Mentoring – you might be doing it already

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MCV Women in Games Awards at Facebook May 11, 2018.

Do you remember all of your good teachers, both in- and outside of the classroom? The ones who inspired you, pushed you, believed in you, called you on your BS? I do, and they made all the difference.

Last week I was honoured to win the MCV Women in Games Award for Career Mentor of the Year. I didn’t have exposure to this industry when I was growing up, so I feel blessed to have the chance to be a part of it now. I think it’s up to all of us to make the opportunities available in this incredible industry accessible to those trying to follow in our footsteps, and apparent to those who may not have even considered it as an option.

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My boss and Space Ape mentor Mickey.

I’m proud to be part of a studio which takes that seriously. We set up our Varsity Program for students earlier this year, partnering with local universities to deliver lectures about disciplines in games. We livestreamed the lectures on Twitch, and had more than 16 thousand live views. One of the students I met through the program is now actually interviewing with us for a part time position over the summer, and we’re looking forward to next semester.

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We partnered with UCL and the University of Greenwich to deliver six lectures.

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Us and some of the students following a lecture at the University of Greenwich.

But even before our efforts for more outreach, we’ve been mentoring talent internally for years –

We hold Universities at lunchtime where we teach each other about different aspects of game development and the broader industry. To further build on our experience every Ape gets a yearly £1500 training budget, to spend however they see fit to develop their skill-set. We also hold monthly Ape Spaces, days dedicated to fostering creativity and brainstorming new game ideas as a company.

I wanted to take this chance to highlight just a few of our success stories within the company.

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George Yao is the PM for one of our upcoming titles, which grew out of an Ape Space game jam.

Graduating with a Finance degree back in 2010, George never thought he would have the opportunity to work in the games industry.

“It wasn’t a thought that ever crossed my mind even though I grew up loving and playing games,” he says.

George didn’t just love playing, he held the Number 1 world rank in Clash of Clans for seven consecutive months.

“At the time, I didn’t understand the potential impact from pro-gaming. For me, I just played a game that I enjoyed and due to my competitive nature, I strived to be the best. After retiring from Clash of Clans, Simon Hade (COO) contacted me from a start-up mobile games studio out in London.”

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George with a player from Team Secret, where he acts as Media Director.

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You can find out more about George’s journey and his involvement with esports @JorgeYao87

After consulting for Space Ape for a few months, he was interviewed and officially hired for a full-time position as a VIP community manager. Alongside his career at Space Ape, George now manages pro esports team, Team Secret. 

“Being a self-starter and having strong mentorship from management, I became a Live Operations Manager within six months and a product manager and owner within two years. Space Ape not only opened the doors but also fostered my career growth every step of the way.”

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Vicki is the Vision Holder for one of our upcoming titles, also born out of an Ape Space game jam.

Vicki is a Lead Artist and Vision Holder for one of our new games. After she started as a 3D artist she was quickly exposed to game design, management, pitching and other areas of development.

“We are huge on our knowledge sharing culture, and with our density of talents Space Ape is a great place to learn and grow,” she says. “I’m always learning new things in the Universities we hold at lunch. I don’t think I would be as equipped to be a Lead Artist if I had gone anywhere else.”

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Art from our first title Samurai Siege, and (above) art from our second game Rival Kingdoms.

Vicki found agency through working in a small team and set the artistic vision for one of our most promising new titles.

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Johnathan went from Games Analyst to Game Lead in two years.

Johnathan began his career at Space Ape as a Games Analyst, keeping his finger on the pulse of trends in the market.

“What’s really impressed me about Space Ape is their willingness to give people the opportunity to prove themselves in new roles. The training budget also allowed me to get the resources I needed to develop my skills. There is a strong culture of promoting from within and it’s a true meritocracy.”

Fast-forward two years and he’s now the Product Owner of one of our most successful titles.

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Johnathan used his training budget to develop some of the skills required to become a PO.

“When I joined Space Ape having changed career, I never imagined I’d be running a game team just two years later! If you’re passionate and productive, they will make sure you get the opportunity to put your new skills into practise.”

I can think of a dozen other examples off the top of my head, from Alex and Ioannis who journeyed from QA to Product Owners, to Raul and Keedoong who started as CS agents and now head up entire departments in CS and Localisation.

From Pro-Gamer to Product Owner, George and his team are now getting ready to soft-launch his dream title, which was actually born out of an Ape Space game jam.

“As long as you have a long-term vision and the traits that embody the company culture, your goals will come to fruition,” he says.

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Fore more info or to get involved with our Varsity Program: varsity@spaceapegames.com

I’ve watched my colleagues grow into various roles and thrive. I feel incredibly lucky to work in an environment that allows for, and encourages that kind of growth. I’m personally excited about using the talent we’ve fostered in-house to reach, build and hopefully inspire the talent waiting to be tapped in the wider community.

Introducing Space Ape Varsity

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Space Ape Varsity is our new program housing any projects we kick off in the collegiate space. Through mentorship and knowledge-sharing, our goal is to build relationships with educational institutions and their student bodies to inspire and support future leaders of our industry.

Our first project under the Varsity umbrella, are Masterclasses.

Over the month of March we held a series of Masterclasses focusing on different disciplines within the games industry to give students an insider’s look at the space they will soon be entering. Through six tailor-made sessions students learned about a variety of disciplines ranging from Game Design and Development to UI/UX, Marketing and Community.

We partnered with London universities to deliver the lectures to their students in person, and also livestreamed the sessions on Twitch’s frontpage. Each class was followed by a Q&A with both the students present at the lecture, and those watching online. More than 10 thousand people tuned into the Masterclasses live over three weeks.

Space Ape is an advocate for education, training in games, computer science, and the myriad of specialties that make up our vibrant industry. We’ve already had so much positive feedback from students. We’ve just wrapped up our first round of classes for this semester and we’ll be looking to cover more topics and disciplines in the fall. Thank you to the University of Greenwich, University College London, the NUEL, NACE and Twitch for all their support this semester.

You can find a synopsis, complete slides and videos for each of the six Masterclasses below. For more info email varsity@spaceapegames.com

Creative Engineering 101

Tom Mejias

Tom Mejias is a Client Engineer at Space Ape Games and a whiz at prototyping new titles. During the hour Tom gave an overview of the games industry and the engineering roles that exist within it as well as some in depth guidance, tips and tricks for specializing in the role of Creative Engineer.

Tom’s slides

Watch Tom’s class

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw

Designing for Competition

Andrew Munden

Andrew Munden leads Live-Ops at Space Ape and has been a competitive gamer since his teens. Students will learn about designing for a competitive environment and why features that seem ‘fun’ aren’t always good for the player.

Andrew’s slides

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw

Game Design for Modern Times

Adam Kramarzewski

Adam Kramarzewski is a Game Designer at Space Ape with 11 years of experience in the industry and a new book just about to be published. He gives students an unfiltered insight into the production practices, responsibilities, and challenges facing Game Designers in the modern game development scene.

Adam’s slides

Watch Adam’s class

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw

 

High-Performance Team Management

Pablo Calvo

Pablo Calvo heads up Social Media at Space Ape Games and has previously worked in esports as a team manager and coach. In this widely applicable lecture he discusses high performance teams and the skills learned in competitive play that can be transferred across work and study.

Pablo’s slides

Watch Pablo’s class

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw

UI/UX: Building Player Experiences

Adam Sullivan & Lissa Capeleto

Adam Sullivan heads up UI/UX at Space Ape. He and fellow UI artist Lissa Capeleto take students behind the visual language of games. In their class Adam and Lissa share their insights about how to build meaningful player experiences. UI and UX- much more than buttons or layout.

Adam and Lissa’s slides

Watch Adam and Lissa’s class here

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw

 

Communities: Bridging the Gap

Deborah Mensah-Bonsu

Deborah Mensah-Bonsu heads up content at Space Ape. Join her as she delves into the world of the players. There’s no game without the player community – Where do you find it, how do you build it and how can you help it grow. Join her as she shares her tips for empowering players, using content to connect and setting a community up to thrive.

Deborah’s slides

Watch Deborah’s class

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You can find all the Masterclasses here:

https://www.twitch.tv/collections/S-kGIX1YGRVAMw