Last week, the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media and Games Division announced that it would be postponing a “Legends of the Game Industry” panel because of its failure to reflect the diversity within the University and the gaming industry more broadly. The cancellation of the panel, which featured only male panelists, was met with mixed responses from potential attendees who responded to the postponement, ranging from praise to frustration.
Though it is understandable that some students may have been disappointed by the last-minute cancellation, the postponement of the panel reflects an appreciation for diversity on the part of the University that should be celebrated, not condemned.
On Wednesday, Professor Anthony Borquez posted a letter to event attendees via Facebook informing them of the program’s cancellation. In addition to explaining that the panel as it stood did not reflect the diversity within both the University community and the games industry, Borquez also assured attendees of the Interactive Media and Games Division’s intent to reschedule the panel in the coming weeks — next time with a more balanced group of panelists.
The postponement prompted an array of reactions, with many students taking to the comments section of the post to voice their opinion on the cancellation. Though a majority of the commenters acknowledged the importance of diversity and inclusion on panels such as these, several voiced frustration with the last-minute cancellation of the event. Others, however, praised the decision, highlighting the fact that the event wasn’t canceled, but simply postponed.
Though it is understandable that some students may have been disappointed with the last-minute postponement of the panel — particularly one that included a number of representatives from top video game developers — the University was right in its decision to ensure that its programming represented the diversity of the industries to which it hopes to send its students. As the long-standing top game design school in North America, USC has a responsibility to help further the diversification of the games industry. It cannot in good faith market programming that disregards the very diversity and inclusivity that it seeks to promote.
Diversity is not an issue unique to this panel alone. In fact, it is one that is endemic to the gaming industry as a whole. As an industry historically geared toward the very narrow demographic of traditional gamers — namely white, straight males — the very game developers who have been tasked with designing these games have largely come from that same demographic. A 2005 study by the International Game Developers Association found that approximately 83 percent of game development workers are white, boasting very little representation among Asian (7.5 percent), Hispanic (2.5 percent) and African American (2 percent) developers. Though these numbers have improved marginally, the industry still suffers from a clear lack of gender and racial diversity.
Though improvement has certainly been slow, the games development industry is changing — and the University’s programming should reflect that. This certainly isn’t a shift that USC has ignored. In fact, the University has already begun to offer new classes to address broadening diversity within the games industry, including offering courses which focus on issues of gender and sexuality in gaming.
Significant change in the industry certainly won’t happen overnight, and meeting the demand for more diversity and inclusivity within it will require a concerted effort by all involved to ensure that such diversity is promoted and maintained. By rescheduling the panel to include a broader and more realistic view of where the industry can and should be heading in the future, the University is doing just that.
Yasmeen Serhan is a senior majoring in international relations. “Point/Counterpoint” ran Tuesdays.