Welcome to the very first blog version of the Game for Thought series (GFT). For those of you who aren’t familiar with it yet: Game For Thought (GFT) is a livestream series launched by Howest – Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE) in collaboration with local medialab Quindo and sponsored by Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF), it tackles ethically-relevant topics in the games industry and explores the impact & implications of industry developments.
Reason enough for us, here at FLEGA, to communicate these topics and challenges as widely as possible. In this blog recap of the livestream, we’ll break down the most important talking points of the panel, but for those who prefer to watch the entire video, you can find the video below.
When we use the term “inclusive” in recruitment, what does it really mean and involve? How can we promote diversity in recruitment, and what are the most effective approaches and challenges? We explore various topics related to inclusive recruitment, such as how to balance competence and identity in the hiring process, the effects of inclusive practices on content creation, recruitment in the education sector, and other related issues.
For the panel, Jennifer Lufau, Kyra Chan, Eyram Tawia, and Ola Gardner were invited to share their insights. It also marks the first time Game For Thought has had panellists joining from 3 different continents!
Check out the full video here:
Why should you want to have a diverse and inclusive team?
Jennifer Lufau: We have to consider that games are played by all kinds of people all over the world, people from all genders, people of colour, people with a disability, people from LGBTQIA+, and it’s important that they get representation in the games being made and as such also through the people making them.
Kyra Chan: It’s important to distinguish the difference between diversity and inclusion. Because they are often used as synonyms, but they’re really not the same thing. You want diverse employees, you want diversity in thought, and you want diverse backgrounds and experiences. There’s a Forbes study saying that diverse teams are better performing, they make better decisions, and they’re more profitable. So having diversity just makes good business sense.
Whereas inclusion is how you get there. If your recruitment process is inclusive, it benefits everyone. It’s important to have people believe in it and recognise the benefits it brings, so you need to have people who are committed to it from the very top of the organisation. It’s important to identify what’s not inclusive, where the unconscious bias is, and what needs to change.
Ola Gardner: In the United States, Women and minorities together are 20-25% of the total gaming and entertainment industry. That tells me that we may not be believing in it. The numbers stay the same, so that tells me we’re not doing a good job.
How can we get more inclusivity in games?
Eyram Tawia: At Leti Arts, we try to tell stories that include more people of colour and specifically the female gender into our games. One of our games features a superhero character with a disability and she was thought of by our female developer who has cerebral palsy herself. This was very much a conscious decision to have more inclusivity and to give people suffering from the condition someone to connect with. One of the other studios we work with is developing a game about people with albinism.
Another effort we are making comes from the esports scene, where we have tournaments for women playing FIFA or Call of Duty for example. And we are conscious about who we hire, letting them know that the games industry is welcoming and accepts everyone.
The same goes for our games, if you see a character line-up, and it’s “man – man – man”, maybe you should shuffle it around and instruct your artists to draw more women.
What if you can’t find the people you need within the minority groups?
Eyram Tawia: Intentionally putting characters with diverse backgrounds into your games is a first step; hiring them is another, but it can be challenging. In Ghana, we had put out an advertisement to try and hire more women to make games, but 90% of the people applying for the job were male.
Many women may fear that it is already a male-dominated environment and they do not even dare to apply for the job. We need to make it clear that we don’t recruit skill alone, we recruit personalities and people who have a creative mindset.
We try to motivate the local game development studios to hire women. As an example, we hired four female interns who aspire to become narrative writers. They come up with ideas the existing team could have never thought of. One of them now offered to do public speaking and has built up enough confidence in her own skills to help empower other women.
It’s also important to include this into the recruitment procedure. Even if you do not end up hiring a person, you should let them leave with a sense of fulfilment, so they remain bold enough to try again.
Ola Gardner: I’m a game design lecturer but I’m the only woman in the department. I’m surrounded by men and there is a constant pressure for me to be the best example of being a woman in this industry. I can’t mess up and feel I have to be on point every day. It’s exhausting and rewarding at the same time.
I don’t like talking to crowds, but I understand the importance of standing up and saying something. What you say has power and impact. Most of us gamers are pretty introverted, but it’s a responsibility for us women to try and talk more and engage more.
Kyra Chan: There is a problem with the applicant funnel, and the lack of representation. I do outreach to schools because to some people, like those from a low-income family, don’t see games as a viable career path. There are female students, students that are POC, it’s naïve to say we don’t have these people.
You can’t just say “not enough women are applying” without asking yourself what we are doing, or rather not doing, that could help remedy the issue. Do you offer better than statutory family leave? And if you do, is that on your website? Do you have a picture on your website where everyone looks the same and is celebrating with beers? Then that might put off Muslim applicants. Do you already have under-represented groups in your game? Because that would help come across as a safe place to work.
If you’re not the CEO. How do you handle getting more inclusive recruiting done in your company from the bottom up?
Jennifer Lufau: First of all, show them the facts. If you can show them a picture of the team, and there is no diversity within the group of people on the picture, it can already be a barrier of entry for people considering to apply for a job there.
Secondly, tell them how you feel. This can even be done by people who don’t belong to a minority themselves. Explain how a more diverse team could benefit the company and how it’s not good for the company image if there is no existing diversity.
The last suggestion is to come up with solutions yourself. Show how other studios are handling it and show your own company how they can do better, and talk about it to your colleagues. If your group of people who feel the same grows, it may be easier to bring it up to the top.
Is inclusive recruiting a double-edged sword?
Jennifer Lufau: In France, there was a study that says men are 10 times more likely to apply for a job, even if they feel like they don’t check all the boxes. When women feel like even one or two boxes are unchecked, they don’t apply for the job.
If studios don’t manage to get more women to apply, they are simply not doing enough to advertise the inclusive recruiting process. If your job offer is inclusive, it’s not going to repulse men from applying for the role, but it will increase the odds for women to do so.
But if you’re a recruiter, and you’re presented with two candidates who are both great, but one of them is a white cis male, then that person will probably have a chance of getting hired anywhere. And for the other who is from a minority, this may be their only shot. It’s not about favouring the second person, it’s about seeing their chances of being hired at another company.
How do you deal with the exhaustion of always fighting for the rights of minorities within your organisation?
Ola Gardner: I play a Game. *Laughs*
Kyra Chan: It can be frustrating. Especially because of how there may be some efforts to be inclusive, but those positions tend to be at the bottom of the corporate ladder. When you move up, people… start to look more the same.
It’s important to promote the efforts and results, rather than the length of service or how many games they worked on or whether they come from a AAA background or not.
Jennifer Lufau: Don’t let anyone bring you down, and believe in yourself. Networking is also very important and opens doors. Try and participate in gaming gatherings, connect with influential people, who might be in the same boat as you. You’re never truly alone.
About Game For Thought
Game For Thought (GFT) is a livestream series launched by Howest – Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE) in collaboration with local medialab Quindo and sponsored by Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF), it tackles ethically-relevant topics in the games industry and explores the impact & implications of industry developments. Each broadcast, Allie Weis, ethics coordinator at Howest DAE, invites a selection of industry experts to discuss the topic at hand.
Be sure to join us for the next Game for Thought panel on the 17th of May, at 8PM CEST! And be sure to follow the LinkedIn account for any updates.