Friday, August 26, 2016

Diversity in Gaming

Evil Hat made a big announcement yesterday. They have decided it's time to act like a professional game company. This means they are switching from the method they used to follow to do business...a feast or famine format of releasing product and then ramping up over a couple of years to another big launch...and instead focusing on steady publications. They have hired employees in full time positions. They are getting serious about spending money.

I wish them the best on this new, more complicated journey they are about to begin.

But I can't help but feel disappointed. This "pivot" was not the announcement I was expecting.

Certainly it's a big deal for them; it's a huge step to expand one's frame of mind from "this is a hobby business" to "this is a professional business", and I commend them for that kind of mental shift. I personally am a huge advocate for professionalism in the games industry; I support the "fuck you, that's why" attitude of the DIY crowd, of course, but I also believe that people deserve fair wages. To be paid for the contributions they make to a project. To be recognized. Sometimes corporations and corporate policies can suck, but they can also put in place certain protections for employees, even freelance ones, to make sure that everyone is protected, and that as much diversity is represented as possible.

And this is where Fred Hick's "pivot" fell short for me. His blog post points to the promotion of several people, or highlights key roles several people have played for the company, and how those roles will either continue or expand. And here's the part that was a let down: as far as I can tell, everyone he's hired, promoted, or referenced in a continuing employment role, is white.

Where is the diversity? I see there are two women listed as employees, which is great news, but isn't Evil Hat supposed to be a kind of beacon in the gaming industry for diversity in games? Shouldn't there be some kind of alarm sounding that, once again*, Evil Hat has shown a shortsightedness, another unfortunate missed opportunity to embrace diversity? Here we are, at a pivotal point in the growth of a company, the shifting of the mindset of one of its founders, and they couldn't find a single person who wasn't white to fill the roles they needed?

(*Mark Diaz Truman, in his controversial post "Two Minutes Hate", linked to this page of Fate products and referenced it, saying,"...one of the industry leaders publishes an entire line of supplements authored almost entirely by straight, white men.")

I don't have a problem with straight, white men getting work; I'm a straight, white male myself. That alone neither makes it right or wrong. My issue is that I see people chastising, sometimes vaguely and sometimes directly, the lack of diversity in the gaming industry, or saying things like "...it sucks being a female publisher...that suckitude is driving women out of publishing...", and yet I haven't seen anyone calling bullshit or pointing fingers at Evil Hat.

I am constantly in a process of developing game content, mostly for my own personal use, but also to hopefully release some day as a number of products for people to use in their own games.

And on each one of those projects, I have reached out and partnered with and hired from a diverse group of people. I have hired Hispanics, Blacks, Filipino, Asian, Homosexual, Transgender, and a couple of straight, white males. I sought them out, not because of the color of their skin or their gender or their sexual orientation, but because of their talent. And all it took was me sending them a message and asking, "Hey, can I commission you for some work?"

I ask how much they charge, and I accept what they tell me. I rarely negotiate for lower rates, because I believe in paying people what they feel they are worth. And sometimes, I want to pay people more than they value themselves, because sometimes people don't feel they deserve a fair amount. Or they are afraid to ask for too much because they may not get hired. I understand this fear, and it's important, as a business person, to face this kind of challenge head on, to reassure people, and let them know that they will be paid fairly. No one should be paid differently because they are a woman, and no one should get a job just because they are a straight, white male and that's "all the people you know".

If you're having a hard time finding more diverse talent, just ask me, and I'll point you in the right direction. I will put you in touch with +Ariana Ramos+Gennifer Bone+Evey Lockhart+Khairul Hisham+Juan Ochoa+Alex Mayo+Christopher Hopkins, +Kiel Chenier, Austin Sung, and others.

Expand your circles. The gaming community is full of diversity. Go out and find it.

My gaming group is VERY diverse. Original artwork by Gennifer Bone.


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