Diversity: The Invisible Hurdle
By Joseph N. Saulter
When we look at our financial portfolio, one of the first questions that comes up is, How can one diversify one's finances for maximum returns? We never place all our assets into one financial instrument and pray for good returns, we diversify. While diversification is not the same as diversity, it does share with the latter, the objective of investing in assets diverse enough so that the return on one's investment is maximized.
It can be argued that while diversification deals with financial assets, diversity deals with cultural and human capital assets. Thus the words will be used coterminously, in this article. The issue of diversity is such a pressing one. I view diversity not as a challenge but an opportunity to enhance creativity through people contributing their own unique experiences to humanity's culture. The process of expertly using cultural differences to increase wealth, in the context of worldwide economic integration, is a hot topic for the new millennium. The video game community, with its international appeal and its proven track record as a successful entity in the financial arena, would benefit economically, educationally and ethically if it were to diversify (i.e. be culturally diverse) for maximum returns.
The issue is not why to diversify but how to diversify. Diversity is creating an inclusive environment where a team of professionals creatively uses their differences and appreciates the opportunity to weave a multitude of new ideas into best practices. Creatively speaking, it's like composing a symphony in our organizations that utilizes the spirit of improvisational jazz. Diversity touches the core of our existence because we all have deep rooted cultural awareness. We continue to appreciate the richness of our own cultures, but the pure essence of diversity is to take the best of all cultures, give them a place and a voice, and create an atmosphere of creativity and inclusion.
Increasingly Diverse Society
Demographic changes over the past decade predict that by the year 2050, racial/ethnic groups will make up 48% of the total U.S. population. This percentage speaks volumes. As it is, never before, in the history of our country, have our children been exposed and adapted to the information technology so readily available. They are far more advanced technically than earlier generations. Each generation changes our nation. As the impact of diversity moves through our gaming community we must adapt to the changes.
A culturally diverse initiative on the part of the industry's leaders would create a new environment of creative entertainment. We all have a story to tell and the compelling stories of our diverse communities have not always been told with sensitivity. If the game business community were to explore the diverse community we would find a grand opportunity to engage young minds and experience the rewards of their labor.
There is a whole generation that is changing the style, the music and marketing, as well as the complexion, of our nation. They are the underground artists creating the non-commercial styles, a sound so new and fresh with the spirit of jazz as its essence, an improvisation lyrically waving its new brush of creativity across the canvas of our lives. It is an invisible generation filled with diversity and a new vision. I await the day when the game industry lets them dance across the finger tips of a nation steeped in the all-consuming monitors, TV screens and theaters of consumers, clamoring for more.
One of the most important roles in our industry, is to achieve the goal of diversity in education. "Edutainment" in K-16 schools across the country can change the educational arena. We all know the problems facing our nation in terms of education and that's for all children in our nation.
Let's look at the haves and the have-nots; let's always know there is a better way to adapt our educational expertise than the containment camp mentality. As an educator for many years I find the new statistics for our country alarming, namely that 51% of African American males between the grades of 7-12 are likely to dropout of school or be put in jail. This statistic rises for Latin Americans and people of color from the Caribbean Islands. We have to stop the madness.
A NASA initiative for the Center of Educational Technology is to develop games that would educationally engage the at risk student, giving the student a more compelling educational experience while enhancing the chances of graduation. Let's face it, school is boring to many of our technologically advanced students, and even worse for our challenged students. We need to explore new opportunities in diversity education and see how we can financially support programs that look at alternative, creative ways of educating our students.
Playing games gives the student the rare opportunity to engage in a situational learning environment where choice, adaptation, cognitive awareness and achievement can be assessed. By educating a diverse community one has the opportunity to enhance the bottom line in a culturally dynamic international marketplace. It goes without saying that it could be more engaging for students to create 3D games, models and environments than play in traditional venues.
How do we get more stories about Latinos in the Game Industry? How can we hire more women and people of color? How do we colorize the list of contacts or stretch our creative opportunities to the south side, the east side, or whatever side of town is not represented in our development environment? How can we include poor people, gays and lesbians, faith communities, and the range of folks who haven't historically measured up to the industry's definition of valued game developers?
This is a tall order for our industry when we include this in our everyday "sleep is for the weak" milieu. In conclusion we are just beginning to explore the opportunities in ways that will enhance our industry's bottom line. Let's continue to investigate the possibilities and realize that collective collaboration is the key.
- Discuss this article in the Diversity forum
- IGDA Diversity Advocacy
- Women in Game Development SIG
- "The Gaming Industry & The Female Market" by Dr. Kathryn Wright, WomenGamers.com
- Tuning in to Diversity 2004
- Diversity in the Workplace web resources
Joseph N. Saulter is the Chairmen of the Game Design and Development Department at American InterContinental University in Atlanta and CEO of Entertainment Arts Research one of the first African-American 3D Video Game Development Companies in the USA.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the IGDA.