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Diversity in the Industry

August 6th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Today’s Washington Post has a great story about a free video game academy in Washington DC. Targeting the city’s African American and Latino youth, the organizers aim to get more of this video gaming demographic interested in the design and programming of games.

The story quotes a survey done by the IGDA that highlights the racial and gender imbalances in the game development field. In a survey of 2000 industry workers, only 2.5 per cent were identified as black and 3.5 per cent as Latino. Among male game players, blacks and Latinos are 18 and 17 per cent, respectively. (Only 1 out of 8 development workers are women, by the way.)

The fact that the Urban Video Game Academy is free really sets it apart from the high-cost summer gaming camps that many universities and technical schools run. The high cost of game development software means that many low and middle income families can’t encourage their technically inclined children to experiment on their own time. This month-long academy has already been in Baltimore and will be moving on to Atlanta soon.

The article notes that minority women are almost totally absent and that black and Latino males are either athletes or gangsters. White protagonists run the gamut from space marine to serial killer to little Italian plumber. Even in role-playing games, the default skin tones for most races is a rosy or pinkish hue – orcs and drow seem to be the only exceptions.

Will a more diverse group of developers lead to more diverse portrayals of heretofore underrepresented populations? Maybe. The industry has a lot of tropes and cliches that are targeted at the large suburban male gaming population, and so many traditions will die hard. The profit margins for major games are much tighter than those of movies or television – both of which have strong African American content, but still mostly segregated from the mainstream.

It certainly can’t hurt to have more blacks and Hispanics in the industry – or in gaming journalism for that matter. While the debate over the representation of women in games has been raging for years, the race question has been avoided for the most part. The Asian American population is well represented in both the press and development sides of the equation, perhaps obscuring the fact that the industry is not as diverse as its audience is.


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