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Let’s not waste the crisis!

Author: Deborah Farley, Head of Tranzfuser

2020 has forced many of us to rethink our approach to ‘normal’ life.  For some this has been a struggle, but for others, it has been a welcome and timely opportunity for a re-set.  Before we go and rush into the New Year and the ‘hope’ that 2021 will bring some return to ‘normal’ life, let's reflect on 2020 and what has been achieved and learned along the way.

Back in July, Tina Seelig (Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Stanford) wrote an article on disrupting education titled “Let’s not waste the crisis!”. In it, she encourages us to look for the opportunity to re-set, to bring about change that has been required in our practices for some time (whether it be in classrooms or workplaces). Tranzfuser has been hailed as a best-practice model for learning from team projects and given that most creative practitioners are judged by their portfolio it provides one of those life-changing opportunities that Tina is referring to.

At Tranzfuser, we kicked off the competition right at the start of lockdown. At the time, we weren’t sure what this year’s teams would encounter as they set about their summer-long project. All that we knew for certain was that we wanted to ensure the Tranzfuser experience was the best it could be for all participating teams.

Our CEO, Paul Durrant, said, “Tranzfuser will still go ahead. We owe it to the students whose prospects via internships, job schemes and summer programmes, have been washed up this year, to be funded to join our community and be supported on a team project. Developing their talent will benefit not only them but also our industry.” At the Tranzfuser offices, we took a large collective gulp and set about opening the programme to as many as we could. We had 130 individuals participate in Tranzfuser this year.

In light of the pandemic, the participating teams had to re-set some of their practices by:

  • adapting to remote and dispersed working, being self-directed and disciplined as they worked in their home environment.
  • creating online spaces to creatively develop their ideas and communicate with one another, using new management and organisational tools to ensure everyone was delivering on time and aware of other team members’ contributions and deadlines. 
  • mustering resilience and bouncing back quickly as unexpected external forces, which affected the whole industry, impacted their final deliverables and showcase event. 

When listening to ‘experts’ tell stories about their journey in the video games industry,  they talk about the key characteristics and skills that they have had to face as they have forged their career; applying creative problem solving, adapting to crises, being resilient even though they may not have chosen or opted for a particular path (regardless of planning), all the while drawing on resources that they didn’t even realise that they had, to ultimately ship their product and get it to market. For many of the Tranzfuser 2020 teams, this reflects their journey also.

One of the biggest re-sets that the industry as a whole had to face was the inability to attend and participate at large scale live events, whether it be to launch or demo a new game to the general public, pitch for finance, network, attend careers or learning sessions or as a punter wanting to experience some cool new games.  We have seen the industry re-group to change their business models and provide outstanding online events and showcases that were stuffed full of talented teams showing of their early stage achievements, industry veterans sharing their experiences and job opportunities.  

Online events run by the likes of UKie, Games Industry Biz, Games Jobs Live and of course Tranzfuser are just a few examples of just the types of experiences we can now enjoy from the comfort of our own home (without the financial constraints of travel or accommodation).

On reflection, our Tranzfuser 2020 teams got their projects in front of nearly 1,500 viewers, their community and network has grown. Their CVs and portfolios have had an unrivalled boost and they are able to proudly display their achievements digitally to the world via their UKGFT open badges

Out of adversity comes great opportunity and we’re proud of how our teams and the industry as a whole have handled this year.  In addition, four of the teams have been funded by the UK Games Fund and are now running their own companies. Given what was achieved in a crisis, we look forward to seeing what future offerings will hold.