Diversity Report

The results of a survey on diversity in the game industry have been released.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has published a report entitled, “Game Developer Demographics: An Exploration of Workforce Diversity“, which analyzes a survey taken by 6437 self-described game developers. After filtering out those not in the industry and those from countries where English is not the primary language, the final sample size was 3128 surveys. The IGDA has made the report available on their Game Developer Demographics Report web page.

Here are a few interesting statistics:

USA represented 66% of the studied results, followed by Canada (18%), UK (12%), and Australia (4%).

Third-party developers are 43% of the industry, and when combined with freelancing (13%) and contracting/outsourcing (5%) make up a 61% majority of developers.

Programmers made up the largest single category of respondents (28.5%). After that, there was a statistical dead heat between design (16.1%) and visual arts (15.9%). I suspect that the number of designers is inflated in this survey.

The typical game developer is, unsurprisingly, a heterosexual white male in his early 30s with a college education and no disabilities. Each of the first three characteristics are overwhelmingly common in the industry: male (88.5%), white (83.3%), heterosexual (92.0%).

Only 0.96% of respondents identified themselves as transgender. This refutes the suggestion by a developer friend of mine that the game industry had an unusually high number of transgender individuals.

The average length of time in the game industry is only 5.4 years. Having worked on my first published retail game in 1988 (not counting earlier failures), I have been doing this more than 3 times as long as the average. The report concludes that “the industry’s wizened ‘graybeards’ are few in number.”

Of the 13% of disabled developers, 61% had either a mental (31%) or cognitive (30%) disability. Relatively few reported a physical disability with sight (9%), hearing (6%), or mobility (4%).

There is also a separate report with anonymous comments (identified generically by gender, age, disability, education, and location) supplied with survey responses. A quick scan of the early comments showed some hostility or trepidation at the concept of a diversity study conducted by the IGDA.

My personal opinion is that it is important to know our industry, and also to know our market. With such an overwhelming lack of diversity in the industry, it follows that a majority of games cater to a similar audience. In particular, if only 11.5% of game developers are female, and the average age is 31 years, large portions of the market tend to be given short shrift. With only 2.0% of the game industry being black, it is unfortunately easy to see why we were unable to place Black Thunder, a game based on an African-American superhero. (Instead, we get stereotyped crap like Superfly Johnson from Daikatana.)

How does the game industry, which cannot collectively think beyond licensed titles and sequels, expect to address this issue of diversity? I suspect the answer will again come from independent game developers, and not from the entrenched publishers. Of course, as soon as new markets are developed, the big business types will come sniffing around…

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