Interview

InnoGames's Omoloro Oyegoke on why "removing barriers of entry" will attract more people of colour to games

InnoGames's Omoloro Oyegoke on why "removing barriers of entry" will attract more people of colour to games

We are in a pivotal moment. For decades, no matter the industry, people of colour have suffered through a lack of opportunity and a lack of respect, leaving them stuck playing second fiddle throughout their careers.

The games industry is no different, and here at PocketGamer.biz we wanted to do our part and help bring attention to the many incredible people of colour that help make up this sector. That is why we are committing to a new long-term regular feature to spotlight these people and their careers.

So, welcome to our 'POC in Mobile' series, where discussion about finding a place in the games industry, the various challenges faced as a minority, and what truly needs to be done to make games more diverse will be the focal points of conversations.

This week, we spoke to InnoGames senior backend software developer Omoloro Oyegoke about why "removing barriers of entry" across the games industry will help encourage more people of colour to join the games industry.  

PocketGamer.biz: Can you start off by telling us about your role in mobile games and what it entails?

Omoloro Oyegoke: I am a senior backend software developer on the corporate systems team at InnoGames. My responsibilities include creating and maintaining functionalities in our internal tools to support our marketing efforts.

People should be able to relate to the products that are being developed and see themselves reflected in those products.
Omoloro Oyegoke

Why did you want to work in the mobile games industry?

What attracted me to the games industry was the products themselves. Games create joy and make people happy. Additionally, they provide many layers of interesting technological challenges and working to solve them is a rewarding experience for me.

How would you recommend people get started in games? Any tools or literature you would advise?

There are numerous skill sets required to make a successful game and therefore nearly as many different paths to enter the industry. As with everything else, it’s important to identify what one’s interests are and what one enjoys doing to then see how that can be applied to the games industry.

Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton can be an interesting place to start in order to understand what goes into creating a game. In general, any type of software development skills will almost certainly be useful in some aspect of game development.

What did you study (if anything) for your role? Are there any courses out there that you would advise for aspiring professionals?

I studied Computer Science and Mathematics. As for those unsure of what to study but are interested in joining the industry as a software developer, Computer Science and Information Systems are both good places to start.

What do you think should be done to improve diversity, not only across the games industry, but across all industries?

Representation is key. People should be able to relate to the products that are being developed and see themselves reflected in those products. This contributes to an increased interest to work in such industries. If games and game characters are seen to cater to and be inclusive of diversity across all levels, meaning ethnicity, culture, gender, etcetera., then people from these backgrounds will likely be more interested in working in games.

However, this needs to be a self-perpetuating cycle. It is not possible for homogenous groups to accurately produce a diverse product without it coming off as a simulation, which may inadvertently be counterproductive and cause more harm. Therefore, an ongoing commitment to diversity on all levels is imperative.

This also means companies need to consciously make decisions that are pro-diversity. Hiring processes and team formation should place an emphasis on diversifying their staff. In turn, this will feed diverse perspectives into products. Associations and campaigns like Hier Spielt Vielfalt (Diversity Plays Here) from the German Games Industry Association offer advice, support and guidance.

The organisation has also created a best practice guide on the subject of diversity tailored to gaming companies with tips for training, personnel acquisition and community management. Steps in this direction, with companies and industries coming together and sharing knowledge, ultimately benefit everyone.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered since joining the industry?

While I felt welcomed when joining InnoGames through their onboarding process and by my colleagues, each person has their own unique experience. Efforts should be made to identify what prevailing situations dissuade certain groups from being adequately represented.

Most of these problems stem from the larger society and are by no means limited to the gaming industry, but there is an opportunity for companies in gaming to take the lead in addressing some of these issues.

Managers and other team leaders themselves should also place just as much value on diversity when forming or expanding the teams.
Omoloro Oyegoke

What do you think can be done to help encourage more people of colour to get into games?

There is something fascinating about games. It’s important to show children, of all backgrounds but especially of diverse backgrounds, that they can also be a part of this industry and create these experiences for others. This could include reaching out to STEM or other school programs in underrepresented communities and showing them the steps, they could take to one day work in gaming – ideally from mentor figures of the same or similar backgrounds.

Similarly, removing barriers of entry while proactively defining career entry and development opportunities can attract more people of colour. Make them come and give them a reason to stay. At InnoGames, there are a variety of opportunities from work-study programs, traineeships and apprenticeships, to more senior-level positions available.

This creates greater opportunities to acquire talent at all levels, while the personal development plans further develop the skills and abilities necessary for the long-term. Providing an environment that gives back and supports employees as much as possible is crucial. The more people see themselves reflected in the workplace; the more others will follow.

Is there anything that recruiters should be doing differently to address the lack of diversity across not only games development but all industries?

Addressing the lack of diversity falls to all parties and requires a collaborative effort. In the same way that individual skills, team and company culture fits are crucial criteria for hiring, diversity should also be factored into the hiring process. Managers and other team leaders themselves should also place just as much value on diversity when forming or expanding the teams.

This is especially important for creative industries like gaming. Diversity means varied backgrounds and experiences. Combining the results from these backgrounds enhances creativity.

Oyegoke in the InnoGames office pre-pandemic.

Additionally, recruiters should make more conscious decisions in favour of diversity. For example, creating job postings where the language used by companies is inclusive and allows talent to picture themselves in the role or exploring new channels to connect with potential talent. Many more traditional physical events, like career fairs, have been canceled or postponed while others have gone virtual, creating some new options.

There are even some racial diversity initiatives around the world that can help connect people and projects. Different options should be explored, and more diligent efforts should be made, to really reach out and connect with more diverse talent.

Since the recent surge in the #BlackLivesMatters campaign, what changes (if any) have you seen from across the industry to address the issue?

This has led to an increased awareness of what is going on and more discussions on the subject, but more needs to be done. Acceptance and celebration of diversity should be viewed as a necessity. Systemic change takes time, so it’s important to continue to have tough conversations to ensure progress is made.

What advice do you have for other people of colour that are looking at getting into games?

We all have unique experiences and perspectives. We should be proud of them and seize all opportunities to share them as they can really add to the diversity of teams and companies. Networking is also important. Join communities and groups for people in the gaming industry and look for mentors that reflect the diversity you are looking for.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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