Today we are chatting with our very first Haven Kafe guest! Paola Jouyaux‘s incredible career includes working at Ubisoft in the Paris editorial group and then as a production closer in the Montreal studio. Paola went on to produce games at EA and Google, and now is co-founder and executive producer at Haven, focused on leading an exceptional team of creative talents to develop an exciting new IP for Sony.
HK: Let’s start from the beginning! How did you get into the game industry?
PJ: I’ve been playing games since I was a little girl and it’s something that was always present in my life. But it took a long time for me to see it was something I could do professionally, you know? It just seemed too good to be true and not for the likes of me.
Paola at 5 yo and the big brother that was forced to play with her! Tweet @ us if you recognize the game!
So I continued my studies in visual communications, but once I was done and started working… it just didn’t feel right. At the same time, I was playing A TON of World of Warcraft (Undead Priest FTW) and it made me realize at an even a deeper level how powerful games were in bringing people together and how much I wanted to be part of creating them.
Luckily, around that time video game programs started to open at schools in France. One internet search later and I sent in my application for a master’s degree in Game Design. And the rest is history!
HK: That history eventually led us here to Haven. What inspired you as a co-founder of the studio?
PJ: My inspiration always has been and still is, first and foremost, this amazing group of people we brought together. I wanted to help create a place where they could thrive and do their most fulfilling working alongside the kindest, most talented team of people I know.
And one of the key things that allowed us to do just that is that we are creating this studio from scratch alongside Sony. They have been incredible partners for us and really gave us the freedom to do what we feel is right, so that we could build a place and product that truly represents us and what we learned through all our years working in the industry.
HK: Haven is coming up on its first birthday as a studio. Looking back now, what’s your favorite moment so far?
PJ: Without a doubt it’s the part of Haven history we call “Wonder Truck Day”!
When we started out we were still in the middle of the pandemic and didn’t have any physical space. So all the equipment was distributed across the founders’ houses. Leon (our CTO) had the computers, Jade (our CEO) had the dev kits, and I had all the swag.
The week before our official debut, we gathered at Jade’s with all the gear, rented two moving trucks and went to each of our 30 employees’ houses to distribute all the goodies and welcome gifts. It was such a unique experience to finally see all of our team members in person! And we truly felt like Santa Claus in our little trucks, giving everybody monitors, powerful laptops and PS5 consoles!
Paola’s WFH battlestation. She wants me to note she may have gone a bit overboard with her set-up.
HK: What can you tell us about your role as executive producer? What does your day-to-day look like? Aside from driving around like Santa, of course.
PJ: The mission Jade set for us when she started the studio was to create a “haven” for all creators: “a place offering favorable opportunities or conditions, a haven for artists”. This resonated so much with me because throughout my career, I have been happiest and most inspired when I am leading creative teams to reach their full potential.
I’m very lucky that’s what I get to do everyday at Haven, working alongside our amazing studio team and some of my favorite people: our Creative Director, Mathieu Leduc, Head of Production, JF “Sapin” Sapinski, and Technical Director, Sacha Vitolfski (and many more!).
More concretely, day to day, my role is to make sure that as a team we have the right strategy and focus and that we’re removing anything that comes in the way of us reaching our goals and having a happy and healthy team!
HK: One last question, what excites you most about the future of games and what’s next for players?
PJ: I’m very excited that games are finally getting the recognition they well deserve and that games now stand on their own as cultural phenomena. The pandemic has accelerated the appeal of games as entertainment, and also as a fantastic way for people to stay connected to each other. I am excited by the new ways that games can enrich people’s lives, providing people a place where they can escape, find communities while having fun together!
On another level, I’m also very excited about what Machine Learning will bring to games and to the world, which is why I left the industry for a while to work at Google Deepmind in London . I believe it’s going to bring a new age that will empower all kinds of new developers to make games and ultimately allow us to co-create with our users in new and uncharted ways.
Thanks for coming along with us as we shine a spotlight on our fabulous team! Join us in two weeks for a discussion with Cristian Donoso where they will discuss cloud tech and homemade server farms. If you have any questions, hit us up on our twitter: @HavenStudiosInc