The gaming industry – which has long faced allegations of discrimination, sexism, and abuse – may finally have reached a turning point early this summer. Hundreds of people in the gaming industry, most of them women, came forward on social media with allegations of discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault.
Disturbingly, these allegations are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Many survivors likely feared going public with their allegations, and this reluctance may be especially true for women of color, who face significant inequities in the workplace that can discourage them from speaking out.
The allegations sparked a wave of media coverage in high-profile media outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian and led to resignations and professional repercussions for a number of powerful men in the gaming industry. The reaction signaled that the industry might finally be ready to make fundamental changes in the way it prevents and responds to sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse.
But how can gaming industry leaders capture this momentum and rewire the industry’s dynamics? They can start by focusing on three main categories:
1. Representation: Game makers remain overwhelmingly white (68%) and male (72%), according to Quartz. It’s hard to envision the gaming industry successfully preventing sexual assault and responding to all survivors without encouraging greater diversity among gaming executives – including Black, Brown, female, transgender, and non-binary individuals. For advice on building equitable workplaces, check out this RALIANCE blog from last month.
2. Reporting & Response: The fact that so many in the gaming industry felt most comfortable coming forward on social media suggests that there are major gaps in gaming companies’ processes for handling allegations of discrimination or abuse. Company leaders should take a renewed look at their process for handling allegations, with a particular focus on whether the process is designed to aid survivors or squash complaints. If it’s the latter, a new process that supports survivors, provides empathetic responses to disclosures, and models fair decision making is critical.
3. Reassessment: Earlier this month, RALIANCE Executive Director Ebony Tucker noted that virtual games often fail to accurately depict Black women and other underrepresented groups. This failure is troubling, because gaming companies have the potential to influence the way current gamers (and future gaming developers) view gender, race, and abuse in the real world. Leaders in the gaming industry should treat their influence as a serious responsibility and reassess the games they are producing. Do they participate in ugly stereotypes about women or normalize their abuse? Do they provide opportunities for characters of many identities to be the heroes of the story? If game makers ask themselves tough questions about their games and become more intentional about what they produce, they can help to build a healthier, more equitable culture within their companies and ultimately in the broader world.
Making a commitment to tackle discrimination and abuse will help the gaming industry’s leaders capture an opportunity for change. By creating a safe, diverse environment that supports the creation of more innovative, entertaining games, the industry will be able to better serve a new generation of diverse gamers for years to come.