I currently live in a world where I am spending a lot of time with screen funding structures for videogames. It is always a consideration across the structures of the screen organisations I work with that they wish to see a strong proportion of female representation among an applicant’s workforce. But there are other strong diversity recommendations and requirements too, depending on the organisation. While not a strict funding requirement, many selection committees find it positive if there are Indigenous team members involved in production. Others have an eye to employing queer staff. Given that the monies for funding videogame projects in this manner typically come from state governments or NGOs, it is interesting to examine why this representation of different groups occurs.
In the IGEA’s Australian Video Game Industry Snapshot (FY 2016-2017), only 18% of the sector’s employees identified as women. The GDAA’s 2018 survey results mirror this result with only a small variation, showing 20.8% identifying as female and 0.37% not identifying as male or female. Globally, the average is typically reported as around 20% female employees. Given all available evidence shows diverse businesses tend to be more economically prosperous overall—and this is especially true for the creative sector—encouragement to include female workers is a natural next step as a consideration into which game projects get funded.
While compiling an in-depth report into the state sector for the organisation I am consulting with (Screenwest), it became immediately apparent how minimal the representation of Indigenous game makers was. WA has a small but vibrant industry and yet the representation of Indigenous game makers was really only one or two people. The GDAA’s 2018 survey identified only 6% of their respondents had any people of colour in their organisations (let alone Indigenous people), and yet in film we are seeing strong representation and continual productions involving First Australians. Although, typically, it is noted on the application as to whether the production includes Indigenous staff on the team, it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area in terms of opening up outreach and pathways into our industry. There are so many themes and stories barely explored by our medium, and most would want to do so in the most respectful ways possible.
As a trans person, I have tried to write an article several times about my thoughts as to why our industry attracts so many people like myself. It is also true that game development attracts queer people more broadly. As arbiters directing government monies, screen organisations are typically very sensitive to the needs of queer applicants. Again, rather than this being simply a function of ideology, diversity makes for creative and interesting products.
I do not believe that diversity acknowledgements in screen funding are seeking to gatekeep funding from anyone that does not fall into these demographics, but rather act to promote an industry that encourages a diverse workforce with individuals of different backgrounds. The reasoning is sound from a commercial perspective, with a view to the broader sustainability of the industry. How this grows and changes as our industry matures will be an exciting space to examine.