Zynga has gotten a lot of criticism for the past couple of years that it’s not a good place to work. However, industry veteran Bob Bates finds the atmosphere of the social gaming giant quite liberating.
“The great thing about Zynga that people don’t get is our values are up on the wall, and the top one, which I take really, really seriously, is ‘Be the CEO.’ That pervades the entire Zynga culture,” says Bates. “For me in particular, all the things that I have done at Zynga have been because I said to my boss ‘I think I can help out there,’ and he said ‘Okay.’ ‘I think that game could use a lot more of me… what’s the best use of Bob ‘ In every case, he said ‘okay’, and in some cases he said ‘I was hoping you would ask.'”
To Bates, he thinks there is a lot to learn about social games personally and that the industry needs to evolve a lot still. “It’s an amazing education,” he says. “It has been like drinking from a firehose. This social gaming business is so radically different than anything we’ve ever known; it’s been really interesting. And it really is just the beginning.”
“The thing that makes this different from everything we’ve done before really is the social element. We’re still in the infancy of understanding what’s possible and what it really means for a game to be social. Right now we’re viral, but true social, where you feel like you’re actually playing with your friends, not ‘I’m playing here, he’s playing there’ is still ahead,” he added. “The sense of actually playing together, that’s a real challenge, and I’d like to be in a position where I can attack that challenge. I don’t feel like I know enough yet to pull that off; I’m still learning the space. Finding ways to do those kinds of things would be very, very cool.”