Chris Bruzzo, chief experience officer at EA, tells us about what the publisher is doing to create a more diverse, welcoming industry, and the work it’s doing to reduce harassment inside and outside of games. This article was created in collaboration with EA.
EA has increased its investments in organisations working to advance equality this year. What prompted this increase, and do you think the games industry is doing enough in this area?
Video games can be a powerful tool for change – they open us up to new ways of thinking and can connect us when we are apart. Time spent in virtual worlds and in gaming communities can carry great meaning in our lives. As the creators of these worlds and the guardians of these communities, we have a responsibility to reflect the diversity of those we serve through our games and be a positive driver for change.
At Electronic Arts, we are committed to inclusion and equality and consider these two principles an important part of the wellbeing of our communities. That’s why we support organisations in the UK and around the world who share those values.
In the UK specifically, we’re really proud to be one of the five founding members of the #RaiseTheGame pledge and this year we are sponsoring the LGBTQ+ Gayming awards for a second time. We also have a long-standing partnership with SpecialEffect, the UK-based non-profit that specialises in helping physically disabled people play video games.
As an industry, there’s no denying we have a lot of work to do to live up to the responsibility that our communities trust us with. We’ve made good progress but it’s an ongoing effort and we’ll continue to hold both ourselves and our peers to the high standards our players deserve.
You have also strengthened your inclusive recruiting strategies – What measures have you taken to make EA’s workforce more diverse, and why is this so valuable?
Inclusive recruitment strategies are crucial. In the last 18 months the video games community has grown substantially: we serve more people than we ever have before and as we’ve grown, our audiences have become more diverse. If we want to reflect our players in the worlds we create for them, then we have to have that same diversity reflected in the makeup of our people.
Inclusive recruiting has long been embedded in the way we do business but it continues to be a priority. In this past year, over 300 managers received our global ‘Hiring for Results’ training, in addition to nearly 1,500 participants. We have inclusive recruitment strategies developed specifically for each business unit and review every job description for requirements that may have unintentional bias in their language. Last year we saw an increase of 11 per cent more diverse applications than the year prior thanks to these efforts.
We also focus on fostering an inclusive culture once people join EA and we’re very proud to see those efforts recognised for making an impact. Earlier this year The Human Rights Campaign gave EA a perfect score for its LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and Anita B, a non-profit dedicated to the recruitment and advancement of women in technology, awarded Electronic Arts the Top Companies for Technical Women award in 2020.
The industry is currently grappling with high-profile stories of abuse and misconduct. As such a large company, how do you ensure bad actors are weeded out and workers have their voices heard?
We are deeply committed to having a respectful workplace that allows all of our employees to thrive. We know that diversity strengthens our teams, and believe that our workforce needs to reflect the full range of identities and experiences we see in our players. We have watched the stories unfold around us and each cycle has prompted us to look ever more closely at the cultures we are creating and the process we have in place to support our people.
We have to create environments where the behaviours that facilitate those situations are not tolerated in any way. At EA we ensure there are clear and secure processes in place that enable our employees to report abuse of any kind. We have procedures that facilitate alternative paths to escalate issues, avoiding the need to route through line managers if needs be.
We have robust staff welfare policies in place, including our ‘Raise a Concern’ initiative which enables employees to side step the normal reporting structure if they feel the need. In recent years we have created and grown our People Relations team who also bring expertise and impartiality to the investigation of complaints.
Recent events prompted us to speak about this issue at every level of the company. We took steps to clearly articulate our position to every employee in addition to issuing a public statement encouraging anyone to come forward. Talking about these issues makes a big difference and we hope it will help embolden everyone to speak out and ensure there’s no hiding place for those offending. We take every allegation seriously at EA, we investigate thoroughly and are deeply committed to ensuring there are safe spaces for employees and those outside our company who interact with our employees, to come forward.
What can you tell us about your work with groups like Girls Who Code, and your virtual intern program?
Put simply, we look for programmes and partnerships that help us make our industry a better place. Making sure we’re investing in the next generation of female tech talent has long been one way we do this – for example through our partnership with Girls Who Code.
This year we hosted our seventh summer intern programme, introducing more than 600 girls to coding this year alone. We also signed the organisation’s #HireMe pledge to promote meaningful career opportunities to the Girls Who Code alumni network. I’m very proud to say 11 have decided to join us as interns already, with one taking on a full time role as a Software Engineer. Here’s to many more joining our ranks in the future!
But I also think it’s important that efforts to bring more women into our industry don’t stop at skills and recruitment. Employers need to make careers rewarding and meaningful for their employees, no matter who they are. At Electronic Arts we have gender pay equity globally but there are still too many businesses that fall behind.
What advice do you have for developers and publishers seeking to reduce toxicity in their games’ communities?
Online communities mirror what we find offline. They can be incredible places of friendship and support but sadly there are bad actors as well. We’re being purposeful about standing behind our commitment that play should be fair, safe and fun for everybody and we take action against those who look to disrupt that in our game or adjacent communities. Video game communities should be respectful and welcoming to everyone. As an industry, we have a responsibility to set boundaries and make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable.
Last year we launched the Positive Play Charter to make it clear what our expectations are of our community. Defining what we see as ‘fair’ is only half the job but it allows us to hold players accountable – anyone publishing games should be clear about what they will and will not accept. Holding players to account makes a real-world impact.
Recent data from Apex Legends shows that when players receive feedback about their behaviour, many of them change it. 85 per cent of Apex Legends players who received an email from us after exhibiting behaviour that violated our Positive Play Charter, didn’t go on to repeat the behaviour.
This kind of work is extremely important to us and we will continue to progress this to reduce both in-game toxicity and to make all our games more accessible.