Being part of a greater community

Riad Djemili, co-founder, Maschinen-Mensch & SAFTLADEN

Saftladen is Berlin’s first indie game developer collective and shared working space. How did the infrastructure in Berlin contribute to this project?

The game development scene in Berlin is very vibrant and well connected. There are several private and public entities like games:net or that organize many networking events throughout the year. The amount of events sometimes happening during a single week still amazes me and they have a real tangible effect: Studio Fizbin and Maschinen-Mensch met at one of those events and founded Saftladen together. It is also where we found many of the members that are now part of the collective.

What gave you the idea to start and implement this kind of collaboration?

Johannes Kristmann and me used to work at YAGER in a large team and we knew how nice it was to be part of a greater community: from having lunch together, to board game nights to having a beer together after work. We wanted to build such a community for indie game developers. A community that would offer opportunities for exchanging professional knowledge, but also for just feeling at home and realizing that you are not alone in your creative struggles.

Saftladen was the first of game developer co-working spaces in Berlin. What distinguishes your space from others? Are you interacting with the other game developer collectives in any way?

We felt that the Berlin game developer community is so large and special that it deserves a dedicated co-working space. A difference to more established co working spaces is that we’re not aiming to make a profit. All members share the rent equally and the founders pay their part like everybody else. We also have an open decision process. This is why we call ourselves a collective instead of co-working space. We try to not only offer a space for Saftladen members, but to bring more attention to the vibrant indie scene of Berlin in general. We’re often contacted by press or people who are new to the game developer scene and we’re happy to connect them with members of the Berlin scene. Throughout the year, we also offer open door events, arrange small game dev meetups and in a few special cases also hosted special gathering with representatives from companies such as Valve and Kickstarter. We've been quite successful at putting our name and message out there, we’re at the stage where large publishers contact us directly to visit the space and see a preview of the projects we're working on. It has become a  must-visit destination in Germany for a lot of international guests.

Berlin gathers game enthusiasts from around the world - the same applies to Saftladen. From your international perspective, what strengths do you see in Berlin as a games location? Where is room for improvement? 

Berlin is very diverse and open-minded. As a native Berliner I often forget how distinct this makes Berlin from a lot of other places. The affordable prizes make for an environment that is at a sweet spot between being raw and exciting for a new generation of young game developers but also established enough to be attractive to larger game studios. The international appeal of Berlin and this mix of small and big players creates a very interesting ecosystem. The biggest risk that we’re currently facing is the rampant housing inflation going on in Berlin and a lot of other cities world wide. Offices don’t enjoy any protective laws at the moment. Our office rent just went up by over 50% recently.

What are your plans with Saftladen in the foreseeable future? 

We started with 10 desks in 2015 and grew to 31 desks in our current office location at Kottbusser Tor. Since day one we’ve been booked out and have been having a growing waiting list ever since. It is a pity having to turn down so many interesting and upcoming game developers right now, so our aim is to grow further. Not because we must, but because we see the immense potential for the whole community if we continue joining forces.


Thank you, Riad!