When your first game becomes an overnight sensation
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
After graduating from the Game Development Animation program at the University of Skövde, Lisa Kofjord began hunting for jobs driven by the need to pay the bills. But little did she imagine that this first job at Iron Gate Studio was going to turn into a fully-fledged adventure in the games industry.
Join us to find out how fresh graduate Lisa ended up as a Community Manager and 3D artist for the survival and sandbox hit Valheim.
Around 2008, Lisa was a 10-year-old girl playing Dogz Fashion on her Gameboy Advance, the first game that caught her attention and introduced her to gaming. But It took her 7 more years to realize that she could make games. "I don't think I had ever heard of game developers. In my child’s mind, games would just pop up in stores and come out of nowhere."
In High School, Lisa dreamed of being a book writer, but she had a friend that studied game development, and she was the one that instilled her curiosity about a career in video games. Then it was at 17, with the game Dragon Age, when everything changed.
Lisa started following game developers on Twitter to have first-hand information about video games. Although she didn't get those secret updates she was looking for, she realized that her future career would be in the games industry.
Dragon Age writer David Gaider was one of her biggest sources of inspiration. She even met him at a gaming conference in Skövde. An experience so inspiring for her that she still keeps a picture of the moment.
She had always been torn between Writing and Art, but a visit to the University of Skövde cleared the path. At 20 years old, Lisa started a 3-years Game Development Animation program. This marked the end of her vocational search and the first step on the industry’s ladder.
A rollercoaster of two roles and a big hit
Recently graduated from the University of Skövde, during the 2020 pandemic, Lisa was looking for a job. She wasn’t asking for much: she wanted money to pay the bills and also needed time to continue working with her friends on their mobile game.
Lisa didn’t only get the job, but a very particular one. In September 2020, a 22-year-old Lisa became 50% Community Manager and 50% 3D artist at Iron Gate Studio, for the still relatively unknown Valheim.
In the beginning, everything went according to plan: she was learning how to manage communities in Discord and developing her game art skills. But just 4 months after being hired, things changed.
“From one week to the next, Valheim’s Discord server grew from 5k or less to nearly 100k. It started a huge influx of engagement and growth across all social media channels. And we turned from 3-4 emails every other day, which I easily responded to manually, to 300 emails a day.”
After the sudden success, Lisa had to focus on her Community Manager role and put aside the 3D artist tasks. But now that things are calmer, she is more focused on her 3D artist position, which is the field she wants to develop more.
Valheim’s success: Tips and Lessons
Lisa entered the industry in two roles and with no experience. She had just graduated from a game art program and had never worked as a community manager before. However, 4 months after her entry, Lisa had to face the sudden success of Valheim. She shared tips and lessons from this experience:
I applied for a job that I didn't have experience in. That's my biggest tip, not to be afraid to apply even if you don't think you have experience.
Be willing to learn. I really wanted to learn new things. I think that helped me a lot to get the job.
Prepare before the release. It is crucial to prevent and prepare things before the launch. For example, we didn't have enough moderators for the people that came to our Discord server. Finding moderators is very stressful, so we should have done that beforehand.
Ask for help earlier. Due to my pride, I was determined to handle the situation alone, but at some point, I couldn't keep up with everything (emails, Discord server, social media, etc.), so we needed to hire more people. It's okay to accept that you can't do this alone anymore, and you need to voice that to those in charge so they can do something about it.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. When you learn something new, you will make mistakes, and it's okay to make those mistakes. I could be very hard on myself and blame myself a lot, and that's not good practice.
The Pro’s recommendations
The Community Manager and 3D Artist of Iron Gate Studio shares some of the games that she enjoys:
Horizon Zero Dawn
Dragon Age 2
In her upcoming talk at Friday Stories, Lisa and her Iron Gate colleague Robin Eyre, 3D Artist, will talk with the participants about how the success of Valheim has impacted their and the studio’s future.