Happy and engaged employees create innovative products

Behavior offices are dynamic – no one stays at an office for more than a month or two (Courtesy Stéphane Brügger/Behavior Interactive)

Making video games for a living might sound like a pretty good gig, but it’s actually notoriously strenuous, with long hours, intense deadlines, and little downtime. In fact, “critical time” (the weeks leading up to a game’s release date, when everyone involved is clocking in exhaustive overtime) has long been standard industry practice. But not at Montreal-based Behavior Interactive, at least not anymore.

“You always feel like there’s more to a game and things you can improve; it is not a product that is never made, even after its release,” says Rémi Racine, CEO and Executive Producer of Behavior Interactive. As a result, his team often had sleepless nights and spent many weekends at his office. “I felt like we were working hard in terms of time, but we weren’t necessarily making better products as a result.”

Racine initiated the cultural shift in his company by forbidding sleeping in the office. Then he convinced his managers that their respective teams could work more efficiently on weekdays so that there was no need to work on weekends. It took him 10 years, but with careful planning and efficient resource allocation, such as moving staff to support more labor-intensive projects, he finally ended overtime. “It’s amazing, and that’s how we attract people to the business,” says Racine. Its 600 employees are encouraged to work hard during the day, so that every minute counts. “Sometimes when we welcome new people, they are surprised that there are no ping-pong tables in our offices. But I tell them, ‘You’ll be home at a reasonable time and then you can play ping-pong.’ ”

Thanks in large part to this company-wide embrace of work-life balance, Behavior was named one of Canada’s Best Workplaces by GamesIndustry.biz in 2018. In 2019, it was been recognized as one of the fastest growing technology companies in the North. America by the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 program. Racine attributes this recent growth spurt to award-winning Dead by Daylight, an asymmetrical multiplayer horror game that celebrated 12 million players in 2019. (When the game first premiered times 25 people were working on the project. .)

Founded in 1992, Behavior has sold over 70 million games across all platforms. “It’s an industry where innovation is paramount,” says Racine. “It’s a tough market and there’s always a start-up out there trying to beat you at what you do.” Success, says Racine, requires employees who are both disciplined and creative. To that end, Behavior offices are dynamic, collaborative and efficient – ​​no one stays in the same office for longer than a month or two. “We move people around all the time as the progress of what they’re doing changes, and also so they’re close to the other people they need to work with.”

Racine takes pride in the fact that his company has a high retention rate and says he is happiest when his employees are happy. “You have to find a challenge for everyone that they like, not that we like,” he says. “If someone no longer feels fulfilled in what they are working on, we quickly find them another challenge within the company, otherwise they will leave.”

Developing video games takes passion, adds Racine, and if the developer isn’t into it, it will show in the final product. “It’s not easy to entertain people, especially in an interactive way,” he says. “People play video games because it’s fun, and a product like this needs an extra passion to be successful, even more than TV or movies.” Even when a new game finally hits the market, new features are developed and added, problems are solved. The goal is to keep players engaged for as long as possible, which in turn attracts new players. “Our main job is to be innovative in the business, and to do that you have to listen to everyone’s opinions and keep pushing the boundaries.”

Racine was a gamer before becoming an entrepreneur, and he still enjoys playing video games. He plays Behavior games to test them, as well as those of competitors when they come out, just to stay informed. The next challenge for Behavior, he says, is to create another game that will keep players engaged for years, just like Dead by Daylight did (the company currently has two contenders in production). He will know he has a winner by watching the reactions of the other players. “It’s all about emotion, that’s why people come back to a game.”

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