For the first time ever, Pixelles was invited to participate in a games festival outside of Quebec. The destination was sunny Culver City, California, and the event was Indiecade 2015. Normally we do not do outreach or promotion outside of Montreal, but we were invited by Indiecade organizers to be a part of their new initiative: The Gaming is for Everyone Pavilion, sponsored by Intel. The idea was to invite groups and initiatives that specifically help people who belong to groups that have historically been marginalized within games culture and industry, and to a larger extent, computing and technology in general. I assume this is a part of Intel’s $300 million investment in diversity after they unknowingly gave into hate mob pressure last December and pulled advertising from Gamasutra.
One never really knows how a corporate diversity initiative is going to pan out. Do they really care about what we’re doing all the way in the frozen north? Days before our flight, we received an email stating that Pixelles was chosen to speak on the “Games are for Everyone” panel, but the rest of the details were vague. While this could be viewed as a red flag, we decided to chalk it up to busy event organizers, and not lack of caring or concern. Indeed, Intel had sent us the funds upfront to pay for our travel to Indiecade, which we took as a sign of good faith. Also, lack of details could be interpreted as being free to participate in the pavilion the way we wanted to. At least that’s what we chose to believe.
It was exciting to be in the company of some very inspiring community groups, and meet their organizers or co-founders, including: Different Games Collective, FemHype, Code Liberation, GaymerX, Code for Good, and HNDP LA. It was also an excellent opportunity to connect with our “sister” organization, Dames Making Games Toronto (DMG), and show pavilion attendees what Canadian feminism in games communities are doing (hint: kicking butt!).
(Pixelles and Dames Making Games – Canadian representation!)
Short history lesson: In 2012, DMG and Pixelles both received seed funding from Feminists in Games (the predecessor Partnership Development Grant for REFIG) to develop informal education programs for first-time women game developers. In fact, it was this seed funding that led to the development of Pixelles as an informal non-profit WIG group in the first place. Both organizations have made leaps and bounds in terms of community development, advocacy and outreach work to create more inclusive and diverse games industry and culture.
We wanted to make the most of all these organizations and their co-founders literally being under the same roof. Starting at the end of the U shaped layout, I moved down the line: introducing myself, talking about Pixelles, high-fiving and collecting beautifully designed stickers for my laptop.
I really wanted to talk to other organizers about the good, bad, and the super ugly sides of their community development work. In sum, no community is perfect, but it was comforting to know that the persisting issues and challenges were not being swept under the rug in an attempt to present an image of the organization as free from the systemic problems that affect all aspects of games industry and culture – other organizers were keen to chat with each other about their problems, and the strategies that have worked (and more importantly, strategies that have failed), out in the open in front of everyone.
I also learned that both DMG and Pixelles are very unique in what they offer and their approaches to community development. In short, we are both a niche organizations that are absolutely necessary to address the gaps. For example, other organizations teach general coding, programming or media production skills, but did not specifically target women or focus on independent game making. Other organizations create safer spaces for marginalized individuals to network and play in, but they do not extend this network into the industry via mentorship programs. We were also the only explicitly feminist organizations (however many, if not all, of the other organizers considered themselves to be feminists or supporters of feminism).
It takes more than a weekend-event to create a truly diverse and inclusive games culture and industry, and there is always room for improvement. That being said, the Intel Games is for Everyone Pavilion at Indiecade 2015 is a step in the right direction, and got more right than wrong as a corporate diversity initiative. Would I like to see it included in Indiecade 2016? Absolutely! IF they implement participant feedback in the design of the next diversity tent, as there are some kinks that still need to be ironed out, such as using extra-terrestrials (aka – an Alienware Alien) as a signifier for otherness.
(I couldn’t bring myself to wear the Official T-Shirt.)