By M.H. Williams
Clint Hocking is not the first to say that there needs to be a bit more diversity in the gaming business. In an opinion piece over at Edge, the LucasArts creative director strikes out at what he calls a “Viking development” culture. He compares the male dominated industry to the Viking expansion in northern Europe a thousand years ago.
“It’s easy to imagine what will happen if you take a group of 30 or 40 men in their teens and twenties, give them axes and beer, and make them row a longship out to sea for a few weeks in order to make a living. When they finally reach land, they will cut loose – and if there’s no strict rule of enforceable law where they come ashore, watch out,” he begins.
“This is the model of Viking expansion that led to the Scandinavian kings controlling much of northern Europe a thousand years ago. Minus the literal rape and killing, of course, modern game development has a number of things in common with the Viking expansion. Specifically, game development studios and their teams are largely staffed in the same way that Viking longships were crewed. Consequently, the culture is overflowing with beer and pent-up aggression, and a very significant portion of our overall cultural output is fart jokes. I think we can do better,” Hocking explains.
He believes that the Viking culture was wiped out by a “better-balanced culture” in 1066 (some take issue with his historical dates and events) and believe it’s time for the gaming industry to do the same.
“I believe that developing a better-balanced culture is the most important near-term step we can take towards nurturing a stable and truly massmarket audience,” Hocking states. “This is necessary to see us make the transition from an exploitative, expansionist industry to a sustainable one. Furthermore, I believe that the most important step we can take in balancing that culture is to bring more women into game development.”
“What I mean is that we need more female game developers in order to ensure that the development culture in game studios becomes more reflective of our culture at large. It’s this overall culture that’s the giant untapped market we need to serve: a rich and diverse mass market that’s comprised of men and women, appreciating and consuming art and entertainment together,” he adds.
Hocking calls for pay equality for female employees and a more “active and aggressive recruitment of female developers.” He notes that part of the problem isn’t a wholesale discrimination in hiring female developers; it’s more of a lack of female applicants.
“This means that we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace, one in which female artists, designers, programmers and project managers would want to be employed. It involves reaching out to universities and colleges to help them attract more female applicants to their programs, enabling us to benefit from a greater number of female graduates,” Hocking writes.
“Like the Viking expansion itself, this transformation probably needs to be driven from the bottom up. Like it or not, the culture onboard your ships is the culture you’re exporting. Fart jokes have their place in culture, but when fart jokes become your culture you have a problem,” he closes.
It will be interesting to see if Hocking can overcome this same culture over at the newly-rebuilt LucasArts.