COUNTERPOINT: In campus programming, it’s important to address diversity

dtprojectwhitedudesLast 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.

14 replies
  1. LibertyIsTheAnswer
    LibertyIsTheAnswer says:

    The key point in the panel cancellation is that the cancellation hurt USC Games’ women students. Did they not have anything to learn from the remaining panellists? Is it not possible that they might have received inspiration from them? Could they not have been entertained by them?

    By this logic, a female student should never have a male professor. She could not be moved by a book written by a man. Her life would be diminished.

    The “logic” is preposterous.

  2. NinjaBlaze
    NinjaBlaze says:

    “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.”

    This is patently, blatantly, and easily provably false, and I’m surprised the author would be bold enough to assert it as a fact. One glance at the comments section for that post shows the response was overwhelmingly, near universally negative.

    To pretend the “majority” of the comment community for that post supports the decision is disingenuous at best and manipulative at worst.

    • Takeback Calif
      Takeback Calif says:

      I was just going to make exactly the same observation. This writer is extremely disingenuous.

  3. BGS
    BGS says:

    As a game industry professional of 21 years, I’m really disappointed in this short-sighted and unprofessional move from any educational institution, let alone an institution with the massive stature that USC commands. Ms. Fullerton has robbed your students (female and male) of access to true legends (this is not hyperbole) of the industry. Professionals in this industry run — even pay — to see leaders like these, male or female, speak on their experience. And to have the opportunity to meet/greet and present ideas to them? Priceless. The fact that 0 of the 7 speakers were female does not represent a non-inclusive event, it represents the current ratio in the games industry. Put your hand in a hat full of game industry names and pull out 7 of them; you will be lucky to pull out more than 0 female names. You say you want a discussion panel with a micro sample size of the industry to reflect diversity of the industry? 7 males and no females did just that. By brute-forcing more females into the event you’ve actually artificially skewed the reality of game companies. Claiming it was a “decision to ensure that its programming represented the diversity of the industries to which it hopes to send its students” reflects either complete ignorance or a bold-faced lie. The industry is not gender-diverse. And the reason is almost entirely not due to sexism.

    Is this unfortunate? Sure. But if Fullerton really wants to change it, cancelling a program that would have benefited the women currently in the program is the exact opposite of logic. She had the opportunity to chip away at that ratio, to inject more women into the industry and change that ratio in the coming years. But instead she chose to shut the door on your female (and male) students and thus take away just one more opportunity for them, and alienate leaders in the space in the process. This, by definition, is a sexist and discriminatory decision.

    My impression of the USC Games program has been seriously compromised; there is a major disconnection between the educational goals and the industry itself, and the students will be the ones receiving this disservice.

    • says:

      I appreciate your industry, huge fan of Fallout 4, Hitman Absolution, Grand Theft Auto, and other M-rated games, Manhunt was excellent in spite of the censorship.

      For all the talk about more women playing games, I just don’t see it. If I go to a Games Spot or EB Games, it’s a male crowd whether it’s the teenager with pimples or the fat 40-year-old that loves how wonderful games have become. The only women I see are mothers and maybe a few sales clerks.

      Women are just different than men, for every tomboy there’s gonna be 10 ice queens. The military is a great example of this, the number of women in the military is microscopic, and most of them go to typical female professions like nursing, administration, HR. For the rare woman that graduates from the Ranger course or flies an F16, most don’t want to do that. Now that there’s talk of opening draft registration to women, the feminists are actually protesting.

  4. Willie Sam
    Willie Sam says:

    I agree with the author. For example, I attended a feminist conference on patriarchy in the gaming industry. However, when we noticed that there were no male attendees, we felt it only right to postpone the conference because of the dearth of male voices.

  5. BCSWowbagger
    BCSWowbagger says:

    Isn’t this a direct violation of Title IX? An all-star panel was “excluded from participation in” and “subjected to discrimination under” a “education program… receiving Federal financial assistance” solely and admittedly “on the basis of sex.”

    I am not a lawyer, but Director Fullerton’s decision to stand with her Whig theory of history against her actual flesh-and-blood students wasn’t just morally wrong and a dereliction of her duty — it looks a bit illegal to me.

  6. ChmeeWu
    ChmeeWu says:

    The value of the USC gaming degree just dropped. Do you think any of these panelists would ever return after a last minute cancellation because they were not the right sex? Do you think they will now hire anybody out of USC and risk getting social justice warriors instead of programmers? Nope.

    I have been in business for 20 years, and such an insult is not forgiven very easily out in the real world. The gaming industry is going to take their money, resources, and time to other places. Count on it.

  7. says:

    No it’s not important. If the conference had been about feminism and they could only find female feminists to attend, the conference would have gone on.

    Anthony Borquez is an idiot. Most video games are played by men, designed by and for men, with stories that appeal to men.

    Diversity is overrated, instead of celebrating differences is punishes people for not being different. Instead of allowing a wide variety of viewpoints, it only tolerates one viewpoint and damns everyone else to hell.

    Students deserve CHOICE! If one group wants to bring Michael Moore while another group brings Ann Coulter, both should get their wish and protestors should be kept outside. We don’t need the Diversity Nazis telling us what to say and what to do. We are not slaves! We are taxpayers and we deserve public universities that don’t cancel events over BS like diversity.

  8. G L
    G L says:

    So… is it USC’s official position, then, that males have no voice unless there’s a woman in the room to validate them?

  9. MrReasonable
    MrReasonable says:

    Where is the demand for diversity in the faculty in regards to political viewpoints? Why do you not demand classes be postponed until there is an equal number of conservative professors? Why demand a diversity of organs, but not a diversity of thought?

  10. MrReasonable
    MrReasonable says:

    Silly argument. If you want women to be more represented in an industry that has been dominated by men, then you have to let them listen to men. Closing people’s eyes and ears helps no one. Denying women opportunities hurts women, do you not understand that? How is this any different than Afghanistan not allowing women to attend school? You are basically using the same argument ISIS uses.

    Did you consider maybe asking some of the men to “self-identify” as women so that the event could go on?

    • says:

      Right, and if I wanted to become a nurse, I would have to attend nursing events full of women. I would not get upset if all the panelists were female. If it’s my chosen profession, then I know that’s part of the deal.

  11. Jonas
    Jonas says:

    I’m sorry, when you tell a bunch of experts to go away because they don’t have your approved mix of sexual organs, that’s called “sexism”.

Comments are closed.