2K Games new studio has its first hire, noted learning strategist and education researcher Suzanne Lettrick, 2K Games tells Variety. Her work with and about the likes of Steve Jobs, Quincy Jones, and Queen Noor will be applied to the budding studio to ensure it is both inclusive, and the sort of place that attracts talent and brings out the team’s best.
“Suzanne’s role, as a developer and team leader, is to help steer the studio to full self-actualization,” 2K Silicon Valley founder Michael Condrey says. “Her title as Director of Culture & People Development reflects her commitment to helping all studio members reach their highest potential of purpose, passion, and meaning, both in their lives and in achieving studio goals.”
Condrey likened her hire to bringing on a talented Olympics coach who “provide insights to help the individuals achieve their greatest potential. In many ways, game development teams are no different – smart, passionate and driven individuals are placed in competitive team situations and asked to deliver greatness.”
He added that 2K’s individual studio model gave him the opportunity to define this new sort of team role for Lettrick.
“Suzanne joins us with a master’s degree from Harvard’s Mind, Brain & Education program, along with a life dedicated to developing explorers, creators, and thinkers to their most aligned selves,” he said.
Lettrick, for her part, says that joining 2K Silicon Valley lines up with her life’s work “which is to create methods and spaces where all people have a voice, to learn and grow, and to become their best selves in order to truly benefit the world.
“My work with – and observation of—what I call ‘mavericks,’ such as Steve Jobs, Donna Karan, Quincy Jones, Soraya Salti and Queen Noor, have helped me create my own philosophy for becoming and drawing out the inner maverick in others. I also coach teams in many disciplines to collaboratively achieve great results.
“The video game industry has great potential – as any industry does – to help people of all ages and backgrounds gain new skills in leadership, empathy, problem-solving, collaboration and connection with others both in the gaming world and the real world. I believe I was brought on board at 2K Silicon Valley to create a gaming world that engenders the best traits in humans to benefit and bring joy to the planet.”
In February, Take-Two Interactive Software announced that Sledgehammer Games co-founder and former Visceral Games chief operating officer Michael Condrey was opening up a new 2K development studio in Silicon Valley. Condrey will build and lead a new development team to work on an unannounced project. Lettrick says the studio is now actively seeking women, minorities, and LGBTQ talent to apply and be considered for its new team.
2K Silicon Valley is the latest of Take-Two’s growing line-up of wholly owned development teams which includes Visual Concepts, Firaxis Games, Hangar 13, and Cat Daddy Games.
Parent company Take-Two Interactive is the publisher behind “Grand Theft Auto V,” which sold about 95 million copies and continues to bring in a steady stream of cash four years after its release. Take-Two has been slowly investing some of that cash in acquisitions. Last year, the company snagged “Kerbal Space Program,” and then launched a new publishing label, Private Division. The company also founded Ghost Story Games last year.
2K Silicon Valley hiring Lettrick comes at a time when the game industry is increasingly introspective about the way it does business, builds out studios, and treats its employees. Massive layoffs have spurred calls for executive-level firings, toxic workplace environments have forced studios to take stock of founding members and core tenants, and the call for unionization in the almost entirely non-union industry continues to grow.
Creating a studio with some of these core principals in mind at its heart is a smart move.
Lettrick says she decided to join 2K Silicon Valley, her first job in the game industry, in large part because of Condrey.
“I have great respect for Condrey,” she says. “I have known him for roughly 20 years now and have witnessed his sincere desire to pay attention to what is important to being human, as well as his personal quest to grow as a leader and create a new kind of studio that truly embodies and sincerely nurtures tenets of inclusivity, empowerment and the betterment of humankind. I was also really impressed with 2K’s openness to my expertise and interest in enabling me to help guide the studio through a different lens. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to make a big difference at 2K Silicon Valley and for 2K as a proactive leader in thinking differently about human development.”
Condrey says Lettrick’s complete focus will be on “aligning how we work, where we work, who we work with and what we create to bring purpose, passion, and meaning to both our lives and those who play our games. As a dedicated role for our studio, it shows the importance we’re placing on culture and human development, and I’m confident it will be transformational to how we operate as a team.”
Specifically, her goals will include encouraging studio values like inclusivity, accessibility, empowerment, and “wonder – are nurtured and become a deep part of the fabric of everything we do” and creating more accessibility in the gaming industry “so people who never saw themselves as gamers can enjoy this form of play with the people they love in their lives.”
Her primary goal, though, is to champion more women, minorities and the LGBTQ community to make their mark in the gaming industry at the leadership level.
“We desperately need more women, people of color and LGBTQ identity to add their voices and experiences to the world of gaming so we can truly create worlds that mirror all voices and values,” she says. “It is imperative that I bring more people into the pipeline so HR receives applications from those with different life experiences and lenses. This is important, as I believe a more diverse team will create richer characters, stories, and ideas for how games can be created. It is my job to guide our team to become courageous leaders that champion the qualities we have put forth as our studio core values.”
She also hopes that her work at 2K Silicon Valley will allow her to play a role in advancing the game industry’s vocabulary, as well as its tone, she says, “so a more inclusive, accessible and benevolent level of gaming can be realized.
“I’m hopeful my presence in the gaming industry will encourage the creation of more games that help them learn skills to become advocates, as well as heroes able to champion what they care about.”