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Home » Video Games & Esports » Diversity and inclusion growing in gaming and esports — here’s why

Dr Ying-Ying Law

Course Director Esports, Staffordshire University

Contribution from: Dr Joshua Jarrett and Jamie Nicholas

Educators are making sure that their students are switched on to the growing importance of diversity and inclusion topics in the gaming and esports industry.

Traditionally, gaming and esports have not been known as particularly diverse and inclusive. Reports from the Ukie UK Games Industry Census (2022) consistently show that male employees outnumber female and non-binary employees. There’s also a disproportionate ratio of white employees to people of colour and straight employees to LGBTQ+ employees. 

How diversity has grown in gaming 

Yet, an interesting shift is happening, says Dr Ying-Ying Law, Course Director Esports, Staffordshire University. The sector is moving away from homogeneous character representations and taking a more diverse and inclusive stance.  

“Twenty years ago, gaming was marketed towards a particular audience,” says Dr Law. “The stereotypical view of a gamer was white, male and straight. But when I conducted my PhD research between 2012 and 2016, I found that communities involved in games were more diverse in certain play practices – such as cosplay – and organisers of gaming events were trying to reach out to a wider audience.”

It’s great to see students exposed to new
ideas and become critically aware of issues
relating to diversity and inclusivity.

Dr Joshua Jarrett

Anonymity encouraging freedom of expression 

Jamie Nicholas — Associate Lecturer at Staffordshire University specialising in visual effects and queer theory — agrees that a change is happening. “That’s because gaming is a space where people can discover themselves and then become themselves,” he says.  

“Often, the anonymity of online games allows them to express their gender identity and sexuality and be whoever they want to be: gay; straight; pansexual; non-binary. People — including students — have told me this is why they got into games in the first place. They’ve since become, or will become, part of the industry’s workforce.” 

Inclusivity in games and esports modules 

The education sector is also embracing diversity and inclusivity. At Staffordshire University, educators have adapted teaching methods and developed an inclusivity pipeline into games and esports modules.  

“We make our students aware of how important diversity and inclusion topics are,” says Dr Law. “Academic assignments and projects include matters related to gender, age, race, class, ability and creating accessible games, broadcasts and competitive gaming events to promote inclusivity at a grassroots level.” For example, Fête 1 and Fête 2, a major grassroots Smash Bros. tournament hosted at Staffordshire University, featured pride activities, including an LGBTQ meetup and a series of women’s crew battles called ‘Smash Sisters.’ 

“It’s great to see students exposed to new ideas and become critically aware of issues relating to diversity and inclusivity,” says Dr Joshua Jarrett, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire University. “Particularly if they were not fully aware of these issues prior to joining our courses.” 

Staffordshire University is also joining a number of progressive organisations on the Women in Games Education Ambassador Programme. Senior Lecturer Dr Sharon Coleclough said: “Being a part of Women in Games underscores our commitment to increasing diversity in the sector and provides a clear indication of how important representation is. The University plans to coordinate a series of events run by female academics for young women who aspire to work in the games industry.”

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