Like myself and millions of others you’re probably are a fan of games. So, you probably had your news feed constantly updated about this year’s E3 for the past week. Essentially, the expo exist for the gaming industry to show the world what they are up to.
Yes, new games and tech on the horizon is great. However what I’m personally interested in is how the industry tries to solve its apparent diversity and inclusion issues. And when I say apparent it’s very apparent…
Here’s a look at the numbers:
A survey by the International Game Developers Association published last year surveyed almost 1,000 people working in the US video game industry.
It found that only 1% of respondents identified as black or African-American and only 4% identified as Hispanic or Latinx — the gender-neutral term for people of Latin-American ethnicity. — compelo
As noted in 2018 per the IGDA’s developer satisfaction survey, respondents were predominately male (74%). Only 21% identified as female and the remaining 5% identified being trans men, trans women, and non binary.
As the aforementioned facts show, the industry is pretty um...not very diverse. Company press conferences just reinforced this like clockwork for years. Of course, the game industry won’t solve that problem soon. One method to solve that problem is to see marginalized people in leadership roles pave the way. So let’s focus on those individuals.
During the Microsoft presentation we were provided facts and updates on the future of Xbox. Eventually, we were introduced to Head of Xbox Partnerships, Sarah Bond.
Her stage time was dedicated sharing updates with Xbox Game Pass. Then she went into detail how she and her team seeks to work with creators to help fans discover games. Unfortunately, prior to this I wasn’t aware of Sarah and her role with Mircosoft. However I’m glad to know whom she is, what she does, and I look forward to seeing what else she has planned going forward.
Via the Bethesda press conference many were introduced to Ikumi Nakamura. Nakamura, is creative director of Tango Gameworks. She took the stage to show her studio’s latest title. With confidence and personality, we were introduced to the mysterious Ghost Wire Tokyo.
I have a bad habit of not checking artists on games I’ve played. So her name didn’t immediately register. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been a fan of her highly impressive work for quite awhile. Her current position as creative director, as notated by the internet, was only a matter of time given her body of work. So her next title is one to look out for.
E3’s also allowed us to see and hear from the likes of:
Shaun Escayg, Creative Director of Crystal Dynamics working on Marvel’s Avengers game.
Cara Ellison, Senior Narrative Designer, Vampire: The Masquerade -Bloodline 2
Bio Jade Adam Granger- Lead Game Designer Ubisoft Montreal, Rainbow Six Quarantine
I’m pretty sure I might be missing some folks from developer presentations/interviews. But regardless it was refreshing to see individuals, I’m sorry leaders, whom aren’t white and male. Ideally, shows will eventually have more people of various identities and backgrounds regularly.
Now, there was another aspect to E3 being a little more diverse and inclusive. Did you know there was a Black Game Pros Mixer hosted by Ubisoft? I’m going to assume you didn’t. I only saw industry folks and mutuals speak about it via Twitter.
This was hosted by Ubisoft product manager Andrien Gbinigie and Ubisoft international director of Events, Leon Winkler.
So why was this important? As they share in the video; the purpose was for people to meet, celebrate, and discuss how they are helping create a diverse and inclusive culture within gaming. This must’ve been great. I can only assume this will be a regular thing each year.
Update 06/15/2019: After writing this article. I was advised E3 was more diverse then I knew. The show also helped those whom are disabled.
During the Microsoft Xbox and EA press conferences streams, they featured live captioning. Both the Ubisoft and Xbox conferences had a dedicated ASL interpreter for the entirety of their shows. Developer Crystal Dynamics also had a dedicated deaf briefing.
For the expo itself Microsoft and Ubisoft had adaptive controllers at some of their booths for attendees. These controllers were introduced last year to better accommodate disabled gaming fans. Ubisoft’s booths also had lowered desk height for wheelchair bound fans. The company Oculus offered chairs, if people wanted to sit at their booths. Microsoft had an audio description for blind viewers on their mixer stream.
Also the ESA hosted a networking lunch to connect developers with disabled gamers. This allowed developers to better understand the unique hurdles theses fans have. Hopefully, leading to more games being accessible to those whom are disabled. In time, we can hope these efforts are some and embraced by other companies as well.
So that brings me to my other point with E3. We are all fully aware the expo works where news reports every new detail about games. Every website is naturally rushing to create articles and generate traffic.
However if I had the chance or rather one job, I think articles/interviews focusing on diverse industry individuals would go a long way. I’m sure hearing insight from Sarah Bonds, Ikumi Nakamura, Andiren Gbinigie and others about their careers, work and how they help foster more inclusion would be appreciated.
E3 didn’t stop there with doing better with being diverse. Some games surprised us too.
Arkane Studios, developers of Dishonored/Prey, announced their new title Deathloop. With a stylish cut CGI trailer, we are introduced to assassins that can’t die. You’ll notice this game has two(not one) Black protagonists. In all my years of being a gaming fan, I can't recall a single player title that has two Black leads only. They are not a part of a larger cast, they are the only cast. Someone will need to correct me if I’m wrong. But I don’t think that’s been done before.
In other news, Nintendo revealed that their new Animal Crossing title which will be a 2020 release. One aspect that got fans very excited is that we will have the option to have Black and Brown avatars. Previously, players would have to tan their character in game. Glad to see Nintendo took the feedback from people to heart.
Next, the latest Pokemon Sword/Shield update provided a few details. One of them being a reveal of the newest water type gym leader, Nessa. As you can see she’s a young dark skinned woman, whom fans expressed a lot of approval for (see art below). Along with champion Leon, and rival Hop, it appears that the developers are aware of the importance of having diverse characters.
She joins the ever growing number of Black and Brown Pokemon trainers throughout the series. Speaking as a long time Pokemon fan myself, it’s great to see her. I hope there’s more Black and or Brown trainers to come to Sword/Shield.
There were other games to mention however we’d be here all day if I wrote about them too. With these games and characters I’d like to note a great point made by inclusive platform Black Girl Gamers:
Only time will tell if these Black characters we met during E3 will be memorable and done right. Time has shown representation in games still needs a lot of work. That said, this E3 got me pretty hopeful that the games industry is trying to do better. Here’s hoping that they are well on their way to be really diverse and inclusive.