Dev Talk: Is the Games Industry Diverse Enough? (Part 1)

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?”

Here’s what the devs had to say…

George Ko, Quantum Sheep

I’ve personally heard from many women wanting to break into games, in a variety of roles, who are put off and turn away from the industry due to sexist gatekeeping. When people at the top of the biggest publishers or websites only offer you a job in exchange for nudes, or sexual favors, or other ‘deals,’ and this is seen as ‘normal,’ you have to wonder why anyone would want to work in the industry at all.

Talk of this happens ‘behind closed doors,’ alas, because it’s difficult for women to actively speak out against such behavior online without putting themselves in danger, or painting a target on their back, or suffering some other indignity. Support networks build up in private messages online that warn others of potential predators, but the industry really needs a Weinstein moment to bring these abhorrent practices to light and to assure potential applicants “this is not tolerated here.”

Megan Fox, Glass Bottom Games

When someone shows a “diverse team,” usually it’s less than 10% people of color, and if PoC are on the team at all, it’s usually guys. If there are women on the team, and again that’s usually sub 10%, it’s usually white women. Even ignoring that “10% on average women vs guys,” which is an issue all on its own, there’s almost always a giant hole in the team where women of color really ought to be, right? So no. I’d say we’re not “diverse enough.”

Bradley Smith, Miracle Tea

The fact that this is a question implies that it’s not diverse enough. Though I think the answer is both yes and no depending on where you hang out. In general I would say it isn’t diverse, especially in larger companies and it often shows in the nature of their work. There are far too many developers from non-English speaking countries that don’t get enough credit. There does seem to be a big push in the independent scene to change this so hopefully things will improve.

It’s difficult for everyone because we all have so many variables in our personalities holding us back. It’s a highly competitive industry that can be pretty cut throat. Because it kinda sounds ‘cool’ a lot of people glamorize it, the same can be said about musicians. I would say it’s a lot easier to enter the industry if you fit into certain social norms. Though the people doing the most interesting work often don’t conform to those social norms. If you’re making games and someone wants to say they’re a part of the industry, then they are. Being in the industry doesn’t really mean anything, it’s the value you add to the world that matters. Elements of the independent games scene are a total rejection of this.

Trent Gamblin, Nooskewl

I’ve heard and seen things that would be prohibitive for some entering the games industry. Developers and gamers can sometimes scare away some potential devs. On the whole I wish the gaming community wasn’t so toxic and negative at times. There are a lot of really great, kind gamers but there are some very loud, toxic voices also. They are a small percentage but the world is a big place. It would go a long way if everyone remembered we’re dealing with real people and the games are secondary.

For myself, having a disability, games has been just what I needed. In my situation I don’t need anyone’s approval to make games. All I need is a computer, an internet connection and a lot of determination. But that doesn’t pay the bills so your mileage may vary.

Jinn Karlsson, Pastille Games

Sometimes it feels like the gaming industry is the last outpost for equality and you get very impatient. But it is getting better, little by little. If we keep calling out the people who are abusing their power or, for example, excluding woman from their games like Ubisoft did (#womenaretoohardtoanimate), it will continue to change for the better.

Jaakko Maaniemi, 10tons Ltd

Overall, I think the video games industry is probably very dominated by (young) white males. This is the impression I get from media, anyway. I think it’s cool that year by year it looks like there are more women, and more senior game developers. But still I think at least revenue-wise it’s a very Western white male industry. Personally, my entire career has been almost exclusively with white guys roughly my age. Where I live, Tampere, Finland, the amount of women or developers from foreign heritage is frankly tiny, but I’m glad the minority is at least solid, so there’s hope of it growing with the rest of the world. I think trends like this just reach peripheral areas slower. I’m not sure about how one would go about evening it all out, but it may not be necessary either. If we just make sure to not prevent or hinder, even inadvertently, people of whatever background entering the industry, I think we’re fine. If no-one’s holding them back, I think they’ll come.

Robert Jakob, Forest Ring Games

In our case, the situation is a bit special as we started working on Tower Duel remotely. This enabled us to work in an international team spread across four time zones, which was destined to push for diversity. So far, we’ve had great experiences with diversity in our team and it is something we highly value.

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