A new BBC report addresses the games industry’s problem with racial diversity. Industry figures from leading companies such as Konami Europe and Ukie (the UK games trade body) weigh in on the issue, revealing why they think the games industry struggles to hire people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Diversity in gaming is one of the most talked about topics in the games industry right now as publisher and developers figure out how they can best create games more representative of diverse audiences.
Why Does the Games Industry Have Such Poor Racial Diversity?
Ukie’s chief executive Jo Twist spoke to the BBC Asian Network about this lack of black and Asian game developers in the industry, noting that the games that we play reflect this and that the games industry still has a long way to go. According to the 2015 Creative Skillset survey, just 4% of UK game designers are black or Asian and this is well below the UK’s national average of 10% for all industries.
The BBC also interviews several games industry figures – including game developers and critics – about the issue and why they think that the games industry has been so slow to address it.
The responses are mixed: Konami Europe social media manager Asim Tanvir doesn’t feel that the industry has a diversity problem and suggests that “if you just pick the best talent and put background and race aside, you will find a mix of people come into the industry.”
Meanwhile, Kish Hirani, the chairman of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Games Network says that “not enough people from a wide enough range of backgrounds are applying.” This is partly due to beliefs held by some minority communities that game development is not a “real job,” explains Hirani.
One of the more interesting comments comes from journalist and game developer Chella Ramanan who notes that although we are seeing better representation in games, “What we really want is people from minority communities in those teams, involved in the creation process and then also in senior positions to change the face of the industry.”
One prime example of this is Horizon Zero Dawn. Although the PS4 exclusive has been praised for its female protagonist, Aloy, it has also been heavily criticised for the way it (mis)uses Native American culture. It does so in a way that is insensitive to the historic oppression of Native American groups, argue some Native critics. (Developer Guerrilla Games addresses those criticisms here).
Another example is Mass Effect Andromeda. The game’s story was widely criticized as being a ‘colonialist fantasy’ and former developer Manveer Heir explains that he (Heir is of Asian heritage) and other developers raised these concerns during development. Heir also suggests that had BioWare had more ethnic minority leaders, these issues would have been avoided.
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