Executive Director, International Game Developers Association
Video games are influential. The game industry was estimated to top $159 billion in 2020 as the largest entertainment industry in the world. Seventy percent of Americans 18 years old and under play video games regularly, including 89 percent of Black teens and 69 percent of Hispanic teens. A child is more likely to know who a famous Fortnite or Minecraft streamer is than a Hollywood actor or actress.
As we grow up, we are often asked who our heroes are. These heroes, whether real or fictional, model morality, provide guidance, and create inspiration and hope. We strive to mimic our heroes in not just action, but also in fashion, speech, and achievement throughout our lives.
Fictional heroes are just as important as real heroes in their role model effect, and the more relatable the hero, the more inspiring they are. We need heroes who are young and old; Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian; tall and lean, and short and stout; heroes with wide noses and with button noses. We need heroes who look like those they can inspire.
For our youth, video games provide new universes within which players are empowered to cause change, creating a new level of immersion through interaction. Players become fully involved with the world and story — the characters become their friends and enemies, not those of an outside protagonist; the quests and scores become their achievements. If these worlds are diverse, they can be a strong force for good. With a diverse cast, youth of all backgrounds can be uplifted by these games and supported to pursue their dreams.
I was once showing my own game, “Potions: A Curious Tale,” at an event when two parents came up to me. Their second grade daughter had been teased relentlessly for liking Minecraft, being told that games were for boys. They told me how much it meant to her and them to not only see a game with a young girl featured as the main character, but that their daughter also had a woman developer to look up to. When their daughter was called over to greet me, the excitement was obvious in her eyes as she professed how much she liked Luna, the hero of the game, and wanted to be like her.
The case for diversity
A diverse development team will innately build a more diverse and inclusive game, as the team members will incorporate their own backgrounds, experiences, heritage, and culture into their creations. Game developers are now better known than ever before, and the diversity of those creators also inspires the next generation of game developers to follow in their footsteps.
Video game development requires STEM skills, including math, physics, and computer programming. Even just interaction with gaming and streaming technology encourages the development of skills like critical thinking, understanding systems design, collaboration, and technology use.
Video games need to be embraced for their ability to inspire our next generation, and diversity within these games is so important to optimize that inspirational effect for all of America’s youth. These digital worlds are a tool to uplift those who most need a hand, and inclusive games empower the women and minorities who play them to tackle challenges and pursue career paths they may have never considered otherwise.