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Gone Home Dev: Look past "the best person for the job"

Steve Gaynor wants industry veterans to open the door to more talented women

Today during the Microtalk session at GDC 2016, Fullbright founder Steve Gaynor made the case for greater diversity in the game industry. Gaynor began his talk by pointing out that many in the game industry do far more than just the job on their business card.

"I am not the best person for the job," he said. "I don't think I'm bad at my job, but I do think the phrase 'the job' kinda sells short what any of us in this room do. We actually have lots of jobs. I'm a game designer, but I'm also involved in the promotion, writing, hiring. Before we founded the Fullbright Company, I had no experience with almost any of these things. I was in no way the best person of any of these jobs."

Gaynor explained that the same was true of most of the team at Fullbright. The studio had never made a game in Unity before. Gaynor admitted that he didn't start out as the best person for the job when he took a position at 2K Marin, but the studio gave him the chance to grow into the role. He pointed out that the team's 3D artist, Kate Craig, had previously worked on Facebook games before doing the environmental design for Gone Home.

"We didn't decide to work with her because she was already the best person for the job. She became that person. It's often the people who are unproven that end up doing the work that changes us," he said. "This is not a rare story in our industry. All of us, right now, can think of the person who gave you your first chance. They opened the door for you."

Gaynor showed a slide with the team at Fullbright Company, where 5 of the 8 team members are women. He agreed that Fullbright does not look like an average team in the industry and said that doesn't happen by accident.

"It doesn't happen, because we exclusively hire the people who are already proven to be the best person for the job," said Gaynor. "You certainly need some senior people and to be fair, most of the senior people on our team are male. But here's the thing about positive feedback loops, they create self-perpetuating cycles. The men on the team have the experience and track record to be the best person for the job, because we've been given the chance to prove ourselves."

Gaynor charged other developers to take chances on new entrants into the game industry, instead of only focusing on finding the best. He stressed that there are a ton of talented, hard-working people out there, many of whom are women, that never get a chance to prove themselves.

"Maybe you have a chance, because you're involved with hiring, recommending people for new positions, or running your own studio, to hire a young woman who hasn't had the opportunity to prove herself yet, but you know that she could if somebody gave her a chance," he said. "And maybe letting her in now leads to own industry, 10 or 15 years from now, having way more women who can stand up and say 'Absolutely. I am the best person for the job because I worked my way here. And nobody can take that from me, because years ago, somebody let me in.'"

Gaynor said that the industry is "in the middle of a self-perpetuating cycle", but many have the opportunity and ability to change that cycle, one person at a time.

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Latest comments (7)

Kirill Steshin Studying Computer Science & Games Technology, CUNY Queens5 years ago
So, he just wants to sexist - this time against man... "Amazing".
The best person should ALWAYS get the job, man or woman.
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Stephen Moore Studying Computer Games Programming, Staffordshire University5 years ago
I like the idea of hiring "not the best person for the job" in the sense of taking chances on people that have potential, that's not to say that the person chosen should be a poor fit either just for diversity sake.
However I do disagree that this approach should be taken to recruit more women; it should be an approach taken to increase the diversity of the industry on all levels not just male/female
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Hector Moran 2d/3d Artist 5 years ago
These are bad ideas. It puts the woman being hired into a position where she will always wonder if she was hired because she was the right person, or because of a quota, it creates self-doubt. If the rest of the staff in the company also knows that there are quotas in place they will always be suspicious if their colleagues were quota hires or if they were the most capable person for the job... in both positions it's not a comfortable feeling. I've even seen it happen in some European studios where they have female quotas. I'm Mexican and that makes me some type of minority or other in the US and Europe, but I would have to be kinda desperate and lacking in pride to apply to a company that hires tokens, just to be their token Mexican. I prefer to apply and compete with the Americans or Europeans applying for the job and beat them fair and square or not get the job if I'm the wrong person for it. Stop it with these ridiculous white male savior campaigns of giving women and minorities a freebie just to virtue signal and look good in front of others.
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Show all comments (7)
Andreia Quinta Photographer, Studio52 London5 years ago
"Maybe you have a chance, because you're involved with hiring, recommending people for new positions, or running your own studio, to hire young persons who haven't had the opportunity to prove themselves yet, but you know that they could if somebody gave them a chance."

There, I fixed the diplomacy for you...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 20th March 2016 10:04pm

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Rich Barham Studio Head and Executive Producer, Round Table Games Studio5 years ago
This article is deeply problematic. It mixes 'giving people who are a cultural/personality fit a chance' with hiring the best person for the job. I'd always strongly support hiring the best person for the job, however that's formed from a combination of skills, fit with the team/company and the positioning of the job, its responsibilities and growth trajectory. If you know all of those, and they make up your 'best candidate' then not hiring the best person under those guidelines would be foolish. Understand what you need, and hire for that, the best person for that. Let's also not let this become a sex issue, there's no suggestion that because someone is M or F that they're any less likely to be the best candidate for a role, and even the suggestion of such does a disservice to both women in the industry, and hiring managers who are responsible for growing their team.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development5 years ago
I think a bit of reframing could do some good. How about considering someone's growth potential, coachability and long term team qualities rather than just their current ability. That way it does not seek to overlook the person's value but simply acknowledges that their value consists not only of their present level of skill but what they will be able to offer in the future, which is also of great importance.
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Laura Hutton 3d Artist, Ubisoft5 years ago
I agree with the above comments - I don't want to feel like I've been handed something on a plate for being female, and I never want to look at new minority employees as quota fillers. It creates a terrible atmosphere in the studio.

I want to know I earned my job through my own hard work and dedication, not because of the way I was born. There's a difference between opening a door to those who have no privileges or access to education, and then there's downright discrimination - judging someone on their race or gender, even if you think it will benefit your team, just seems backwards to me.

Attempting to turn the tide with positive discrimination is wrong. We need to give talks in schools and colleges about games being a viable career option for creative individuals, not just women. We don't need to be given special treatment anymore, it's not the 1940s.
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