news • 1 September 2023

What’s It Like To Lead an Escape Studios Group Project?

Written by Eden Anthony

Third Year 'The Art of Video Games' Student

What’s it like to lead an Escape Studios group project? 

At Escape Studios, we have a significant focus on collaboration and working as a team. With teamwork comes leadership, and one leadership role you will encounter often (particularly in Games) is an Art Director. This role can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, but also scary and daunting. As someone who has been an Art Director for 3 projects – two within modules at Escape Studios, and one for a personal group project – here are some tips I can give you to make your first time as an Art Director a lot easier! 

Understanding your teammates 

One of the key parts of effectively leading a team is understanding everyone’s personalities and learning how to get the most out of them. For example, in one of my group projects, I had teammates who would get very stressed and come to me to talk about their anxieties. I found the best way to deal with this was to listen to them talk about the issue, but not let them spiral – this meant coming up with solutions to their problems quickly so they could get back to work and keep themselves motivated. Having the skills and adaptability to help others on the fly is very handy as an Art Director and something you will develop the more you practice! 

Keeping the team motivated 

It doesn’t matter how good your artists are, if no one is motivated and no one is communicating, the project will not be completed. Simple as. That’s why the first meeting I have every time I start a group project as an Art Director is to explain to the team that communication and motivation are the two things I care about most. To encourage communication, I make it easy for people to communicate with one another (sounds obvious but hear me out)! Essentially, this means creating Discord servers or group chats for people to quickly work on ideas together, as well as scheduling ‘dailies’ (group meetings you have every day). These things allow everyone to discuss the project together and work out what needs to be done next.  

When it comes to keeping the team's motivation up, I find giving compliments and relaying to the team how proud of them I am helps people to feel motivated. In addition to this, as artists, we will never be motivated to work on a project we don’t find interesting. More times than not, I find my job as an Art Director is selling the idea to my teammates like they’re a customer! Showing them the potential the idea has and showing them how excited you are to work on the project encourages others to get on board. 

Encouraging others to share their ideas 

Leadership roles require a lot of talking, but remember, not everyone is as extroverted as you are! Some people find it hard to share what they’re thinking and feeling, even though often they have the best ideas. Encouraging teammates to share these ideas requires a few different tricks. I have found often people are happy to share ideas 1-2-1 with me but not in a group setting. Because of that, at the end of every group meeting, I encourage everyone to message me with any queries or concerns that they might have. This keeps the door open to more introverted teammates and lets them know I’m available to speak and listen to them. On top of this, when they do share an idea within the group, make sure you encourage them, thank them for sharing and praise their idea. Remember, not every idea will be right for the project, but it can lead you to the right solution! 

Knowing when to put your foot down 

In my own experience, knowing when to put my foot down has been the toughest part of the job – especially when working with friends. As an Art Director, you will find yourself in many situations where there’s not enough time left on the project, but one of your teammates wants to work on a certain prop or add another idea to the project. In these scenarios, it's your job to look at the bigger picture.  

I love encouraging others' ideas, and giving people the freedom to work on the aspects of the project they’re interested in. Ultimately though, this isn’t always feasible, and in these moments you either appease a teammate and make the project impossible to complete, or you look at the bigger picture and prioritise the project. That being said, putting your foot down can be done respectfully, and this is also an important skill to learn.  

One of the phrases I like to use is ‘If we had unlimited skill, time and money, then absolutely I’d say you could implement this idea. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and we’ve got to get this project completed and delivered to a certain quality level and that’s something we wouldn’t be able to do if we implemented this idea’. Essentially, you don’t ever want to discourage people from sharing ideas, so it’s important to explain to them as an equal that this idea isn’t feasible and why.