Those of you who have a good memory will recall back in June how we talked about our hunt for a creative director and how important the role was for Klang and our ability to succeed with SEED. Well, the good news is that we were successful and are very happy to announce Matthieu Gallais as our new Head of Creative!
Matt has already been working with us for quite some time already so we thought it was about time we caught up with him and introduced him to the world. He’s been incredibly busy (and we’re not just saying that!) and has gotten in deep, extremely quickly, with the massive challenge that is SEED.
Storyboard style sketch of a Seedling's development, WIP
Matt has come to Klang after 14 years of working in gaming experiences: with five of those as Creative Director for some projects at Eidos Montreal/Square Enix. He led the development (creative direction, art direction) of Deus Ex: Breach, an esport take on one of Square Enix’ most respected franchises, while most recently he rebuilt the vision for Crey, a Roblox-like UGC (user generated content) platform.
Originally from France, Matt had been living in Canada for more than a decade before taking the plunge to come back across the Atlantic with his young family. No small decision. This willingness to change things up and seek adventure doesn’t come as much of a surprise: it's clear that Matt is an artist through and through, a very talented one, with an intuitive understanding of creativity and play - in all their forms. When I enquire if the move was difficult, he’s quick to say how great it’s been, even if his flat is still missing some furniture. ‘Berlin is a really creative and stimulating place’, he says with remarkable energy, ‘Klang feels right where I should be. And Klang is right where it should be. Berlin is a special city for a special company. Klang is iconoclastic in many ways and so is Berlin’
There aren’t many Creative Directors in a studio, so you can say it’s a rare breed of game developer, something Matt acknowledges. ‘‘It’s a role that ends up happening to you, I feel. I come from art and game design, love programming, making music… In my career I've always ended up talking with many different experts and being a bit of a bridge, so I've become a creative director not as a personal ambition but because it was the most logical spot to put me in, really!’
Storyboard style exploration of Seedling relationships, WIP
Importantly for Matt, his role is not about having an idea for how things should be, but rather gathering the ideas that exist and putting them together in a coherent and creative way. ‘It does require a unique skill set that is hard to measure. It’s about communication, gathering what’s already been said on the team but reshaping it until it grooves.’ But as a vocation, it shouldn’t be considered a static status: ‘It feels to me that training to be a creative director begins when you are one, not before. Each new project feels like a completely new job with everything to relearn.’
It’s clear that Matt is very interested in people: both the people that make a game but also those who play it and sees his role in allowing a game to exist beyond any strict set of specifications. It’s a topic that he comes back to again and again: nurturing and parenting a vision to allow for as many people to act upon it as possible. You can hear the DNA of SEED ring throughout much of what Matt’s got to say about this job! ‘You can’t ignore what players are going to do with your game. The best you can do is give your game the best tools so that it doesn’t fall apart as soon as someone else holds it in their arms.’
And so all of this talk of nurturing and communication leads to a logical response when I ask about the major inspirations in his career. ‘Being a parent,’ he says without much hesitation, ‘having a kid is a major way of learning how to let go of things, and appreciate how to not be the main character anymore. It’s inspiring in so many ways.’
What’s exciting about Matt is not just how much he believes in the creation he sees players partaking in, it’s the scope of the experience he envisions. ‘It's like a place more than a game in my mind. Games are virtual but the experiences are real.’