Beyond Critical is now available for purchase!
  • Beyond Critical
    Beyond Critical
    by Keith Fuller

    My book on Leadership in Game Development is now available!

Leader of Developers

Top Ten People Problems I've Encountered


I've spoken with over 100 game companies in Europe and North America. Here's a list of the most common people problems across all sectors of the industry. These are prioritized. They're all nearly ubiquitous, but I've found number 1 has the greatest impact, then number 2, on down the line. I've included links to articles I've written addressing some of these issues.



  1. Appointing leaders without training them. Either in title or responsibility, putting someone in a leadership position without adequate preparation for the skills required of their new position.

  2. No explicit definitions of leadership responsibilities or expectations. Is a lead programmer still expected to code? How much? Are leaders accountable for developing their people? What can employees count on their boss doing?

  3. Lack of humility in studio leadership. The top echelon makes perfect decisions and has nothing to learn from anyone outside the studio or beneath them in the company hierarchy.

  4. Lack of healthy one-on-one practices. Not everyone gets regular and frequent 1:1’s. Leaders aren’t trained in how to execute them. The company doesn’t correlate the value of 1:1’s with employee engagement, productivity, and retention.

  5. Lack of mentoring. Rather than being taught properly or encouraged to operate in areas of strength, people get fired. Or worse, not fired.

  6. No clear company values. These aren’t explicitly documented, and they aren’t highly visible to all employees, hiring candidates, and the public. Or they don’t exist at all. Not every employee is accountable to these values.

  7. Nobody helming the people operations. At many game studios you’re lucky to find an HR director, and even at that the HR department is normally underappreciated and not empowered. No one spearheads the improvement of onboarding, interviewing, leadership standards, engagement, retention...just benefits and harassment complaints.

  8. Tenurocracy. Basing promotions and power on length of employment rather than a consistently applied evaluation process that judges contribution.

  9. People don’t speak up. Afraid of embarrassment or appearing less than perfectly knowledgeable. Leaders aren’t trained to recognize the absence of psychological safety. They don’t know why that’s bad or how to improve it.

  10. Overall company maturity. Immature companies trying to skip rungs on the evolutionary ladder with flat structures or holacratic processes.