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Rebellion CEO speaks about attrition in the games industry

“It’s not one person’s game. It never is,” says Jason Kingsley
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Rebellion is one of the largest and longest-standing independent video games developers in the UK and like all other companies had to rapidly change the way it worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think it's taken a while to adjust, to kind of work out how we want to work,” Jason Kingsley OBE, the company’s CEO, told GLHF’s Kirk McKeand during a recent interview, in which they talked about Kingsley’s lifestyle as a medieval knight, eels, and his new book.

That change did not come without a human cost, though: Quite a few figures, even senior ones, left Rebellion in recent times. Kingsley said that from his perspective, some people “got a little bit mentally exhausted by the lockdown.”

“I think people had some mental challenges,” he said. “People couldn't cope with the added stress of work and stuff. We had a handful of senior people that left, but mostly on good terms. And they've gone on to do other cool things. So sometimes a shock event, like a pandemic, makes people think ‘Oh my god, I've been at Rebellion for 20 years, I need to do something different.’ And I always say to people ‘Yeah, good. Go for it, good luck. All my best, you've done a really great job for us. Go ahead and go somewhere else to have new adventures. Life’s short.”

Sniper Elite 5

Life's short for your enemies in Rebellion's Sniper Elite series as well.

Kingsley said that he’d always ask people for the reason they left: “I always like to know why.” Sometimes it’s because of decisions he made, sometimes because people fell out with other people, and sometimes it’s something beyond anyone’s control: “In one case, he just didn't like Europe, and he wanted to go to Japan. He wanted a different life. I don't want to argue with somebody about that. Good for you, go to Japan and enjoy it. I've no idea what's happened to him. Hopefully, he's enjoying himself and started a new life.”

Overall, though Kingsley said that the larger a company is, the higher its attrition rate is going to be – things have largely remained the same regardless of the pandemic in this case.

Kingsley also said attrition isn’t as big of a deal for the development process as it’s sometimes made out to be, “because these days, computer games are made by teams of people and no one person has the sole responsibility of making a game.” He includes himself in that: “I nudge the game. I make suggestions. I'll say, ‘You know what, guys? Don't think that's working. Can you look at a different way of doing it?’ It's teamwork. And it emerges from the work of many hundreds of people over many years, quite frankly.”

“One person could have a big effect, but it's not one person's game. It never is. Not these days. Back in the day it might be. But these days, no, it's everybody. Everybody contributes from the most important senior member of staff down to the newest member of QA who has come in and found a really important bug, that would be really annoying. And that's hugely important.”