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Anita Sarkeesian Says Gaming Diversity Initiatives Are "Broken" At GDC




Video Games are played by people all across the world, enjoyed by more than three billion, if approximate figures are to believed. That is to say, Gamers come from anywhere and everywhere, and represent basically every variety of person that exists. However, the companies making these video Games are often staffed rather uniformly and homogenously, when they could be benefitting from the proven advantages of having more diverse teams.

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) recently held its annual summit, in San Francisco, and it is where media critic and games academic Anita Sarkeesian made use of her GDC session to talk about DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). In short, Sarkeesian thinks DEI is not only making little tangible impact but represents a broken system (via

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"Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are framed as attempts to transform workplace environments into a space that is welcoming for all people, especially those historically underrepresented," Sarkeesian said, who is executive director of Feminist Frequency. "I'm not here to tell you that DEI is broken; I'm here to tell you that DEI is working as intended and that that's the problem".

Sarkeesian believes that DEI efforts as they exist and are implemented now can other people who are not white, cis, straight, or abled, and that even the best intentions behind these efforts often have little impact. The academic and director has spoken with executives and managers along with employee resource group (ERG) leaders and DEI stakeholders over recent years as part of her work.

According to a DEI manager Sarkeesian said she spoke with, DEI is often a panacea and is "an attempt to produce equity in a system that is fundamentally inequitable". Sarkeesian clarified that she doesn't feel people who are committed to doing DEI work are failing or working toward an unworthy goal. But she does believe that "DEI has been co-opted, or created, by the powerful to become a shield against criticism and real change".

Sims 4 Diversity header

It's certainly a lot to weigh up and is perhaps instructive to view how something seemingly positive can be a way to deflect from real change. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that diversity is not just a checklist, and that having more women, more people from less represented backgrounds, and less traditional mindsets, can be a real benefit to a company by creating a more dynamic environment. Harvard Business Review summarises why more diverse teams are smarter.

As for Sarkeesian, you might recognise the name as she was the target of horrendous and extended sexist harassment by trolls that eventually involved the FBI and Sarkeesian having to leave her home. The harassment was part of the Gamergate controversy, which also targeted developer Zoe Quinn, in which Sarkeesian was also swept following her Tropes vs Women in Video Games project. The project examined how women characters were commonly depicted in video Games.

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