Game On: #RaiseTheGame Remotely Round-Up

By Dominic Shaw on 28/05/2020

                   We had an excellent response and great turnout for our first virtual event earlier this month. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many of us have seen rapid and significant changes to the ways we work. All disciplines and sectors of the games industry have had to re-evaluate ways of working and come up with solutions in order to keep game development continuing and businesses running. 

This is why we felt it was vital to organise a #RaiseTheGame event, not only as a means to discuss the current situation but also as a platform to highlight the continued importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I), especially during these challenging times.

We all have a lot to deal with right now and D&I may not be on the top of everyone's priority list, potentially leaving both by the wayside considering them as separate matters to business agenda and infrastructure, but we feel it is essential to keep the momentum of D&I going to ensure:

  • Work practices are inclusive and consider various factors that not only regard the business but also every employee within a company in mind too.
  • The industry adapts a flexible approach to accommodate staff facing numerous personal struggles during this period, such as childcare, isolation and mental health issues.
  • The video games workforce continues to diversify and inspire people of various backgrounds to start a career in video games and ever increase greater representation in the games produced and talent recruited. 

Alongside myself (Dominic Shaw, Office Manager at Ukie) as moderating host and organiser, I was joined by Khally Saarman-Jones who co-organised and chaired the panel. 

                                                                        Not to mention we had a fantastic panel consisting of… 

From left to right: Melissa Bachman-Wood (Vice-President of Studio at Jagex), Kate Lindsay (Head of HR at Splash Damage) and Marie-Claire Isaaman (CEO of Women In Games).
From left to right: Melissa Bachman-Wood (Vice-President of Studio at Jagex), Kate Lindsay (Head of HR at Splash Damage) and Marie-Claire Isaaman (CEO of Women In Games).

Our online panel was focused on the impact of remote working and how this might affect work across the industry to make our organisations more inclusive and diverse. Key areas that our panellists discussed included: 

  • How organisations are ensuring their teams remain connected and ways that we can continue to foster inclusivity. 
  • Approaches to recent practical challenges caused by the Covid-19 lock-down such as recruiting remotely and communicating effectively without face-to-face interactions; where panellists presented actionable remote working practices and suggestions for anyone to consider. 
  • How we can continue supporting diversity and inclusion during this period and ways we can adapt our initiatives.
  • The future impact, benefits and challenges we have to deal with resulting from the changes we are currently seeing, as well as practical advice and lessons learned as an industry that we can take forward. 

During the discussion our panellists demonstrated why diversity and inclusion should remain top priorities within the games industry, and that the limitations of the current circumstances don't stop us from moving forward, yet instead offer us a unique opportunity to learn, and in overcoming difficulties there may be practices and learning we can take forward even once lock-down has eased.

                          It really was a splendid experience, after the event my fellow co-host had this to say… 

 Khally Saarman-Jones, HR and Facilities Manager of Payload Studios
 Khally Saarman-Jones, HR and Facilities Manager of Payload Studios

Payload Studios were thrilled to partner with Ukie on the recent Game On: #RaiseTheGame panel. Our Game On initiative focuses on catalysing change to make the games industry more inclusive. The value of events like these was demonstrated by the positive feedback from attendees on the night. I thoroughly enjoyed chairing the panel and was delighted to be part of the discussion.  

Payload Studios are proud partners of the #RaiseTheGame pledge and encourage anyone interested in improving diversity and inclusion in their organisations to visit the pledge website. 

If you’d like more details about our regular free Game On events please contact me at or follow me on twitter, @Khally_SJ

As for me I felt the panel was a success all-round and as Ukie's representative for the event was proud to organise and be involved overall. If you weren’t able to be part of it on the night don’t worry as we recorded the whole discussion for you to watch with subtitles below… 

Unfortunately as you might have noticed by the end of the video, we weren’t able to answer all of the audience questions that were submitted. Opportunely our panellists had some time in their schedules after the event to give us some responses to these questions which you can read below: 

Dominic: Hi everyone, thanks for sparing some more time to speak with me and answer these remaining questions. First, a very insightful question; Why is improving diversity and inclusion in the industry a priority for you and your organisations? 

Kate: We know by now that a diverse team works better, that they’re more likely to stay at a company for longer and will collaborate better. Improving D&I around the industry will allow us to reach a new level in terms of success that we’ve not seen before. So not only do we know it’s the right thing to do, as we want our company to be as fair as possible for everyone, but it’s also the right thing to do as an industry to take us to the next level.  

This has been a priority for us at Splash Damage for the past 2 years, and while we can see that we’ve managed to do quite a lot with it, not only by normalising conversations around mental health, but also by training our staff to spot unconscious bias in their day to day job, and we want to continue making strides by putting it at the forefront of our decisions. 

Marie-Claire: Diversity and Inclusion is an absolute priority for us. Women in Games is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009. Its focused on a very specific area of diversity – gender equality – we aim to achieve full and lasting equity and parity for women throughout the gaming and esports industry pipelines and beyond. 

Grown from grassroots to the leading global force on gender equality in the gaming business we work with a wide range of partners, organisations and the educational sector to improve diversity and inclusion. Our vision is of not only an industry, but a culture and community free of gender discrimination, where equality of opportunity, treatment and conditions empowers girls and women from all backgrounds to achieve full potential. And there is a business case for diversity – ‘Gender diverse teams make better business decisions 25% of the time, and including age and geographic diversity increases the advantage to 50%’ #RaiseTheGame.  

A further vision of mine is a UK Games Industry, which is a shining example, nationally and globally of what can be done when we all work together to address common goals and actively champion change. 

Dominic: Great to hear such passion behind your reasons. This next question more aimed at you Marie-Claire due to your background in education; What impact do we expect the pandemic to have on students and the job opportunities open to them in games? Is there anything we can do to help? 

Marie-Claire: There is great uncertainty and upheaval in the entire educational sector – from schools through to HEI’s. Universities have long been reliant on international students, the likely loss of this income from overseas, will have severe consequences for some institutions. Universities have asked for investment from government to ensure that universities are able to play a central role in the UK’s economic and social recovery following the crisis. They believe without this support there will be worsening regional skills gaps and widening economic disparities and that the UK’s global position as a world-leader in research and education could suffer significant damage.  

Some universities may already have strong online systems but smaller universities may struggle under the weight of this new demand. In Computing and Games programmes access to University and College high spec hardware and software, purchased for use on campus only, cannot be always be accessed from home, or students don’t have powerful enough hardware or stable enough broadband for functionality.  

The spread of COVID-19 is a stressful event that has have a direct effect on students wellbeing, with growing reports about higher than normal levels of student anxiety. 

The closure of campus facilities may also have impacted on exam and assessment preparation. For example, a quiet space to study, such as a campus library might be a relevant issue, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds in hectic households where there are no spare spaces to work. Also, access to technologies at home is particularly crucial for online lectures and classes, and this is unlikely to be evenly distributed across income groups. 

Internships and work experience in games studios has been affected, some companies have found remote ways of engaging graduates but many don’t have the capacity to add this opportunity. Graduates may not feel fully prepared for online interviews, remote working and socially distanced on-boarding. It’s so important that the industry and educational sector discuss these employability challenges and develop joint strategies that encourage talented young people and support educational providers to develop the talent needed within the games industry. We need to work together. 

Dominic: I absolutely agree, it is more important than ever for the games industry and educational sector to be in discussions and keep connected in mind of the next generation of industry talent. Possibly something you can shred some more light on Kate; Do you expect to see an increase in remote working once the pandemic has ended? How could this impact diversity? Would it provide new opportunities for organisations? 

Kate: I think the whole world will change how it works and remote working will finally become the norm, which is exciting for everyone.  

I think the biggest impact will be to primary caregivers, which statistically we know is mainly women still. Flexible working and now remote working shouldn’t hinder career progression in any way, so it’s imperative that companies become in tune with this and focus on productivity and results and not on working hours as a measure of success.  

Remote working opens up the talent pool to hire a variety of candidates with individual needs and we should be open to all possibilities that come our way. 

Dominic: No doubt we’ve seen greater mindfulness toward flexible working, and it will be interesting to see if and how it will be carried on once we come out of lockdown. A question for anyone to answer; One of the things that can be missing from remote working is the fun and social interaction that can come with working face to face with colleagues in an office. Do you have any examples of ways to keep teams connected and social? Have you found anything in particular that works (certain times, certain activities etc etc)? 

Kate: We haven’t slowed down our socials here at Splash – it’s still a thriving thing. There have been pub quizzes, game nights and even a magic show.Friday beers at 5:30pm are still a thing at Splash and it’s a firm part of our culture. It’s great to see this has stayed strong and people still stop to go to the virtual pub and hang out. 

If you haven’t already, then you need to check out our #sdfromhome hashtag on Twitter – when we did dress up theme week it was literally the talk of the studio. Really good fun and a great way to share humour. 

Slack and Discord have been saviours for connectivity and have seen a big increase in activity on both these platforms, with most employees commenting it’s one of the best ways to communicate and interact like you are still in the office. 

We also do a monthly newsletter, “What’s Splashin” which focuses on fun stories from our employees and gives a glimpse into some of their personal lives, which is great for connecting each other. 

Dominic: The amount of activities you are doing as a team outside of work sounds like a blast, little jealous I’m not joining in on the fun!  

Finally is there any resources or such you would recommend for people to check out on matters you’ve discussed or to find out more about yourselves and/or your organisations? 

Melissa: To keep up with all the movements we do, please take a look at Jagex’s website and follow us on Twitter. I would also personally suggest taking a look at Jagex’s charitable giving section on the website, where we list all the charities we work with or have involved with, like CPSL MIND who are mental health charity that provides support to individuals experiencing mental health problems, both during periods of crisis and on the road to recovery. Which in turn encourage us as an business to promote positive mental wellbeing within our teams and player communities. 

Marie-Claire: Similar to Melissa, take a look at the WIGJ website and follow us on Twitter to see all of our archived and upcoming activities. I would heavily recommend reading Sutton Trust Report (Implications of the Covid-19 Crisis for Educational Inequality by Dr Rebecca Montacute) as it expands in-depth much of what I’ve talked about for this panel. 

Kate: Check out the Splash Damage website, follow us on Twitter and if you get the chance take a glance at our hashtag #sdfromhome. I would also like to highlight Access VFX, Animation and Games - Splash Damage also works with this organisation to actively purse and encourage D&I, awareness and opportunity throughout the creative sector. 

Once again I want to thank everyone who took part or joined us on the night for the panel, and even if your weren’t thank you for reading this article. Keep an eye out for more activities and content from both the #RaiseTheGame diversity pledge and all our pledge partner over the coming months! 

                                                                                                  You can sign up to the pledge here