Shoutout to game developers — you the real MVPs

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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.”

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)

Mohawk Canadian Nathan Powless-Lynes (Far Cry 6, Assassin’s Creed VR)

Asian Canadian Jessica Zhang (Overwatch)

Trinidadian-Canadian Kurston Timothy (Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Ubisoft)

Tanya X. Short (Director of Montreal-based KitFox, co-director of Pixelles Montreal)

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:

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.

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

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