Amid the hustle and bustle of this year’s PAX West, I decided I wanted to take a deeper look at the current status of diversity and inclusivity in the gaming industry. It’s a multifaceted problem, and it manifests itself in all areas of the gaming industry—from a lack of female representation in gaming careers to a lack of playable female characters in video games. Young women are commonly harassed in this male-dominated industry, and many have realized that something needs to change.
Challenging Common Perceptions
Did you know that over 40% of gamers in the United States are female?1 This number only continues to grow. While the landscape may have been male-dominated at PAX West 2016, there were definitely quite a few women at the event. I attended three panels while at PAX West: “Designing and Developing Games for an Inclusive Community,” “Choose Your Own Adventure: Women in Video Game Writing” and “Team Up: Women in Games & Tech.” Each spoke to a different aspect of diversity and inclusivity in the gaming industry—all with an underlying note of hope for the future.
A Step in the Right Direction
In “Designing and Developing Games for an Inclusive Community”, Erin Wayne from Twitch.tv*, and Lyndsay Pearson and Sarah Fuchs with The Sims Studio* spoke about how they want to connect with people of all backgrounds through creating more personalized characters. In the Sims*, this sentiment is demonstrated through the “Create a Sim” feature, where you have complete flexibility to design your own unique character. As they’ve discovered by listening to player feedback from forums and other online sources, catering to the player and their desire to play “me” (and not just the stereotypes) is something that is really important to gamers. They’re working to challenge common perceptions in the game industry and understand biases to help facilitate awareness.
Launching Your Video Game Writing Career
“Choose Your Own Adventure: Women in Video Game Writing” with game industry professionals from companies like ArenaNet* and Daily Crate by Loot Crate* came armed with sharp advice for women looking to break into the game industry. They posited that you should start by picking up any work you can find, even if this means working for free. But don’t let yourself be taken advantage of—if a company offers to “pay you later” it might be time to say “see you later.” Building a strong portfolio of work and knowing your worth as a writer are crucial, as are listening to your intuition and striving to make the right connections.
How to Tactfully Converse on Diversity Issues
“Team Up: Women in Games & Tech” included industry professionals from Bethesda Softworks*, Microsoft*, BioWare*, Cards Against Humanity* and more. These women focused on how to tactfully have conversations about stereotypes and sexism in gaming with others in the industry. Being vocal about diversity and inclusivity is hard—but necessary. Using your position as a springboard to bring a voice to issues of diversity and inclusivity can have a powerful and positive effect. To those who are just starting their career in the gaming industry, they stressed the importance of finding a good mentor. For those who have already established their careers and are looking for ways to build their teams, they suggested:
- Be aware of others, everyone has a diverse perspective
- Remember that a good idea can come from anyone
- Create a safe space where all contributions are valued
- Keep in mind that some feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts after meetings; create opportunities for them to do so
- Ask team members direct questions to let them know that their opinions matter
Building a Better Future
Ultimately, it all comes down to being determined, open-minded and aware of the diverse backgrounds of both game players and makers. As mentioned in one of the panels, incorporating diverse voices in the game industry leads to the creation of better overall products that speak to a wider audience—and that’s good for everyone.
We’re far from seeing completely equal, non-stereotypical representation of all races and genders in games, but the progress that has been made thus far is inspiring. At this year’s PAX West, I was particularly excited to see a female protagonist in the not yet released RPG Horizon Zero Dawn created by Guerrilla Games* and published by Sony* for the PS4. I look forward to seeing more diversity in games in the future!
1 Source: 2016 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data. Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry. Entertainment Software Association. For more information, visit: http://essentialfacts.theesa.com/Essential-Facts-2016.pdf
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.