Why and how should we build bridges between the video game communities?

On the whole, video game culture has always reached people from all walks of life. At different times in its history and in certain specific contexts, we notice that the medium seems to address certain groups more directly, despite the diversity of individuals and interests. Targeting a specific group is done primarily for financial reasons. In some situations, it may give this target audience the impression that its place in the entertainment culture is more natural, or that the exclusion experienced by certain groups is exaggerated. In some cases, an extreme division can set in: people want to protect their place, they caricature the other’s perspective, and they replace dialogue with insults.

The North American video game community has seen a resurgence of these dynamics over the past decade. Some gamers are convinced that previously less visible groups are coming out of nowhere to change everything. Women, black and aboriginal people, neurodivergent people and LGBTQ+ people have always been present in gaming culture. In the context of the divide exacerbated by social media, these groups can quickly become the target of hate campaigns. At the same time, many studios are experiencing extremely difficult situations internally: there is a lack of understanding of how to deal with a wide spectrum of problematic behavior, ranging from simple inappropriate remarks to physical assaults.

This divide and tension feeds a vicious cycle: the more toxic the environment becomes, the more people from marginalized groups will want to move away or jump ship. The risk to the community is immense: more homogeneity, stereotyping, divisiveness and tension. And above all, a loss of expertise. An educational or work environment inevitably becomes more innovative when it facilitates the inclusion of a greater diversity of approaches and perspectives.

The good news is that despite the all-too-frequent scandals in this sector, the targeted groups have not yet jumped ship. The Trépanier-Jobin study (see the statistical portrait page) shows that women and marginalized groups still have a strong attachment to gaming culture, and want to be part of the solution despite the challenges. Diversity in Play wants to help the sector as a whole interfere with the vicious cycle described above.

Step one: we need to talk to each other, and in some cases, we need to learn to talk to each other respectfully. The pages in the “educate yourself” section present common questions and simple answers to quickly defuse potentially tense situations. These were written by members of the Diversity in Play committee. They were then presented to others in our networks from the communities involved. The ideal is always to consult a large number of individuals and groups, while taking into account the availability and difficulties of each. This process takes time and can always be improved; please contact us at diversite-en-jeu@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments about the texts we have put online.

Step Two: The ball is in your court! We want to encourage teachers, students, studio managers, and workers in various fields to consult the resources we have created and the links to external resources that are integrated into all pages. There are even suggestions for games, movies and TV shows that address these issues in an interesting way. All this learning can be done in a fun way. Our goal is to make it cool and contagious.

These pages are based on a simple reality: beyond the divisiveness that is hyper-visible in the social media age, an overwhelming majority just wants to do the right thing and move forward. For example, as Chief Picard pointed out in September 2021, a recent poll shows that 76% of Quebecers want to take action against racism. We hope that the tools provided on this site will help not only the winners of the Diversity in Play contest and the partner studios that will host the interns, but also the entire sector, to open up to the richness of the communities that share the passion of video games.

I’m a manager in a studio, learning environment, etc., and I’d like to take over your resources or create similar ones. How do I go about this?

Regarding the resources we have created: we invite you to contact us to tell us in what context you would like to integrate these tools. We always like to get in touch with organizations or individuals who are promoting similar goals. Otherwise, the tools we have put in place are available to anyone, just create a hyperlink and be sure to indicate the source.

In terms of creating similar resources: are you part of one or more of the communities you want to represent or help? If the answer is no, you should always seek to consult with people from the communities before even thinking about how to help them or tell their story. This is even more essential if the community in question has suffered some form of oppression, for example by European colonial powers. These contacts can take some time, but today’s technological environment makes the process much easier: many organizations have a website, a page on various social media, etc.

It is also important to understand that these people are often overbooked with similar demands and may not be available to meet with you right away. Many work in the community and do not have job security or flexible hours. In an ideal world, you should be able to compensate these people for their expertise in the consultation process, and you should not hesitate to mention this possibility.

In short, it’s a matter of doing your homework, taking the time to learn about similar initiatives, listening to your consultants and assessing your organization’s needs. Based on these needs, it may be advisable to hire one or more people from the communities to take on these responsibilities. We tend to underestimate all the work that goes into communicating information, managing conflicts and ensuring goodwill within a group. It is essential that everyone who contributes to our workplaces enjoys a respectful environment. We hope that the resources provided by Diversity in Play will help you begin the process.