As we approach Veterans Day, the world of gaming may, at first look, seem an unusual topic to discuss. While service branches are building eSports teams, any number of games take war as their setting, and our service members have a deep love of playing video games, we reserve Veterans Day to honor those who have served our country. At Hire Heroes we know that Veterans Day is, however, a fitting opportunity to discuss the gaming industry, which has been deeply connected to the military for close to two decades.
Set to generate more than $159 billion globally by the end of 2020, the gaming industry not only provides diverse employment opportunities for veterans and transitioning service members, but its leaders have also been at the forefront of veteran employment for over a decade and continue to support the veteran and military community throughout the ever-changing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Growing and Diverse Industry
A thriving industry with the need for diverse talent and experiences, gaming offers exciting careers to those with the soft skills and operational experience to keep pace with an ever-changing field. From operations to development, administration to quality assurance and design, the gaming industry relies heavily on diverse skill sets and backgrounds.
Despite the opportunities the gaming industry offers veteran and military job seekers, breaking into the industry hasn’t been an easy task. But thanks to the ingenuity of one veteran job seeker and the commitment of industry leaders from Activision Blizzard and the Call of Duty Endowment, veterans are finding their way into the world of gaming.
Jakob began working with Hire Heroes USA in 2017 as he transitioned out of the Air Force. In its 15th year, Hire Heroes USA empowers service members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce. Through personalized one-on-one coaching, professionally revised resumes, mentoring, workshops, a job board, career fairs and more, Hire Heroes works with tens of thousands of job-seeking veterans and military spouses annually, to find the success they deserve in the civilian workforce.
With his sights set on working in entertainment, Jakob was connected to Jamie Rimphanli, a Hire Heroes team member in LA. As a student, it was a challenge to work full time, so he submitted applications to various gaming studios, as well as film and television studios, hoping to land an internship to gain experience. He began to network through organizations like Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), learning more about industry opportunities. The more he learned, the more he realized his passion was gaming.
But he ran into roadblocks as he tried to get his foot in the door. He leaned on his network, but found it focused mainly on film and television. Recognizing the limits of available resources, Jakob decided it was time to build something new—a network where veterans could turn for mentorship in the gaming industry.
Knowing Hire Heroes USA was committed to expanding opportunities for their veterans, service members, and spouses, Jakob connected with his Transition Specialist. In turn, Jamie reached out to long-time advocates Dan Goldenberg, the Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment, and Ed Palmer, who previously served as D&I Manager at Activision Blizzard. Both industry leaders agreed: there wasn’t a very clear path for veterans into the world of gaming. However, there could be.
The Careers in Video Gaming Project
Supported by Activision Blizzard and Call of Duty Endowment leadership, a grassroots project was launched in September of 2019.
A long-time advocate of the military community, Activision Blizzard has been leading the way for veterans to find success after service for over a decade. Through Activision’s creation of the Call of Duty Endowment in 2009, the highest performing nonprofits in the US and UK have been funded to provide employment support to transitioning service members and veterans. As the largest private funder of veteran employment in the United States the Endowment’s contributions have placed 77,265 veterans into high quality jobs since its founding; in 2019, those newly employed veterans achieved an average salary of $60,733.
The Careers in Video Gaming Project was a logical next step for organizations deeply committed to helping the veteran and military community overcome obstacles to employment. “There’s no question that veterans make great employees and their unique value that includes hands on leadership from a young age, creative problem solving, dedication to mission, integrity and gumption are particularly prized in the gaming industry,” says Dan Goldenberg, the Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment. “The trick is creating clear pathways for their skills and experience to be mapped to the industry’s needs.”
Jakob, who had since become a Hire Heroes USA Volunteer, proved to be a natural partner in this endeavor. A leader and advocate, Jakob worked closely with Jamie to strategize; used LinkedIn to reach out to prospective studios; and grew a list of interested gaming companies that found value alignment with their D&I goals. Jakob helped structure and organize the first live event – all the while balancing his last year of school and a part-time job.
Jakob’s commitment paid off, not only in terms of the development of the Careers in Video Gaming Project but also on the personal front, as stakeholders started recognizing his name. “He’s a natural at connecting with people: he’s willing to leverage every opportunity, with a humble attitude,” Jamie explained. In August, he was thrilled to join the Activision Blizzard team as a Recruiting Coordinator. A few short weeks later, the veterans in gaming network hosted their first event, a webinar discussing “Careers in Video Gaming,” giving veterans and military spouses the guidance he wished he’d had while getting started in the industry.
A Fit for Veterans
As Jakob proves, veterans and service members with the ingenuity and aspiration to go after their goals find great opportunity in the gaming industry, where their skills and abilities are valued and needed. Like Jakob, our job seekers are loyal and committed; they are trained to step in and lead when the situation requires. Teammates who pursue organizational objectives with integrity and diligence, veteran and military job seekers learn and adapt quickly to meet new challenges and develop new skills. Beyond the soft skills these candidates bring to employers, their experience in relevant fields, including, Supply Chain Management, Operations, Cybersecurity, and Administration, makes them ideal candidates in the industry.
The Careers in Video Gaming project will continue to grow in 2021. With Jakob’s new position, he hopes to be able to continue to pave the way for fellow veterans to launch their careers.
Responding to Employment Needs During a Pandemic
While Jakob, Activision Blizzard, the Call of Duty Endowment, and Hire Heroes USA worked to build the Careers in Video Gaming Project, the COVID-19 pandemic reached US shores. The Endowment foresaw the oncoming economic impact and immediately surveyed their employment partners to identify ways to increase support. Hire Heroes USA conducted a survey of clients, concluding that the COVID-19 pandemic hindered the majority of their employment options and that the pandemic would impact job seeking veterans’ employment opportunities and financial stability in the present and, potentially, for years to come.
· 64% of Hire Heroes’ clients have reported offers being withdrawn or postponed, greater lack of communication with employers, being laid off, and hiring freezes.
· 57% of those surveyed had low or very low confidence in their ability to find a job, and thus support their families, in the next two months.
·70% were concerned or very concerned about their employment prospects in the next two months.
These findings are consistent with those of the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative, which concluded: “the impact of reduced employment among military spouses and veterans will have long-term implications for military and veteran families’ financial readiness.” In their Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has also reported:
·Vast numbers of veterans are likely to become unemployed, at rates that could surpass the highest level of veteran unemployment in the post-9/11 era
·Data from past recent recessions highlight at least two groups of vulnerable veterans, new veterans transitioning from the military (200,000 to 250,000 annually) … [who have] higher levels of unemployment, and older…veterans, who experience an unexpected job loss… [and have] longer durations of unemployment during recessions
·Veterans, especially younger veterans, have limited savings sufficient to support them through spells of unemployment that could last more than six months.
While the consequences of the pandemic could be severe for veterans and their families, the Endowment and Activision Blizzard have stepped up to provide support in this time of need. The Call of Duty Endowment’s increased support of its employment partners, funded through an additional $2 million donation from Activision Blizzard, is helping partners to respond to the two-fold increase in employment aid requests they have received compared to this time last year. This donation will empower veteran service organizations to place almost 3,000 additional veteran job seekers as they react to the impact on the pandemic. For instance, the Call of Duty Endowment’s additional funding will enable Hire Heroes USA to confirm 900 additional hires in the coming months.
Ongoing Support of the Veteran and Military Community
Those of us invested in employment issues know that the pandemic will impact the world of work for years to come. Increased flexibility, remote work options, and adaptability will all play a part in ensuring veterans and their families can overcome barriers to employment. As the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative noted, “Society’s hew toward acceptance of remote work due to the effects of COVID-19, however, is a positive effect for military spouses.” Throughout the pandemic, organizations like Activision Blizzard and Hire Heroes USA have pivoted and adapted their operations to support their staff. For example, Activision Blizzard shifted to a work from home environment for 95% of its employee and updated its remote work policies looking ahead, beyond the pandemic. As more companies in the gaming industry incorporate these types of policies, they may prove to be attractive employers not just for veterans, but for military spouses as well.
Resourcefulness and adaptation will continue to lead the way as we combat veteran and military unemployment in the wake and aftermath of the pandemic. The leadership, support, opportunities and advances in the gaming industry, championed through the vision of Activision Blizzard and the Call of Duty Endowment, will continue to empower veterans, service members, and their families.
About the Call of Duty Endowment
The Call of Duty Endowment is a nonprofit organization co-founded by Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. The Endowment seeks to help veterans find high-quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets bring to the workplace. For more information about the Call of Duty Endowment, please visit www.callofdutyendowment.org.