You can fix the diversity issue in gamedev

I am very proud of this years edition of Sweden Game Conference! Thanks to the conference and the Inclusive Game Development theme, we managed to get together people like Richard Bartle, Warren Spector, Kate Edwards, David Gaider, Chris Avellone, Tau Petersson, Fredrik Wester and many more. They all got to talk about inclusiveness and diversity in the video games industry, both from an internal perspective but also from a wider, global, perspective, cause everyone seems to be playing games these days! And while listening to incredibly powerful and insightful lectures (Warren made me cry, actually), it hit me…

Warren Spector at Sweden Game Conference 2016
Warren Spector drawing a huge crowd at Sweden Game Conference 2016

Everyone welcomes diversity, but very few look towards their own studios and wonder how come their team is composed of only while males and of only one nationality.

Everyone claims they absolutely promote and support diversity, but not a lot back this claim with action.

And while that is nice to hear all the warm and inspiring thoughts, nothing will change until WE DO SOMETHING. For Realz.

Kate Edwards at Sweden Game Conference 2016
Kate Edwards showing awesome data about our industry

How to DYI Diversity the Games Industry

Fk the reports, look at your team and count. How diverse is it? Not because you need to strike a quota but because you have to really be aware and internalise what you DON’T have

If your team is really homogeneous, ask yourselves WHY. Talk to each other, try to really analyse your real internal feelings on the issue. Do you really understand why Diversity is important and do you really want a diverse team? Ain’t nothing wrong to make Niche Games for Niche audiences, like games about beefed up white guys who are the last ones standing in front of a horde of aliens, addressing a target demographic of while teenage to young adult males. Ain’t nothing wrong to try your luck in a red ocean, but you must be aware of that. And of course, set correct financial expectations.

The Inclusiveness Panel at Sweden Game Conference 2016
Kate Edwards, David Gaider, Ellen Beeman, Karin Ryding, Jenny Brusk, Souvik Mukherjee and Richard Bartle at the SGC2016 Inclusiveness Panel

Now that you had an internal conversation, look outside your team. Ask people who are different than you how THEY perceive your team, your culture, your game? Is it really that there’s No One out there with the skill set you need AND a diverse background, or they are right there but you just don’t see them?* Look again. When I ask, I get to talk a lot about fear, about knowing your place, avoiding to step up or speak up, about the lack of good examples and much more, and its painful.

If you do realise that actually there are quite a lot of diverse people around you, try to understand what pushes them away from your team, your culture, your game. Just hiring a bunch of girls to make coffee for you does not mean diversity. And if it is hard for you to step out of your box and talk to them, just imagine how much more hard it is for them to talk to you.

Oh and if you are a CEO, Never Ever Ever talk about the diversity you nurture and promote without first asking your team if they really feel the way you do. It REALLY sux to read in a newspaper about your team and how amazingly inclusive it is, when you as the only girl feel nothing like that and wasn’t even asked for an opinion.

Warren Spector at Sweden Game Conference 2016
Warren Spector’s talk about his gamedev philosophy made me cry – his words were so powerful, so true, so needed

Fun Fact: At my SGC16 talk, where I showed that out of 65 studios who opened their doors in our network, only 8 have a non Sweden in the startup team, ladies share only about 10% of the workforce and only 1 has a lady CEO, I was asked by a Brazilian professor why I think this is happening. Given the amazing diversity of our University of Skövde, I responded with a question: I asked HIM how many Swedish friends he has. It turns out, even in an international environment, people prefer sameness.

Speakers Room at Sweden Game Conference 2016
Hernan Lopez, Chris Avellone, David Gaider, Shailesh Prabu, Evgeni Puzankov, Armin Ibrisagic, Dan Pearson and a rare sight of Sebi, the man behind the camera, in the Speakers Room at SGC2016

Shameless/ Proud promo: The Heart. Papers. Border. team is composed of two Romanians, a Swede and 2 Dutch guys for now. I am unfortunately the only girl in this team of 5 but I am ze boss Mwahahah :P. I hope we’ll make it, cause the studio I dream of and I KNOW we can build…. will be pretty awesome <3

Heart. Papers. Border. map
Here’s some Heart. Papers. Border. love for you <3