Win-win: The Spilt Milk approach to internships
Spilt Milk Studios
Spilt Milk Studios is an independent game developer based in London, UK. Founded in 2010, they’ve released 9 games commercially – 8 of them original IP – as well as countless jam games, festival installations, charity efforts, prototypes and a significant amount of work for hire with some of the industry’s biggest companies. Their team of 13 (and growing) endeavours to nurture, support, and celebrate this wonderful industry of theirs in any way they can.
Spilt Milk Studios’ founder, Andrew Smith, understands the importance of internships. They’re an opportunity to give something back while also bringing through future talent.
But the benefits of internships can go both ways. In Spilt Milk’s case, they resulted in a diversified team, a new game and a new publishing label.
In 2019, Andrew took a call from CAPA, a company that places students in businesses all over the world. CAPA had a student artist, Connor Walls, and wanted to know if the Spilt Milk team would take him on. At first, he’d been hesitant, but after checking out Connor’s portfolio, Andrew agreed.
Connor worked for nine weeks and gained valuable experience on the team’s then-current project. For their part, the Spilt Milk team benefitted from an extra pair of hands. But they also learned how to manage a junior staff member. A very different skill from working with established industry veterans.
Later that same year, Andrew received another call. This time from East London Arts and Music (ELAM), a college for 16-19 year-olds. This experience was different. ELAM were offering two students for two weeks before they headed to university.
Andrew sensed an opportunity. He was eager to build a diverse team. In his own words, Spilt Milk at that time was “straight, white and male.” He told ELAM that he would love to take on any students whose backgrounds didn’t match his own.
Ellie Vong and Raiyana Haque joined shortly after, and Spilt Milk became a team of five. Two of whom were BAME and female. Andrew had started down the path of diversifying the studio, with internships as the driving force.
The team scoped out a new game for Ellie, Raiyana and Connor to work on. A highscore chasing arcade game based on the eating habits of sandpipers: Peck N Run.
The project went well. A combination of great communication — daily stand-ups — and the talent of the three interns. The students were able to develop their skills, and learn new ones like version control. Andrew and then-CTO Andrew Roper built on their experience of managing juniors. A win-win for everyone.
There was one issue. Spilt Milk wanted to allow all three to contribute to a game that would launch into the wild. Something that would shine on their CVs when the time came to look for work.
But the studio’s main project had shuttered, and it was unlikely that they’d be able to find funding for Peck N Run. What to do? The team sensed another opportunity — they would release the game themselves.
The publishing label Spilt Milk Shake was born with Peck N Run as its debut game. The interns had their first credit on a published title. The Spilt Milk team had a new avenue through which to launch prototypes and experimental games.
What began in 2019 with a cold call continues today. 23 interns have now passed through Spilt Milk’s doors and they’re as important to the company as ever. From prototyping the studio’s new game — Sellswords — to developing branding, internships continue to make a key contribution to Spilt Milk’s success.
The interns, meanwhile, pick up skills that will benefit them throughout their careers along with a credit on any game they contribute to. As Andrew says, “what’s not to like?”.