Games and diversity

Virtual meeting discusses how the industry has been incorporating a more diverse vision both in games and in the work environment of their companies

By Sérgio Siscaro

One of the industries that has grown the most in recent years is electronic games. A survey carried out by Newzoo, a consultancy specializing in the sector, indicates that the games market in Brazil should end 2021 with revenues of US$ 2.3 billion – which would represent an increase of 5.1% compared to last year. The same survey places the country as the 12th largest market in the world for games.

Despite this advance, the sector is still far behind other industries in one essential aspect: diversity. Most of its participants – from game administrators to game developers – are still white and male, even with the growing popularity of electronic games among the most diverse audiences. A joint study by Newzoo and Intel, released in May, shows that 47% of respondents in the US don’t play games in which they don’t feel represented; and 54% believe that diversity is an important factor for the characters.

To discuss the issue, the Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada (CCBC) promoted, on July 7, the webinar in English Diversity and Inclusion in the Gaming Industry: XP from Brazil and Canada. The initiative brought together the studio head at Clever Plays Studio, Angela Mejia; the vice president of the Brazilian Association of Digital Game Developers (Abragames), Carolina Caravana; and Intel’s Communications Manager for Brazil and Canada, Carolina Gutierrez Prado. The moderators of the meeting were two coordinators of CCBC commissions: Raphaelle Lapierre (Diversity and Inclusion) and Celso Azevedo (Technology).

Encouragement and recognition

For Caravana, from Abragames, the Brazilian market already meets both domestic and global demand. And the association realized the need to promote diversity, creating a board formed by professionals who work in the gaming ecosystem. “The main goal is to create a better and more diverse environment for people who work in this industry,” he said. One of the initiatives in this regard is the Selo de Apoio e Incentivo à Diversidade (Seal of Support and Incentive to Diversity), an instrument developed to honor and highlight actions related to the promotion of diversity in the production of electronic games, highlighting good practices and recognizing positive actions.

The entity’s vice president also mentioned several examples of Brazilian games that already incorporate diversity in their themes and characters. One of them is the game Huni Kuin: Yube Baitana, developed by the Kaxinawuá tribe, from Acre, and aimed at promoting the knowledge of these people. The initiative was recognized at the BIG Festival in the category BIG Impact: Best Diversity Game in 2019.

Gradual change

Bringing the perspective of the Canadian game industry, Mejia, from Clever Plays Studio, recalled that the sector is very strong in Canada – especially in Montreal, which is a hub for companies that develop electronic games. “Here in Montreal, we have big and small game producers, and the issue of diversity has become an important topic. One of the problems to be faced is the issue of the participation of women, who do not receive the same treatment as their male colleagues. Furthermore, this industry was developed by white men – and, consequently, most of the content [of the games] represents them and their stories”, he pondered.

But she pointed out that, like society in general, the gaming industry is changing, and becoming more aware of the need to consider other realities, other points of view. “This issue has been addressed especially since 2015, when there was the GamerGate scandal – and that was a milestone for the industry. The large companies in the sector are trying to adapt to the new reality, managing between the desire to bring more diversity to their practices, and the traditional operating model.” The GamerGate was a movement that harassed and attacked women and minorities in general within the gaming industry.

Diversity and business

The sector’s adaptation to society’s needs – and, in particular, to the diversity agenda – has been positive, although there is still a lot to be done. “The industry has improved a lot in the last ten years. Many companies are working to meet the expectations of their audiences. When you look at diversity, it’s not just the right thing to do, but also a positive aspect for the business itself,” said Prado, of Intel.

She recalled that the company created, together with Snap, Nasdaq, Dell and NTT Data, the Alliance for Global Inclusion. The group developed metrics to monitor the theme of diversity in the sector, in the form of an index. “At Intel, we’ve looked at diversity as a component within our business strategy for years. We seek to work with other companies, both in Canada and Brazil, and understand how they are dealing with this issue”, she adds.

The Covid-19 factor

The discussion about diversity in the games industry takes place at a key moment for the development of this industry – especially in emerging markets such as Brazil. This is due to the increase experienced by the sector since last year, and which had as one of the main driving factors the Covid-19 pandemic – which led people to stay longer at home, and to seek ways of domestic entertainment

According to Newzoo, the world market of games developed for cell phones alone would move around US$ 90.7 billion in the first half of 2021 – which would represent 52% of the total revenue of the electronic games industry. Latin America currently has 289 million gamers (about 10% of the total) and the second highest annual growth rate (6.2%, second only to the Middle East and Africa region).

Another study, this one prepared by the Visa credit card brand and released earlier this year, indicated that, in Brazil, financial transactions carried out on platforms and electronic game consoles had an increase of 140% in 2020, compared to 2019. The same study also recorded a 105% increase in the volume of credit cards used to purchase games or extensions between October 2019 and September 2020.