This article was created in collaboration with Aardvark Swift.
With a thirty-year legacy of memorable titles, including the likes of Worms and Overcooked, Team17 is a prestigious studio, with skills as an in-house developer as well as a publishing label. Continued success has seen them go from strength to strength, expanding to new locations which include a state-of-the-art studio in Wakefield. But what is it actually like to work for such an illustrious developer? James Bowers from Aardvark Swift visited their West Yorkshire office to speak with Viki Freeman, Team17 human resources business partner, and Jasper Barnes, talent acquisition manager, to investigate that very question.
Over the years the studio has grown from a single location to two developments studios and a commercial office in Nottingham. “We’ve had to take people who wanted to be at a studio of 30 people and retain them as we scale up to be a studio of 200 people,” explains Jasper. Team17 have achieved just that through a series of internal initiatives which have given their employees a voice.
“Recognition programs take a lot of time to embed for businesses that haven’t had things like that before,” continues Viki, who has been at the forefront of these wellness drives. “We have the Teamster Engagement Committee [TEC] which I founded. It’s a few people from every discipline who want to be the voice of the employees.” Through TEC, Teamsters can speak openly about issues both small and large. From personal struggles, to something lighter like an office BBQ, nothing is out of bounds. “We listen to every single person and give real feedback on what we can and can’t do. Saying what’s not possible is an important part of the process so people aren’t left in limbo.”
Empowering staff is a priority for Team17, no matter their background. “The inclusivity here to be who you want to be and present however you want is fantastic, especially coming from a corporate past,” says Jasper. This culminates in a work culture that’s both inclusive and infectious. “I do feel very lucky every day, as cheesy as that sounds, because I kind of can’t believe there are jobs like this,” smiles Viki. “I’ve always sought out companies that believe in their brand. [Team17] do and when you come to work you believe in it too. It becomes part of you and your life. It’s not a job.”
As well as a shift in internal culture and the massive growth that followed, Team17 have also adapted how they’re set up internally. This includes their grassroots work of graduate onboarding and their new office setup. With the move to their new office, they were able to build something that fit Team17 perfectly and reflected the environment they were looking to create. “I was part of the project management team and the design team. It was really nice to think about what we needed from an employee’s perspective,” says Viki. “We operate on a very open-door policy. No one should ever feel like nobody has time for them.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Jasper, “The hierarchy is very flat in that sense; the head of studio sits out on the floor with everyone else. The tech director sits opposite his programmers. Everyone sits within the team.” The work ethic reflects this. The word ‘passion’ is avoided because it’s such a common commodity. “We almost need another word for it,” laughs Viki. “No one here has the mentality of that’s not in my job description”
Despite big growth, Team17 has still done a lot with surprisingly little, with over 100 titles released to date. “Our head count is very small compared to what we actually put out there, but we don’t have crunch. Whatever it is we’re doing; we’re doing it right.”
“We’re professionally indie. Large enough to develop great quality games, but small enough to still really care,” states Jasper. With a roster of developers who have spent their entire careers at the studio, Team17 is in capable hands. “Our CEO Debbie Bestwick has been with us every step of the way. She’s a phenomenal leader.”
You’ll be able to listen to the full conversation with Viki Freeman and Jasper Barnes on the Aardvark Swift Podcast, available now via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, third party apps and the Aswift.com website!