Friday, July 27, 2012

Diversity

Art created by GW2 fan Purple Llama.
Perhaps it's because it's around that time when the world gets together to compete in a friendly, inviting environment. Or perhaps, it might be the minority undergraduate conference I currently am attending. But I've never been more aware of a striking disparity in the gaming industry.

During my conference tonight, the keynote speaker, an older African-American woman who pursued a PhD degree in a time of great inequality, spoke tonight and some of her words really resonated with me.

"I look out and I see you all. And I'm so thankful that you will never have to look around you and know that you are the first of your kind."
We, her audience are comprised of a rising group of undergraduate researchers.  When you look at us, we are the definition of diversity, and reflect anything and everything that you could ever hope to imagine.  We reflect the up and coming generation that will slowly change the face of doctoral scholars. And we have her, and her generation to thank for challenging the status quo and creating programs that have cleared many obstacles out of our current paths.

However, that same shift has really not been made in gaming companies.  MMO's have often been criticized over the last several years of how little innovation has been made.  For example, look at the recent Game Developer's Choice Awards.  The winner of most innovation this year was Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Really, voice acting and group chat sequences qualifies you for biggest innovation of the year?  Well, when you compare it to the rest of the field currently out, than maybe it should have won.  However, that does not make it right.

When you start to work your way through the reasons how we ever got here, everyone always focuses on investors, risk, and money.  The common belief resides in companies tempted by the success of World of Warcraft and simply trying to replicate it in the hopes of making money.  I believe this theory holds up quite well for the MMO industry, but I do think there are some other reasons behind this lack of innovation in the gaming industry as a whole.

Next time you watch a "Tour of the Company's Headquarters" or "Meet the Developers" take a look at the diversity.  And I don't just mean race, I mean gender, religion, sexual orientation, geographical background, and you start to notice something striking.  Other institutions, industry, colleges and universities, politicians, have all been making notable strides in diversity.  However, the gaming industry seems to lack this or any call for change.  Google "diversity in gaming", and you can't even find mainstream websites even writing articles about it.  Why? And even more, does it have a detrimental effect on the gaming industry?

I would argue without a doubt that it does, but I lack the insider knowledge to explain why it has continued to persist and stagnate an that industry that we love.

3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this article and it opens up a lot of debates. I've always thought about this, especially when people talk about gender equality in other fields, I always come back to gaming and notice who exactly are sitting on developers panels and such.
    That's what I love about ArenaNet, seeing who exactly is part of content creation is awesome.

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  2. I've enjoyed your blog up until this point. Diversity for diversity's sake has been a toxic anthem. I find it far more offensive to suggest that a person needs to be given greater consideration for a position than another to "equalize" the social representation of the people involved. A more honest endeavor is to pick the most qualified person for a position regardless of various social factors. "Most qualified" should not begin to be defined by race or gender. A great example is I'm offended when someone suggests that my black friends are not qualified for an achievement of their own merit and NEED greater consideration because of the color of their skin. Now that is racist.

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    1. Great point and it's actually an argument I intentionally avoided when I created the article. Even if you are not a fan of affirmative action or any of it's million synonyms, I hope you can see the disparity between various groups of people in the gaming industry, and appreciate the need to close the gaps.

      Creating diversity in the workforce does not have to mean promoting one race or gender over another. It could simply mean creating programs designed to foster excitement and encouragement for younger generations in many areas. Establishing interest at an early age for anyone, no matter if you are white, black, hispanic, gay, straight, lesbian, Muslim, Christian, etc. can help attract people.

      In my opinion, there are better alternatives to affirmative action, and I think you are completely correct in pointing this out. In the article, I avidly stuck to the problem and avoided discussing the solution. Was it a little cowardly? Perhaps, but this is a GW2 blog, and creating controversy for the sake of controversy can be harmful to both our readers and the blog.

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