• Jemima Tyssen Smith

Roll Call Interview Series - Leah Lomax (Lead Game Designer)


Name: Leah

Role: Lead Game Designer

Time at Roll7: Three months

Favourite Classic Game: Tomb Raider 3

Pets: A dog called Nerys, two cats called Gwillym and Griff, three chickens called Mr Skeng, Lizzo, and Dizzy

Hey Leah! Hello! So, I’m going to get on to the actual work-related stuff in a minute, but first, I know your pets are some of the stars of the Roll7 team pets slack channel- They’ve got some big personalities, for sure! They like to jump into calls – Griff especially. He gets grumpy when I sneeze, for some reason, so if he hears me sneezing he’ll come running to yell at me, no matter what kind of important meeting I’m in. And he’s a big fan of (Creative Director) Paul – he likes to hop in on any calls I have with Paul and make his opinion known. Maybe he’s after a job… Maybe – oh no, I hope he’s not after mine! Haha! I have to say, I feel like there’s something really nice about having spaces like the pets channel, especially since we can’t do our in-person team meets at the moment. Yeah, it’s definitely a nice space to have. This is my first job working remote, and I guess I was worried about how I would get on with it – whether I’d feel involved with a team who I wasn’t seeing every day. But actually, I’ve really found that I’m fitting in well. There’s a really strong sense of team spirit, and there are plenty of online spaces to get to know co-workers. That’s good to hear! I know a lot of people are going to be working remote for the first time at the moment - do you have any tips or advice for them? Things you’ve found helpful? Sure! So, there’s a few things I’ve found really helpful. Some of them are things I do, and some of them are things Roll7 does, but they’re all good. Firstly, I know you’ve mentioned it, but having slack channels like the pets channel where we just get to natter and talk about non-work things is great, it means that I get a chance to get to know the people I work with way better than I would just having meetings or work-related chats.

This is very true.

Second, having online full team meetings where the whole team gets to see each other is great. I really like having a stand-up meeting every morning at 9am. It’s a chance to catch up quickly, and it also makes you get up and dressed and properly in that working state of mind first thing – which I think might be easy to let slide otherwise. Third, it’s important to take the time at the start of video calls or meetings to say hi to one another and have a bit of a chat. And finally, it makes a huge difference to have flexible hours – it really helps people get a work/life balance that suits them, which to me feels like one of the big benefits of working from home. It’s really interesting to me that a lot of those pointers are basically about ways to retain the energy of ‘water cooler conversations’ that you get in an office.​ Yes! Lack of contact with colleagues was one of the things I was most worried about when I initially started working remote, and actually what I’ve realised is that there’s plenty of ways to keep in touch and cultivate a sense of camaraderie online.

Our watercooler would be much cooler than this.

Definitely – I suppose you just need to put more thought into it, as it doesn’t happen organically in the way it would in a physical office.​ Right - but I think that the great thing that does happen organically with remote work is that it eliminates this culture of seeing ‘being busy’ as the most important part of your working day. When you’re working on your own, and nobody is looking over your shoulder, the only way to judge how well you’re working is how much work you actually get done. I think that’s really freeing. It means you can focus on doing your work, instead of on looking like you’re doing your work. Yes, that’s so true! On the topic of doing your work, and before I get side-tracked asking you about pets again – could you tell me a bit about what being a Lead Game Designer involves?​ Hmm. It’s kind of a nebulous role, so it’s a little hard to explain without being able to give details of what we’re working on! Let’s put it like this - imagine that the game we’re making is Rock, Paper, Scissors. The Creative Director is going to be pitching the idea of the game; he wants a game featuring rocks, paper, and scissors, that will allow the players to quickly win or lose based on hand gestures. Then, as Lead Game Designer, I take that concept and break it into questions – how many players are there? What number do you count down from before showing your hand? What happens when two people pick rock? Should paper beat scissors or visa-versa? Then I take these questions to the design team, and we answer them - and hopefully make a fun and robust game at the end of it all. Right! Ok, yeah, I get that - it sounds like a really cool job. How did you first decide you wanted to become a game designer? Weirdly enough, I didn’t start out wanting to get into design at all – I know people often have these stories where they knew from when they were a kid exactly what they wanted to do, but that really wasn’t the case for me. I used to play Tomb Raider on the Playstation with my dad, and I’d always been into art – so I went to art school, and set out to become a concept artist. It was while I was looking for work in that field that I ended up going to a games industry event, and having a chat with somebody who listened to what I was talking about and what interested me in games – and he said, ‘hey, have you ever thought that maybe you should be a designer?’. So after that, I went home and I thought, huh, actually the more I think about it, the more I realise that, yeah, that would suit me way better than concept art does. And I’ve never looked back! That’s really interesting to hear, actually. Thinking back when you first moved into game design, what advice would you have for somebody who’s just starting out? Firstly, play lots of games. This is pretty self-explanatory, but playing a bunch of games helps you get a better understanding of how games work and what makes them good. Get analytical as you play and really think about what it is that makes a game satisfying or frustrating to play, enjoyable or annoying, easy or difficult. Secondly, make lots of games. They can be as simple or as complex as you want, and you can work solo or look online or in local gaming communities for people who want to make games collaboratively. Not only does this look great on your CV when you’re starting out and you don’t have a lot of on-the-job experience yet, but it’s also really going to help you grow as a designer. Thirdly, remember that you’re not just a game designer, you’re a designer – consume lots of media, everything from films, to books, to music and more. Even outside of media, there’s so much in daily life that you can use to fuel your creative abilities – your goal in game design is to make the player feel things, so it’s really important that you feel things. You need to stay curious. Stay curious – I think that’s really wonderful advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me, Leah. Thank you! The Roll7 Team​​

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