What EDI means to our 2D Artist, Silvio Micallef
Tell us briefly about your journey to joining Exient.
I originally started off in graphic design after graduating with a BA Hons from college. Video games didn’t really have an industry presence here in Malta at that time, so it took a few steppingstones to get here.
A while after graduating, I had seen a post-degree course for ‘Video-Game Art’, which offered both classes as well as a hands-on internship. This got me an internship with Codemasters which, back then, had an office here in Malta. This internship was created with the help of Exient’s current Art Director (James Roadley-Battin).
After my internship was done & some time passed, Codemasters eventually closed the office here, but luckily there was room for me to join Exient as a junior UI artist. Some of the previous staff from Codemasters Malta had already started working with Exient at this time so it was great to see some familiar faces who have taught me so much. And here I am, five years later, still happy at Exient.
Why are you passionate about Exient establishing its EDI programme?
Having faced discrimination myself first-hand, I know how important it is to feel included. Being part of the LGBTI+ community, the EDI programme is a great step for anyone to feel safe & supported. Quite frankly, when you start a new role in any industry it can be a bit nerve-racking for some to just be themselves. Telling your co-workers about your orientation/gender, etc, can feel like ‘coming out’ all over again and I would want Exient to be a safe space for everyone to work at.
The world is changing, and things are becoming more progressive, but there is still a lot of room for growth and acceptance. Outside of Exient, I am part of an NGO that deals with environmental and human rights, because I care deeply about equality and rights of all people.
What 3 things would you like to achieve for the Exient workforce by introducing this new programme?
I would like for us to show that Exient:
– is a place for its employees to be who they are and not have to hide;
– is a safe space to be themselves without fear of discrimination for simply being their true self; and
– believes that diversity enriches us as a company as well as individuals.
How would you describe the company culture at Exient at present?
Currently, I think we already have a great open and welcoming culture. I will have been at Exient for five years this September (2021). During this time, I have met people from a variety of backgrounds who have taught me so many new things. The office is very lively and sociable, with events like cinema nights or simply going out for a drink on a Friday (outside of a global pandemic).
At present, we are working from home because of the COVID-19 situation, but we have adjusted and managed to maintain the friendly culture. We have two offices, one in Malta, where I’m located, and the other in the UK. Working remotely has improved our cross-office communication and I feel less of a geographical divide between our offices.
Exient is extremely efficient at checking in on us, through regular one-to-ones with our line managers. These are informal meetings, allow us to air out any frustrations, talk about ourselves and share our thoughts. We also have a weekly Show ‘n’ tell which is fun and light-hearted. It involves the entire company, and we share work-related insights and show off our work for the week. It is a great way to be looped in on all the projects and to see all the great work everyone is doing.
Since we started working from home Exient has formed a Social Committee, which I’m a part of. We organise online events, like game nights, pub quizzes or weekly D ‘n’ D sessions. It’s important to maintain a social & friendly culture because these past couple of years have been very trying for many. So, to summarise, I’d say Exient has good communication, a friendly atmosphere and people who genuinely care & listen to you. I think Exient is on the right track!
Why do you think that a more inclusive and diverse environment is important for the games industry in general?
Well, games have become more mainstream and accessible, meaning everyone can play across all ages and backgrounds. Having inclusivity and diversity, not just in the games, but also in the industry, will allow us to create great narratives, characters and designs. There is so much space for us to grow & learn from one another. We have such a far reach and potential to make great things happen that, by not embracing diversity, we will only be limiting ourselves. Also, it all comes down to kindness to one another, which is free because it doesn’t really cost anyone anything to be kind.
Have you been a victim of any kind of discrimination or harassment in the past?
At Exient, myself personally, no, never. In general, yes, by family members, at other workplaces, or even by a stranger on the street or at a function. Unfortunately, I do not think it will ever stop. Discrimination and harassment come in many forms. It can be verbal or physical and it can be very direct or subtle – sometimes it is out of sheer ignorance due to the person not knowing any better. I have experienced all these situations.
Outside of your own EDI journey at Exient, what do you think that individuals in the games industry can do to help and protect under-represented groups?
I would say that when it comes to hiring, to work on your initial biases. We tend to let our first impressions of a person be affected by stereotypes, which are usually harmful or negative. Challenge those thoughts and really discuss them. Reach out to people and ask questions. Ignorance is self-inflicted – we live in a world where you can communicate and learn so easily. Having an open mind and some empathy can go a long way. Also, be vocal that you are an ally to under-represented groups of people. Let them know they are accepted and embraced.
What are your personal goals for the Exient EDI programme?
Personally, to continue to grow and learn from others – to be an ally as I would want them to be mine. I want to help continue to make Exient a safe space for current and any future employees, so no one feels uncomfortable or alone and for everyone to learn to be more empathic to others and understand one another better.