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The game industry has a diversity problem - but it can be fixed (new industry UK #'s)

Lime

Member
Apr 27, 2008
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Chella Ramanan wrote a very thorough article for The Guardian on workforce diversity and representation in the US and UK game industry with an emphasis on the intersection of gender and race.

Put it this way: if you live in the west and work in games, you’re probably white, straight, male and middle-class. The latest figures from games industry trade body, TIGA, show that just 14% of people working in the UK games industry are women (the ratio is more or less the same in the US).

Looking at the most recent figures, the picture is pretty depressing when considering ethnic diversity. A Creative Skillset report shows that BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) industry representation stood at 4% in 2015, down from 4.7% the previous year. This is lower than the UK average of 10% and significantly lower than the London average of 40% (2011 Census data). Considering that 37% of the UK industry is located in London, this highlights the level of under-representation for ethnic minority groups.

The three problems:
There are three basic interlocking problems here. First, the current games industry represents a vicious circle of under-representation that is familiar across the whole of tech: the less that young women and people of colour see themselves represented in the sector, the less they’re likely to apply for jobs. “Society doesn’t see technical women enough so it’s assumed that they don’t exist and ‘technology isn’t something women do’,” says Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder of Stemettes, a group offering free Stem workshops and events for young women. “These attitudes and social norms permeate decisions made at all levels so women aren’t hired, promoted or given positions of responsibility and the cycle continues.”

There is also a problem of culture. The mainstream industry has spent years pandering to a hardcore demographic of young men, but when aspects of that audience indulge in abusive and threatening behaviour online, via social media and gaming forums, there’s very little comeback from the major publishers. “Gamergate is an example of the shortcomings,” says Damilola Odelola founder of another diversity initiative, Blackgirl.tech, which provides free workshops introducing black women to technology, including virtual reality and coding. “There was a public outcry, but the issue wasn’t addressed properly by the industry. The reaction felt superficial.”

Finally, there is a problem with institutional discrimination and abuse. In 2015, The Gender Balance Workforce Survey, conducted by the Next Gen Skills Academy, surveyed around 40% of the women working in games in the UK and found that 45% felt that their gender was a limiting factor in their career progression, while 33% said they’d experienced direct harassment or bullying because of their gender.

Representation isn't enough

While it can be argued that the interest begins with representation in games themselves, the form that representation takes also matters. “When there’s no representation in the products or the industry, what we’re saying is that this only belongs to a certain group of people,” says Odelola. “And often when a female character is represented she’s a stereotype or a caricature, which just reinforces that idea.

“We’re also saying that certain things can only be done by white men. When a woman or girl of colour enjoys a game and she finds out the only people who worked on that product were white men, she may think that’s not something she can do. She’s being told she’s a consumer not a creator, which is not true. The women who come to our workshops are so happy to see people who look like them. Seeing a black woman doing something that they’ve been told is hard or impossible is so important.” [...]

Odelola argues that there is black talent available now, but the games industry just isn’t looking in the right places or the recruitment process is excluding them. “There are black people now who could do the job, but if you are only looking for candidates from the same places and you know they are predominately male and white, then you’re not going to reach diverse communities.” For people in education, strong relationships with employers are invaluable. Anderson stresses this: “It would really help to have good links with firms in IT and gaming so that there might be placement opportunities for our students.”

Marginalization & discrimination
But garnering that spark of interest is only one part of the long journey from school to a successful career in games. New Bafta research, commissioned in partnership with Creative Skillset and the BFI, highlights that minority groups often have to go above and beyond what’s expected from their peers in the creative industries, due to company structures, recruitment practices and mindsets that create additional barriers for them. With a culture that values fitting in and who you know, the report notes that this remains a major barrier to increasing diversity and needs to be challenged in a concerted and consistent way.

The industry needs to do much more
Odelola admits that time and money are vital, but she too wants a stronger demonstration of commitment to diversity. “The industry isn’t bold enough. This industry talks about diversity so much, but gender diversity is the dominant topic, so they’re hiring white women. The industry fails to recognise the privilege of their race: how it helps you get funding, how it helps you to take risks and to be trusted by other people. The tech sector is the future, but it’s way behind in terms of social understanding.”

The games industry can’t just sit back, shrug and complain that talent isn’t coming forward – it needs to get out there and show young people from diverse backgrounds that they’re welcome. Even more importantly, developers need to nurture an environment that backs this up. “It’s about creating a visible culture that is genuinely open to all and doesn’t just pay lip service to the idea of diversity,” says Dan Pinchbeck, founder of award-winning studio The Chinese Room. “Bringing fresh talent into the industry only for them to leave again because it’s not a culture that seems to want or welcome or support them is at least as damaging as not encouraging them to join the industry in the first place.”

Research consistently shows that diverse workforces are more innovative; different backgrounds produce different ideas, approaches and solutions. In an industry where innovation is highly prized and sought after, reaching out beyond the current demographic seems like an absolute necessity. It’s not about being seen to do the right thing, it’s about investing in the very future of video games.

Full article with lots more information: https://www.theguardian.com/technol...stry-diversity-problem-women-non-white-people
 

Greatest Ever

Member
Apr 27, 2015
3,521
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415
We're potentially locking out thousands of talented developers, coders, producers, etc by not being a more diverse and welcoming medium. Becoming so is literally only a benefit as far as I can see.
 

Bolivar687

Banned
Jun 13, 2014
7,264
7,842
800
USA
Regarding the first point, the misconception that women just don't do Tech is something the engineering profession has dealt with for a long time. Whereas women have broken through every level of medicine, law, government, and business, for whatever reason, they have not there. Either there's something about women that makes them less predisposed for this profession or there's something endemically sexist about the industry. This article definitely makes it seem like the latter and that the recruitment networks are way too homogenous.

It's kinda crazy we're still hearing about just how prolific hostility to women and minorities is at gaming companies. There's something obscenely hypocritical about dictating progressive values to your audience when your own house is so impossibly adverse to historically marginalized groups.
 

rrs

Member
Nov 18, 2012
6,459
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0
Not Chicago, IL
We're potentially locking out thousands of talented developers, coders, producers, etc by not being a more diverse and welcoming medium. Becoming so is literally only a benefit as far as I can see.
Yep, and without diversity it's going to be a death spiral into me never playing AAAA again
 

Abelard

Member
Jun 6, 2016
568
0
0
Regarding the first point, the misconception that women just don't do Tech is something the engineering profession has dealt with for a long time. Whereas women have broken through every level of medicine, law, government, and business, for whatever reason, they have not there. Either there's something about women that makes them less predisposed for this profession or there's something endemically sexist about the industry. This article definitely makes it seem like the latter and that the recruitment networks are way too homogenous.

It's kinda crazy we're still hearing about just how prolific hostility to women and minorities is at gaming companies. There's something obscenely hypocritical about dictating progressive values to your audience when your own house is so impossibly adverse to historically marginalized groups.

I wouldn't blame it all on the sexism of the industry, growing up it was just kind of seen as a "boy" thing, the fact that tech courses in high schools were occupied by us "gross nerds" certainly didn't help.

So I think gender norms have a part to play in it, and in general to make it a more appealing industry, I think attempts should be made to demystify it for everyone.
 

excelsiorlef

Member
Sep 20, 2014
32,454
8
405
Burnaby, BC
Regarding the first point, the misconception that women just don't do Tech is something the engineering profession has dealt with for a long time. Whereas women have broken through every level of medicine, law, government, and business, for whatever reason, they have not there. Either there's something about women that makes them less predisposed for this profession or there's something endemically sexist about the industry. This article definitely makes it seem like the latter and that the recruitment networks are way too homogenous.

It's kinda crazy we're still hearing about just how prolific hostility to women and minorities is at gaming companies. There's something obscenely hypocritical about dictating progressive values to your audience when your own house is so impossibly adverse to historically marginalized groups.

I mean when you look at the Uber situation and the sexism deeply rooted in the tech industry, it's not surprising that carries over into the gaming industry.
 
Mar 2, 2011
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www.anewchallengerawaits.com
I spoke to this a bit at GDC this year
 

Zarth

Member
Jun 15, 2016
176
0
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I mean when you look at the Uber situation and the sexism deeply rooted in the tech industry, it's not surprising that carries over into the gaming industry.

I mean the article really nails it when they explain that these social systems in the industry have been developed entirely by white men pandering to themselves.

Nobody got up in arms at Nolan Bushnell and his hot tubs in the 80s, and now we've had 30-40 years for that culture to settle in as the accepted culture.
 

Kwame120

Banned
Dec 29, 2015
233
0
230
It's something that needs to be worked on, a lot. The article mentions the vicious cycle, of people not applying because they see no diversity in the industry and it's output, which seems to be a theme echoed across all creative mediums, and again highlights the harm that a lack of diversity can cause - in this case, goals and ambitions are hit.
 

Five

Banned
Jun 22, 2013
4,004
0
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28
SoCal
I tried encourage my girlfriend to get involved in game dev but it's a curiosity at best to her. Same with my roommates. I think wanting to get into game creation generally demands a long-standing appreciation of the art, and most other women don't have that. I'm doing what I can, but I'm just one woman, and an upper class white one at that :S
 

Macka

Member
Jun 6, 2012
4,043
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585
Sydney, Australia
Unless I'm somehow reading this wrong, I think the number in the article is incorrect?

"At the 2011 census, 36.7% of London's population was foreign born (including 24.5% born outside of Europe)."

The 'foreign-born' section was including people from across Europe that I'd assume would be considered white in the diversity breakdown of the game industry. Regardless, 4% is not good and needs to be improved upon.

Edit: Wait, I am wrong. I was literally reading the foreign-born section. The other ~16% must come from minorities born within the UK.