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Text Interviews

How League of Legends Stays on Top of Their Talent at Riot Games, with Brian Breth

Approximately 2.2 billion people are gaming worldwide as stated in the Newzoo Global Games Market Report. It’s crazy to think that gamers across the globe are expected to round out 2017 with $108.9 billion in game revenue. Billions of gamers, billions of dollars, with North America rolling in as the second largest video gaming region (falling just $1 billion behind China) with estimated revenues of $25.4 billion in 2016, according to Ukie. It’s not every day that you use “billion” six times in the span of two sentences. However, it’s appropriate given the United States games industry directly and indirectly employed more than 220,000 people, contributing $11.7 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the US economy.

With gaming consumption only rising, it’s no surprise that there must be a secret to keeping this market afloat. The main ingredient? Amazing teams. Brian Breth, Recruiting Manager at Riot Games, sat down with Canvas to dive deeper into the ins and outs of what constitutes a phenomenal player and candidate experience. 

What are some early observations regarding the talent marketplace of the gaming industry?

There are a lot of innovations happening in the talent acquisition space with respect to the tools that are available to help create efficiencies and drive automation so recruiters and their leaders can focus on higher value activities.

I remember reading a jobs report from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, saying that right now, the ratio of available talent to open jobs is almost one to one. The gaming industry is a very competitive space.

Is automation, and the impact of machine learning, on your mind with regard to scale and making sure the recruiter's time is spent in the right places?

Yeah, I think so. Ahead of that, though, is recruiting leaders really have to make sure that there are certain behaviors in place so the tools or efficiencies that get created are used fully. 

A lot of times, what I see happen is these new tools and efficiencies are put in place, but they end up just being band-aids, masking symptoms of an underlying problem. If recruiters are not necessarily documenting or using systems the way that they need to, it becomes difficult to evaluate performance. 

You've got to use a tool in a way that you'll get the data out of it that you put into it.

Yeah, totally agree!

Are there particularly unique attributes that you think the gaming industry requires of talent? 

Our goal is to be the most player-focused gaming company in the world. For Riot Games specifically, in order to do that, we hire gamers. And we don't just hire people who play games to pass the time, but people who make time to play. 

Brian, are you a gamer?

I am. In fact, I'm probably what would be termed a nostalgic gamer. I've been mostly a console gamer my whole life, and even before consoles came out I was playing Dungeons & Dragons, I was in the role-playing scene, and then the Atari 2600 came out. I also owned an Intellivision.

I never really was a PC gamer, and then in 2015, I was introduced to League of Legends, and I've been hooked ever since.

Speaking to your black licorice culture at Riot Games, what are some ways your talent team creatively solves problems differently than "HR?

Everything we do is for the player, and in support of the player experience. We've got to be able to do the best job that we can absolutely do in order to provide that extraordinary player experience.

What drew you to Riot Games?

The way that I chose to manage my career was by adding variety and versatility. The attractive thing to me here at Riot Games was to be in an environment that I hadn't been in before and solve problems that I never tried to solve before.

What are some of the new experiences that you've encountered thus far?

There are many new experiences, but a couple stand out: One, is working in the video game industry specifically. Number two is lead recruiting for the publishing group, which is a vertical that I've not serviced in the past.

What advice would you have for someone looking to make an impact in the talent game? In any industry.

I like versatility. I would argue that I do have slight areas of specialization, but overall, I can very confidently say that I could be dropped in any environment, and I have strong principles and best practices that I can apply to any situation. I think that's what people in this profession should be thinking about. It's less about the specific areas of focus that you want to get experience in, but rather what experiences can provide a good set of foundational principles and best practices to solve problems in any arena.

Who are thought leaders you pay attention to in the talent space?

One is John Vlastelica. He's one of the managing partners at and founder of Recruiting Toolbox. I have a lot of respect for him, he's absolutely taught me, and he's been a good mentor with respect to what I know today. Then colleagues, like Johnny Sanchez at Hot Topic, and Chad MacRae at Recruiting Social. Those are just a few folks who are really being champions of our profession. 

Outside of Riot Games, what companies do you admire for their approach to talent? 

I admire Patagonia, not just in their approach to talent but as a company. I love how socially responsible they are. I have a lot of respect for them. 

I also have a lot of respect for companies like Tesla. You get folks from Tesla, and they've gone through the gauntlet in terms of being screened to work there. You know that that's a company that's continuously innovating. They have a really high bar for talent, and I have a lot of respect for that.

Riot Games, named Inc’s 2016 Company of the Year, does a fanatical job of leveraging their employment brand to attract only the best and obsessed Rioters possible to build and scale League of Legends (LoL), which brings in an average of $1.6 billion annual in-game revenue. They leave no team expectations to mystery as they recruit talent aligned with their cultural tenets. Riot Games has 7.5 million concurrent LoL players during peak hours each day, due in part to the talent they maintain, building and beautifying this one massive niche. 

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