Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, the weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.
This week I posed the following question(s): “Is the video games industry diverse enough? How easy is it for someone to enter the industry regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability?”
Despite all the recent talks and the blaming, it’s safe to say the video games industry has never been more diverse than today. Of course there’s a lot left to do, however the industry’s in a good way. Depending on where you go you see people of all colors, genders, orientations, etc. On a purely personal level I’m getting a bit sick of this discussion, as I don’t understand what difference it makes if somebody’s male, female, trans, hetero, homo, blue, black, white, yellow, pink, 20 years, 120 years old, or whatever. It just makes no difference to me as to me people define themselves through their actions, if they have a cool personality, through what they achieve, how they act, and so on. This is far more important to me than everything else. Of course all human beings are equal. As half French/half German myself, I’m often being asked if I consider myself more as one or the other. My answer is always the same: I consider myself a human. Everything else doesn’t really matter.
But yeah, it massively depends on where you go on this planet. Just as an example, I was at a big conference in Moscow 2 weeks ago. The men/women ratio there was close to 50:50 I guess. There were people of all genders and sexual orientations and nobody cared. Hard to believe but it looks like the Russian dev scene is more diverse than the German one.
I agree that we still have a long way to go, especially as we are consistently seeing a rise in women gamers, including in e-sports, and that we are an international entertainment industry. It frustrates me that we are still seeing a backlash when there is *gasp* a woman on the cover of a game. Or *gasp* a person of color. I’ve worked on a number of teams and this has been a challenge for every single one of them, I have also seen a lot of smaller indie projects that have gender parity. The production teams I’ve worked with have all wanted to see more women, provided they are the best candidate for the job but where are the applications? We need to create opportunities and get more women interested in pursuing this as a career so there are more game developers to bring onto our teams — Montreal’s Pixelles offers some fantastic mentoring opportunities, same as Girls Who Code — we need to be supporting organizations like this and potentially offer mentoring and paid internships at the AAA level. Personally I would love to see more female game designers and creative directors in prominent positions. I am really looking forward to the day when we simply identify as game developers, and not female game developers.
The industry in Singapore is definitely still a little lopsided towards males, but we’re seeing more and more females entering the industry. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything restricting race or gender (or anything else really) from entering the industry. What matters most is if you have the passion and can deliver.
Since I’m only one person working at my own company, I can’t say for the larger industry as a whole. I’m sort of a hermit. When I hire freelancers, I hire based on the quality of work that I see in portfolios, not by name, race, or gender. Everyone works remotely in my circle — so its really a non issue for me. I know this is an ongoing issue and it’s an issue that will probably persist, especially in larger companies — but I do feel like I’ve been lucky in the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to work with people of all races and genders on the various projects I’ve been involved with over the years. As a publisher, I get games submitted to me on a daily basis from people of all races and genders. I would never discriminate in what I choose to publish based on those factors. So yes, there should be more diversity in game dev — I’d love to see it improve especially in bigger studios where it the issue seems most problematic.
I’m an outlier. I can’t speak for the industry, but I don’t ask personal questions when I look for collaborators. I’ve worked with people for months and years without seeing their faces or even knowing their gender. By design? Yes.
Is it diverse enough for what? The focus should always be towards creating great games. There’s also the question of where we draw the line, what exactly does “diverse” encompass? What about mentally as well as physically? What will make everybody happy? There’s just too many factors, and small indie studios especially do not have the means to hire a completely diverse ensemble. I think people who want to be in the industry are, or at least should be, working on their skills to get in. Speaking solely from my experiences throughout the years, I have seen a good mix of races and genders. But perhaps there should be focus on the issues of disability and age as I haven’t encountered many disabled and I have witnessed various veterans being let go, only to be replaced by fresh meat. These are very depressing things to witness.
It all comes down to values and skills. Put in the time and passion and it will get you in, regardless of how you look, who you love, and whether you have an inny or an outty. It might take a while, but if someone keeps putting themselves out there, then their skills will speak for themselves. If someone overlooks these qualities based off unfair or biased reasons, then they are a bad egg, which unfortunately do exist in many industries.
I’m afraid that, as an indie game designer working remotely with my team, I lack a proper benchmark to answer! I only know my own world. In our case, it’s true that our team is mainly constituted of men, who are all around 25 years old. I recruited people without even thinking about balancing my team. It’s impossible as an indie dev — finding good people is already difficult enough!
From my personal experience, I’ll say that I encountered very different people. Video games are becoming more mainstream and less teenage boy centered, so they attract a lot of different profiles in companies. And I saw a lot of people, coming from very different backgrounds, connect due to their shared love of video games. I’m not talking about the gaming community here, but the people who work at video games companies are among the sweetest I’ve ever met.
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