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Meet Dylan Miklashek, Studio Manager of Gameloft Brisbane/Australia

1. Hello, who are you and what are you known for?

I’m Dylan Miklashek – the studio manager for Gameloft Brisbane and managing director for Gameloft Australia, and I was also the primary lobbyist for the Games Tax Offset for Queensland.

2. What initially attracted you to the industry, and how did you break into the games industry?

I got into the industry in 1996 working for EA Canada on FIFA and NHL as a development director, which is essentially a producer. After that, I then moved on to a design role on their baseball franchise MVP Baseball in 2002 or so.

I took a 6-month contract; my mother was not pleased that I left a full-time job at a fairly reputable industrial computer manufacturer to make video games, but thankfully I was hired full-time afterwards!

3. For those learning about our industry or interested in your role can you explain your job title, its function and what impact do you have in game titles?

As the studio manager, my impact on the actual games is fairly high level. My role is to facilitate and support the teams. I make sure the teams have everything they need in order to successfully deliver the vision of the game. I do share feedback on the games as they are developed, but it must always be vetted by the team. It’s their baby.

4. In this notoriously turbulent industry, what qualities do you feel helped you navigate your career path?

My number one value in life is integrity. Whatever you do in life, you battle, but you battle in a professional manner, a diplomatic manner, a constructive manner. Feedback’s great, but only if it’s constructive. You’re going to get slapped around and it’s a very competitive business, but you’ve always got to try and improve.

5. What’s your favorite part of your job?

I think my favourite part of the job is seeing the team doing well and being happy. Loving working together and loving what they make and doing that themselves without my involvement. That’s probably my favourite part: watching them kick ass and do great things.

Rooftop shot of the Gameloft team winding down after a busy day.

6. Where do you work? Can you explain more about the studio, its culture, size, strengths and why you chose to work there?

When we started, it was a really unique experience. Gameloft New Zealand had hired fifteen people, including myself, to start up a studio. They had organised a lease but it hadn’t been fitted out yet. They said “there’s fifteen of you: programmers, designers, artists, animators…go! Dylan, you run it!” And our game Zombie Anarchy really came from that experience.

During our time there, Gameloft New Zealand sadly closed down, but Gameloft Brisbane is celebrating over seven years in operation, which I think is a really big deal, as it’s a tough industry.

7. How has COVID affected your career, studio and what lasting changes both good and bad do you feel COVID has brought to the games industry?

COVID has been enormously painful and devastating for billions of people. However, there have been some positive side effects. For the games industry and for Gameloft Brisbane, there have been some good things that have come out of it, one of the biggest being that we have a hybrid work system now. Two days a week, everyone works from home, and without COVID that would never have become a thing, at least not for a long time.

With those two days, it allows people to really focus. Because we’re such a collaborative environment, there’s a lot of interruptions, a lot of talking, it’s an open space and it’s a necessary part of our business, but when you’re doing it five days a week, it can get quite disruptive. We used to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the back of chairs, but it never worked! If you’ve also got kids and pets, you can mix that in a little easier than when you’re in the office. That’s been a massive advantage.

8. What shall I be doing right now to improve my career prospects?

It really depends on the individual and what they love to do, where they want to go and what their objectives are. There are lots of different ways to get into the industry – you can go to school and learn something, learn a trade – it’s like any job, you want to get some experience.

You get a few breaks, and you keep pushing along, and you’ve just got to try and make the most of them and learn from them. Try to keep your ear open and go for those opportunities when they occur. When you’re younger, don’t be afraid to take chances. Eventually, that’s where you’re going to learn, meet other people and find other opportunities. Worry less about what money you’ll be making and whether it’s a great learning opportunity in either something you love/want to do or something that will help that.

9. Is there a quote that motivates you?

“Rise above it.” You have to find a way to turn the negatives into a positive, and succeed.

10. Can you share your thoughts about the next 5 years outlook for games?

The whole free-to-play model turned everything on its head, but that’s changing now. There aren’t 

as many new successful free-to-play games, people just aren’t leaving the previous ones because they’ve invested so much time and money.

User acquisition is really expensive now, but that then opens the door to subscription-based models like Apple Arcade and Netflix doing games soon. There are these models that I think are really going to open doors. The free-to-play model in the mobile industry is going to spill over into the more traditional game platforms, like consoles and PC/Steam. You’ve also got Blockchain and NFTs – whether that goes somewhere, who knows? There’s a lot of money being invested in it. Is it a long-term thing? Is it going to become a blue-chip stock? It’s too early to tell.

11. What advice would you give your younger self when looking at the games industry?

What’s going to help you is if you can make it sort of your hobby. For example, if you’re going to be a great programmer, you don’t start in University. The good programmers start when they’re young, and they’re doing it because they love it. They may end up getting a Computer Science degree, but they’re already established programmers. Same for artists; if you want to be a great artist you’re drawing every day. So find what you love and do a lot of it. Don’t just treat it like work, it’s got to be a hobby no matter what. And make sure you create and build a portfolio early, and add to it regularly.

12. Last but not least, what do you think about Australia’s position in the global games market?

With the federal and state offsets, we’re in the game now. Since the late 2000s, Australia has been somewhat of a niche opportunity, whereas now, all the big publishers and investors – especially international – are considering Australia as a growth opportunity. The development costs are now on par or better with various cities in the United States and in Montreal. It’s cheaper to develop games here than it is in Vancouver!

With the 30% Federal government refund and 10-15% state government refund, Australia and Brisbane have begun rebuilding the video game development ecosystems that existed in the late 2000s. As the ecosystems grow, so will interest from talent and investors. Without an ecosystem, a resignation would typically cause major disruption to a studio, but if you have  a decent-sized community, then there is a bigger pool of talent to share. Plus, talent isn’t as confident about relocating when there is only a few options in a city. And don’t forget, Queensland, where Brisbane is located, is leading Australia with a 15% digital games tax refund!