Hi, I'm Adam. Email me about: CTOs, Mobile/iOS, Project Management, and Development

Hiring a Creative Director for a game studio

Question someone asked on LinkedIn recently. I thought it was an interesting question, so cross-posting my answer here.

Question: What are the key traits, skills, and level of experience do you look for when hiring a Design Director, Creative Director, or Executive Creative Officer for your video game studio or media development firm?

My Answer:
The first thing to do is to look through their portfolio of past work.

The second thing to do is ask them to explain it.

The good ones will be able to at least say something interesting about each project.

The great ones will be able to explain precisely why they chose the particular style that was used in each case, and what that style bought them in terms of fitting the project, or emphasizing the core content, or appealing to the target market, etc.

Generally, you also look for their knowledge of best practices in key areas. For instance, do they know the standard info about dramatic tension and story arcs from hollywood and TV dramas? Do they know about art pipelines and production methodologies – can they work with modern methods like Scrum?

But, at the end of the day, the biggest single question is: how many games have you played, and what did you like?

If you haven’t played major examples of each of the 10 most popular/valuable game genres, or aren’t able to EXTREMELY coherently explain what was good and what was bad about each and every one, then you’re probably not much good, and a long way short of being great.

To put this into perspective, I’m a CTO / Dev Director / Tech Director, and I’ve personally played in the region of several thousand computer games, and for every one of them I could tell you what was good and what was bad and make recommendations for improvements, or tell you what I’d love to plagiarise for other games. I know I’m a bit strange (in many ways), and it helps that I have a near photographic memory, but I expect a good Design Director / Creative Officer to have a similar level of experience as that. If I can do it, and also found the time to learn and become reasonably good at programming, then why didn’t they manage it too?