Christopher Barney

Game Designer for Metahex Studio

Christopher Barney obtained undergraduate and graduate game design degrees in the days before such things were widely available. He has been contributing his game design and programming skills to Pearson’s web based MMO, Poptropica, for more than five years as well as serving as the lead internal game designer for the educational games website Prior to breaking into the gaming industry, Chris worked as a live events writer for FunCom’s Anarchy Online MMO through their ARK program, and produced dozens of live events. He also has an extensive background in interactive theater, and has worked as a scriptwriter for several large New England theater groups. He has previously spoken at GDC, GDC EU, BFig, and ECGC.

Talk Description:

Why you need diversity in your games

In past years I have given a talk at ECGC and at BFig diving deep into the sociological theory of Social Capital, how it can be used in making games that make a difference in gamers lives, and how if games can have positive effects in people’s lives then we have to admit that they can have negative effects. It’s a good talk and these posts cover it’s content: The problem is that it’s a bit academic, and it’s interesting to people who pretty much already agree about those kinds of things. But it’s not very actionable and it’s not directed toward people who would need persuading about social justice issues. So this year I would like to give a talk titled “Why you need diversity in your games”. I still think that the talk will only attract people who already understand why they need diversity in their games, but I want to target it toward the cis white male game developers in the audience who already agree with me and provide them with both the arguments and practical things they can do to convince their bosses and coworkers who don’t yet understand. And also why they are the group that should be stepping up to do that convincing.The short version is that, as I say in the article, Social Capital is “the resources, norms and values shared by virtue of belonging to a particular social group, and the sense of entitlement to the privileges that are granted by class membership”. It is the same thing that we also call “privilege” and that as the privileged group in game development we have the most resources and leverage to help change the industry for the better. As to why we need diversity in our games: – Worldwide game audiences are diverse and are becoming more so. – It is fundamentally unfair that the vast majority of the world’s population must choose from a few dozen games if they want to play someone who is like them when white males can choose from literally thousands of games.- All games by their nature make a statement. If we think we are making a game ‘just to be fun’ then we aren’t even thinking about what we are saying. If we are going to say something with our games whether we like it or not, shouldn’t we say something we can be proud of? – And so on, it’s a long list and I only have 80 words left. As to how we make our games more diverse: – Make games about hard issues. They will be dramatic. Do the research. – Diversify your team. “But I can’t find any [X] developers!” Ask recruiters for them, create demand. Also, look harder! – Stop making the easy choices, stop making games for and about you. – This list is long too and I have 15 words left. I will try to keep the talk closer to 30 minutes and take many questions.

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