The video game industry, unlike others, is incredibly adaptable. The agile nature of games studios mean that massive changes in the way the world is now working, thanks to COVID-19, doesn’t have as dramatic an effect as it does on other industries.
Regardless of the uncertainty it brings, causing havoc amongst industry events such as EGX Rezzed, GDC and Develop: Brighton, COVID-19 has tested the global workforce to the limits of their systems and work practises. As an industry, we’ve been able to transition to work from home relatively easily. For most of us, this won’t be the first time in our career we’ve been professionally remote. Here at Aardvark Swift, for example, we’ve been able to function without skipping a beat, thanks to the dedication of those like Glenn Spenceley who ensured our software and hardware requirements were catered for.
We realise that not everyone has that luxury, and we can’t know how things are for our industry peers without speaking to them. We’ve spent the last fortnight reaching out to studios all over the world to determine just what noticeable affects COVID-19 is having on video games and recruitment. “We are operating a totally remote hiring process; substituting onsite interviews for Skype or Microsoft Teams calls instead,” reported Jasper Barnes, Talent Acquisition Manager of Team17. When posing the question, has he seen a noticeable halt to hiring processes, he replied; “not at all, we are a technological company, and we have the systems and tech available to ensure that we can continue our processes in spite of this pandemic.”
This thought was shared by many developers throughout our conversations, both at home and abroad. With 90% of our workloads handled exclusively online, if any industry should be able to make a seamless transition; it’s ours. “Game developers are uniquely placed, as a workforce, to do what they do from anywhere in the world. Great games can be made from a studio flat in Hackney, to a purpose-built studio in LA. There’s very few boundaries if you’ve got the right tools for the job,” added Simon Hope, our Director of Recruitment, who has been the driving force behind this health check of the industry.
Many studios have opted to adopt remote hiring and remote working processes during COVID-19 in ways that could far outlast the pandemic itself; especially if they prove more efficient and accessible to candidates and businesses globally. Although relocations are currently postponed, the physical hiring process itself shows no signs of abating. In fact, international candidates are being offered the chance to withhold the acceptance of new positions until such a time as the current uncertainty has dissipated.
With over three quarters of the studios we have spoken to confirming that they have no plans to alter their hiring strategies in spite of COVID-19’s perceived disruption, this gives us a hugely positive outlook on the health of the industry, and the people who work within it. Some of the first businesses to announce they were working from home, as per government guidance, were from the tech and gaming sectors, showing that the industry puts the wellbeing of their team above everything else.
The industry has come out in force to support good causes since the outbreak first began to affect the wider population, founding campaigns such as #PlayApartTogether, working alongside national charities to ensure the most vulnerable in society are cared for, and actually lending resources to help find a cure for the virus itself.
As more and more people find themselves homebound, either through self-isolation or work-from-home practices, the demand for online streaming and other industry-related services continues to increase. Xbox Live, Nintendo Switch Online and Discord have all suffered short outages recently. This comes after US network provider Verizon reported a 75% increase in gaming-related activities during the COVID-19 situation after a strong week in video game retail.
With the demand for video games never higher, and the World Health Organization endorsing the hobby as a great way to keep your mind and social interactions active during the global pandemic, it’s good to know that the future of the industry will not be restricted by a lack of new talent. The fact that hiring is continuing ensures that ideas can be shared between companies, studios and developers, which will only work out better for the consumer in the long run as games continue to improve.
In short, studios are still looking for talented individuals and we’re still working on their behalf.