One Year-On Pledge Partner Case Study: Aardvark Swift
By The Editor on 17/02/2021
As part of the 1 Year Anniversary for #RaiseTheGame we asked pledge partners and supporters to produce case studies for us to put towards our One Year-On Report.
The report is the pledge’s first accountability activity for partners and supporters, by giving organisations involved the chance to spotlight and talk about their involvement in the pledge along with all the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts they are doing!
The aim of the report is not to name and shame organisations if controversies have occurred, or there are no developments in particular areas for some time, but to encourage and normalise honest conversation around recruitment, work practices and external representation. Giving those involved in the pledge a chance to reflect, be transparent and review their activities - to be accountable and see where they are doing good and/or can improve in.
On the other hand, the report is also about rejoicing best practice and the achievements many of our pledge partners and supporters have attained on their EDI journeys either on their own or with the help of the pledge. As #RaiseTheGame is all about collaboration and learning from each other - thus allowing our pledge partner and supporter case studies to also act as a resource for other games businesses and organisations to learn from and see how their peers are improving diversity and inclusion in their workplaces.
Here's how one of our Pledge Partners, Aardvark Swift, are developing their business through EDI and support from the pledge:
Here at Aardvark Swift, we have taken our commitments to diversity and inclusion seriously, not just over the last 12 months, but historically. The #RaiseTheGame Diversity Pledge was a natural fit for us as a business, and it has been a pleasure to commit to this standard alongside our industry peers. We’re happy to present how we have supported the initiative and how our activities have exemplified the three core pillars of the pledge itself over the last 12 months.
Pillar 1 - Creating a Diverse Workforce
In terms of recruitment, we partnered with Ukie and provided advice for studios (both large and small) to enable them to recruit more diversely and inclusively within the industry (this was hosted on the RaiseTheGame blog). This was based around being mindful of the language used in job advertisements, to being flexible in the reasonable adjustments provided to working norms, ensuring opportunities aren’t closed off to anyone based on factors such as identity, race, religion, age, disability, and more.
As race specifically was brought to the forefront by the BLM movement, sparked by the death of George Floyd, we announced that our professional services were available to the black game development community, providing financial and commitment free CV, portfolio, and employment advice to those that wanted it. This involved our recruitment team giving up their free time to be available whenever necessary for inbound queries. From this, Femi Boye reached out to us after seeing our commitment on our official social channels. After working with our Senior Recruiter, Chris Mellor, and determining the types of roles he’d be interested in, Chris was able to place him in his first industry role at Airship Images as a Marketing and Engagement Manager.
Pillar 2 - Shaping Inclusive and Welcoming Places to Work
In the latter half of this year, we revamped our core value structure and the progression ladder within the business. New hires and promotions are now made in line with the five tenants we hold dear, and the attributes which have gotten us to where we are and will continue to drive us forward (Team-centric, Resourceful, Above & Beyond, Grafter, and Deliver). We saw this as necessary within the business to promote inclusion and transparency. This now solidifies, to both external and internal individuals, what we look for from our team, regardless of background or identity, providing a clear path to career progression.
After an unexpected year of work from home, we’ve seen just how dedicated our team are, even when working miles apart. In this vein, we’re conducting a WFH project which will eventually see us being able to offer flexible and remote work on an ongoing basis to those in the team who would like it. This will enable us to recruit from a broader talent pool, including those who don’t feel they’re compatible with a typical office environment.
In terms of training, we’ve undergone an upskilling within our marketing department, providing training with an external provider to develop new skills and improve on existing abilities. Five of our team, including a recent new hire, have now undergone training, and have received Adobe certification for the Creative Cloud suite of products, allowing us to better service clients and candidates, and enabling our marketing team to advance their own careers within the business. This shows our commitment to the personal development of our team over a prolonged period of time.
Inclusivity within our team has been heartening to see. Over the last 12 months, two members of our team have become Women in Games Ambassadors, recruiters in a perfect position to directly influence the studio cultures of the future, providing valuable advice and advocating for women in the industry. We’ve also recently hired a Senior Recruiter and an Internal Recruitment Manager from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds.
Pillar 3 - Reflecting Greater Diversity in our Work
Thanks in part to the restriction on in-person events at academia up and down the country due to COVID-19, but also as a wider effort from within the business to improve the accessibility of our career and guidance talks, our annual Get in the Game event has gone digital! The revamped Get in the Game Journey allows games students to have direct access to portfolio, CV, interview, and job specific advice for a number of industry roles, both from our own team of experts as well as industry professionals from several of our studio partners. Whereas previous GiTG events have required direct participation at certain UK and European universities, now games students based anywhere can have access to our years of hard-won industry advice for making the transition from education to employment. Last year, we visited 30+ universities and spoke in front of 3000+ students over a six-month period. Within a month of our online offering going live, we have already hosted webinars for over 2000 students.
After further collaborating with industry professionals, our grassroots work with Grads in Games has also enabled us to develop our very own code test for programming students. This will allow those in the programming discipline to test their own skills outside of a high-pressure interview process, giving them the opportunity to see where they are and where they need to be. This should help to demystify the professional side of video games, providing more transparency to industry standards for all, and not just a select few.
We’re incredibly proud of the Grads in Games initiative. Originally launched and cultivated by Aardvark Swift back in 2014, it has evolved throughout the years, transitioning in 2021 into an entirely separate non-profit community interest company. It has always been in a fantastic position to influence real change within the industry in terms of showcasing games industry careers to all, and this change will allow them to grow and reach more people with the valuable work they do. Their careers advice, game dev challenges, and sector insight will allow anyone interested in pursuing a life-long career in games has access to the information they need, regardless of their background.
Over the last twelve months, we have also engaged in charity work which broadens industry inclusivity and diversity. We’re participated in both the Virtual 10K and OneSpecialDay for SpecialEffect, a charity who ensure video games are accessible to all. As well as running our own event, a double Ironman-length Triathlon, for OneSpecialDay, we also partnered with nDreams for their Taskmaster Challenge. Combined, we’ve raised over £2000 for video game accessibility. More recently, we’ve also partnered with both Gamers Beat Cancer and Autistica Play to champion two causes close to the hearts of our team (which will be continued into 2021).
As a founding member of the Game Dev Heroes awards, we were instrumental in ensuring that this year's awards went ahead remotely (as planned), despite global restrictions on in-person events, and we also ensured we had a diverse judging panel in place to fully represent the many different views and backgrounds from within the industry. This equated to further inclusivity and recognisition to underrepresented groups within video games and our most diverse winners' roster ever!
We're also working with Sumo Digital, and a number of other studio partners, to overturn the high socioeconomic barrier that exists in the games industry. The problem confronted by many when applying for entry-level roles is the necessity of at least an undergraduate degree. University education favours a very small demographic of the overall talent pool, so we are part of trailblazer steering committee working hard to create the first games industry apprenticeship standards. As part of our involvement, we've brought on a number of studios to ensure wider buy-in from the development community which will ensure this project's success.
“As someone who came from a male-dominated and oftentimes toxic corner of the industrial sector, it was a breath of fresh-air to join an industry making concerted efforts to improve both diversity and inclusion for all. When Aardvark Swift signed up to the #RaiseTheGame Diversity Pledge, it told me that my employer actively supported the positive steps being taken by the most forward-thinking and socially conscious contingent of video games. It allowed me to be brave enough to publicly identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I wouldn’t have imagined being comfortable enough to do that twelve months ago. It means a lot to finally be unapologetically me.”
Jimmy Bowers, Marketing Assistant
There have certainly been challenges within the last 12 months. With 2020 seemingly stuck on Hard Mode, and our team unable to work together in-person for over half of the year, we’re incredibly proud of the positive steps we’ve made and the direct impact we’ve had on inclusivity and employability within the games industry. As we undergo a period of hiring, with our team set to grow in size moving forward to 2021, we’re now in a fantastic position to offer internal flexibility like never before, which will only ensure we benefit from a more diverse range of applicant.
To read the full One Year-On Report on release, follow Ukie's Twitter for the announcement and details, while keep checking back to the #RaiseTheGame website across the month of February for more case studies and content!