Elena Lobova, Co-Founder & CBDO at GDBAY and Founder of Achievers Hub told us in an interview how her team continues to host online events despite the war and why it matters.
Where were you on February 24th?
On February 24th, I was at my home in Kyiv. I woke up around five in the morning. At first I didn’t understand whether something had happened or not. It seemed to me that I had just woken up from the fact that I had a nightmare. But perhaps I had already heard something. I just didn’t understand it half-asleep. I went to the kitchen to get some water.
I live on a high floor and the kitchen window was open for ventilation. At around 5:05 – 5:10 I heard explosions while standing in the kitchen with my glass of water. Of course, I was in shock. I was not fully aware of what was happening. The explosions reminded me a lot of my experience in Luhansk in 2014, but I wanted to believe that these were ordinary sounds, perhaps at a construction site nearby.
I ran back to my room and immediately started looking for some news. I was updating all of the news sites from Kyiv when I read that explosions had taken place in several cities in Ukraine and that this was associated with the start of the war. Of course I’ve got very scared. I live in the city center and there are a lot of government buildings around, so I was afraid that one of them could be a target. So I took some random stuff and went to my sister’s, away from the city center. It was my first so-called shelter and the first place I went to. In my apartment in Kyiv, the bed where I woke up at five in the morning on February 24th is still not made.
Tell me about your colleagues. Where are they? How are they doing?
There are five people in my team now, including one girl who is on maternity leave. The guys are in different cities of Ukraine: Kyiv, Lviv, Poltava and Vinnytsia.
All of my employees were in Ukraine at the beginning of the war, and all of them are still in Ukraine. Each of them had their own reasons for staying in Ukraine. Some of them cannot leave because they are liable for military service. Another one of my employees who usually lives in Kyiv is now in Lviv working at the volunteer center. Everyone decided for themselves how they can be useful for our country. Natasha helps volunteers in Lviv and continues to work at the same time. Stas and Slava are still in their homes and despite the fact that they have to go down to a shelter from time to time, they continue to work and continue to support our business and attract money to Ukraine. So they have chosen work on the economic front. Someone works on the information front. Someone helps financially. In fact, we all help financially. I decided for myself that I would be most effective in the safest place. So after a long trip around Ukraine with overnight stays in different cities, I ended up abroad. At the moment I am in Slovakia.
What volunteer projects are you doing now?
I am a member of several volunteer organizations that help refugees from Ukraine find places to live, help other people in Ukraine get humanitarian aid, ammunition and other stuff.
During the first days of the war I received several hundred messages from industry colleagues from different countries who offered help. Some of them offered a place to live for Ukrainians. Others offered employment, while someone else offered legal advice, and so on.
Fortunately, by the time I got to a safer place, some of my industry colleagues had already created initiatives on how to help Ukrainians from game development, and all I had to do was to send google forms to all those people who offered help.
Now my main goal is to help Ukrainians find opportunities abroad, to help everyone I can reach.
Are you able to work now? How did the specifics of the team’s work change during the war?
I keep on working. We all keep on working. Here is the story. One of our online events was scheduled to start on February 25th. We had been preparing for it for many months. People from more than 30 countries were set to participate in the event. It was supposed to be agame jam. We had sponsors, participants, speakers, and everyone was ready to go online February 25th to talk about hyper-casual games, make announcements, develop prototypes, etc. When the war started, I asked my colleagues what they think we should do: cancel the event or reschedule it? Everyone was in such an unstable situation at this point. Someone was in a bomb shelter; someone else was on the road. Yet still, all of my colleagues said that they wanted to hold the event. They had been preparing for it and they were ready to hold the game jam no matter what. Therefore, in the first days of the war from February 25th to 28th we held our international game jam. More than 200 people took part in it, we chose the winners and we gave them prizes. Sponsors and experts gave talks. Everything went according to a plan and many people did not even know until the last moment that the team of organizers was currently in a country where the military operations were taking place.
We keep on working. We continue to prepare for our next event, which will take place in early April. This is also an international event and it’s also online. A lot of developers from different countries are preparing for it; preparing their games, preparing pitches for their projects. Publishers and investors are waiting for this event, they want to hear about new projects so we decided that we will do our best to make it happen as long as it is physically feasible. For us, this is not just about fulfilling our obligations and promises. It is also about helping our country in such a difficult time. All financial receipts that come to us, come to Ukraine, into Ukrainian accounts. We continue to pay salaries, we continue to pay bills, and this is our contribution to the Ukraine’s economy, in addition to funding charity organizations of course.
How do you support each other within the team?
We continue to work. We continue to make team calls. In fact we didn’t have a rigid schedule before anyway, but now neither a schedule nor any number of work hours are required of course. We are ready to support each other because anyone can any minute find themselves in a situation where they will be needed on another front: by relatives, friends, the country, or some volunteer organization. All of this is a priority for us now, but we are ready to support each other and do everything we can to make things done and fulfill our obligations.
What help does your company need right now?
The first and easiest way to support us is to participate in our event: Global Games Pitch. If you are a publisher or investor who is looking for new games and is interested in hearing some pitches, or if you are a developer who is interested in participating in the event (we even have free developer tickets), please welcome to take part in the event. The more developers that we have, the more publishers and investors we will have. The more successful our event is, the better both our team and our country will feel. Therefore, the simplest help, the most obvious one, is to spread the word about our Global Games Pitch that we’re continuing to organize despite the war.