Every year, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is held in San Francisco, where game makers from around the world come together for networking, educational talks, awards ceremonies and more.
I was lucky enough to attend 2019 and I came away really inspired to see so many talented creators in one place. This year, GDC has finally returned to a more traditional physical show amid the pandemic, and while I’m not there this time, I find myself just as excited. That’s because a number of developers have taken to social media to share about their game development journeys, and it’s been great to watch all that unfold.
It all started when JC Lau, an Asian-American developer now at Harebrained Studios, shared a story about the discrimination she faced at GDC 2019. As Lau puts it, she attended the show to participate in a panel but was held up when she wanted to pick up her speakers badge because three guards didn’t really believe she was a speaker. After speaking with other developers, Lau noted that this treatment was repeatedly extended to “women, non-Americans, and PoC [people of colour] attendees.”
So if you’re with #GDC19 and feel good about it, take a picture of yourself and share it with the hashtag below. The face of the industry is changing, so let’s make sure people see it both in and out of games.
— JC Lau @ 🗣 GDC (@drjclau) March 19, 2019
With that in mind, Lau tweeted a selfie with the hashtag #WhatAGameDevLooksLike, and this has since inspired many other developers to do the same. The goal, of course, was to show that people from all walks of life are making games, not just white guys. And while the hashtag has been around for a few years, it has gotten a lot of attention this past week as GDC has returned to a major physical event. (Anything that has happened in recent years, especially events related to anti-black and anti-Asian hatred, no doubt only adds to that.)
If you’re on Twitter, I definitely recommend checking out that hashtag. For starters, it’s worth highlighting some of the Canadians I’ve seen, including:
Asian-Canadian Jasmine Jia (Gears 4, now Genshin Impact maker miHoYo)
#WhatAGameDevLooksLike hello guys, i’m jasmine. I am a new mom and also a senior sound designer working at #miHoYo currently I’m on maternity leave to take care of my newborn baby but can’t wait to get back to work with more cool sounds! pic.twitter.com/HyMeWBXvlJ
— Jasmine Jia 🌼 茉莉贾 (@jasminejia__) March 23, 2022
Mohawk Canadian Nathan Powless-Lynes (Far Cry 6, Assassin’s Creed VR)
— Nathan Powless-Lynes (@NPowlessLynes) March 25, 2022
Asian Canadian Jessica Zhang (Overwatch)
My parents never let me play games. In developer school, I felt like I was looking in from the outside, simply because this career hadn’t been my childhood dream. Not every developer was a lifelong gamer — and not every developer should be.
Late game lovers – see you ♥️#WhatAGameDevLooksLike pic.twitter.com/tjNQrHbFKX
— Jess 💙 (@JessZhangGames) March 23, 2022
Trinidadian-Canadian Kurston Timothy (Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Ubisoft)
— Ksᴛᴏɴ Vᴏɴ Dᴏᴏᴍ (@_kvondoom) March 22, 2022
Tanya X. Short (Director of Montreal-based KitFox, co-director of Pixelles Montreal)
not at GDC this year, but this is 1 example of #WhatAGameDevLooksLike – probably I should turn those old game design threads into blog posts, but this is easier. HI. I am the Captain of @kitfoxgames† Nice to meet. pic.twitter.com/gltokiuE3P
— Tanya X. Short (@tanyaxshort) March 23, 2022
And while he chose to share other people’s posts instead of hisIraqi-Canadian Osama Dorias (Unity) had the honor of hosting this year’s Game Developers Choice Awards at GDC:
Hosting the Game Developer’s Choice Awards was not only the greatest honor I’ve had in the industry, but it was also the most fun I’ve ever had on stage!
It’s been 2 days and I’m still riding so high!
I wanted to tell you a few “behind the scenes” fun facts!
— Osama Dorias 🔜 GDC (@osamadorias) March 25, 2022
However, that is only for Canada. You should be sure to check the hashtag for a delightful mix of developers from around the world. Lau, who enthusiastically shared a Kotaku story about her and the hashtag, is also promoting other developers.
IT’S MY FACE ON KOTAKU WITH OTHER DEVS FOR #WhatAGameDevLooksLike
shout at @six6jiang for the piece! 💜 https://t.co/V4MVxAnqeQ
— JC Lau @ 🗣 GDC (@drjclau) March 25, 2022
I don’t know about you, but it’s just nice to see even a few faces to the art that I enjoy, be it a game, movie, TV show, or book. But besides that, I always like to celebrate the work of a developer, because it is often, unfortunately, a thankless job.
For example, an accessibility consultant pushing for games like Elden Ring to have a few more options for the disabled being attacked by cyber trolls† Many studios force long overtime hours on employees, and any attempt to speak up is often met only with such misleading layoffs as “well, it’s even harder in [X] position.” A woman in the industry who speaks out commendably about unionizing in response to Activision Blizzard’s toxic work culture is quickly a meeting with spot† Indie developer leaders can abuse power and emotionally abuse their small teams. Hell, developers and their collaborators are facing death threats simply for making certain creative choices in a highly anticipated sequel.
So it’s clear that the industry is far from perfect, and many of these developers are likely to admit it freely. Nor does it mean that more diversity is not needed. That said, GDC, and the #WhatAGameDevLooksLike that came out of it are a fun way to remind everyone of the joys of games and the diverse and talented people behind them. Games have indeed been an integral part of my life and I am so grateful to those who worked so hard to ensure I was able to play them in the first place.
We all love games – let’s appreciate and respect those who make them for us.
Image Credit: Square Enix