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Why Animal Crossing and Nintendo need diversity

"We have a broad age range, a broad range of experiences. It helps different topics get brought up that might not have been on a team that isn’t as diverse." - Aya Kyogoku, Animal Crossing co-director
"We have a broad age range, a broad range of experiences. It helps different topics get brought up that might not have been on a team that isn’t as diverse."
- Aya Kyogoku, Animal Crossing: New Leaf co-director Aya Kyogoku was the first woman to join Nintendo's game design team; she's now the co-director of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the successful and much-beloved installment of the company's life-sim franchise. She chalks that reception up to diversity in the game team. It's not a new message for Kyogoku, but she states it succinctly in a new interview with USGamer. "Looking at the Animal Crossing team today, the ratio of men to women is very balanced across all different positions involved in the development team. Because of that, we get to hear a lot of different perspectives and opinions. I think that goes beyond just men and women, too... Even beyond development, daily interactions in the workplace are a little different with a diverse team. In that sense, I feel like the fact that the balance is evening out is a good thing," Kyogoku said. "Not only do we want diversity within one game, but it’s also beneficial to have diversity across genres and the type of games we can make at Nintendo. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s beneficial to have development teams that are diverse in their life experience and backgrounds." The USgamer story is more than just an interview with Kyogoku; it looks at the history of diversity -- both missteps and wins -- at Nintendo. This is a topic that Kyogoku and the game's producer, Nintendo veteran Katsuya Eguchi, have touched on repeatedly. It was a big theme of the pair's talk at this year's Game Developers Conference (which you can watch for free on GDC Vault). It's also a discussed in another interview with Gamasutra, in which Eguchi said, "I think it was very important to have diverse teams so we can provide a diversity of content that people can relate to," and which covers how the team approached developing New Leaf which that in mind.

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