Why diverse teams make better video games

Why diverse teams make better video games

In IGDA's latest Developer Satisfaction Survey (2021), a staggering 74% of participants flagged the glaring issue of unequal treatment and opportunities in the gaming industry. This is a boss-level problem we can't afford to leave unbeaten. 
 

The gaming world needs a symphony of diverse voices to foster inclusivity and fairness. By rallying individuals from all walks of life, with unique beliefs, experiences, and personalities, we can unlock game-changing perspectives, crafting video games that truly embrace our differences and unite us through shared experiences. 
 

We uncover why diverse teams are the secret cheat code for creating better video games. We'll spotlight pioneering companies that are acing the diversity game, both in their hiring practices and the inclusive titles they develop. Let's unearth the invaluable takeaways developers can learn from these diversity all-stars. 

How does diversity impact video games? 

Being inclusive boosts equal opportunities, visibility and tolerance for people who are inherently diverse across gender, ethnicity and sexuality. This is particularly important in an industry where players are much more diverse than the teams that make them — NewZoo’s Gamer Sentiment Study highlights that in the US: 

 

  • 46% of gamers are women 

  • 20% are Latinx, 15% are black, and 5% are Asian American 

  • 16% are LGBTQIA+ 

  • 31% have a disability, with mental health being the most reported 
     

Games that fail to represent diverse groups in a responsible and ethical way - without resorting to harmful stereotypes, for example - only serve to alienate players and widen the social distance that already separates different groups of people. As game developers, it's our job to create inclusive and welcoming experiences that unite players, not divide them. And to do that, we need to truly understand our diverse audience. After all, who better to create games for diverse players than a diverse team of developers? 

 
With that said, we've seen some awesome examples of inclusive games from developers who truly understand their players. Here are our top picks of video games that benefited from the input of diverse teams.  

5 video games made better by diverse teams  

 

  • Outerloop Games – Thirsty Suitors 

Outerloop Games is a minority-led studio creating games about underrepresented cultures and themes. The combination of combat, skateboarding and cooking in Thirsty Suitors creates unique gameplay that’s hilarious, surreal and undeniably queer. This is a game made authentic by the team behind it – with storytelling that celebrates communities, provides much-needed visibility and welcomes in wider audiences. 

 

  • BioWare – Mass Effect, Dragon Age

Although BioWare doesn't explicitly list diversity as a value on their website, the developer is vocal about its commitment to equality. Also, by including queer characters in their massively popular games Mass Effect and Dragon Age, BioWare infuses underrepresented experiences into genres traditionally dominated by male, heterosexual narratives. As developer Samantha puts it: "By incorporating inclusivity into popular games, [we have] demonstrated that queer representation isn't a drawback, but rather a positive aspect that many players actively seek and appreciate." 

 

  • Peachy Keen Games – Calico

In a world of shoot-em-up games and bro-gamer culture, Kells and Andrew are like a breath of fresh air with their safe, fun, and relaxing video games. They're basically the yoga class of the gaming world. Their game Calico is like running a cat cafe in a pastel wonderland, where you can decorate your life and pet cute creatures to your heart's content. It's a much-needed escape from the testosterone-fueled violence of other games, and it's all thanks to this indie duo with a knack for creating unique and inclusive gaming experiences. 

 

  1. inkle – 80 Days

The small team at inkle are passionate about storytelling, allowing this reviewer to “see their culture in ways that aren’t always visible in video games.” 80 Days is based on Jules Verne’s novel, but it’s the valet Passepartout who is the protagonist, not the wealthy businessman. Often-underrepresented destinations around the world are featured as deeply as those we’re all too familiar with. And Passepartout has romances that aren’t defined or limited by sexuality. In so many ways, the team’s dedication to storytelling provides a powerful platform for equality. 

 

  1. CD Projekt Red – Cyberpunk 2077 

Executive Adam Kicinski at CD Projekt Red highlighted their team's diversity spanning politics, nations, ethnicities, and sexualities. "We take pride in our vibrant mix, but we also know that running a smooth operation means taking active steps to foster mutual respect and tolerance." 

 

Thanks to these efforts, their team feels at ease expressing their ideas and opinions, leading to a smorgasbord of inclusive themes and gameplay in their blockbuster title, Cyberpunk 2077 – from gender fluidity to human romances that don't shy away from the varied perspectives they represent. 

 

Diversity and inclusion starts with recruitment  

 

Rolling out recruitment strategies with a sprinkle of inclusivity is the secret sauce for game developers to cook up diverse teams. By doing so, they can blend an array of perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences to craft inclusive games that represent every player on the planet. 

 

To kick things off, take a seat with your team and pick their brains. Ask them: where could we use a little more variety? Their insights will guide you on your journey to tackle these areas. Embracing fully remote or at least flexible work options will also help you level up as an inclusive employer. By breaking down barriers for job seekers from diverse backgrounds, you ensure that no one has to make unfair sacrifices just to work at the office.  

  

Here are some other useful tips on recruiting a more diverse squad:  

  

  • Offer internships to candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to widen your candidate pool, mentor future diverse employees, and boost your company's reputation; 

  • Develop your employer brand with values that resonate with diverse audiences to help attract and retain diverse talent, which can lead to a more creative and innovative team; 

  • Use AI tools, such as search filters and web scrapers, to help reduce the risk of unintentional discrimination and bias and ensure a fair and inclusive hiring process; 

  • Collaborate with a recruiter that applies search filters, quantifies candidate diversity, and concentrates on diverse candidates to enhance your chances of recruiting highly qualified talent from a variety of backgrounds. 
     

What do you get when you put together a diverse team of game developers? More than just inclusive games - you also get increased employee engagement, productivity, innovation, and a stronger brand image. It's a win-win situation that can help drive growth and profitability. That's why recruitment strategies that prioritize diversity are such a power-up for your business - benefiting your players, your team, and your bottom line. 
 

Craving more nuggets of wisdom like these? Check out our blog for more impactful insights into the gaming industry.