The only thing tougher than coming up with visionary video game ideas? Putting together a team to see your vision to fruition. Here's how gaming legend Will Wright does it.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Wright explains that the true key to motivating your employees is to know what motivates them, and not just from a development standpoint. Everyone has something they are passionate about, and once you discover that you can use it to help relate on a much more personal level.
...this to me is one of the important points of working collaboratively with other people - trying to get a sense of what is the one thing that makes their eyes light up, they get excited about and they won't stop talking about. And if you can get a sense of what that is from somebody, and you can harness that, that's going to have more impact on how they perform their job, how they relate to you, how you can convey a vision to them in a way that they get excited about it.
Talking about Wright as a manager and not as a game designer provides us with an interesting look into how the man operates. I think we tend to think of big-name creators like Wright and Sid Mead as if they simply give birth to video games, rather than managing a talented team of developers focused on delivering a unified vision. Wright began programming games at a time when a huge team wasn't necessary, so it is intriguing - to me at least - to see how he has developed as a manager over the years.
I particularly like how he filters prospective employees by how they react to seemingly impossible ideas...those who get excited make the cut, while those who get stressed or depressed generally don't. In the interview Wright also speaks extensively about balancing the team, and how an extremely skilled programmer who can't work well with others might be worth less than a merely competent programmer that is truly a team player.
The key idea I took from the interview is the importance of knowing who you are working with on a level deeper than many traditional managers are willing to explore. It isn't merely about putting people with the correct skills in the correct positions...it's about knowing how said placement will affect the other people around them, and what they will bring to the table in the long run. In a way, it's much like a complicated puzzle game, in which some pieces explode and others strengthen the other pieces around them. It's the getting to know the pieces before dropping them that makes all the difference.
On Will Wright's Team, Would You Be a Solvent, or the Glue? [The New York Times]