The gaming industry has notably lacked in embracing diversity and inclusion. While it is a goal that many developers and publishers are striving towards, a report from Diamond Lobby suggests that nearly 80% of main characters are male, while nearly 55% of them are white.
This figure clearly is not indicative of the vast diversity that the world has to offer. This study, coupled with the general male-centric gate-keeping that the gaming industry has faced since its infancy makes it clear that steps need to be taken to ensure that the world of gaming feels inclusive for all, regardless of their skin color, gender, belief, or ethnicity.
Games As A Means of Escapism
Games provide the same impact of awareness to a minority community as any other entertainment medium such as music or movies. With the inclusion of characters from other minorities and genders, one can expect members of that particular community to reap the benefits of inclusion.
Representation in mass media can be extremely powerful for communities that are under-represented. For most, gaming, particularly in the Metaverse revolves around the sense of escapism that they feel as they move to a virtual world where they are free to do anything.
Therefore, in these instances, they must have the liberty to play characters who are of different sexualities, belong to different cultural backgrounds, have disabilities, etc. This inclusion provides them with a sense of validation and also allows them to enjoy the escapism that we tend to take for leisure.
Immersive Gaming: Driving Inclusion and Diversity
As aforementioned, games provide individuals who belong to minority communities a means to escape reality and also validate themselves. On immersive gaming platforms, these true-to-life virtual spaces can quickly turn into sanctuaries for marginalized communities that may exist in places where they may not be able to express themselves in real life.
So, for them, these online worlds are not just a safe haven, they're the only place where they can truly feel like they belong, and the way that they self-identify isn’t a metric for which they should be shunned or considered outcasts.
An important, perhaps the most pivotal method to improve inclusivity is to educate the masses. While conventional methods of training, such as improving syllabi in schools, and workplace training have proven to be effective, new immersive tech could play a pivotal role in bringing awareness to the public.
By intermingling members of diverse communities with the general public under a strict set of policies that can be monitored by administrators and moderators for virtual spaces within online platforms, communities can interact with one another and can learn more about each other’s cultural backgrounds and differences thereby educating them on their few differences but many similarities.
This allows diverse communities to exist within a regulated virtual, social environment, while also encouraging healthy, moderated discourse which simply isn’t possible at such a massive scale in real life.
Roblox’s Effort on Improving Diversity and Inclusion
Roblox’s VP of Engineering, Julian Walshaw-Vaughan in an interview with PocketGamer in 2011, talked about his efforts on improving diversity and inclusion. He mentioned how while talking about diversity is great, real change can only be sought through inclusion.
And, for that, senior leaders must emerge from underrepresented groups within society. He mentions how when senior leaders from marginalized groups take key positions, diversity tends to move through an organization.
To bring this vision to light, Roblox ranks in the top 25% of companies on Comparably that adhere to their diversity score. Moreover, the company has also implemented various different moderation policies to push toward creating a safe environment where people from all walks of life can thrive.
Lastly, the core principle of Roblox revolves around allowing anyone regardless of their geophysical location, gender, or cultural background to be able to make Experiences and also play them with others from all over the world. To that extent, Roblox has successfully created a thriving gamosphere in immersive gaming, where individuals can use their creativity to capture the attention of millions of players from all over the world.
This inclusion has also allowed for members of marginalized communities to celebrate particular milestones in these virtual safe spaces. For instance, multiple Experiences commemorate Pride Month by launching themed updates that match the occasion.
Moreover, members from these communities can also monetize their curated Experiences providing them with a source of revenue that isn’t constricted due to any social demographic.
With this rapid evolution in online, immersive gaming comes a plethora of opportunities for many to make their place in this brave, new virtual world. With community guidelines put in place, it is clear that these technologies will act as an educator for the millions of players that are bound to access it in the coming years.
Ultimately, this will lead to a higher degree of inclusion in virtual spaces which will eventually trickle down to real life as well creating a net positive for these under-represented communities.