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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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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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