Black Forest Games: “Talent acquisition is a hard-fought territory”
What is Black Forest Games?
Black Forest Games is a Game Development studio that was founded in 2012. We started out with 25 employees and have since grown to 60 which is already quite the feat because talent acquisition is a hard-fought territory in this industry. The studio was acquired by THQ Nordic in 2017.
What role does Black Forest Games in Offenburg play for game giant THQ Nordic?
We are the biggest internal development studio of THQ’s Vienna branch working on some of their biggest IPs.
Now a question to your personal role: as a historical founder, do you have the freedom to develop things yourself or are you inferior to these big companies?
This was one of the first questions we asked ourselves when we made this decision. It was very important to us that we can run the studio on our own and that we still can develop the games we want to. Meanwhile, we can say that this is the case. In some ways, we have more freedom than before with such a strong publisher backing us up.
This freedom also refers to the recruitment or development of teams: do you decide who comes into your team or does someone in Sweden decide for you?
We take care of recruitment by ourselves. It’s our own responsibly who, when or how we hire someone.
“People come to us for a permanent position.”
So it is not an almighty HR department in the big company but you have to advertise your own studio in Offenburg? Why are these young professionals coming to Offenburg?
Obviously, Offenburg is not the most well-known or biggest city in the world, internationally or even nationally, so we are focusing on the assets we have. Offenburg is located directly on the French border and one hour from Switzerland. It is a very prosperous area with very little crime. It’s a small town with villages around where children can play on the streets and everything is very harmonious. On the other hand, we have with Strasbourg a big city very close where there are international schools and everything you expect. We also have many recreational opportunities including the nearby Schwarzwald and Vosges or the Europapark. And still, it only takes you two hours to Paris or Frankfurt/Main by train.
All in all, we make a good case for working and living here. We do want to take advantage of our charms of NOT being a big city and one of our target groups are employees with families who are looking for an environment just like ours.
So the technician in Offenburg is there to go through a longer, personal development?
That is what we are hoping for. We see ourselves as a studio that allows long-term employment for all employees, which is, by the way, a rather rare case in the gaming industry. When people come to us it’s for a permanent position and not just for one project.
How international is your team?
Of our 60 employees, about 40% are German and few are from the area here, many moved to this region to work with us. 30% are from and still, live in France. They commute to Offenburg every day. The other 30% are from all over the world. We have many from Eastern Europe but also Americans, so really our team is from everywhere.
“Everyone has the time and opportunities to develop themselves.”
What is the language you speak in the studio?
The main language in the studio is English. There is no way around this or we could not work together.
In terms of France, which recruiting opportunities do you use? Do you advertise in the country or how do you do this in your industry?
We place our advertisements on regional and international job portals specializing in games professionals. We also work with talent acquisition agencies when they have the one employee that fits our company and job profile.
What do you do with professionals who cannot move to Offenburg, do they have local studios or offices that can use or how do you give these people a job?
Generally, our developers have to be here in the studio. We only have one location. For some exceptions we offer partial home office work, but not for new hires.
Are there any “do’s and dont’s” in the industry you can share in terms of positive integration of professionals?
It is very important to receive employees positively. The big issue is finding a place to live, and you really have to support them in their search. We give our international employees a hotel for the first few weeks and then help them to go from door-to-door and find the right home. What you also have to consider are different cultures. You should really go to great lengths when choosing your employees and should not be afraid to let people come to the company from afar for a few days before hiring them because the face-to-face conversation is always enlightening to see if the chemistry is there, for both sides. It’s a big step to move homes and it’s better to invest a bit more time to be sure everything will be okay.
You are also the regional representative for the German games industry association ‘GAME’ in Baden-Württemberg itself. How big is the BW gaming industry?
We have around 60 gaming and related companies in Baden-Württemberg, the biggest one being Gameforge, followed by Flaregames. And there is a big scene of independent game developers, influencers and people active in eSport. One of the goals we had with building the GAME BW is to keep those people in the region, not leaving for Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich.