Written by Meridith Braun, Director of PR and Marketing, Digital Extremes
At first glance, walking through the halls of Digital Extremes, one of Canada’s premiere game development studios in the country’s burgeoning video game industry, you see the typical workings of a busy office. Receptionist, check. People working at their desks, check. Colleagues meeting in offices, check. Looking again, you start to notice more than the average work setting and begin to realize the work here is anything but typical.
3D images flash across computer screens. Unrecognizable sounds boom from the audio design room. Indecipherable mazes line the walls of a level designer’s office. Here, worlds can be built and destroyed in a day and then built again. Wash, rinse, repeat; until the formula is right, until all the glitches are fixed, until the ever-elusive ‘fun factor’ is found.
For almost 20 years, Digital Extremes has been finding that ‘fun factor’ for millions of video game enthusiasts throughout the world from their humble beginnings with the shareware hit, Epic Pinball to marking their place in industry history with Unreal Tournament and its many sequels. Then building on that success with continuous blockbusters like BioShock 2 and soon, The Darkness 2 and Star Trek.
The company has grown from its founder, James Schmalz to more than 170 employees (up 50% from last year alone) and has recently moved into a newly designed state of the art 33,000 square foot studio in London, Ontario to accommodate their continued growth. Between the restaurant-style equipped kitchen to the movie theatre quality viewing room to the fireplace lounge where everyone knows your name, the space was designed on the principles of comfort, creativity and passion in order to evoke those same qualities from the team working there.
Working with a young creative centric employee base, Digital Extremes focuses on creating a work-play balance that stimulates productivity. A quick game of 8-ball on the lounge billiard table can provide a much-needed break for mindless fun before returning to mind-boggling programming algorithms. Daily homemade lunch served family style sitting amongst colleagues you don’t always work with on a regular basis can spark the brightest of ideas or help solve the hardest of problems. Company sponsored, movie nights, happy hours, sports teams and game launch parties help build camaraderie and companionship outside of work. Even relieving the team of everyday worries like healthcare benefits, retirement planning and flexible work hours is helpful in the long run.
Outside of the average workday, Digital Extremes has also made a local name for itself in promoting London, Ontario as an expanding technology hub for the video game industry. Lobbying Ottawa for support as well as sponsoring the annual DIG Game Developer Conference held locally has planted the seeds for industry growth in London. In addition, being a mindful contributor to the community is a priority at the company where annual charitable drives are a regular occurrence throughout the year.
Working at Digital Extremes is anything but typical and they wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a formula and philosophy that has helped them grow into the company they are today and will sustain them into the future.