Diversity and inclusion efforts in the video game industry should not start at the recruitment stage; they should start with high schoolers and even younger children.
The industry experts of the panel “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Gaming”, presented by Take-Two Interactive, agreed on this. The discussion was part of TheWraps The Grill 2021 and was moderated by Take-Two’s DEI Director Chanel Ward.
The median age of the players may be 33, but it is future generations of storytellers – especially young women, gender-disregarding individuals, and people of color – who will transform the industry, the panelists said.
Laila Shabir, the founder of Girls Makes Games, runs summer game camps for children, mostly girls, aged 8-18. And she is always impressed by her out-of-the-box ideas.
“The stories that we have to tell are the stories that these children tell … we did not imagine the stories that these children make up because we did not live these lives,” explained Shabir. “The only way to get to these stories is by empowering the next generation with the right tools to develop the games and express themselves that way.”
“At the end of the camp, we read the game summaries that the children came up with … and [we’re like] ‘What do the kids think about that?’ ”She continued. “When I was 10, I ate sand. How do these kids at this young age think about climate change or the world I want to live in, empathy I want to build in the player? They think about such complex issues that we only realize as adults because we face them … Here are children who have not even got out of their home and are trying to imagine what it is like to be a different person and I think that’s really exciting about giving kids the property to build their own games. “
Jim Huntley, professor and director of marketing at USC Games, deals with a slightly older age group: college students. But he, too, recognizes the need to address underrepresented population groups (especially blacks and indigenous peoples) at an early stage and to offer them access and support.
“A lot of the injustices in elementary school are starting to work because [students say] “Hey, I don’t have access to a computer room. I don’t have access to computer science classes, ‘”he explained. “How do we fill this void so that we can make sure that the students who are back in elementary school can even think about taking this path and then have the opportunity to take that path and get into STEAM? [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics]? “
Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change, confirmed this need for education. Your organization is working with Title I schools (where students qualify for free lunch) to create similar opportunities.
“We’re focused on reaching these middle and high school students and teaching them that they can become video game creators, not just consumers,” she said.
In addition to STEAM skills, Pollack said, students learning about gaming acquire “21st-century skills, including creating characters or writing scripts or developing music or researching social impacts because of them want to play a game about climate change. You have something to bring to the table. “
The panel also discussed personal identity while gaming and how video games allow gamers to break various social rules and norms, including gender expression.
“When I first started, games – be it video games or board games or even television – were centered around a set of common rules that were created externally,” said Gordon Bellamy, founder of Gay Gaming Professionals. “And we would all choose to jump into these worlds together for a while and follow these rules. Today ownership of these rulebooks and identities has been democratized so that you and I bring so much of yourself to a game, be it through the character you create, the device you play it on, or the stories that you tell your game. And so it is today, especially for young people who come into play, a form of expression as well as a form of shared gaming experience. “
“What excites me about this small part of this conversation is that we are all so old,” said filmmaker, actress and game advisor Janina Gavankar with a smile. “We are speaking in such a binary language right now. In about two minutes all of these kids will be saying, ‘What are these girl / boy cops-? Who cares?”
“It’s changing so fast and it’s really exciting because it just makes the industry grow and gives us more experience,” she added.
Check out the entire panel here.
For over a decade, TheWrap’s Grill has led the discussion on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing newsmakers together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Tailored for C-suite and high-level attendees, TheGrill, presented by WrapPRO, features a unique series of curated discussions, industry panels, and virtual network activations that explore the ever-changing media landscape. Check out the full panel and grill content here: www.thewrap.com/the-grill-2021-welcome/