What a weird year it has been. Few of us would have predicted the deeply peculiar months that 2020 has thrown at us, and I’m sure many of us can’t wait to see the back of it. But I think it’s also important to look back and reflect on what has been a challenging, but in many ways very exciting, year for our little company.

Yes, the pandemic has thrown a lot of plans out of the window. But despite that, I have to say that I can only look back on Game If You Are’s year with immense pride at what we’ve achieved – how we’ve developed our agency, and how we’ve worked with clients and partners to deliver ever-more-exceptional results.

And so, as the end of the year approaches, I wanted to look back on a few of the things that have happened in 2020, and how our team has rallied together through adversity to make them so.

When four became seven…

Game If You Are began 2020 as a four-person agency. Over the past twelve months, Jon, Lucy, Paul and I have been joined by three more exquisite individuals in Melissa, Jason and Taya. Between them, their skills across strategy development, content planning and project management have transformed the way we work as an agency and as a wider organisation, and I couldn’t have hoped for a smarter, more innovative or frankly lovelier group of people to join the gang.

We got our first office… then immediately left it

In January, looking for ways to foster better collaboration, we made the decision to start moving away from exclusively remote working and toward having an optional office environment for our team to use. We started working from a lovely office in Brighton at the end of January and it was all very pleasant and splendid (with free coffee, to boot!) – and then the pandemic came along.

Platf9rm, our office provider, were extremely kind and suspended our rent for a few months, but the pandemic got us thinking about how we could make our home-working routine and ‘virtual office’ more robust. We spent time tweaking our processes and investing in tools and systems that could help us replicate the benefits of a physical office, but in the digital space.

Ultimately, we realised that we could quite closely model a physical office space while still working from home, and that this would allow us to be more inclusive and equitable – allowing people the freedom and flexibility to work from home permanently, without seriously impacting collaboration. We’re now working more closely and effectively than ever before, even though none of us have set foot in an office building since the start of March.

Compassion through adversity

The pandemic has ripped up life as we knew it, and had an impact on every single person who works for, and with, Game If You Are. When the extent of the crisis became apparent in March, it was important to me that we took steps to help and support each other, and prioritise the wellbeing of everyone at and around Game If You Are – our staff, our freelancers, and our clients and partners – as well as the wider video games space.

One of the first things I did was email all of our clients – to let them know we’d do everything we could to keep their projects ticking over, but asking for patience while we ensured our team had the support it needed. We also worked with a number of our clients to adjust their marketing plans to accommodate their own rapidly shifting needs. It came as a great reassurance of the fundamental goodness of humanity that every single client I spoke to told me that they had immense respect for our desire to prioritise people’s wellbeing and mental health, and appreciated the support we offered to them as our partners. To be in the centre of a network of professionals whose primary goal became to support and look out for each other was a truly humbling experience.

Speaking to other small games companies, it became apparent that a lot of them were in the same boat as us, figuring out how to continue business as usual to the extent possible, while assessing and acting on risk and attempting to keep their teams as healthy – both physically and mentally – as possible. For this reason, we decided to make our COVID risk assessment and policy document public, so that other companies could read it for input and inspiration – if you’re interested, you can find the latest version here.

Safe In Our World

Relatedly, this year we joined forces with the video game mental health charity, Safe In Our World, to become a founding partner in their Level Up initiative – a program to help companies in the games industry better support and improve the mental health and wellbeing of their colleagues. This is something that is important to every one of us at Game If You Are, but Paul in particular has been exemplary in leading the charge and constantly asking how we can do even better on this front.

Paul has been working with Safe in our World throughout the year to implement various policies and packages of support that have kept our team healthy and happy through one of the toughest years any of us can remember – but just because we’ll soon be seeing the back of 2020, that doesn’t mean we’ll be stopping here. We already have a meeting booked in the New Year to talk about what we can do next, how we can go even further, in making both our company and the wider games industry a better, more inclusive and more supportive place to work.

Value over profits

I am very pleased to say that, despite everything, our revenue for the 2020 calendar year is up by around 50% on 2019. This is the result of the exceptional work Melissa and Taya have done in improving Game If You Are’s digital presence and designing bespoke strategies for the clients that come to us, and the tireless efforts of Jon, Lucy and Paul in delivering exceptional results on their campaigns, leading to lots of lovely testimonials and recommendations.

But I have always been clear that Game If You Are should not be a company that aggressively pursues profit over all else. Rather, we should be using our fortunate position to deliver more value to everyone involved: our team, our clients, our partners, and the wider gaming sector.

This year we have been able to create new jobs, increase salaries and benefits across the board, invest in training, purchase home working equipment (including phones, desks and chairs, and high-end gaming systems) for all of our staff – and do all of this without significantly increasing our prices, in line with our desire to always be the best-value option for indie game developers and micro-publishers looking for proper marketing support on an limited budget.

I am very proud of how the team has pulled together and united behind a singular vision of always creating value – even in the face of immense external pressure and global adversity – in order to make this happen.

The Indie Game Website

This year has also been a phenomenal one for our side-project, The Indie Game Website. We launched the site a few years back, in order to shine a spotlight not just on our own clients’ games, but on the wonderful creations emerging from the wider indie game community. Since Jason joined as Editor at the start of 2020, the site’s readership has doubled and the quality of its content has gone through the roof. He’s done a sterling job, working with emerging freelance talent and providing a voice to a range of writers from different walks of life, as well as reporting on a much broader spectrum of indie games.

We’ve also partnered with Network N to deliver ads on the site, which probably isn’t of too much interest to most people, but it will allow us to start investing more into the website to ensure it can keep creating ever-more-impressive content in the months and years ahead.

And of course, amazing projects for amazing clients!

Over the past twelve months, we’ve worked with dozens of amazing clients on even more dozens of brilliant games. There are too many to go through every single one, but I do want to take a moment to highlight some of the phenomenal work our team has done in 2020.

Lucy’s work on tinyBuild and NotGames’ satirical newsroom simulator, Not For Broadcast, helped it to become one of the most well-loved indie games of the year. From writing and directing trailers, to liaising with press and influencers, writing stellar marketing copy, developing an engaged community, running impactful ad campaigns and more besides, her work on Not For Broadcast has been endlessly creative and impressive, and the results have always spoken for themselves.

2020 also seems to have been a year in which Kickstarters came back into the limelight, and we’ve worked on numerous successful crowdfunders in recent months. There are two I want to mention specifically. When OgrePixel came to us to help with a Kickstarter with a goal of about £15,000, I couldn’t have imagined that the campaign would ultimately raise more than £80,000 – but Paul’s tireless efforts in developing and planning inventive PR campaigns – which ultimately got Lonesome Village on sites with a combined hundreds of millions of readers – made that possible.

And Melissa deserves a special mention for her phenomenal, inventive and – crucially – sensitive planning of a Kickstarter campaign for Weaving Tides by Follow The Feathers. Their Kickstarter was just about to launch when the pandemic hit, and we ultimately decided it was no longer the right time to start asking people for money. Melissa worked closely with the developers, during what was an incredibly stressful time for their company, to go above and beyond and help them regroup and restrategise, without any additional charge. Ultimately, the campaign raised around £50,000 and helped put this lovely creative adventure game on the map – and it’s clear to me that Melissa’s generosity and creativity were both pivotal in making that happen.

2020 has also been a year in which we have started working with clients and partners outside of our usual sphere, but whose contributions to the indie game space made them perfect to work with. As well as increasingly working with small publishers such as tinyBuild and Armor Games Studios, we’re also working on a top secret project with a major company who is investing in supporting and nurturing emerging talent in the indie game scene, and it’s been wonderful to consult with and help out so many exciting budding indie developers and studios. I hope we can talk more about this in the months ahead.

And this is without mentioning all the hard work that’s going on behind the scenes. Jon has spent his year analysing data and improving our processes, systems and workflow so that our campaign managers can deliver their best work time and time again, without needless bureaucracy or distractions. And Taya has been helping us to stay organised, bringing her expert project management skills to our strategy development process, and working with us to find new ways of developing brilliant and inventive plans.

Everyone at Game If You Are has well and truly left their stamp on the company in the past year, and I cannot wait to see what we can all achieve together in 2021.

Image courtesy of 247teeshirt.com