“How to Tackle Gaming’s Lack of Racial Diversity”

“The Entertainment Software Association recently launched a scholarship program designed to provide game-development career opportunities to young minority students. In conjunction with African-American and Hispanic organizations, the ESA will offer 20 scholarships to minority students as part of a game design contest.

The point of this is to address an imbalance in the makeup of game development’s workforce. A 2005 International Game Developers Association study found that Whites made up 85 percent of game development workers followed by Asians (7.5 percent). African-Americans were just two percent while Hispanics were 2.5 percent.

It’s an eight-year-old survey that the IGDA says it’s planning to update. But anyone who walks through the offices of games companies will attest that any improvements in the intervening years have been marginal.

The disparity is not explained by a lack of interest in games by minorities, nor by educational achievements. African-Americans account for 14 percent of college students in the United States while Hispanics account for 13 per cent. There is no difference between the proportion of games-players according to race, although one study has shown that African-Americans and Hispanics spend slightly more time with games, on average, than Whites and Asians.

This lack of racial diversity plays out in the content produced by companies often dominated by white males. A 2010 University of Southern California study showed that Hispanics and African-Americans barely feature as playable characters in games, and most usually only as sports stars or gangsters.

Of course, lack of diversity in gaming isn’t just about race, it’s also about gender, orientation, class, geography and cultural outlook. The ESA, IGDA and other organizations like the AIAS are all taking positions on the catch-all issue of diversity in an effort to improve the industry’s grim reputation for homogeneity, but the ESA initiative is specifically about ethnic origins…”




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