The BGI is a new agency for games culture which, among other programmes, works to increase diversity in the games workforce, collaborating with multiple third sector agencies.
Over 20 years, I’ve watched the games sector change beyond recognition, apart from the gender profile in our developers, which is changing excruciatingly slowly by comparison. The sector is missing opportunities in audience, creative and economic potential from a more diverse workforce, but a concerted push by multiple agencies could trigger real, meaningful change.
Both men and women are gamers
The old stereotype – that games are played exclusively by young males – died two decades ago. Today, players’ genders reflect the general population in the West, yet the people who make games in British companies are still overwhelmingly male. If your developers reflect your audience, you’re more likely to deliver something your audience will enjoy.
Monocultures destroy creativity, damage staff retention and make staff less productive. They should be anathema to a creative industry that thrives on ideas. Diverse teams create better products from more sources of inspiration, contrasting viewpoints and stronger, broader ideas.
Financial gains for diverse companies
Diverse companies also perform better economically than non-diverse companies. A recent study found that companies with diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to have above-average profits. Simply put, companies become more viable, sustainable and profitable with diverse teams and boards.
Supply limits demand
Studios often do hire in their own image but they’re at the end of a long supply chain that starts young and is, whether inadvertently or not, filtering out more diverse candidates from an early age. Fewer girls learn to code than boys. More females drop STEM subjects at GCSE, which leads to fewer female candidates taking games diplomas and fewer studying games development at university, despite unprecedented growth in such courses in recent years. Too few female candidates make studios’ shortlists and so change stalls.
Get in early to encourage women and girls into gaming careers
What to do about it? Berating the games sector for not being diverse hasn’t worked. To tackle this intractable problem, you have to start young, at the beginning of that talent supply chain. If young females are not shown the potential of a career in games at an early age, then they won’t choose foundation subjects to build careers in games. Inspirational programmes such as Women in Games’ Ambassador programme are leading the way.
Work together to improve the visibility of opportunities
The games sector has a range of educational programmes like our Pixelheads after-school clubs and National Videogame Museum, Digital Schoolhouse, NextGen Skills Academy, TIGA university accreditation, our training programmes and Women in Games’ other programmes. They’re great, but mostly underfunded and badly signposted, which makes it difficult for young females to navigate a career path into games.
We’re working with many of these programmes plus leading further/higher education partners to collaborate and coordinate a new pan-sector initiative to tackle this deep-rooted problem through all of our programmes. There are signs that industry is getting the message and ready to change. A concerted approach from all the third sector organisations can have major impact on improving the supply of talented young women into games companies.