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GDC: Niantic talks keeping redlining out of the metaverse

The metaverse cannot recreate the prejudicial problems of the games industry, says Niantic’s John King and Kellee Santiago
GDC: Niantic talks keeping redlining out of the metaverse

“Spoiler to the end of this: Niantic can’t do this alone. The industry needs your help.”

Niantic began the Black Developers Initiative (BDI) during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protest, with the intention to empower Black game and AR developers and creators, and is currently supporting five studios.

It was also funded because the IDGA found in 2019 that only two per cent of developers in the games industry identified as Black. This is the same as it was in 2014.

John King, senior producer at Niantic, also spoke of the fundamental truth regarding recognising wealth, and generational wealth, as a barrier to the games industry, with Kellee Santiago, director of external publishing, outlining the kinds of people who were shut out of the explosion of digital distribution.

King also said: “Niantic is in the Web3 movement, we are in emergent technologies. The problem is, emerging technologies are fundamentally about the divide between people with and without.” However, both also see the metaverse as an opportunity to level the playing field.

What can you do

Niantic’s bullet points of actions include:

  • Looking for ways to be less “optimised” – taking the extra effort to be more inclusive and avoiding the biases that occur when doing things in established ways
  • Elevate BIPOC developers
  • Have a diversity and inclusion programme in the company – and if there is not one, make one