One of the things I really like about working for GameMaker is that we’ve fully embraced a work-from-home culture. So long as the work’s getting done, it doesn’t really matter where that work is being done, you know?
Since 2020, the team working on GameMaker has more than doubled: the generous work-from-home policy allows us to employ people we wouldn’t otherwise, and that kind of recruitment has required us to broaden our horizons.
Dundee is a lovely city but, for people that have lives in other parts of the world, it can be very far away. We have so many people from so many different countries and backgrounds now that our daily stand-up (a quick catch-up meeting every morning) has to be done for different time zones!
I guess a drawback to the work-from-home nature of the company is that you often start to forget that people are more than just pixelated Google Hangouts images (apart from that one time someone left their incredible V-Tuber setup as their input camera). We try really hard to bring people together at least once a year, either to the Christmas party or to the Summer Barbecue.
Now, if you’re savvy, you’ll have noticed that I used the word ‘Dundee’ and ‘Summer’. In the words of the great Billy Connolly, ‘There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.’
We had our barbecue in August.
This is only the second barbecue that we’ve organised since late 2019, and last year’s was a great success, especially when we discovered that two other Dundee games companies were having theirs in the same place at the same time. The rounders game on the field was great, even if Ninja Kiwi had the edge on us!
This year, though, the weather wasn’t so kind. One of our international visitors, looking at the weather report for the coming week upon their arrival, asked when Scotland’s rainy season was.
‘From the start of August through to… Oh, I dunno, I want to say late May?’
‘And it’s like this the whole time?’
‘I mean, not all the time.’
The weather might not have been perfect, but the views were!
Leaky at Monikie
I arrived at exactly the right moment, between two downpourings, and walked through the parking lot towards the large, white marquee tent. During the week leading up to the barbecue, the office had seen a number of deliveries with crates of Irn Bru (if you’re not familiar with this Scottish stalwart, it’s like a bubblegum flavored drink, only it tastes nothing like bubblegum), several packs of cola, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers and cocktails.
Delivery one of two…
By the time I arrived, set-up was well under way with a folding table and several large rubber buckets. The company that was providing the actual barbecued food (we used to have Gavin from Production do this, but he’s had to stop doing it now the team is so much bigger) had set up inside the marque rather than outside, meaning that the tent was already pretty cramped, but people were gamefully getting ready to meet up and talk.
Seeing more and more people arriving on scene looking bedraggled in the rain, it was clear that people had come in from all over the world for today and, even if the elements weren’t on our side, we were going to have some fun. I met our two new interns who are going to start working with us very soon on producing new templates for you all! Introducing them to the company in a much lower stress environment than your first day really helps new recruits.
After a half an hour of barbecue, drinks, and hanging out with people, the Ice Cream cart showed up, which led to everyone going back to Slack to check what people had actually voted for in the ‘pick two flavors’ poll.
Reader, let me tell you, I work with some properly weird people. At least two of them voted for Turkish Delight. That thread contains horse-trading to a scale of ‘switch that vote to strawberry cheesecake, and I’ll take that bug off you.’
We’re very interested in both democracy and ice cream.
Events like this are really important to bring a team together, sure, but someone’ll also bring along their dog. We have a dog in the office occasionally; he’s a black springador that’s discovered that the gap between the bottom of our desks and the floor is just big enough for him to squeeze under. You’ll occasionally be working away and feel a head bump up against you for a scratch, or hear the thunk-thunk-thunk of a tail hitting a wall. He had an absolute ball, even in the rain.
The GameMaker Team Barbecue, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the rain.
Rained Off Play
Taking time out from work is vitally important, especially in a creative field where you can let your mind wander and get into unusual conversations about what people want to see in the next year.
Get to know your coworkers outside of work; ask them what flavor of ice cream they’re going for. Ask them if they’ve thrown the world's wettest ball for the world's wettest dog. Ask them what they think the best bit of the last year was, what they’re most excited about for the next year, and see if you can work together to make that happen.
The food’s nice, but getting to know your teammates is what really matters.
You don’t need to book out a marquee tent and have a barbecue on (so far) the wettest day of the year. Go on Discord and try some of the activities! Take an online cooking class together as a group. Get to know each other so you know more about how everyone works, what they care about, and how you can make it happen.
The world’s wettest dog, at rest, as a reward for reading this far.