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How we can have diversity in our games without yelling at people.

Thoughts on how to improve gaming and game development social climates by fostering and encouraging new developers to join and make more diverse games rather than badgering existing developers to do it for us.

So the last few months have been pretty crazy in terms of how gamers and game developers are perceived socially, both within and outside of the industry. I don't wish to add to that. I would like to simply suggest what I consider a more constructive approach to building a more diverse game industry, a more effective way than badgering other developers to insert minorities and genders into their games like some freaky diversity company photo. 

 

You must include all these colors in your game.
Even purple guy. Specially purple guy.

 

The fallacy of righteousness

It's a very easy thing to do, being outraged by the statements and actions of others. Specially when you're on the other side of the insults, when you're the one being oppressed. It is likewise incredibly easy, rightfully so, to demonize the people putting you in that situation. You have every right to be angry at these people. 

But I encourage you not to use that anger as a means of communication, or an agent for change. 

From my personal experiences I have learned that hate just fosters more hate. As a Hispanic immigrant in the U.S., I've been on the receiving end of at least two different kinds of hate solely based on my national origin. I can definitely tell you that me angrily shouting at people did not fix anything for me. Righteous anger only provides us with a brief rush that makes us feel good, because we're right and they're wrong. 

Anger does not help us change the status quo. Anger does not make people reconsider their views. Hate just fans the flames and makes them grow higher. Hate makes the people we attack dig trenches and become defensive and as a result, set in their mindsets and their ways. 

Hate is not an effective vehicle for inclusivity. In fact, I would argue that hate is the engine that drives the very vehicle we're fighting against

Edit: As some commenters pointed out, anger can indeed sometimes help point out the existence of a problem, yes. But we are past that. We know there are problems in the industry. We are past the first step, the next step is the one where we try to solve the problem.

I have learned from my own experiences that positivity is much harder to resist than negativity.

So I say we follow up our positive ideologies with positive actions. Things that will bring real diversity into the industry, not just the type of "diversity" you get when you cram a few minorities into a company photo for PR purposes. 

 

Designing a better engine for inclusivity. 

We have in our hands some of the greatest tools humanity has ever had. We have a medium which in most countries, is not regulated based on the color of your skin, social connections, gender, or sexual preference. Computers for the most part, have permeated our every-day lives.

This is an amazing combination.

Thanks to the internet, anyone is now able to learn. Things you may have needed to pay thousands of dollars to learn once before. Skills that required specialized schools. We can spend hours upon hours of our lives studying and learning and most of it for free or with a nominal fee on an internet portal. 

The internet can help us build communities just as much as it can help destroy them. It can help the disinfranchised have their voice heard, just as loudly as those with monetary means.

We literally have all of this in our very pockets, yet we take it for granted so often and use so little of it.  

It's about time we put them to better use.

 

The big list of things we can do to help

Even the smallest person can help. You may not be able to help directly by getting diverse games positive press coverage unless you're press, but even developers, and dare I say, gamers, can help build more inclusive and diverse games.

Here's how.

 

Provide advise, connections and useful information if you're a seasoned industry veteran.

Support new and upcoming developers by providing them with resources. Does someone want to learn how to program? Give them links to sites to get started. Tell them about the Microsoft Dreamspark program, or Bizspark. Tell them about Unity Free and Monodevelop. Provide links to sites like StackOverflow, Unity Answers. Provide them links to the Stanford computer science online classes or any other learning resources. 

Someone wants to become an artist? Provide them links to valuable resources, open source tools and communities, such as Polycount, Blender, GIMP.

Someone wants to do Audio? Provide them links to software like Audacity and any other free resources. FreeSound.org is also an excellent resource for people seeking to remix sounds, assuming you give proper credits of course. 

Want to learn Game Design. You're already here, read up on some blogs and articles. Or visit the GDC Vault

There's a myriad of roles to be filled on a dev team(and I would do a poor job listing them all, and this would be too lengthy, sorry). There are online resources for them all, mostly freely available. Help others find them.

Here's a great example of a developer doing exactly what I mean

Any time someone says they don't have the tools to make a game. We should be ready to provide them links to make it possible.

 

Build open communities

The internet is an amazing place. However, one thing I've found is that unlike gaming communities, some development communities are closed off from outside parties. People develop cliques within the community and only communicate with each other. Sometimes sites are publically accessible, but have stern or litigious rules that keep people out or make them scared of participating. 

If we truly want more inclusive games, we need to lower the barriers of entry. We can't expect to do it while we barricade ourselves away from other developers.  

 

Help your local communities grow

If you are unable to build a brand new community, perhaps you should look to help your local community expand. Sites like Meetup.com help provide people local to an area with networking and learning opportunities, face to face.Take the time to do a search for game development, you'll probably find a group. 

If a local game development community doesn't exist, create one! Chances are, there are quite a few local people already interested in game development. There's probably someone whose work you admire within your very own community. 

Even if you don't run your local community, you can help it grow just by showing up and sharing your knowledge with them. I'm currently a Florida resident and I frequent the South Florida Game Developers Association. It's a small but tight knit group of people and I'm always inviting people to stop by. Whether you're a seasoned developer with a game or a newbie interested in game development, everyone is welcome and can get something out of it. I'd love to see you there. 

Florida isn't exactly well-known for it's game development communities. So chances are, if there's one here, you can find or build one wherever you live. It may be easier or harder, smaller or bigger,

The point is, build it, and people will come. All kinds of people. 

Have a look at the meetup page if you don't believe me.

 

This is not a stock photo

This is not a stock photo. 

 

Take someone under your wing

Whether its someone looking for an internship, or another indie looking to build connections. If we truly wish to create an inclusive industry, we need to help those with no, or little opportunities to succeed. 

As an outsider, I can really speak to the difficulty of breaking into the community. It is extremely hard. Nobody knows who you are, few care. This is exactly how you keep diverse people from your community.

Do this instead

Provide others with opportunities. Team up with other indies or students so you can learn the craft together. Talk to random strangers at conferences and events and ask them about themselves. 

Provide contacts and guidance to people who are already on their way with much needed support as they proceed on the long and difficult journey of game development.

Invite new people out to your local gatherings. Tell your contacts about them. 

Be open. 

 

Don't discriminate

There is a place for both Bayonetta's and Gone Home's, as much as there is space for them in other media. The existence of one does not take away from the other. Just like other forms of art, games should remain free of censorship. Whether that censorhip is coming from someone who thinks "Gone Home is not a game" or someone who thinks a game is too violent, or deals with uncomfortable themes, we should not let our judgement interfere with the medium as a whole. You may find a game personally offensive, but that very game could have different meaning to someone else. That game could open someone's mind to an idea. 

Banning games based on content is, in my mind, as silly as banning books. Make your own judgements, just don't limit the medium. Once we start limiting the medium, we are going against inclusive principles since we're applying our own personal bias and speaking out against it.  

Remember, we are all blind to our own biases, even when we think we're right. Specially when we think we're right.

If games are art, we need to become comfortable with the idea of developers representing things we may find distasteful or offensive, just as we are comfortable with a game that makes us feel good. 

Remember - Art is supposed to represent the breadth of the human condition. Good or bad.

 

Go from gamer to game developer

If you've never developed a game before but always wanted to.

If you dream about making a game but don't think you can cut it. 

If you think you don't know enough to get started.

Just do it. Try. You're wrong, about all of the above. There are tons of people out there to prove you wrong. People with no programming skills making games using Twine, or Game Maker. People with no art skills making games with programmer art. Chances are that if you have the desire to make games, you can make them.

The ultimate goal for all of this is to increase diversity. To do so, we need people from all walks of life to be creating games. Games take a high degree of skill and knowledge to make. It will not be an easy journey, but it will be extremely emotionally rewarding. 

We need more women making games. We need more minorities making games. We need people of all genders, ages, sizes, abilities and disabilities making games. 

Make all the games!

 

 

Final Thoughts

I want to make one final offer to those who may be reading this. If you somehow stumble onto this blog post and want to embark on the gamedev journey and want help... Drop me a line. I'd like to help in any way that I can. I know a lot of kind-hearted people who would love to help you as well. I will gladly do it, no matter who you are. I got my own start making mods when I was a teenager, so age is no factor either. Talk to me, I'd like to help. 

I encourage everyone out there to change the world with your games and your ideas. All of you are talented game developers, use your craft to make the industry we love a better place. 

All I ask, is that please, do it with positivity, rather than anger, exclusion, and divisiveness. 

These are the very things that oppose us. 

 

PS: Those of you seeking anything I can give, please send me a message on twitter or leave a comment here. I will be glad to provide you any help I can personally. You may also find my email under my profile, along with information about me and my games, which I felt was not in good taste to attach to this post as to avoid distracting from the subject.  

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