The Importance of Inclusive Design and Workplaces in the Games Industry

blankCelebrating LGBTQ+ Gamers in the Games Industry

The games industry is embracing its LGBTQ+ gamers during Pride Month 2024. One recent event that highlighted the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in games was the Gayming Awards, which recognized games with authentic stories and compelling LGBTQ+ characters. This celebration is significant because a study by GLAAD revealed that 17% of gamers identify as LGBTQ+. However, it’s not just about representation in the games themselves; it’s also about creating inclusive workspaces and designing games with inclusivity in mind.

Adrian Ledda, Activision’s head of inclusive game design, spoke with GamesBeat about the company’s efforts to promote inclusivity. One of the initiatives Ledda has been involved in is partnering with AbleGamers to incorporate their accessible player training (APX) into Activision’s design process. This focus on accessibility extends beyond gameplay mechanics to include policies like pronoun usage and employee networks for LGBTQ+ and allies.

Ledda’s personal journey in gaming and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community has informed his work. As a long-time gamer, he recognized the lack of representation and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ+ characters in earlier games. However, he now sees a positive shift towards more inclusive gaming experiences. Ledda joined Activision Blizzard 15 years ago and transitioned from programming to design thinking, which allowed him to focus on creating games that are not only technically efficient but also meaningful and inclusive.

Activision Blizzard as a company has been supportive of Ledda’s journey as well. He shared his experience of coming out at work, which initially involved self-censoring and not openly discussing his personal life. However, after attending a Pride celebration organized by the company, Ledda felt inspired to come out to his colleagues. To his relief, nothing changed in terms of how he was treated. Instead, his coworkers embraced him and even threw him and his husband a surprise wedding party after same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S. This experience solidified Ledda’s belief in the power of inclusivity both in the workplace and in games.

In terms of the work he has done to promote inclusivity at Activision Blizzard, Ledda emphasizes that accessible design is good design. He cites the example of a team working on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 Remastered, which initially had limited understanding of accessibility features. Through education and training, the team expanded their knowledge and went on to support games like Diablo IV, which prioritized accessibility and included features like colorblind modes and highlighting for players with visual impairments.

Ledda also stresses the importance of representation in games. He believes that when gamers see characters and stories that reflect their own experiences, it creates a sense of legitimacy and joy. Representation not only benefits those who identify with the characters but also helps others understand and empathize with different identities and experiences. Ledda mentions the impact of seeing LGBTQ+ characters like Tracer from Overwatch in real-world Pride events, where people joyfully celebrated her representation.

In terms of the progress made in the games industry, Ledda acknowledges that there is still work to be done. However, he views it as an ongoing journey towards inclusivity and believes that every small success contributes to the larger goal. By sharing narratives, celebrating achievements, and creating spaces where everyone feels welcome, the industry can continue moving towards a more inclusive future.

To game studios looking to create safer and more positive spaces, Ledda advises them to prioritize education and empathy. By continuously learning about different experiences and perspectives, studios can improve their understanding of inclusivity and create games that resonate with a broader range of players. He also emphasizes the importance of celebrating even small successes in promoting inclusion, as they have a significant impact on inspiring others and fostering a sense of belonging.

In conclusion, the games industry is making strides towards inclusivity and celebrating LGBTQ+ gamers. Through initiatives like the Gayming Awards and partnerships with organizations like AbleGamers, companies like Activision Blizzard are working to create more authentic and accessible gaming experiences. Ledda’s personal journey and the support he received from his colleagues demonstrate the positive impact of inclusivity in both the workplace and the games themselves. The industry still has progress to make, but by prioritizing education, empathy, and representation, game studios can contribute to a more inclusive future.