“Saying no is a way of standing up for yourself and your rights.”
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is a famous episode called “Darmok”. In that episode, the impossibly wise and well-spoken Captain Picard encounters a race of aliens called the Children of Tamar, who only speak in metaphors. Without understanding the references, it’s extremely difficult to communicate with them. It’s not a clash of ideas; it’s a very humanistic exploration of the importance of communication and finding common ground even when there is seemingly none. This episode has been discussed countless times from various perspectives. It comes to mind when Linn-Marie Edlund, a self-professed Star Trek fan, tells me about her work and her approach to communication. We’ll come back to that.
Linn-Marie was born in Luleå in 1984 and currently lives in Skellefteå, where she works as a Communication & Partner Relations Manager at Amplifier Game Invest. Even though Linn-Marie has always loved playing video games, she never really thought about working in the industry. She comes from a very creative family, interested in culture of all kinds, and like many creative people, Linn-Marie was restless.
“I’ve always been impressed by people who know exactly what they want to do,” says Linn-Marie. “They want to be a doctor or dentist or whatever. I’ve never felt like that. I admire people with such clear goals. For me, I have a need to express myself and I want to be around people who want to do good things and have an impact on a larger scale. Whatever this may be. This is also something I have with me from home, a political perspective and wanting to change things for the better.”
Exploring new worlds
Her career in the games industry started in 2017, but she has already made an impression and done much in a short time. Before shifting to the games industry, Linn-Marie had a number of different jobs in various industries, too many to list here. But suffice to say, she has very broad work experience. Mainly, she has been working in retail, though. Then, one day at work, a regular customer came into the store where Linn-Marie worked with an offer that would change everything.
“Everything began with the Nordsken festival,” says Linn-Marie. “I was already a bit involved with it, but I was offered a bigger role and a seat on the board. All I wanted to do was display my Star Trek collection at the event, but suddenly I was much more involved than that, and one day I was the project manager of Nordsken. So I organised the event in 2018 and 2019, and I would have done 2020 as well, but we all know what happened that year.”
At the same time, as she was involved in Nordsken, she also became the project manager for an EU project called Innovation Game. It’s a project aimed at supporting the games industry’s growth, and Linn-Marie worked with this project in five municipalities in Norrland.
“It was great to get to be a very small part of such important work,” Linn-Marie says. “I saw Boden wither away when compulsory military service was removed, and now I have seen it injected with new life thanks to the games industry. It’s amazing!”
Learning to say no
Saying yes to many things leads to many different experiences and opportunities. But for Linn-Marie, learning to say no has been an equally vital process. If you don’t know your limits learn when to say no, you may find yourself running on empty and losing out on other opportunities down the road.
“I have definitely said yes too much at times,” says Linn-Marie. “I’ve been close to being burned out, especially in 2019, where I essentially worked 200 percent, resulting in my short-time memory being worse these days. Especially in work where there are a lot of enthusiasts, there is a big risk of people burning themselves out working for free. Even if they get paid, they work too much without being paid for the full amount of time they put in.”
Being new in the games industry definitely heightens this risk, since you want to prove yourself and show everyone what you can do.
“It’s also part of being enthusiastic about something,” says Linn-Marie. “You say yes because you want to try many different things as well. Especially when I was involved in Nordsken, I said yes to way too many things, such as taking on various projects and going on business trips. I have a family, as well, and my two kids were quite young back then, and I lost family time I cannot get back. It took me a while to realise that I could have said no more often. Today, I would have said no a lot more. But I didn’t have the tools and the knowledge back then, that I do today.”
There is another dimension to this, as well, where Linn-Marie has felt extra pressure from being a woman. Sometimes the only woman in the room.
“At times, I have felt that I, as a woman, doesn’t get to say no,” says Linn-Marie. “But saying no is a way of standing up for yourself and your rights. A way of setting limits. Saying yes can be a way of being diplomatic and avoid potential conflicts, but it’s not on you to take on things that isn’t your job just because you feel that you don’t want to cause trouble. I shouldn’t have to bring the coffee and sandwiches just because I’m the woman, when that isn’t my job. It’s not wrong to say yes to things you want to do, but you have to take care of yourself as well, and learn where your limits are. The price of never saying no can be way too high.”
Linn-Marie strives to create an environment where it’s okay to say no. For her, it’s important to make sure that people say yes because they want to and not because they feel obligated. Creating an open culture within a company has many benefits. For example, fewer people being burnt out means they can reach their long-term potential, and happy employees tend to want to stay longer with a company.
Joining the federation
When Linn-Marie talks about her work, it sometimes sounds as though she happens to stumble into one thing after the other. And to an extent, this is probably an accurate description. But behind all of this is an enormous amount of work. This piece is sometimes forgotten in stories about successful careers, and behind one short sentence, there can be years of back-breaking work. So when Linn-Marie says that one thing led to another, those things that led to other things were a lot of hard work.
“One day, my current boss, Per-Arne Lundberg, walks into my office and asks me if I would like to work for Amplifier,” says Linn-Marie. “I really wanted to work with Per-Arne and learn from him, so this time, it was easy to say yes. And I’m glad I did.”
Linn-Marie came in fairly early and was among the first four people to join Amplifier. In her current position, she sees her function as a sort of a hub holding the various companies that are a part of Amplifier together.
“I feel that it’s important that there is a sense of community,” says Linn-Marie. “We work with nineteen game studios right now, and regardless of if the studio is in Italy or Canada, they should all feel as though they are part of a bigger community. They are part of Amplifier, and of Embracer as well.”
To keep building on the Star Trek theme, Linn-Marie’s work at Amplifier is part of creating a sort of “federation”, a well-functioning community of many separate entities that still collaborate and have similar objectives. In this case, however, it’s various game studios and games industry colleagues rather than galactic civilisations and aliens.
Communication is key
In practicality, Linn-Marie’s work entails a lot of communication. This suits her perfectly since she loves talking to and getting to know new people.
“I organise events and conferences and I have a lot of meetings,” says Linn-Marie. “I’m an extrovert person and I want to get to know the people behind these games. I also try to find synergies with other Embracer companies. So there’s a lot of networking and getting to know people.”
Linn-Marie grew up in a big family. A safe environment where they could talk about everything with each other without judgment. For her, this is an ideal she wants to imprint on people around her and on society as a whole.
“We have to get away from the notion that we have to be the same,” says Linn-Marie. “We talk a lot about gender, but there are more than two genders and people are different in many ways. We all have different backgrounds, and we cannot reach this promised equality if we aren’t allowed to be open with each other about this. At a workplace, the employer must lay down a foundation that allows people to be who they are and feel good about themselves. We have to accept each other’s differences. People will always be different, have different worldviews and have differing opinions. This is never going to change, and you have to be able to talk to people who aren’t the same as you and who think differently than you.”
Aiming for the stars
Linn-Marie’s approach to inclusive communication echoes Star Trek’s emphasis on communication as a tool for mutual understanding, not just convincing other people you are right or excluding those you disagree with. In these polarising times, finding common ground may be more challenging than ever. But Linn-Marie is optimistic that things will generally improve in the games industry.
“I think that the fundamental, underlying ideology of Star Trek is the path to salvation for humanity,” says Linn-Marie. “Respect for each other and our differences, but at the same time upholding everyone’s basic human rights. That you can be wrong sometimes and be allowed to change and grow. “
This optimism and focus on communication comes not only from beyond the stars, but from somewhere much closer to home — Linn-Marie’s grandfather.
“My grandfather is the one who has shaped me the most,” says Linn-Marie. “He gave me courage, introduced me to Star Trek and all the video games I played when I was young. He was my Picard. Plus, he also introduced me to techno music. So there’s that.”
Linn-Marie’s optimism and strive for positive change also permeate her view of the games industry and its future.
“It’s a relatively young industry, and we can improve a lot of things,” Linn-Marie says. “But I think it’s ultimately moving in the right direction. Most of the people I’ve met in the games industry have opened doors for me, so it’s my duty to do the same to others. To make sure that doors are open for those who want to enter. If I don’t, I have failed.”
At the end of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok”, Picard finally manages to communicate with the mysterious aliens. All tension and hostilities are solved by simply talking. Not through grand rhetoric or by proving someone wrong or defeating someone. Just by being able to talk to and understand each other. In the games industry, you probably won’t be travelling to other star systems, and to the best of my knowledge, you also rarely talk to aliens from other worlds. But the fundamental message of communication and understanding is valid, whether your name is Picard, Janeway or Linn-Marie Edlund.
Linn-Marie will share more insights and knowledge with us this Friday, so grab your (free and remote) ticket!
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