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Watch this: Diversity and Inclusion Starter Kit

In this 2019 GDC talk, Avalanche Studios' Joahanna Garcia-Thomas goes over practical strategies for fostering an inclusive environment at a game studio.

Danielle Riendeau, Editor-in-Chief

November 15, 2023

In this content-rich presentation from GDC 2019, Avalanche Studios NY's Joahanna Garcia-Thomas starts off with a useful metaphor for DEI initiatives: "Diversity is the mix, and inclusion is making the mix work," she says, quoting DEI facilitator Andres T. Tapia. She then immediately goes into the story of DEI efforts at Avalanche New York and practical tips from the studio's experience, including notes from her own experience as an immigrant and person of color.

On the heels of a failed training with an external facilitator (which failed because, as Thomas notes, it's impossible to really dive into all the issues properly in one day). She notes "the overarching lesson for staring a D & I initiative is slow and consistent steps."

Thomas then goes into three lessons learned from the failed training, focusing first on humility and curiosity, then on a commitment to transform, and finally, in establishing partnerships.

Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand

"Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. One cannot work without the other," she states. "So you can't just hire a bunch of diverse folks and say 'good luck!'" She says. "Our two goals were foster inclusivity in the company, and increase diversity representation in the demographics of our employees."

She then runs through specific examples of useful initiatives, including sending a diverse range of representatives to public events, creating a culture where work/life balance is respected, and and ensuring that benefits include domestic partners. Thomas also advocates for business resource groups, and partnering with reputable organizations in academia, the non-profit world and local groups. She also offers tips on casting a wider net to facilitate more applications from candidates from underrepresented groups.

You can watch the full talk above.

About the Author(s)

Danielle Riendeau

Editor-in-Chief, GameDeveloper.com

Danielle is the editor-in-chief of Game Developer, with previous editorial posts at Fanbyte, VICE, and Polygon. She’s also a lecturer in game design at the Berklee College of Music, and a hobbyist game developer in her spare time.

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