IGDA Survey Reveals Shifting Attitudes About Diversity in Gaming Industry

Sandy Huffaker/Invision for Ubisoft/AP Images
Sandy Huffaker/Invision for Ubisoft/AP Images

Results from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)’s 2015 Developer Satisfaction Survey have been released concerning attitudes towards equality and diversity within the gaming industry.

The IGDA polled 2,900 developers and obtained, among others, the following responses, which have been set alongside corresponding figures from 2014:

“Do you feel there is equal treatment and opportunity for all in the game industry?”

2015: Yes – 38.6%     No – 48.8%     Not Sure or N/A – 12.5%

2014: Yes – 28%        No – 47%        Not Sure or N/A – 25%

Compared with 2014, almost 2% more respondents think there is not equal treatment and opportunity for all in the game industry; however, over 10% more developers surveyed think that there is equal treatment and opportunity compared to the year before. But don’t expect social justice campaigners, for whom no improvement is ever good enough, to write any satisfied blog posts about this news. The proportion that responded ambivalently has been halved, perhaps indicating developers’ stronger convictions on the issue following the recent video game culture wars.

Diversity’s importance for the industry:

2015: Important – 66.5%

2014: Important – 79%

Compared with 2014, over 10% fewer developers feel that diversity is an important factor for the industry, despite crusades made by single-issue campaigners like Anita Sarkeesian and Jonathan McIntosh of Feminist Frequency. In line with the generally-accepted, sociological definition of “diversity,” the IGDA’s conception of the term refers to the gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disabilities of employees.

But is this definition of the term really the best one by which industries should gauge diversity? The presumed benefit of diversity in video game development, and, indeed, any other industry, is that by having a more diverse pool of employees, the industry can create better, more unique products. But this capacity to create better products does not arise from surface-level factors like race and gender but, rather, from one’s life experiences. Race, gender, and the like can certainly be factors in developers’ experiences, but they are not the only impetus of such diverse backgrounds. Similarly, there’s no evidence that either type of diversity actually improves workplaces.

However, Daniel Vàvra, co-founder of Warhorse Studios and a developer whom Breitbart interviewed last week, is a perfect example of the disparity between actual diversity and the definition of the term as used by the IGDA and modern society.

Vàvra is a white, heterosexual male. If we were to evaluate the diversity he represents merely by looking at his race, sexuality, and gender, he wouldn’t stand out against the rest of the video game industry. But Vàvra grew up under a harsh reign of censorship in communist Czechoslovakia, a life experience which has led him to place an unusually intense value on his freedoms of speech and expression, which impacts his development choices. Contrary to what the IGDA and modern society would have us believe, he does add diversity, just not the kind that has an easily identifiable color, sexual identity, or partner preference. Furthermore, Vàvra’s diversity, even if recognized by progressives, probably wouldn’t be welcomed: his free speech and free market values are incompatible with the current authoritarian slant of the video game press.

Perhaps IGDA and society’s adoption of only this surface level diversity, instead of the more comprehensive one just outlined, explains why proportionately fewer game developers think the concept is important now than a year ago. Perhaps these developers realize that diversity is not skin deep or based on what gender people are attracted to but, instead, their life experiences.

Follow Rob Shimshock (@Xylyntial) on Twitter.