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A Diverse, Inclusive Workforce Can Help Improve Gaming Studios’ Culture and Speed of Innovation

Fostering a culture that makes your workforce feel valued, supported, and included can significantly impact your game studio’s success. A positive culture helps developers feel inspired and supported so they can show up as the best versions of themselves, and by extension, level up the work they do every day.

One aspect of creating a positive culture is hiring a diverse workforce that brings to the table a vast array of backgrounds, values, and perspectives. Generally defined as any characteristic that differentiates groups and people from one another, diversity encompasses a wide array of possibilities, from culture, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, ability or disability, marital or parent status, and more. Embracing and celebrating these unique differences can influence development teams to build more diverse and inclusive games that are reflective of the audiences your studio serves, making your end products more immersive, compelling, marketable, and entertaining. 

What’s more, gaming creatives value diversity at work. According to the most recent Developer Satisfaction Survey from the International Gamers Development Association (IGDA), 87% of developers indicated diversity in the workplace was important, and 90% indicated its importance in the industry at large. However, 74% said there is not equal treatment and opportunity for everyone in the gaming industry. 

Game studios can impact the future of diversity in the games industry by increasing efforts to reach underrepresented groups in their hiring and recruiting processes. Creating diverse teams helps studios innovate faster and overcome obstacles to produce high-quality games that captivate audiences and stand the test of time.

Benefits of Creating a Culture of Inclusion and Diversity

The gaming industry is known for its predominantly white male workforce, crunch, and low salaries. These conditions have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has given rise to increased crunch, burnout, and massive job churn among developers. The gaming industry has one of the highest turnover rates at 22.6%, compared to 20% on average for all industries. These challenges negatively impact studios’ productivity, morale, and profits. 

In our experience, however, game studios report the desire to embrace more diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices and company cultures. IGDA released a white paper, “Guide for Game Companies: How to Create and Sustain a Positive Work Culture,” which offers a comprehensive overview of the aspects of company culture, diversity, and team development studios should consider to support their workforce and achieve higher levels of success. 

The benefits of creating diverse and inclusive teams are clear. Generally, such teams are: 

  • more creative and effective, thanks to their diverse backgrounds, 
  • able to tackle problems more effectively and create content that can be enjoyed by a wider audience,
  • more motivated, productive, and connected to the meaning and purpose in their work,
  • more likely to benefit from mentorship and affinity groups, such as employee resource groups, potentially boosting retention rates.

Best Practices for a Fostering a Healthy Studio Environment

It’s one thing to “talk the talk” about building a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But how can game studios “walk the walk” and put theory into practice? 

Once again, IGDA’s white paper provides several recommendations, from how you define your studio’s culture, mission, goals, and values to how exit interviews are conducted. Some best practices include:

  • Actively building diverse teams that include a variety of creativity and experience to deliver fresh, innovative content. When pursuing diversity, however, hiring managers and recruiters should check on local laws and information that must be taken into consideration during the hiring process, IGDA cautions.
  • Explicitly defined HR policies, provided to employees upon hire, including company mission, goals, and values, as well as information on dress code, performance reviews, and paid time off, for example.
  • Protection and support for employees, including against “trolls” and other hostile actors on the company’s social media platforms, as well as crisis support, such as providing additional time off, flexible working hours, access to employee assistance programs for mental health support, and other accommodations to help employees maintain focus, wellbeing, and productivity in challenging times.
  • Proactive recruitment measures, such as: 
    • making sure job advertisements avoid the use of gender-coded words; 
    • ensuring the company’s values and culture are adequately represented in its online and public presence; 
    • creating diverse interview panels to eliminate unconscious bias; 
    • interviewing diverse candidates, and 
    • investing in local talent, including supporting schools with diverse populations, accepting interns, and providing support to nonprofits that support marginalized communities.
  • Conscious retention measures, including clear behavior expectations, active cultural development, mentorship and training, and explicit support channels, such as employee resource groups (ERGs).
  • Exit interviews to inform possible improvements for the company. Employees should be informed that their answers have no bearing on their career or future references. Interviews should be focused on internal processes and any issues with the company, giving employees space to air their grievances and concerns. 

Registered Apprenticeship: A Pathway for Proactive Culture Development in Practice

In the current labor market, one challenge facing most employers is finding enough qualified talent to fill available roles. The gaming industry is no exception. In 2020 alone, gaming employers created 20,000 jobs, and the industry is poised for continued unprecedented growth. Hiring for these positions via traditional avenues, such as colleges and universities that offer relevant programs, recruiting candidates from overseas, or poaching from competitors, often falls significantly short of the demand. In addition, talent from these sources tends to be from the same limited pool, which is generally not inclusive, thus hindering game studios from achieving their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. 

Registered apprenticeship is a pathway to hiring talent from underrepresented groups such as women, Veterans, and people with disabilities that’s gaining traction across the tech sector, including gaming. Apprenti is the first nationally registered tech apprenticeship program of its kind dedicated to sourcing, assessing, training, and placing tech talent at a 30% cost savings over traditionally sourced talent. In addition, 85% of Apprenti apprentices are from underrepresented groups, and all apprentices receive mentorship from employees at our hiring partners during their first year of training. In this way, the Apprenti model empowers employers to take charge of building their own pipeline of highly skilled and highly motivated talent while reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce—improved innovation, morale, productivity, and retention.

Apprenti places talent in roles such as game developer, UX designer, software developer/analyst, cybersecurity analyst, web developer, and more. In the gaming industry specifically, Apprenti has partnered with employers such as Epic Games and CG Spectrum to create new apprenticeship opportunities and provide new pathways to success for gaming studios and the talent they hire.

Learn more about how Apprenti can help you proactively build a healthy studio culture and experience the benefits of building a more diverse workforce.   

For additional information about IGDA, visit their website.

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