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EA CEO stresses diversity and representation in games

"If you're going to make games for a community, you have to have a true representation of that community," says Andrew Wilson

For the longest time, games have been made largely by white people for white people. And while that's begun to change in recent years, there's much more progress that needs to take place, says Electronic Arts chief executive Andrew Wilson. In an interview with Verge, which focuses on the future of games, one key aspect that's brought up is that future needs to look much more diverse.

"Diversity is such an important part of this. Again, if you're going to make games for a community, you have to have a true representation of that community. For the longest time our industry, like every other industry, was very white male-dominated. We're seeing real change to that now. Some of our greatest creative leaders are women. I think two out of the three biggest games we launched last year were led by really strong, creative women," Wilson says.

"We're seeing lots of people come out of very different backgrounds and very different communities. Part of the reason [our FIFA product] is so great and captures the essence of what football means or soccer means to people around the globe. We had 19 different nationalities on that team, all [of whom] loved soccer, but soccer meant something different to them if they come from Argentina versus Brazil, or if they come from the UK versus Germany, or France versus the US."

He continues, "Things mean different things to people from different places. That doesn't mean they love them any less. It just means they look at it through a different lens. We believe it's really important to capture that. I can tell you right now there is a very big push from us, whether it's to engage with girls who code to make sure we're getting 15-year-old girls into engineering. They love games, but have been scared off by this concept of engineering or computer engineering, which has been a white male-dominated world. We're investing there. We're investing in schools in different ethnic communities. We're trying to recruit from around the globe, because again, what we have the opportunity to do is capture the true essence of a global community, of a global tribe inside of a virtual space. The only way we do that properly is to truly be representative of that community."

As Wilson alludes to, diversity also means having proper representation in the games themselves. If every lead character is white, how does that make you feel if you're black, asian or latino?

"Representation is really important. Again, when I started playing games, we could squint and see 200 million players. Many of those players were 14-year-old boys playing in their mother's basements. That was really what gamers were," Wilson observes. "There was this negative connotation about what being a gamer meant. Today the average age of a gamer, I think, is about 35. Nearly 50 percent of them are female, and certainly gaming transcends all forms of culture and gender and background, both socioeconomic and ethnic background.

"As we think about representation inside games, what is the most important thing for us, like it is in movies and books and TV and all other forms of entertainment, is to really capture the true nature of the community that's engaging in that content. When you look at some of our games today, you see that we have strong female leads, we have strong black leads, we have strong latino leads, we have young leads to older leads. It's really important as we design games, and that wasn't really any mandate that we made as a company, and it won't be any mandate that we make going forward... It's really just the creators inside of our organization saying, 'Hey, I'm looking at who's playing our games. We know that they want to look into the games that we make and see people like them so that they can better relate to those games. We want to capture that'."

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Latest comments (1)

Troy Lyndon Business Coach, Inventor and Video Game Developer 4 years ago
James, your opening for this article is wrong - you wrote, "For the longest time, games have been made largely by white people for white people."

My partner, when he was alive, was black - or to be politically correct, African-American. You might know of a couple of franchises we built for EA, namely the first several versions of Madden Football and NHL Hockey (Genesis, SNES) in 1990-1992 - heralded then as the best sports simulations ever.

We have always considered more than one skin tone - example: Star Rank Boxing (C64) in 1985. As did Accolade's Hardball in 1990 - just as Al Miller. This was a definite industry-wide practice - so to depict all of us as prejudiced, creating games only for a white audience, unnecessarily demonizes many great developers who have always been inclusive.
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