What are we actually doing about workplace harassment in the video game industry | Games

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If you’ve been following the game’s news over the past couple of years, it has been impossible to avoid the many horrendous stories of workplace harassment and discrimination that have emerged as part of a long-awaited toll in the game. games industry. As a woman who has worked in gaming media for over 15 years, I can only say that I was hardly surprised by the revelations. The consequences women face in speaking out on these issues mean that, until recently, few were willing to do so publicly. Last month, however, marked a turning point, as Riot Games paid $ 100 million in settlement to more than 2,000 women who filed complaints against him for discrimination based on sex. Other scandalized publishers and developers will tremble in their boots.

It’s no exaggeration to say that workplace harassment is rampant in the video game industry. Offbeat humor, boy club mentality, and sexist or racist “banter” might once have been considered “studio culture” (I heard it with my own ears), but companies are now facing it. to consequences for not protecting their employees from harmful people who have unfortunately found a place in game development. At this point, few of the biggest gaming companies remain entirely untouched by the allegations and lawsuits. So what can actually be done to make sure that the people who make games can count on a decent work environment that is free from goosebumps and bullies, especially in the huge studios made up of hundreds or thousands? of people?

Unsurprisingly, it might be difficult to get the executives of the big video game companies to comment on this. But I spoke to Chris Bruzzo from EA, who, as Director of Corporate Experience, was tasked with creating a more positive culture for both EA employees and its players, and seems engaged in the task. “About four years ago, as a management team, we spoke very clearly to the whole company not to tolerate harassment, abuse or misconduct,” he says. “We have made significant investments and seriously stepped up the consequences in our offices around the world, to ensure that people who feel harassed or mistreated are heard… I myself have left several people in the company over the years. last five years. . “

EA has 11,000 employees worldwide, which of course increases the chances that someone will behave inappropriately somewhere on any given day. Bruzzo recognizes that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for everyone, but believes that the largest gaming companies have the resources to tackle harassment at the source. Unconscious Bias training is now mandatory at EA, reporting tools allow anyone to report issues they may be experiencing, and the company has also diversified its hires; since this year, EA has been one of the few companies to have closed its gender pay gap, according to its internal reports. When someone is told that they are breaking the contact code, he says, they usually apologize and change their behavior. “When you tell people about what they’re doing and how it hurts others, intentionally or unintentionally, 9 out of 10 times, that’s all you need to do. “

Bruzzo tells me that he himself has been the victim of a toxic work environment himself, involving a boss who was a bully, and therefore has first-hand experience of the toll this can bring. “This person would call me late at night or on weekends and scream and scream, threaten to fire me; in big meetings, they wondered why I was even in the company or why I was born, ”he says. “I had to take anxiety medication, my health was deteriorating… it was pretty bad. When I quit people said we didn’t know you couldn’t take it. It’s very personal to me. “

There are, in Bruzzo’s opinion, three things that the biggest game companies need to prioritize if things are going to change for the better. “First, we have to really define the expectation, to be on the record, that we will no longer be spectators; and second, we need great tools to investigate and enforce the law. Third and most importantly, we need to take concrete steps to improve diversity and inclusion, in our business and in our games… We won’t get the kind of real gains we need until we have started hiring our people in a way that eliminates more biases and creates diversity.

I totally agree that if real, lasting change is to be made in the games industry, it must be a priority for every company that makes games. People known to be toxic can’t be allowed to just bounce from studio to studio. Loud support for diversity cannot replace a real investment of time, money and effort to weed out problem people and resolve hiring biases. It’s a costly problem to solve – but given the legal, reputational, and share price cost to publishers and developers who let these issues rampage, it will be much more expensive to ignore.

What to play

Word of mouth … A screenshot of Wordle, the word that went viral this month Photograph: powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle

You are unlikely to have escaped Wordle So far this year, a super simple online pun that has gone from totally unknown to ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE over the past month, but if you’re still wondering what all those little squares are in your social media feeds, that’s all. It’s extremely simple: go to Wordle website every day and try to guess a new five letter word. You have five guesses and he will tell you which letters you are correct. What’s especially endearing about this puzzle game, as Simon Parkin explains in his review, is that it was created by a guy called Josh Wardle last year as a gift for his partner, and remains. fully unmonetized. Considering how predominantly capitalist the games industry is, this is a good change.

What to read

  • A few weeks ago, this newsletter took a critical look at the fragmented economy behind Roblox, the hugely popular gaming platform that is valued at over $ 40 billion and used by tens of millions of children daily. . For the Observer, Simon Parkin uncovered several truly alarming stories of abuse, exploitation and readiness by the platform’s young developers, which only underscores the urgent need for further examination. of these platforms.

  • Speaking of kids and online safety, UK data watchdog ‘looks to chat’ with Facebook owner Meta because group of parents bought their kids an Oculus VR headset over Christmas and were shocked to find that there were no parental controls and apps like VRChat. are basically unmoderated, resulting in a lot of inappropriate conversations with minors. I put on my Quest 2 headset and returned to VRChat after a few years away to discover a place that reminded me of the early wild west of the internet: random, full of trolls and dominated by edgelord humor. . So pretty much like most other places online. Considering what we all know about Facebook, and considering the toxicity rampant across all online worlds, at this point I highly doubt that any a large tech company has the will or the means to make the virtual world universally safe and enjoyable.

  • E3 – the June event in which every company that makes video games traditionally sparks a hype frenzy for the sequel – will once again be digital only this year. For me that means three days sitting in front of a laptop watching an overwhelming barrage of game trailers and trying to calibrate what’s most interesting, as opposed to three days running around a big, sweaty conference room. in LA watching an overwhelming barrage of demo play and trying to calibrate what is most interesting. For the gaming industry as a whole, this raises questions as to whether these huge in-person events will ever return, and if they should.

  • The developers of the upcoming zombie escape game Dying Light 2 have proudly announced that it will take at least 500 hours to complete it 100%. The internet reacted to this news either with enthusiasm or with a sort of blind existential boredom, depending on the age and life circumstances of the player in question.

What to click on

Question block

This week’s question comes from Pat McGibbon, who asks: As an avid gamer and also a lover of languages, I often change the settings to play games in a foreign language. Are other readers doing it or am I the only one?

You are certainly not the only one, Pat, because I am Also a huge language nerd and i do too! This is how I learned one of the Japanese alphabets: In order to navigate the menus of the weird PS2 games I played on import as a teenager, I had to be able to read katakana. I played the first Mass Effect with German subtitles to feel better about playing it instead of studying for my German degree. Yakuza games helped me maintain my Japanese for a while after living there. In Assassin’s Creed, I switch to the “native” language of the game where possible. When you are an English speaker, it can be very difficult to find movies, TV, or music to learn in another language, as English is the overall default language – but many games have a full voice in several. languages, and I find that because you’re doing stuff in games rather than just watching, some of it actually sticks.

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