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GDC GM Meggan Scavio calls for speaker diversity at GDC 2015

Game Developers Conference general manager Meggan Scavio explains her plans to expand the diversity of the community interacting at the 28th annual GDC next March.
The video game industry is a rapidly evolving, diverse community, and the organizers and advisory board of the Game Developers Conference are striving to ensure that the 28th annual GDC is a forum which reflects that diversity. As part of that ongoing effort, GDC organizers are pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging a broader variety of game industry professionals to attend and speak at the conference, which will be held from March 2nd through March 6th next year in San Francisco. Doing so is critically important to the organizers of the conference; GDC is intended to be a safe, respectful place where developers can feel comfortable sharing knowledge with their peers across the industry, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religion, and strictly enforces its Code Of Conduct. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about the issue than GDC general manager Meggan Scavio, who made time this week to answer some questions about her plans to improve diversity at GDC, why it's important to do so, and how you can help GDC organizers make the show a more diverse and representative conference. It's worth noting that the GDC 2015 call for Main Conference speakers ends next Thursday, August 28th, so if you or someone you know has a great idea for a talk, now is the time to submit it.

How do you feel about the diversity of speakers and attendees at GDC?

Scavio: I think there are always opportunities for improving diversity at GDC. While I think the ratio of women to men attendees at GDC is increasing compared to many tech events, I also think that is not the only measure of diversity. I was struck by a conversation I recently had with Rami Ismail from Vlambeer. He told me that for the first time at any GDC, he saw Farsi on a slide in one of the session rooms and it moved him more than he ever thought it would. It just underlined for me the incredible importance of seeing yourself or a part of yourself represented in your chosen community. Game developers come from all corners of the earth and all walks of life. We need to be more respectful of that.

Why do you think this is an important concern for GDC organizers, one worth devoting time and resources to?

I'm constantly defining GDC as a community event, a place where the game development industry gathers to learn, network and inspire. in order to be a real community, however, we have to have true representation from the entire community. I think the important part for event organizers to understand is that we have to make sure those doors are open. And while it's easy to say "Everyone can come to GDC," can they? Can they afford to attend? Passes cost money. Why don't they submit to present a talk? Submitting to an event that gets around 800 submissions as part of the Main Conference can be awfully intimidating for a first-timer. Reminding ourselves that not only do multiple barriers exist, but that we also control them is motivating. We can affect change, and we should.

What do you hope to accomplish with this year's conference?

I'm hoping that GDC 2015 is the year we start aggressively addressing diversity at our event.

Well, what steps are you taking to do so?

We're currently putting together several programs, not all of which I'm prepared to go into just yet. The push that we are able to talk about right now is the one addressing speaker diversity. Submissions for GDC 2015's Main Conference opened a couple of weeks ago, and as a team we pulled together a list of around 20 organizations that support minorities in tech/games that I personally reached out to. I asked them to encourage their communities to submit to GDC, and to spread the word that diversifying our lineup was a top priority for not only the GDC team, but the advisory board that selects all of the content. (The same is true for the GDC 2015 Summits submissions, which open in September, focus around areas like indie, narrative, free to play, and more, and are another chance to be selected.) We have admittedly been slow to accept submissions from speakers who have never spoken publicly before - that ultimately leaves out a lot of smart, talented people. We need to change that. More voices need to be heard.

What can the community do to help?

Here's the thing: I can't submit talks for you. As a community, I need you to encourage each other to submit. Who do you admire? Who do you respect? Who inspires you? Encourage them to submit to GDC. We want to spread that inspiration and allow GDC to serve as its platform. I do understand that pitching a GDC talk is intimidating, and I still can't promise that everyone who should be accepted will be accepted. But we're going to try.

Anything else you want to add?

I am SO open to feedback, and I'm here to listen. Send me an email at [email protected] Ask me questions. Give me advice. Send me names of people we should be inviting to GDC - we want to get more diverse in invitations, as well. Tell me how we can improve. I want GDC to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome and heard. [For more details on the submission process and to view the complete list of GDC 2015 Main Conference advisory board members, please visit the GDC website C4P area.] Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech

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