Front Lines: Why I created a LGBTQ+ Game Jam...

Gaym Jam .jpg

Front Lines is a regular series of blogs from people doing brilliant work around diversity and inclusivity in the games indusrty. Marc Walker, Head of the Brighton University Game Jam Society tells, Into Games the reasons he wanted to run an LGBTQ+ focussed jam…

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‘Why don’t we do something special with the Game Jam Society that is dedicated to LGBT+ History month next year?’, this was one of the many ideas myself, games course leader, Panagiotis Fotaris and fellow student, Rowan Spencer talked about while walking around the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that was currently holding the ‘V&A Parallel Worlds’ exhibition.

As a long time gamer, I’m always craving for new and different ideas outside the remakes that have become the norm for a lot of the Gaming industry today. I would have been crazy to turn down a chance like this to see what creativity would have come from this kind of event and from what we saw, no other University in the UK has done something like this before which added the extra challenge for us to be the first. This is also a very big talking point currently happening in the industry as well with game studios questioning the amount of diversity they have in their own ranks and if they’re doing enough to reach out and accommodate to LGBT+, Women and Minority groups also wanting to break into the industry.

I’m a strong believer of diversity in the workplace as it enhances the collective quality and performance of any modern company, I want to help game studios achieve their goal for a more diverse and inclusive gaming industry. Being an Uncle of 2 young Nieces that are Minecraft fanatics and who both! want to work in the gaming industry when they grow up, I also have a personal investment to make sure the industry is as inclusive and diverse as possible for them when they become adults. I didn’t want to sit around for 10-15 years and then wonder if I did anything at all to help create the right environment for them both to grow and be happy in.

So during the train ride back from London to Brighton it didn’t take long for me to convince myself that I wanted to do it this year, if I had got placement or I was just too busy during my final year this event might never happen and I would have missed a great chance to do something really different and impactful in the gaming industry.

‘Why not try and do it this year…’ I said.

The first thing I did when I got home in Brighton was to message game studios like Hangar 13 and Andrew Wilson who is Vice President of Development at Hangar 13, via social media to see if they would be interested to be a part of this event. Originally Andrew and I first spoke to each other last year at Develop: Brighton about the importance of diversity when they had just recently opened up their new studio here in Brighton. Andrew was always enthusiastic as I was to do something like this to not only help students have a better chance breaking into the industry but to help more people that identify with the LGBTQ+ community reach their goals and be part of the gaming industry.

Panagiotis also did some asking around when we got back from London with Studio Gobo/Electric Square via Guy DeRosa who is Head of talent with both studios, we had previously met Guy at an event with Into Games a few months prior. Guy, myself and Panagiotis had probably spoken for about 20-30 minutes after the main event about Studio Gobo potentially helping the Game Jam Society and helping to promote further inclusion and diversity in the gaming industry in the near future, something which Studio Gobo prides themselves very highly on with the amount of different nationalities they have working at their studio.

It was very, very fortunate that our own University, the game studios the LGBTQ+ Society and UKIE were able to help us out and give the thumbs up all within a few days of our messages to help spread the word, provide mentors/judges and help give advice to make the event as appealing as possible to students that identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Now I’ll be honest we left it pretty late as it was currently the 25th of January at this point in time when we first started throwing messages around and LGBT+ History month was happening next month in February. Lots of running around was required for over 3 weeks from me, Panagiotis and Rowan to get this all setup and it was exhausting to say the least, but very rewarding when we finally saw the finish line when the award ceremony came around and how happy everyone was.

Originally there was anxiety late on with how many people would actually turn up to the Gay(M) Jam, we worried that we would have less than 10 people turn up and there would be more mentors than students. But come day 1 on the signup sheet we had 40+ students turn up to have a blast making games for 48hrs. It is also important to note as well that 30-40% of our total numbers identified with the LGBTQ+ community or were women which smashed all our expectations at such short notice we gave the students.

To my surprise a few days later after the award ceremony, Leon Cliff of UKIE who was covering our event and one of the judges was so happy with how well this event turned out that he is hoping that UKIE can make this ‘Gay(M) Jam’ national, where every University across the UK can participate in. Seeing something like what we started here at the Game Jam Society within the University of Brighton to then be pushed to help spread the word of further diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry across the UK at other University campuses is something really special. I only hope Gay(M) Jam 2020 is even bigger and better for next year and it will continue long after I leave University. My next goal is trying to help organise a Women Game Jam in the future now it seems we made Gay(M) Jam a massive success and I hope we will repeat our recent fortune with our new found friends and colleagues.

Why did I create a LGBTQ+ Game Jam?

Because it’s the right thing to do and it makes people happy.

Declan CassidyComment