What You Need to Know About Working in Game Development with Ryan McMahon from PlaySide Studios
We interviewed Ryan McMahon, General Manager of PC and Console at PlaySide Studios, to learn more about the inner workings of a Game Dev Studio and what aspiring Rookie Awards Internship winners need to know about working at PlaySide.
PlaySide is the largest independent games studio in Australia, founded in 2012. With a wealth of experience and a passion for creativity, PlaySide has released over 70 titles across a range of platforms, including mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and PC. The company has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Take-Two Interactive, Activision Blizzard, Meta, Disney, Pixar, Warner Bros, and Nickelodeon.
We interviewed General Manager of PC and Console, Ryan McMahon, to learn more about the inner workings of a Game Dev Studio and what prospective Rookie Awards Internship winners need to know about working at PlaySide.
PlaySide Studios has over 250 staff based in Melbourne and across the Gold Coast, Sydney and New Zealand.
How did you start in games?
I started as an artist here at PlaySide and since then, have contributed to over 40+ titles in the gaming industry.
Prior to being promoted to GM PC and Console earlier this year, I served as PlaySide Studios' Art Director, where I successfully grew the team from 10 to 60+ over a period of three years and established core processes that have contributed to the studio's commercial success.
I was honoured to be a recipient of the 2022 Australian Game Awards and am excited to continue creating immersive and innovative gaming experiences with the PlaySide Studios team.
What impetus led you to work in this field?
A love for video games and a passion for art. When I learned I could combine the two, I pushed myself to find any opportunities I could. To add to that, every day sees you solving new problems, getting to be creative and showing it off to an audience of millions around the world. It doesn’t get much better than that.
What recent projects have you worked on?
As Art Director, I worked on the planning and execution of some of the studio's most successful titles, including the award-winning Age of Darkness: Final Stand. We’ve got some exciting updates coming for that in the foreseeable future, so keep your eyes peeled.
What is the company culture like?
PlaySide is a rapidly growing company with grand ambitions for the gaming industry in Australia.
We’re all about empowering ambitious and passionate individuals to pursue our shared vision for making great games and having fun doing it.
How are new ideas pitched and developed?
We always celebrate great ideas. In fact, we have implemented a new game pitching process where game pitches can come from anyone in the company. We are all about finding those ideas that are going to be the next big thing.
How does the team collaborate?
Once we have kick-started development, ideas and feedback can come from anywhere. There are no bad ideas in workshopping.
New product or business you admire?
How could you not admire Cult of the Lamb? From an art, gameplay and even marketing perspective, the team has knocked it out of the park. Further proof that Australia is home to some of the best and brightest.
What unique challenges and opportunities does your work bring?
One of the unique challenges is identifying and adapting to the latest technology. Sure, other industries need to do the same but art is being rapidly transformed by things like AI. Personally, I am excited about the ability to ideate and iterate rapidly – but there will always be a place for an artistic eye in the process.
What do you find exciting about game development?
We get to make cool stuff that allows people to interact, unwind or engage. It doesn’t get better than that.
Has anything recently changed your perception of the game industry?
In 2023, we are at an interesting place for the gaming industry. On a macro level, there are more titles coming out than ever before. Competition, and therefore the need to stand out in a crowded market, has never been greater. But on the other hand, we have the Federal Government finally giving the industry a boon in the form of a long term commitment to the gaming industry here in Australia.
What initiatives do you have to support young artists in your field?
In addition to my work at PlaySide Studios, I am the founder of ArtQuest, an art community for artists across Australia and New Zealand. My passion for the gaming industry extends beyond my professional life, and I am thrilled to be able to provide a platform for artists to connect, collaborate, and share their work. Please check it out.
Do you have outreach programs at PlaySide?
We have just kicked off an opportunity for a talented artist to join us here at PlaySide for a paid internship with The Rookies new challenge. If you want a start in the gaming industry, be sure to check it out!
What is on offer for a Rookie Awards winner?
We are offering a rare opportunity to live out your game dev dreams. A paid internship where you will join our team and learn from our artist on the job.
Outside of a great portfolio, what other qualities do you like to see in young artists?
For me, it’s about that constant curiosity to be learning, challenging yourself and uplifting others to do the same. Constantly challenging your eye for art, and building on your fundamentals, which ultimately will begin to reflect in your portfolio.
What advice do you have for your prospective intern? How do you want them to be prepared for this opportunity?
Firstly, dust off your portfolio, as that’s the best way we can get a sense for you and your week.
Secondly, I’d encourage you to let your own personality shine through whether that’s in the interviews or your art itself.
And finally, this is an amazing opportunity to get feedback on your work, so be open to hearing from people who’ve been involved in the space. Good luck!