CORE Review: Team Motivation and Accountability

Being a student producer can be kind of tricky only because I don’t have any “real” power. Although I am the one my team reports to on progress, if they don’t complete their tasks on time I don’t have the ability to fire them like I could in the real world. Figuring out the proper way to motivate my team is important to me, so when Glynis and I attended our first CORE review session with other game students from different classes and CORE faculty Bob Mayor, questions of team motivations were at the forefront of my mind.

These CORE review sessions are intended to help us own what we make and reflect on the decisions we have made during our game development capstone. At Champlain, CORE is an interdisciplinary program that all students must take classes in from freshmen to junior year. These courses are discussion based and teach students how to think critically, examine other perspectives, and communicate effectively. In senior year, we no longer have to take CORE courses, but game majors do have to attend four CORE review sessions for our college capstone. These sessions are incredibly valuable because not only do we get feedback about our designs and team dynamics from Bob Mayer, now a CORE professor and former video game journalist, but we also get advice from our peers in other capstone classes that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Bob had us all introduce ourselves and we each had to explain what we were working on as well as seek feedback in whatever area we felt it was needed. When it came my turn to speak, I asked how I could motivate my team effectively without seeming like an evil dictator. I explained how in the past I would have team members who did not complete their assigned tasks on time, and I wanted to know how best to handle a situation like this if it came up again during my capstone game development. Previously, I just spoke with those team members who were lacking in their performance and politely nudged them, but what other methods could be effective? I asked Bob and my peers how I could hold my team accountable and keep them motivated, and I got a lot of valued responses.

My fellow producer’s advice on motivation was to get to know each of my team members individually. He said that not everyone is motivated in the same way. Some people may need to be constantly reminded about their tasks, but others may find constant reminders annoying and simply need a few subtle hints along the way. As the semester goes on, I will get to know my team better and better. We have a movie night planned for this Friday along with some other capstone teams. Holding informal events and get-together like these can be incredibly useful in getting to know team members personally outside of the professional classroom setting. The next advice I received about team motivation was from Bob Mayer. He said that guilt can be a useful tactic to motivate team members. Rather than yell or nag team members for not completing goals, I should instead explain to them how their laziness is negatively impacting the team and our project as a whole. He made a very good point that even if someone is lazy, they typically don’t want to let their team down. By communicating how important their task was and how they really let the team down by neglecting it, team members should feel a sense of duty to complete their tasks for the betterment of the team as a whole.

The following advice was from a game artist on another team and of all the advice I think this was the most valuable to me. She told me that she appreciated it most when producers and team members set goals together. She suggested that instead of assigning specific tasks to team members based on what I think is most important, I should ask them what they think is most important and we can agree on a task list together.  By making team members set their own goals and determine which tasks they believe need to be done next, they feel more accountable not only to me as the project manager, but also to themselves. I spoke to my team about assigning their own tasks at our next meeting and received a postive response.My artist Maddie agreed wholeheartedly, saying that even if I tell her to do something she may not do it if she simply does not have time to get it done, but she may be too shy to say so. By setting goals together, we are all held accountable.

This CORE review session was extremely helpful because I received advice from numerous disciplines. Not only did I receive advice from a professional game reviewer, but also from a fellow game producer, as well as artists, designers, and programmers from different game teams who offered their varied advice about team motivation. I look forward to my next CORE review session and the valuable advice it will offer me.

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