An international research project named ReFiG has been set up by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada to investigate and advise on the topic of diversity within games. They plan to tackle not only the industry itself and the culture that surrounds it, but the ways in which minorities – particularly women – are encouraged or excluded by education programs and in-routes. It’s running until 2019 having had its inaugural event last year, and the involved organisations are expanding.
Dr. Alison Harvey of the University of Leicester’s Department of Media and Communication is now co-leading the formal education branch of ReFiG, and had this to say regarding the project and her involvement:
“Women and girls have largely been excluded from games culture − as players, makers and protagonists. Additionally, many of those who do participate in games have been publicly harassed both online and offline as exemplified by the ‘Gamergate’ hate campaign.
“Addressing long-standing gender inequalities in the global digital games industry is a vital means by which to stimulate innovation and sustain the growth and consolidation of this massive creative arena.
“This project recognises that these issues can only be tackled through the inclusion of a range of international and interdisciplinary partners thinking about and planning to create equity in games culture, education, and work.”
Her first area of focus will be a study of UK-based higher-education programs that tackle game design and studies, with UoL’s official mission statement being “To make an intervention in how these programmes are promoted and organised to foster more inclusive game design training, through consultation with educators, students, skills bodies, professional associations, policy-makers, and industry representatives.”
Leicester is just one of twenty partners with ReFiG, which is headquartered at the York University in Canada. Their official site is packed with information regarding the different areas they plan to tackle and how. Along with university programs, they’ll also be studying the games industry itself and what it produces. They plan to investigate how women are treated in the work place, why only 4% of programmers are women and how that affects the output. Naturally, how that output then influences those who become interested in games and how the culture develops is another large part of the study.