Unlike other industries, the video game industry saw an impressive jump in revenue during the pandemic. Despite being impacted by the same restrictions around production as other industries, the gaming industry has been incredibly resilient. Mike Ionita, the Founder of Crux Video Game Design in Vancouver, explains that the pandemic has been a colourful mix of ups-and-downs. Despite major projects being put on pause at the end of March, Crux Video Game Design have found new ways to engage their online community and focus on resiliency.
Mike Ionita considers himself lucky. Growing up playing games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, he never imagined that he would one day own and run his own video game design studio. Mike was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and attended Vancouver Film School.Excelling at everything from sketching to digital painting and animation, Mike was fortunate enough to be hired following graduation.Working at various animation studios around Vancouver, Mike found his passion when he started producing his own storylines, characters, and landscapes.Driven by his personal passion for creation, Mike Ionita founded Crux Video Game Design.Crux Video Game Design produces video games for clients as well as original content exclusive to their growing online community.Their first game was transposed more than 250,000 times within its first week, and the company have been steadily growing ever since.
Despite the studio’s growing success, Crux Video Game Design have had their fair share of obstacles due to the pandemic.Slowing down production due to COVID-19, Mike Ionita and his team have had to come up with new strategies of engagement.This release saw an almost 25% increase in sales on their other games. It is this spirit of resiliency that has made Mike Ionita an unstoppable force.
How has your industry been impacted regarding COVID-19?
At first, the video game industry was booming. Most video game developers, publishers and operators were able to maintain operations with employees working remotely. Additionally, the number of people quarantined at home with nothing to do meant record numbers in online gaming. However, multiple projects we were working on were put on hold. Additionally, our clients were much more reluctant with their money, putting subscriptions on hold. However, after our free video game release, things have started moving again.
What keeps you motivated during this time at home?
Working at home requires an entirely new kind of will power. Pre-COVID, it was easy to separate my work time from my leisure time. At home, it is all the same. Creating routines and structure in my day has helped keep me motivated. After I wake up in the morning and spend time on myself, I work a standard 8-hour day. I work at my dining room table (my new office) and resist the urge to work on the couch or in bed. It helps keep my brain in ‘work mode’. I also try to maintain an optimistic outlook, focusing on solutions and not problems.
Suggestions of good ways others can cope during this time.
It isn’t easy, so if you’re struggling, just know that you’re not alone. One beneficial tool I have been using is setting strict timelines for myself. When the pandemic first hit, I felt defeated, lethargic, and anxious. I allowed myself to feel that way for two weeks before I picked myself back up. If you’re feeling down, it is okay to feel that way. But give yourself a timeline, and then find a way to move forward.
What does your typical day look like now versus prior to social isolation?
There is a lot of alone time, of course. My typical day used to include multiple meetings, phone calls, and collaborative brainstorming sessions, and now it is just solitary focused work. I am actually grateful for the change, as I have been able to accomplish much more in a shorter period of time.
How does working remotely change how businesses can support their customers?
Most of the work we did with our clients prior to COVID-19 was remote, so very little has changed. However, it has never been more important to stay in touch, even if you’re not currently working together on a project. It doesn’t take much time or effort to make your customers feel special—all they need are little touchpoints; send them a quick e-mail or give them a quick call.
What advice would you give to fellow businesses who may be struggling during COVID-19?
Take some time to re-group and decide whether you want to continue on the same path or pivot. COVID-19 has revealed to many business owners the weaknesses and threats their business faces. Don’t shy away from these flaws, rather, lean into them and figure out what you can do to move forward. This is the time to re-evaluate and create a new plan that makes sense with the current climate.
What are some things outside of finding work that you are doing now to stay busy?
Just to get out of the house, I have started going on walks. After I wake up in the morning and get some reading in, I go for a 30-minute walk. It helps wake me up and get me ready for my day. I’ve also taken up, of all things, embroidery. If I am not careful, all of my free time ends up being up by endless scrolling, Netflix, or work, so embroidery has helped me disconnect and stay present.
Do you think a work and life balance is important and how difficult is it in these circumstances?
I think a work/life balance is all about setting boundaries. There are times when my life has to understand that work is a focus, and there are times when my work has to understand that my life is a focus. It goes back and forth. I have actually found it much easier to have a work/life balance since the start of the pandemic. Without any travel time, it has freed up much more of my time.
What are some of the lessons you have already learned from having to work remotely and tips you can give to the readers?
I have learned to be patient with myself. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself and then get disappointed when you can’t meet them. Get dressed every single morning. While it is tempting to stay in your pajamas, getting dressed does wonders for your motivation. Don’t be afraid to play with your schedule. I start my day at 6:00AM, and finish at 2:00PM, because I find that I work more efficiently during that time. If you can, find what works for you. Make sure you leave the house at least once a day, even if it’s only for a 10-minute walk. It will help keep you motivated and refreshed.
What is one piece of advice that is getting you through these current times?
Don’t think, just do. Many of us have fallen prey to the monster of over-thinking during the pandemic, and this little mantra has helped me focus on the task at hand, and putting on foot in front of the other, rather than overthinking what could go wrong.