The 2015 edition of the pan-European startup contest Idea Challenge sees an increase in variety and internationality. The series of events re…
A group of six high-school friends grew up sharing the same passion for video games, so when the time came to choose a career path, they simply decided to start making games themselves instead of just playing. Their ultimate goal is to breathe life back into old-school video games, that they used to have so much fun with years ago. Naturally, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet the team and here is what we found out about their ‘Company Culture’ where a shared-flat is the ultimate home-office environment.
We want our games to be available for all gamers everywhere in the world."
The company’s name comes from Marvel’s Avengers comics and movie, where the Tesseract is an Infinity Stone of unparalleled power. When this name came up during a brainstorming session, the whole team agreed immediately and without any discussion. They love the idea of what the Tesseract represents and want their products to do the same, be mighty and empower gamers.
“We love making old-school games, cool again” – says CEO Ivan Ivanovski. Tesseract Interactive is a startup for game development, with a unified goal to revive the old shoot-em up formula and make it more accessible to the modern gamer by introducing current technologies and gameplay mechanics.
The team at work, their in-house portal to another gaming dimension and their booth at Gamescon; Photo credit: Tesseract
Emergence of the company
Tesseract’s team of six guys, all under 30, has high ambitions - they want to find a place in the worldwide market of video games. “For now, people from Macedonia and the region know about us and we work in Macedonia because we come from here, but we don’t want to be limited to this startup market, we want our games to be available for all gamers everywhere in the world,” says Ivan.
They shorten all words to two letters which leads to misunderstandings between each other at one time or the other. Sometimes, they also enjoy communicating in screeches. All about the same age, and having been friends for years and neighbours, on top of that, they can often take joking about a subject to another level. One of their favorite words is ШЉЕ (which doesn’t actually exist in the Macedonian language) and they use it on a daily basis to describe when something is not working or isn’t good. Being gamers, all of them also have their own nicknames and aliases.
They all share quite the casual style. Ivan says: “summertime is for flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, winter is for woollen socks and sweat suits. When one of us shows in a suit and tie at work the rest assume that he came in straight from a wedding.” They joke around, saying that since people have casual Fridays at work and they go casual every day, there is nothing left for them but to introduce nudist Saturdays.
Tesseract Interactive is not housed in an office, but in an apartment, owned by one of the team members. The space is around 80 square meters so they all get about 15 square meters each. They work together in one space, which they call “the gamers room”, but the games’ musical scores are created in another room, a real musical kingdom. Founder Ivanovski shares the same big “office” as the rest, working together seated around a big “round table”.
Love, live and breathe video games."
“Each employee has to love, live and breathe video games, has to be a gamer and a proud geek,” they say. “One must love to work on creating great video games. Age, gender, race, religion, these are not important when choosing a new employee.” Even though they spend the whole day working the minute details of their own games, they relax and gather inspiration by ... looking at video game screenshots. And just as their startup’s name is movie inspired, they all unanimously agree that if they had to choose a company soundtrack, it would be “It’s a long road” from the first Rambo movie “First Blood”.
Screenshot from the Excubitor game. Photo credit: Tesseract InteractiveBeing friends first and co-workers second, the Tesseract six often hang out together after working hours too. Until now no one has ever missed a gathering. Birthday celebrations, weekends, nights out, it is always a package deal. Their special celebration is when they mark the company’s anniversary on 1 May (labour day) with a picnic out in the nature to mark the double holiday.
Food in Daily Life
Since there are no vegetarians nor vegans among the team, they rarely have troubles coordinating for a meal. And they tend to eat at least one meal per day together. Sometimes each brings food, sometimes they order in, and there is the occasional junk food binge.They enjoy local cuisine above all and their favourites are shopska salad and kebab.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions
The best way to mark a special occasion is with a Rakia party – they all laugh. A fruit brandy popular in the Balkans, Rakia is Macedonia's most ubiquitous aperitif and the team's favourite drink. “When we have good news that have to be celebrated, most of the times we do it by going out to a pub!” says Alex.
Shared-flat-office means working, eating and living together; Photo credit: Tesseract
Symbols of Social Stratification
“Alex has the best and prettiest smartphone,” says Ivan and they all laugh about it, even though all of them have Android phones. Focused on their work, they are not much into following the latest trends. When they started, everyone brought their laptops and personal computers to the office. Now, when there is a need for upgrade they all contribute and have priority lists.
“It’s hard to work with strict deadlines, because 50 per cent of the time there is an error estimation,” says Ivan. But they do keep a table where they write down all the tasks that need to be finished by approximate date. While they may not be the strictest in the office, when they have to attend meetings or events everyone respects deadlines and acts professionally.
Leadership and Officials
When a problem occurs [..] We deal with the issue at a meeting, where everyone is allowed to express ideas, opinions and after that we analyse them and vote."
Ivan is the CEO and a regular programmer too, but other than that there is very little hierarchy in the group, mostly because of their close relationship also outside of the office. Everyone is responsible for their respective tasks and they are all responsible for the final product in the end. They are all happy to help when a colleague is in need. But no one is responsible for babysitting anyone else. It is all matter of trust - trust in one another and in the team dynamic in general.
Social Problems and Controls
“When a problem occurs, this is most of the time due to different tastes about a particular thing. We deal with the issue at a meeting, where everyone is allowed to express ideas, opinions and after that we analyze them and vote. We sleep on it and the next day we resolve it.”
Division of Labour by Gender/Ethnicity
While they are a male-only group now, they would like to see a girl joining their team. They all live in the same Skopje neighbourhood and come from very similar backgrounds.
They provide materials for training and tutorials when new employees join the team. When they have interns, they treat them as an integral part of the group and are happy to share knowledge and help the newcomers improve their skills.
The majority (five out of six) agree that their favourite band is Culture Shock. And while there is a slight disagreement on music, all six out of six, love to go to cinema, or watch movies at home together. Every time there is a new video game on the market they make a ritual of paying it to test it out and comment on its strengths and weaknesses. Of course, they do that together. Their favourite game at the moment is The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a first-person story-driven mystery game focused on exploration and discovery.
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