How to Better Communicate With Your Remote Game Development Team
For much of 2020, many of us transitioned to working at home and in doing so, learning to work in new ways. As a Senior Game Developer at SparkLabs by AppLovin, I’m used to being physically close to my team throughout the day—so when the stay-at-home orders happened earlier this year, we were suddenly without the immediate in-person, live collaborations that helped our team create top-performing ads for our partners.
The daily, in-person office interactions became virtual and posed a new set of challenges.
I like to think of these as opportunities to find a new way of approaching a task. Remote work means you need to communicate thoughtfully, frequently, and ask a lot of questions.
At SparkLabs, we’ve learned to utilize our technology, such as Zoom and Slack in new ways and as we continue to work from home, learn what works and doesn’t work.
This last year I’ve also grown from an individual contributor to managing people on the team, so evolving the way I communicate has been essential to my day-to-day. Here’s what I learned, and what other game developers can take into consideration, so we can thrive in a remote environment.
We have bi-weekly, creative meetings on Zoom where we discuss recent top-performing creatives, lessons learned, and help each other out with brainstorming new ideas.
Because these meetings now mostly take place on Zoom, we’re learning how to share creative ideas, feedback, and QA in a new way. Even though it’s a lot easier to explain something in person, I’ve noticed a benefit of remote work—it’s pushing the team to be more thoughtful in their feedback.
We’re also using our Slack a lot more and creating new channels so the team can send and receive feedback quickly. Even though it’s over Slack, the team has become a lot more detailed with written explanations.
Slack is also great because you can quickly jump on a call to further explain if written communication isn’t working well.
Creating fun channels such as #food, for example, to share and post what people are eating and cooking at home helps us stay connected.
Feedback and integrating processes for new hires
As a new manager, I need to consider new ways to both train and manage my direct reports remotely.
It’s very easy to misconstrue feedback when it’s being given via text, so I stress the importance of communicating directions clearly and specifically. This includes showing my direct reports how to integrate into our team’s processes more easily.
I’ve learned new ways to work on giving feedback. We use screen share and built-in drawing tools on Zoom more to review code and show where changes need to be made. We also use screen sharing to conduct tutorials, which helps us create a virtual, step-by-step guide.
My direct reports also use detailed documents about processes and workflow. We use Confluence, which helps organize the library of documents that are easily sharable.
Getting creative in hiring new talent
Despite being remote, AppLovin has continued to hire new talent. We’ve had to get creative with technical interviews. For example, we created digital whiteboards to ask candidates to break down their thought process or explain a concept.
Not being able to meet in person means trusting our instinct and the candidates’ “digital vibe.” With flexibility, understanding, and openness, we’ve been successful in integrating and onboarding new team members.
Even though we’d love to meet in person, we’re grateful for what we have been able to accomplish.
Working remotely and strengthening lines of communication means being accessible, but also finding the balance between what works and Zoom fatigue. This means we’re more understanding of each others’ personal schedules and setting clear expectations.
When things don’t work, I talk to my director and work with the larger team to get feedback and figure out how we can iterate on our processes. I also encourage people on the team to ask a lot of questions. Over-communicating is especially important.
One new idea I’d like to test out is a Zoom office hour. This is a set time where team members can come into a Zoom meeting room to discuss a specific project or task or have an impromptu code review.
Embracing adaptability to be flexible
I’d much rather see the team in person, but this is also an opportunity to understand how to better communicate.
Doing so has allowed SparkLabs to be equally successful in creating top-performing creatives for our partners. In fact, we’ve gotten more efficient and the reduction of commuting has allowed us to dedicate more time to production.
When we eventually return to the office, we’ll have these communication processes established so we can continue to creatively collaborate and deliver high-quality products.
Learn more about SparkLabs.