Diversity and inclusion are equally important for different reasons

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Diversity, equity and inclusion are words that have swiftly come to mean much in the games industry. At GamesBeat Summit Next 2022, a panel of experts came together to discuss what each aspect of DEI means for businesses in the games industry, and how best to implement them.

The panelists clarified that diversity and inclusion are different things, and that just because a company is serving one doesn’t necessarily mean it’s serving another. Patty Dingle, global head of diversity and inclusion at Riot Games, said, “Diversity is really like who’s in the room, right? Counting all your heads. Inclusion is about making all those heads count — you’re in the room, you feel valued… We all like to think we’re all human, we’re all the same and we treat everybody the same. But that simply just isn’t true. People walk through the world very differently. Where they start in the world is very different. So when you activate those two things, hopefully you can get to an equitable place.

Miguel Doherty, executive producer at Puga Studios, added, “Studies show that a lot of people can see a company being diverse but not inclusive. They have the people but they’re not actually hearing everyone. I think understanding that those key concepts make a lot of difference when you’re aiming for equity as a whole.”

The “how” of DEI

The panelists also discussed how to build a studio with DEI in mind. Aletheia O’Neil, co-founder of Tether Studios, said, “If you’re trying to reach a diverse and global audience, I think bringing in those different perspectives in early helps. It helps shape that and if that’s the mindset for the studio early on, you’re going to increase your chances for success.”

O’Neil added, “You need to hire the right people, and that best way to start is by targeting people who are different than you, and have different perspectives. People tend to naturally want to surround themselves with people that are like themselves. If you end up doing that, you have a whole team of people who are thinking the same. You’re going to end up with a pretty narrow product.”

Doherty said that efforts to be more diverse and inclusive can help retain talent and also spread positive word of mouth for companies. “We’ve heard a lot of people say that, ‘I like to stay here because this is a very safe environment for me.’ That might be a woman, or a trans person. That’s been super healthy for us in terms of culture and maintaining these people. And a lot of them get more engaged because of that.”

Dingle said of her recent efforts at Riot, “People know [DEI] is important. They know it’s critical for the business. They just want help around the ‘how.’ And that’s what I’m there for. I’m going to help with the ‘how’ because have no doubt that folks will help me drive this work. It’s not just the about the DEI people. Everyone has to help with this.”

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