So You’ve Decided to Improve Your Game Company’s Hiring for Diversity?

Outcomes Essay #1 from the 2016 think:Indie Diversity-Inclusion-Representation working group.

“2013 was the first year that a Taiwanese company was selected in Tokyo Game Show Sense of Wonder Night. They listed it with a Chinese Taipei flag next to the title instead of our countries flag and it made me feel really disrespected.”
“I showed up for a software developer interview. Another candidate was waiting when the interviewer came out and said ‘Oh you’re dropping off your husband? You can wait here’.”
“As a photographer and artist, and a woman of color I get people wanting to flirt with me and not accepting that I am actually there in my role as a professional.”

Would you know if people you were hiring who had roots in another culture felt disrespected by your hiring processes?

Does your company ever review how its hiring process is treating the people who go through it?

Does it matter to you what perception your company's processes give off about the corporate attitude to diversity?

On the weekend of IndieCade 2016 (15th & 16th of October) a crazy bunch of game developers got together to talk about some issues. It was the first time IndieCade had tried its new think:Indie Summit. Our particular working group of mad-eyed self-appointed visionaries (pictured below) wound up being charged with Diversity, Inclusion and Representation. No pressure, right?

In an exciting flurry of passionate statements, and sweeping dreams of change we did manage to commit to delivering some results, and this essay is it; or at least the first installment of it. This one’s about hiring for diversity and we hope you get as fired up as we did and join the conversation.

Here’s our #thinkIndie working group’s considerations for improving diversity hiring practices. These are designed to be a starting point for discussion and a template towards a more concrete, expansive document.

Top 5 Considerations for Diverse Hiring

  1. How to be a champion: Document affirmative reasons to make changes. Ken Wong said at NZGDC (paraphrased) “If we’re able to think more progressively, that’s how we can have an advantage and build a better industry”. Argue with concrete evidence and examples from companies that are successful in hiring more diverse candidates. Brace for pushback and negativity from trying to change hiring practices. Folks currently implementing hiring can interpret changes as a personal attack on their judgement. Are you contextualizing changes as positive improvements and not personal critiques?
  2. Building up the hiring pool: Before you even interview candidates you need to have the right mix of people to draw candidates from. Empower individuals (like your community manager) to participate in underrepresented communities as an ally. By building up a real relationship and trust with these communities, you are not using these groups just for your own ends. Involvement with a community is a two-way street and you are contributing back towards future diverse hires.
  3. Reviewing your interview process: Even without considerations, the least a company can do is look critically at their own processes. Large changes may take time, but at the very least companies/studios should be self-critical and open towards incremental improvements. Just including non-traditional interviewers in the process can help. Are you including people in the interview process who are outside the specific discipline and can focus on things such as communication and social skills?
  4. Working the trial period: The traditional interview process often has many ingrained biases against diversity hires and can reflect the interviewers privilege in unconscious ways. Rather than trying to figure out best-fit within this interview process, trials of a day or two are already used as a way to quickly check a candidates skills across the board in an actual work setting. Trials should be paid and reflect meaningful work for the potential hire. Rather than solving chestnut problems in a pressure-cooker situation with all the potential biases of an interview, candidates can also exercise their people skills by working alongside would-be co-workers. And there’s other alternatives to the traditional interview as well.
  5. De-glamourize the “rockstar”: Instead of looking for rockstars/ninjas, look for unicorns and magical girls/boys. Soft skills are undervalued by the traditional job postings and interview process (especially in programming/technical roles). Empathy and communication should be valued equally with intellect/hard skills. Rockstars often know the required skillset without improving the overall team. Look for people who act as “multipliers”, display “soft” skills that improve the work and relationships with other developers on the team. Job postings can often ignore and de-emphasize the social/soft side of working on a project. Are you minimizing skills that are often found in diverse candidates?

There’s already a lot of resources out there on hiring for diversity — see some great ones highlighted below — but there is in our opinion also a lot of companies simply not looking at those resources, and not making the difficult choices to implement change. That’s why its great that some folks in those companies are champions for change. Maybe as a champion you could take what we have done and use it as a basis for your company’s own “Considerations for Diversity in Hiring”.


IGDA Diversity in Hiring Report

Getting Girls Into the Game: Toward a Virtuous Cycle (Chap 11 of Beyond Barbie & Mortal Kombat).

Diversifying Barbie & Mortal Kombat

One Concrete Deliverable

From think:Indie we wanted to have a concrete deliverable. As we said above this is it. But this is not meant to be carven in stone, unsullied truth. It’s a beginning, full of our guess work. We hope it’s also a basis for discussion & experimentation. We hope to have more essays from our group in the future. If you want to be included in that, comment below as we may need some help!

Sarah S
Josh S
Michael L
Genevieve M
Johnson L
Nic B-K

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