Meet the Pride: Tommy Lachambre

Director of Player Experience in Montreal, Canada

Travel to Montreal to meet Lionbridge Games’ Director of Player Experience, Tommy Lachambre. Tommy has been in the games industry for 13 years and enjoys working with our multicultural base of crowd testers, community managers and player support agents. When he’s not working, he is likely to be found gaming, at a climbing gym or spending time with his family.

Tell us a little about your role at Lionbridge Games. What does a typical workday look like for you?

As the head of our Player Experience department, my workday revolves around providing high-value services to our clients and helping them connect with their target audiences around the world. My time is split between working on strategies for our service offerings, engaging our customers and making sure we deliver on our commitments.

What does Player Experience mean at Lionbridge?

Player Experience can represent different “boxes” depending who you ask. For Lionbridge’s Player Experience services, it means keeping the player at the center of the development cycle. We do this by leveraging a global group of real gamers to answer the questions that matters the most, before release. Is the game fun? Are the servers ready for early success? Will the game resonate across markets? We also offer more typical community-based services, like social listening, moderation services, community management and player support.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love having a hand on the pulse of our industry. I get to talk to some of the biggest names in the games industry on a regular basis, and I love learning about our gamers’ latest obsessions. When you are as connected with players as we are, you get a full understanding of where the industry needs to move and an opportunity to shape its future.

I also have the privilege to be working with people from all around the world. When I travel, I’m the kind of person that prefers aimlessly walking and paying attention to the culture, rather than hitting landmarks. Lionbridge gives me a similar opportunity to immerse myself in other cultures. The nature of the Player Experience department puts me in direct contact with players from every country and from all walks of life.

How does working with a global crowd of players help strengthen a game?

Too often, development happens in a silo. We all know that the person or the team that creates something is not the best judge of its quality. But by the time studios expose their product to a subset of their target audiences, so much work has gone in the game, and so much money has been invested already that it’s hard to backpedal. How many games release every year, just to fall almost instantly out of the collective mind? That’s where we come in.

With our crowd testing, community management and player support services, we place gamers back into the conversation about game development. We expose games to our crowd of gamers and ask them the questions games companies care about, keeping the development teams in sync with their target market and ensuring that every dollar spent in production goes towards improving the title. With us, your game faces real-world conditions without the risks of deploying the game too early. In short, “Game, meet World!”

Once the game gets closer to release, we provide community management services. We develop communities for a game or engage with existing communities, depending on what is needed at the time. We use social listening to provide feedback on the game to development teams, and we use proactive engagement to build the hype around a game and keep players engaged. Our player support services then handle whatever challenges arise, providing gamers a way to connect with development teams and share their concerns.

Why is it important to have a wide variety of gamers play a game before releasing it?

Research has long proven that we all see the world through our own lenses, and sometimes this creates blind spots. When you create a gaming experience, you need to be careful to not take anything for granted. If you’re a professional, the way you design your title is going to be based on preconceived notions about what somebody knows about how a game works. By exposing your game to a wide variety of people—for example, people with different gaming experiences—you’re going to be able to identify issues that you wouldn’t usually notice. Is your tutorial too obscure for someone not used to the specific game genre you’re developing? Is the game accessible to everyone? And never underestimate the value of seeing early how thousands of players interact with your game—that’s the real QA!

It’s also important to expose your game to people with different backgrounds, genders and ages. For example, maybe the game fun-factor appeals to a different demographic that you initially intended. And something that’s acceptable in one country may be completely unacceptable in another. You don’t want your game releasing and making the news for the wrong reasons. We help games studios avoid these problems.

Why is it important to monitor a player’s experience after a game is released?

In the past few years, the live game operations mindset has seen massive growth. Most games coming out nowadays are not a single player experience with an end screen and rolling credits, like it was a decade ago. It’s a constant content drop experience. When a game releases, it’s not the end of the development cycle—it is when the game actually starts. Now, if you’re dropping content every few days, weeks or months, you need to keep your communities alive, and you need to keep crowd testing your game. It’s important to keep in touch with what’s happening in your game’s communities and respective markets.

The most successful content drops line up with real world events. Game developers can have a lot of success by keeping tabs on what’s happening in the world, leveraging that in their game, and making sure their players and communities enjoy it. At the very core of community engagement is that concept of blurring the lines between in-game and out-of-game for the player.

What trends have you seen in the player support space?

If you go back 15 years, when you wanted help, you talked to a representative on the phone. Since then, channels have multiplied. You can contact representatives through email, live chat, SMS, in-game chat and social media. This is dubbed a multichannel experience, and is at the center of the support ecosystem. The real differentiator that is being chased today is the creation of “true omnichannel,” a workflow that leverages unified information systems, advanced communications management and highly trained support personnel.

From an end-user standpoint, the true omnichannel is in fact, “channel-less”, as the interactions between the consumer and the company are all blended in a single stream, accessible through multiple different mediums, by both parties.

Another change is the shift towards automation. Chatbots and automated replies can help companies save money, but using chatbots to spend less and implementing a comfortable and efficient agent-free experience for the customer are wildly different things. Most companies see diminishing returns, or outright negative results, when cost saving is the main driver, or when implementation is not professionally managed. We’re starting to see machine learning and AI being leveraged to assist customers and help them do what most consumers prefer to do nowadays: Use self-serve solutions to quickly fix their problems. This technology is still fairly new, but the future is going to see these self-serve solutions become ubiquitous in the support space.

What’s your favorite video game to play?

My favorite retro game is Final Fantasy Tactics. It has an amazing storyline and is still the greatest tactical game out there. More recently, I’ve fallen in love with Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s perfect in all regards—I’ve played through it four times, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t replay games.

Where do you live, and what do you enjoy most about living there?

I live in Montreal, Canada. It’s probably the most multicultural city in North America. It is also the second biggest games studio hotspot in North America, with close to 350 studios of all sizes in operation at any given time.

What’s something a tourist visiting your area shouldn’t miss?

If you come to Montreal, you should eat a poutine. It’s French fries with gravy and cheese—it’s an acquired taste. Try it now, thank me later!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Playing video games, of course! Bouldering, the baby brother of rock-climbing, is also a passion of mine. I try to go every other day if I can.  

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