One-day corporate jams boost creativity and autonomy of employees, believe Zeptolab’s administrators. The authors of Cut the Rope and King of Thieves tell the story of why and how they throw four such jams each year.
Image Credit: King of Thieves
The last Friday of each quarter is a special occasion at Zeptolab.
This day, the company’s employees put away all their tasks, cancel all scheduled meetings and form teams for the ultimate brainstorming experience. This is called Self-Government Day.
The idea of this event is to make it possible for every employee, regardless of their position, to create something unique or devise something efficient. It could be a game prototype or a nice office accessory, like a board that displays players’ reviews in real time for everybody to see and cheer.
“We consider it important that employees, if just for a short period time, get a different, broader perspective of the activity of their coworkers and the company in general,” says Semyon Voinov, Zeptolab’s co-founder and creative director. “Of course, Self-Government Day is not obligatory. Anyone who doesn’t feel like participating is free to stay out of it. However, there are always those who want to start their own project or share new ideas, which they are encouraged to do.”
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The first Self-Government Day was held back in 2012. Zeptolab’s employees absolutely loved it, so they decided to make it regular.
Every team has one day to implement their ideas. At the end of day, some of them present projects that, in opinion of Zeptolab, can be regarded as full-fledged indie titles.
“There is no task to make a complete AAA game – we understand that this is merely impossible in the span of one day,” tells Voinov. “A concept art or a brief description of gameplay is enough. Sometimes one or another team gets carried away by their project and spends extra hours in the office. However, when the next Self-Government Day arrives, they can see things more clearly, and their time and effort management is more efficient. And this is but one of many great achievements.”
Besides encouraging freedom of creativity, Self-Government Day also has immense practical value. This is an opportunity to experiment with unconventional genres and new technologies, which can be applied in real work.
Self-Government day is also when game developers from different teams are brought together with people they barely get to contact with throughout the year. Sometimes, new and better performing development teams are born as result of such practice.
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The first Self-Government Day did not have any general narrative, or a motto. It was just a platform for somewhat chaotic experiments. However, Zeptolab quickly saw that it would be more convenient and efficient to announce some abstract theme for every event. So it was done, and it turned out to be actually helpful for more than one reason. Firstly, it gives a start to teams that have not yet decided what they want to do. Secondly, it is a way for the company to encourage the development of certain projects that may come in handy as prototypes for real games.
“Every project created in the framework of Self-Government Day is assessed by our marketing experts. Certainly, most of them are made just for the sake of amusement and practice, but some ideas do go further than that,” Semyon explains. “Although we haven’t yet released a single title based on such ideas, we may well come to that someday. As for utilities, many of them have been successfully implemented in the office.”
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The next working day after Self-Government Day, the staff of Zeptolab gathers to choose the best project.
These presentations remind of gaming exhibitions because employees usually play multiplayer prototypes. Then, every person, regardless of whether he had participated, is to vote for projects he or she deems the best (games and office accessories are evaluated independently).
The project to accumulate the majority of votes wins, and the winners are awarded with cheer, respect and prizes. See below for examples of the prototypes that had been developed at the previous Self-Government Days.