March 26th saw the first ever Diversity in the Creative Industries event, in which a panel of industry professionals candidly tackled this prominent issue of diversity, with specific focus on the games industry. The Abertay Feminist Society, in association with IGDA Scotland, welcomed 6 panelist to Abertay University to discuss their thoughts and experiences on the subject. They were:
Phil Harris: Lead story writer at One Thumb Mobile
Dr Roman Ramzan: Game design lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University
Timea Tabori: Engine programmer at Rockstar North
Hannah Drummond: Associate producer at Outplay Entertainment
Eden Morrison: Freelance sound designer, composer and music producer
Luci Holland: Freelance sound designer, composer and arts producer
The Problem of Awareness
One of the recurring themes of the evening was the necessity of awareness both outside and within the industry itself. It was the agreement of the panel that although there is currently a lack of diversity in creative industries such as games, it is not consistent with the types of people who are playing games, which is incredibly diverse and varies, particularly now the way of consuming games – such as through mobile – has become so accessible. This is not, however, reflected in the industry. The panel agreed that this was probably to do with an issue of awareness for schools and parents. Firstly, schools and younger children thinking about career choices should be fully aware that video games is not only a viable path but a lucrative one as well. There are many different disciplines that make up game development, and children thinking about their future career paths should be made aware of all of them and know that it is possible to achieve – regardless of their gender, colour of skin or sexual preference. Parents should also be informed on what the game industry is truly about, and not just the perception that is shown through the press – often that of violence. There are many great games out there tackling tough issues such as cancer or poverty, as well as a whole host of experimental indie games doing interesting things with the different genres. However, mostly this part of the games industry is not communicated to the public therefore the current perception may prevent many parents from supporting their kids through this types of career decision.
The Need of Responsibility
Another point that was often brought up was the need for us as developers to take responsibility for our actions. It is true that in the last ten to fifteen years there has been a shift in the way development teams have been made. Gone are the days of the bedroom coders – individual guys creating games they want to play inside the walls of their own homes. As an example, today we see many more women in the industry than even five years ago and as the landscape of game genres has changed immensely the teams have shifted to accommodate this. It is therefore the responsibility of each individual to take care in their attitude, words and approach to game development and to leave behind any inherent or misinformed prejudices that we may carry from social influences or even innocent ignorance.
Future Ways to Tackle the Issues
As mentioned above the issue of awareness is a key one but is also probably the easiest to tackle. The education of children, particularly around career deciding ages (or even before) is something that can be easily done. In fact there are already many great organisations promoting game development to children such as CoderDojo, BAFTA Young Game Designer and the IGDA Scotland’s Mini Jam, but these are mostly extra-curricular events that could easily be seen inside of the school syllabus. By showing kids of a young age that they can enter creative industries regardless of gender or ethnicity it will in turn bring more of them into the next generation of developers.
The second point mentioned was that of the types of characters we are playing in games. So often – particularly amongst AAA games – you are playing the same type of protagonist over and over again, that of a young, white, athletic male. Perhaps if we saw my diversity in playable characters it would encourage the same effect with the development teams.
The final point that was raised by the panel is for the need of events such as this one. For the industry to continue to engage in a healthy dialogue on the subject and to encourage candid and respectful debate, in an attempt to provide further solutions.
A big thank you to all the panelists, Paige Shepherd from Abertay Feminist Society for organising the event and to Abertay University for hosting it.