Debugging D&I: “Studios need to be honest, critical, and proactive in making changes to attract new and retain existing diverse talent.”

Amiqus’ Business Manager Liz Prince speaks to Sitara Shefta, head of studio at No Brakes Games and a member of the POC in Play team, about how studios can make their workplaces welcoming and attractive to people of colour…

How do we as an industry attract more people of colour into games?

One of the most important things we can do to attract new, and retain existing POC, is to ensure that we make the industry a safe and welcoming space. This means recognising and embracing people for their differences. Studios need to be honest, critical, and proactive in making changes to attract new and retain existing diverse talent.

Put POC into leadership positions. There are already some POC working in the industry, but we are less visible because we’re not given opportunities. We need to be more inclusive; invite POC to do talks or join panels at events. Don’t just invite us to diversity panels. Ask us to talk about our skills, talents and have us represent the games we make. Representation matters.

Let’s also make an active effort to go into schools and colleges which have a higher percentage of POC students and give them an opportunity to learn about game development.

We should also reduce barriers to get into the industry. Make sure job descriptions focus on responsibilities and skills required, rather than years of experience or education, as these reinforce current inequalities.

What are your four top tips on how studios can support people of colour?

Listen to your staff. It sounds basic, but it’s one of the most fundamental things you can do. What are POC at your studio already telling you that you need to do to support them? Listen and act on it.

Invest in nurturing POC talent. Value this talent, invest in this talent and ensure they are fairly promoted. POC will feel valued, and by having more of us in leadership positions, POC will be more likely to apply.

Unconscious bias training. Empower studios with the knowledge and skills to be considerate of and look after POC staff. It would also help with recruitment, as POC will be less likely to be overlooked for job interviews.

Eradicate problematic culture. No-one should feel unsafe in the workplace (or anywhere else), don’t be accepting of discriminatory behaviour.

Do you think discrimination against this group exists in games?

Yes, it’s a two-sided issue. Firstly, there’s the industry itself. All we have to do is look at the lack of POC working in the industry – there simply aren’t enough of us and we must acknowledge why.

It also exists within games. There still aren’t enough games with POC protagonists. I’m tired of games where Arabs are the enemies, with another white protagonist, where the customisation options don’t have my skin colour. It’s problematic and unfair.

Tell us more about POC In Play, its goals and its activities?

We’re a group of games industry professionals whose goal is to increase the visibility and representation of People of Colour in the games industry. We run monthly meet ups and highlight existing POC talent in the industry.

Why should the games industry ensure that it keeps a focus on people in colour?

We need diverse perspectives to create and influence games. Games are played by people of different backgrounds, cultures, genders, religions, race. The only way forward as an industry is if games are made by diverse teams, that reflect the diversity of the world and its players.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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