Publishers treat staff like “replaceable meat puppets”, says Walton

By Brenna Hillier
16 April 2013 01:59 GMT

Industry veteran Gordon Walton has called out the regular practise of forming and disbanding development teams with cyclical employment contracts.

“A shocking thing about our business is how little attention and value is put on coherent teams,” the former executive said in a fascinating interview with GamesIndustry.

“At a certain level of abstraction at almost all game companies, there’s almost no appreciation at all for the team dynamic. ‘They’re just replaceable meat puppets,’ and that’s never, ever true.”

Balance sheets can’t show the value of a coherent team that works together, he added.

“They regularly destroy really good functioning teams and then remake them with all the inherent risks that come from remaking a team. Even people who’ve advanced in the game business to the higher levels, who actually know that shit, seem to forget it. It always shocks me. If there was a Making Game Companies For Dummies book, that should be the core of it – how important coherent teams are.”

Walton had a lot of other insightful things to say about the state of the industry, praising the disruptive opportunities presented by digital publishing, the indie revolution, Kickstarter, and more. He had hard words for both Activision and EA, and issued stern warnings that they both need to change – although it may not be possible.

Walton also said that while there are a lot of exciting, interesting things happening in games, they’re not happening in the traditional triple-A space.

“If you think about the games we made a long time ago, the games were more imagination and less exposition. We’ve come to a place where it’s more exposition and less imagination,” he said. “It’s challenging, because people are just not as engaged if their imaginations aren’t engaged.”

The whole piece is definitely worth a read; Walton has a reputation for being the man you call when your games business needs someone to fix it. He’s held senior roles at Maxis, Origin Systems, BioWare Austin, Sony Online Entertainment and most recently at Playdom.

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