Shana T Bryant
Lead Software Producer and Speaker, IGDA (SIG)
The games industry was once a very different place, and at 23, I was pursuing my dream job as a developer. It was a job people wanted, and one that very few real people actually had.
Fast forward, and the industry of today is a heady mix of old and new: excitable, wide-eyed college grads comingle with grizzled veterans with decades of experience, who’ve seen dreams made and dreams deferred. In entertainment, it’s often not about who you see, but who you don’t see represented.
Circular logic, dead end
There’s no denying the game industry — like the tech industry that bore it — is overwhelmingly male and white. It’s been that way for decades, despite attempts to diversify. We got used to the explanations. Then, it was, “maybe girls don’t like games,” or “maybe math and science are too hard.” Now, it’s, “maybe women have different priorities,” or “maybe women aren’t willing to make the hard sacrifices.” It’s the same circular reasoning used to justify all kinds of injustice, from voter suppression to gentrification. Meanwhile, however, the industry itself is evolving under, around, and if need be, through the old gatekeepers.
Girls and women have always made and played games. We’ve been shaping the industry — as enthusiasts and devs — for longer than there have been pixels on screens. Now, social platforms have brought visibility to the contributions of these heretofore hidden figures. For an industry whose survival is dependent on continually surprising and delighting consumers, this would seem like a good thing. But acknowledgement has been slow and acceptance begrudging.
Still, we’re witnessing a shift in perception. Who’s allowed to be a gamer? It’s no longer only the stereotypical white-dudebro-blissfully-meme-ing-away. The industry has always been those fans, but it has also always been Black, queer, disabled, and yes, women. We’ve always been here; we’re this industry’s DNA.
To those decision-makers in the industry, I’d challenge us to start valuing the vast creativity we have at our disposal. Stop chasing some diversity magic bullet, and start oening doors to the diverse community of developers who’ve already proven their worth. To those who want to make the move from enthusiast to developer, do it. Seek success through communities that will support you all the way, and never be afraid to ask for help. Groups like the International Game Developers Assocation Women in Games Special Interest Group (SIG), the Allies SIG, or Blacks in Gaming offer both current devs and future-devs a place to start. In an industry that thinks we’re invisible, we say: we’re here, we’re valuable, and we’re enough.
Shana T Bryant, Lead Software Producer and Speaker, IGDA (SIG), [email protected]