Different Games Conference to Explore Diversity in Video and Computer Gaming

BROOKLYN, New York—Different Games—New York City’s first conference on diversity and inclusivity in digital and video games—will return for its second year at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering in Brooklyn on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12.

A volunteer collaboration between graduate students of NYU and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Different Games will address diversity and inclusivity in design, academic scholarship, and criticism. It will feature panels, hands-on workshops, and a full array of original games. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will bring five thought-leading designers and authors to exhibit their games and discuss issues. 

The issue of diversity has been raised by the industry itself. The most recent survey on the subject, in 2005, by the International Game Developers Association reported developer demographics: 83 percent white, 92 percent heterosexual, and 89 percent male. By contrast, women account for 45 percent of game players, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The industry is large— challenging Hollywood in total revenue.

“We want to amplify the voices of people you don’t often hear from in games, to celebrate their contributions, and build a community while making games a safer space for all kinds of folks,” said Sarah Schoemann, co-organizer. She founded Different Games while a graduate student in the NYU School of Engineering Integrated Digital Media Program and is now a doctoral student in the Digital Media Program in the School of Literature Media and Communications at Georgia Institute of Technology.

“The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering has a long history of supporting diversity, and the Integrated Digital Media Program is proud to host Different Games as a means of encouraging and empowering under-represented minorities in the games industry, the academic community, and related fields of research,” said R. Luke DuBois, co-director of the NYU School of Engineering Integrated Digital Media Program.

Different Games begins Friday, April 11, at 6:00 p.m. in the NYU Media and Games Network (MAGNET) space at 2 MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Opening night will feature games exhibited by the NEA-sponsored Different Games Fellows Anna Anthropy, Mattie Brice, and Robert Yang, as well as the NYU School of Engineering Game Innovation Lab Artist in Residence Kaho Abe and Parsons The New School for Design’s PETLab (Prototyping Education and Technology Lab) Director Colleen Macklin. Games from students and indie developers will also be included.

Sessions will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 12, and continue through the day. Attendance is free but registration is required at www.differentgames.org. Opening speaker will be Leigh Alexander, noted game journalist and news editor for the industry site Gamasutra.

Panels will include queer advocacy in the games community and differently abled gaming. Workshops and breakout sessions will address inclusivity in the industry, how games are addressing mental-health issues, and a hands-on session on game modding. Beth Rosenberg, an adjunct faculty member in the NYU School of Engineering Department of Technology, Culture and Society, will head a workshop on teaching game design to students with disabilities. Katherine Isbister, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the director of the Game Innovation Lab, will participate in a panel about mentorship.