It’s no fun being in lockdown, even if you have a dream job as a game developer. That’s why Blind Squirrel Games, a game development services company in Orange County, California, has been doing more to entertain its employees.
CEO Brad Hendricks and Kitty Mach, senior community manager at Blind Squirrel Games, have ramped up the entertainment for employees to boost morale during the pandemic. Blind Squirrel Games has made this one of the top priorities for the 110 employees in the name of keeping them motivated and enthusiastic about collaborating.
The management team is grateful that they’ve been able to operate almost as normal with their full force and want to ensure they’re doing everything in their power to create positive employee interactions and engagements.
They have created social spaces such as digital clubs for employees. Using the company’s platform, employees can start clubs and discussion groups based on common interests like comics and books, pets, cooking, video games, coding clubs, and board games. Employees can search for clubs, find information about where they can socialize, and look for scheduled digital meetups or schedule their own.
The company has also set up a directory where employees can find other employees’ livestream channels, social groups outside of BSG’s owned channels, player IDs they want to share with each other so they can game with each other, and social networks. Prior to the work-from-home mandate, the company held weekly Friday socials, and those continue. They hold randomized raffles to give employees digital gift cards for the grocery store or another store of their choice.
I spoke with Hendricks and Mach about this. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: You’ve figured out how to have fun?
Brad Hendricks: Yeah, I think so. We identified early on, psychologically this is going to pose a significant issue for certain individuals in the company. Obviously we have — game developers typically are single. Not always. We have families as well. But we knew there was a fairly large segment of our population that lives at home, possibly alone. We wanted to make sure that we were addressing what we thought at the time was just going to be four weeks, and then turned into something much longer. We were glad we got ahead of the curve.
I tapped Katie, our community manager, who’s also doing a ton of other things. She helped us, with some other individuals in the organization, to come up with a plan to start engaging employees and keep them excited and motivated and give them tools to deal with the issues that we knew were going to come up. We just didn’t know how they were going to manifest or anything like that. We just figured the best way to keep people occupied is to give them things to do outside of work. When you can’t come together, the form we’re at right now is the only way we could have done it. We came up with a lot of different types of programs for keeping people involved all the time.
GamesBeat: Has this been measured in some way, in a good way?
Hendricks: I’m sure Katie has some data. She’s the one who’s responsible. For example, one of the things that we do that seems to be one of the more popular — I don’t know if it’s actually the most popular. But the beer Friday, which is going to happen today at five — basically we did this in the office normally. We used to go at five o’clock and turn the taps on. We have taps in the office. We’d all have a beer. We decided to keep that going. We have a virtual beer Friday at five, and everybody gets on Zoom. We have Teams and other kinds of technology as well, but we felt that Zoom was the better way to do it, because we can do some fun things with Zoom, like give away prizes and things like that.
GamesBeat: How adventurous did you get with that? Did you think about sending beer to employees’ houses?
Hendricks: We didn’t do that. I guess we were a little concerned about the liability there. We figured people could get their own beer. We did send gift packages. In fact, I think that was last week. We sent snacks to every employee in the company, no matter where they are. We have some remote employees that are in other states. It included healthy snacks and stuff like that. And then during the beer Friday every — I think it’s twice during beer Friday, we’ll spin the wheel and everybody’s name who’s at the event, we’ll give away a prize. That’s fun.
Kitty Mach: We actually started our Friday social in March. Brad was great at — immediately when we went remote, we needed an option to keep people engaged and give them somewhere they could socialize. We found a way to do the regular beer Fridays digitally. We set that up and we’ve been doing it every Friday. We’ve been taking feedback from employees, what they’d like to see. We’ve done raffles where, if you show up, we’ll give you your choice of digital gift card for whatever service. We’re all ordering things online now because a lot of people can’t go out.
Tonight we’re even doing a pub quiz, where we do trivia and people get to participate in fun categories. We give prizes away for that too. We’ve been doing it every Friday since the end of March, and it’s just been getting more popular. More people have been turning up. It’s a great time for people to dip out of work, pop in, say hi, and show what they’re up to. We like to leave it open so people can come and go, just like they would in the office.