Friday, March 7, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Color me ignorant, but it pleases me to hear how supportive technology educators, industry men/women, and major games publishers have been to the increased presence of underrepresented groups in game’s industry.

Polygon’s Emily Gera wrote an excellent piece today covering how educators in the STEM field and game developers find how damaging the absence of women in game development is to this thriving art form.

"Far too often, the image of the tech industry insider is a white guy in a hoody."

MIT GameLab studio manager Rik Eberhardt talks about the lack of diversity in game studios and game studio representatives. “I can't remember the last time a technology representative from a company on a news program (either the morning programs like Today or on a specialty program) I watched was a woman."

In a similar point, indie developer Mike Bithell discusses how the imbalance in demographics have painted an all too common image for the industry, “You look around studios, and they are a tiny minority, more so in older studios. It's weird how much this has informed the image in my head of what the entertainment industry is like."

Constructing a level playing field regardless of gender and ethnicity has grown throughout the history of education, from encouraging young girls to learn math and science to modernizing text books within urban schools. Music producer Elana Siegman describes her path in pursuing her creative endeavors on her own away from socialized gender expectations, “Eventually I gravitated to creative endeavors where I had some encouragement to be trained (music and acting mainly), and then fell into technology by training myself how to make websites. I gravitated toward grass roots circles of female web development — I had been inspired by the riot grrl movement in high school, and found communities like webgrrls by accident. Through that, I met lots of geeks who were gamers in that realm, and eventually realized that the game industry was the perfect place for me. It never occurred to me to pursue a computer science degree or to learn about the technical aspects of art, I dove in and became self-taught, which was all the rage at the time!"

EA, who’s gotten a lot of shit and formally awarded the worst company in America two years in a row, doesn’t get the attention it deserved in its grass roots efforts (nor does Peter Moore get enough credit for his response for the hateful backlash against their LBGT policy, “If that's what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because were not caving on that.”)

Along with nagging microtransactions, EA is also known for partnering with minority organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, SHE++, the National Society for Black Engineers, The Anita Borg Institute and Women in Games-Jobs. However, it would be nice to see this support directly reflected in their games.

As education becomes more and more accessible thanks to forward thinking minds looking to lift the rest of the nation’s demographics, we will continue to see the products of more and more perspectives in the public eye. When discussing video games, this has long since been a medium that has been indiscriminately captivating, yet the games themselves don’t always reflect so. Perhaps as we see organizations such as Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, SHE++, the National Society for Black Engineers, The Anita Borg Institute and Women in Games-Jobs, we will begin to see a propagation of stories, themes and ideas in games that all consumers, regardless of their identity, can directly relate to. 

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