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'If we stop talking about diversity, people might assume we've ticked that box'

Ensemble 2023: No Code's Romana Ramzan on the importance of retention and diverse leadership in overcoming industry imbalance

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Throughout the past month, people from across London and the rest of the UK have been able to see examples of folks from underrepresented groups that are rising up through the games industry.

This has come in the form of the annual Ensemble exhibition, organised by the team behind the London Games Festival, which displays profiles of this year's cohort to attendees at WASD and then later passersby at Trafalgar Square.

During this year's Ensemble photoshoot, we sat down with No Code producer Romana Ramzan, who appears as one of the eight profiles, to talk about the need for such initiatives.

"Ensemble is great because diversity and inclusion are so important to our industry," she says. "And we are making progress, but nowhere near as much progress as we should be making, or at the pace that we should be making it."

"There's been a lot of discussion, and it does get repetitive, but the problem hasn't been solved"

Ramzan says the biggest impact of Ensemble is allowing people to see that the stereotypes they may think the games industry suffers from aren't necessarily true.

"There are people from different backgrounds working in the industry, and doing lots of different, exciting things in the industry," she says, adding that it's a great outlet for people – especially young and aspiring games professionals – to see a wider range of faces.

"They don't necessarily have to resemble you, but the fact that they're different from the mould shows you that there is a spot for you, and yes, that this is the path you should be considering."

As Ramzan says, the industry is making progress when it comes to addressing the gender and ethnic imbalances in its workforce, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

"There has been a lot of discussion, and it does get repetitive, but it's important to keep hammering home that point, because you need to show that the problem hasn't been solved," she says.

"If we stop talking about it, people might assume, 'Well, we've ticked that box. It's done. Let's move on to other things.' But that's far from the case."

Ramzan is also keen to see more accountability from games companies, calling on them to actively demonstrate what they're doing to improve the diversity of their workforces and how much progress they have made.

"And not just because it is a box-ticking exercise," she adds, "but because your audiences that are consuming your games are so different. If you want to be putting content out there that appeals to a different group of people, you need those people in the room to help you make those decisions.. asking those questions you might not have thought of because you're used to what's familiar to you."

She adds that studios need to not only be thinking about how they attract a wider range of people when recruiting, but also how they are retaining and promoting those from underrepresented groups who are already within their ranks – especially if there are strong candidates for the senior leadership team.

"What support structures do you have in place to help them grow [and put them] in positions of leadership?"

"We're seeing lots of people burning out from the industry, and you're seeing high churn rates as well," she explains. "So, great, you can get the people in, but what are you doing to retain that talent? Because that's the hard bit. Once you've got them to the doorstep, what support structures do you have in place to help them grow, help them develop, help them become in positions of leadership? Because often that then unlocks the doors to others that are trying to come through.

"If you can see a studio where the higher management is made up of a diverse portfolio of people, then it shows you that actually, yes, I can grow my career here. There is a place for me, and it's not just that they're wanting a few people in just to look good from the outside."

Another message Ramzan is keen for games companies to spread is, "There is no prescribed path to get into the industry."

She points to herself as an example; originally, she began her career as an academic earning her PhD with her studies on games and healthcare. After graduating, she joined Dundee studio Denki as 'player champion,' using her knowledge of usability and user research to better understand how the team's games could better support players. She returned to academia for a few years, lecturing in game and narrative design, before taking on the producer role at No Code where she is now working on Silent Hill: Townfall.

The Ensemble exhibition shows people from underrepresented groups that there is a place for them in the games industry

No Code is taking steps of its own to improve diversity in the industry. Of the team of around 20 people, Ramzan estimates that around seven or eight are women, adding that there are different ethnicities and people from other countries on staff as well. This has partly been achieved by actively reaching out to potential candidates, in addition to using a recruitment agency. Ramzan also points to the jobs section at mentorship initiative Limit Break as a good source of diverse applicants.

"You have to do the ground work to be able to attract people to come to you because a lot of the time, especially with women, they might be overqualified but the way we look at ourselves is we often don't think we're quite right for the job. You might just put yourself off from applying.

"But just encouraging someone, or having the conversation and suggesting that, 'Have you thought about it? You'd be a great fit. Even if you don't tick all the boxes, apply.' Because there are going to be 50 other people who definitely don't tick all the boxes, and they're applying, so don't sell yourself short."

As we wrap up our conversation, she emphasises the role that leaders can play in encouraging folks from underrepresented groups not only to apply for roles but to speak up and share ideas if they get the job.

She recalls a moment with Denki boss Colin Anderson, saying: "I remember initially having imposter syndrome and speaking to Colin about it, and saying, 'I don't know if I can voice my opinion on this particular issue, because look at [the team's] repertoire for games.' And the thing that Colin said to me, which struck me, and it's something that I now say to other people, is that, 'If we wanted the same opinion, we would have looked for somebody with a similar background to what we already have. But we wanted a different voice in the room, and that's why we brought you in. So, don't be shy, or don't think that your experiences don't count. They do.' And that really resonated, and it stuck with me throughout."

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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