire our employees, and use this to create industry-leading games.