Diversity and inclusion are crucial with the games industry, both in the titles themselves and the teams that make them.
As part of Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #4, we held a panel discussion on creating real inclusion in teams and games.
The panellists were Square Enix product manager Karla Reyes, FarBridge producer and business developer Donald Harris, Unicorn Pirates Studio senior live ops producer Finn-Lily Heartwood (moderator), Ludia producer Gemma Vince-Stewart and Splash Damage diversity and inclusion adviser Cinzia Musio.
Inclusion and culture within a company begin from the top of said company. For example, the use of correct pronouns is important for good inclusion, should leaders adhere to this it will be respected throughout the firm.
"Especially in positions of leadership, it is always a process of self-reflection and being open to improving," said Vince-Stewart.
Team leads that champion diversity and inclusion will have a team with good morale, which will ultimately aid in producing a better product. Moreover, a leader that leads with action will form a strong bond and trust with the team.
"Inclusion Starts with taking an interest a little bit more and determining how inclusive a team is through feedback and surveys," said Reyes.
"Stand by your values," said Vince-Stewart.
It is essential always to treat people the same, listen to suggestions, and follow through with your values. Demonstrate what you plan to do, as well as how you will do it.
"Transparency is powerful," said Heartwood.
Throughout the year, it is essential to conduct a variety of surveys, then relay the anonymous results to the team. Allow everyone to see where the company is lacking and what the leadership plans to do to make some changes.
As Reyes explained, once you have identified your values and what practices work, perhaps you should look at other companies to see what they do and how they embrace their culture and values.
"Make sure that you listen to your staff," said Musio.
"It is important to listen to what is important to them. Put some money into hiring consultants."
It is important to take action to allow people to speak and share. Perhaps give questions in advance to allow those that do not like to be put on the spot to have a chance to prepare an answer. Moreover, one-to-one's offer individuals the opportunity to speak up too.
"Celebrating the diversity of your team" is a good place to start, according to Reyes. It is not just about games, but "what other areas can you offer support in."
"Letting people know you've got their back could allow them to be vulnerable with you in the future," said Heartwood.
The idea of having a good culture is to allow your team to feel safe, "you can empower other voices within the team to speak up," as explained by Harris.
"With culture, the first thing you have to keep in mind when starting the journey is that it's slow. It does not happen overnight," said Musio.
Culture is ever-evolving. It is vital to make sure that growth is positive, and the changes are good. It is a leader's responsibility to ensure that work is a safe place.
"We have an internal slack channel that is dedicated to diversity and sharing resources," said Reyes.
Furthermore, Reyes and her team organise informal chats to discuss diversity. Moreover, they take those learnings and put them to the broader company.
"As you're seeing your culture shift, be prepared for not only growth but some shrinkage," said Harris.
It is possible that you will lose staff members purely because they do not fit in with the culture. Good culture does not necessarily fit all individuals; if a person does not work with it, then they may not be suited to the team.
"Protect the culture. Get rid of the bad and grow the good," said Harris.
It is critical to make new members of staff aware of the culture, explain terms to them, catch the team up on unfamiliar terms.
"Always approach situations in good faith," said Vince-Stewart.
It is important to not jump to conclusions, go into situations with an open mind. It will make people more receptive.
"I think fostering empathy is very critical," said Reyes.
PGC Digital #4 will run from November 9th to November 13th. To keep up to date with all of our coverage, check out the roundups here. There's still time to sign up - to find out more and book a ticket, head to the website.