Tens of thousands of gamers, designers, fans, and creatives gathered in Seattle this Labor Day weekend for PAX West, the sold out gaming bonanza that covers everything from the history of sword fighting in gaming to the storytelling of Hidetaka Miyazaki.
On Friday, PAX West dug into diversity and how to champion it both in the gaming community and within the games themselves. Former chair of the International Game Developers Association and president of Gay Gaming Professionals, Gordon Bellamy joined Niantic’s head of diversity and inclusion, Trinidad Hermida, and Chris Millar, CEO of Fun Bits interactive put their heads together and shared their personal stories about code switching, how to be an ally, and how each found a home in the world of games.
We listened in on their panel on championing diverse voices and gathered five of our favorites ideas for crafting a world where everyone can feel like Player One.
1. Bringing your whole self is insurance for your future self
Trinidad Hermida had plenty of advice for those on the outside of the gaming industry looking to get in. She advocated for being yourself from the very beginning. Your future happiness in the industry starts at the interview process. “Bring your best self to the interview. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self,” she said. Her advice isn’t just about acing the interview. It’s to save employees from having to continue to subsume their identities once they have the job. “When they hire you to be your authentic self, you don’t have to do as much code switching,” Hermida reminded the audience.
2. Difference doesn’t mean having to wait your turn
“Oftentimes when you have a difference, you have to wait before you get to talk, or you have to wait before you get to your goodness,” said Gordon Bellamy. “When you look at a job description, rarely will those traits of ethnicity or mental health be shown to be of value. So innately you say, “I have to put these things aside to be as good as I am.” Bellamy found those mental navigations were put on pause in the world of games, where the rules were the same for everyone. “Games are a place where I am default,” he said.
3. Never stop looking for places to connect
In an industry that could be isolating, the three speakers on the panel have made the game world a place to find their people and passion. Chris Millar pushed everyone to continue to search for and uncover those places—both at work and at home. “Do what you feel is right to connect with people that you want to if you feel alone, if you feel the need to connect,” he said.
4. Anxiety doesn’t cancel out awesome
When the conversation turned to mental health and anxiety, Bellamy noted that he faces conversations around anxiety and depression head on with his students at the University of Southern California. “So many people are navigating anxiety and depression,” he said. “I want to live in a world where you’re anxious and awesome.
5. Be a daily ally
Being an ally means opening doors of opportunity and making introductions for people who are traditionally shut out. But it also means a day to day commitment to giving space and amplification to people who are overlooked. “The whole idea of allyship is to understand that someone is a gem,” explained Hermida, “That you adore them and you want to tell the world about them. A way to be an ally and not shift the focus off of them in the workplace: call out their ideas; tell people about their work; let them shine,” she said. Bellamy also noted that he has made of habit in the classroom, at work, and in Q&As like the PAX West panel to make sure that he takes questions or comments first from the people who he identifies as a minority in the room, giving them the chance to speak first and direct the conversation where they’d like it to go.