Now & Next Podcast S3E8 – Isolation Nation: Insights into #WFH

Working from home: for better or worse, gaming industry professionals, like most of us, have experienced it in 2020. On this episode of Now & Next, host Leora Kornfeld chats with Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan and Jim Munroe, who have been tasked with finding out exactly how that transition has been like for those working in the game industry.

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When going to work means never leaving home

Have you ever said to yourself ‘if only I could work from home whenever I wanted’? And then followed up with a list of all the ways in which it would be better than the daily grind of an uncomfortable commute, overpriced coffee, and hours spent pushing paper and clicking keys at your desk, interspersed with hours in meetings and boxes of muffins? Now, for better or worse, most of us know what that’s like. Spoiler alert: it’s not as great as we thought it would be.

On this episode of Now & Next we’re taking a closer look at an industry that was one of the first to go to full work from home mode: the game industry. In some ways it was a fairly straightforward transition, because the majority of developers, designers, producers, and testers were already working independently and on screens for much of the time. But has the transition really been that seamless?

The guests on this episode of the podcast are Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan and Jim Munroe. They’re long time game art industry professionals who have been tasked with finding out what the shift to working from home has actually been like for game industry personnel. They’re putting the finishing touches on a research report about the sector’s transition from studio-based work to home-based work called “Isolation Nation”. 

Marie and Jim provide us with a sneak peek into some of their interview-based findings so far, such as the challenges of people having to be their own boss at home, the tendency to work too much, as opposed to working too little, and mechanisms for keeping morale up when the opportunities for the usual team building events are limited due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Marie describes the research project this way: “People are really isolated right now, and I say that's more the case for people making games, especially small studios. And we think life is easier when people can solve problems together and share knowledge. So the goal of this project is to gather knowledge from people making games all over Canada, in small studios, in larger studios, or people working alone. And then gather that knowledge together into one resource so that people can share the things that they're struggling with, and how they're getting past them.”

In this episode, learn more about:

  • How did the gaming industry respond to Covid in terms of getting people set up to work from home? (02:37);
  • How team health is affected by working from home (09:00);
  • Ways studios are trying to build camaraderie and trust with people that joined during the pandemic (11:25);
  • Studios dealing with mental health challenges (15:00);
  • The most surprising discoveries Marie Claire and Jim made from doing this research (18:35);
  • Getting creative work done while being stuck at home during a pandemic (22:30).

Download a transcript of the episode

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About Now & Next

Now & Next is a podcast featuring in-depth interviews in which experts take a closer look at emerging trends and the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industries. Now & Next is brought to you by the Canada Media Fund, produced by Katie Jensen and recorded in Toronto at Vocal Fry Studios. Leora Kornfeld hosts the series.

Leora Kornfeld
So far in life, Leora has been a record store clerk, a CBC radio host, a Harvard Business School case writer, a blogger and a crossword puzzle clue. Currently she’s a media and technology consultant, working with clients in the US and Canada.
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