Academic-Industry partnerships for positive change in GUR | Pejman Mirza-Babaei & Samantha Stahlke

May 25, 2021 14:40 · 6354 words · 30 minute read

NARRATOR 1: For the 2020 Games User Research Summit, I proposed a talk on negotiating academic-industry collaborations, focusing on IP, publicity, data sharing, and other contractual complexities.

00:20 - Since that summit was canceled due to COVID-19,  I was given the opportunity to present my talk at this year’s online event, but things have changed a lot since I proposed that talk.

00:32 - Contract negotiation is still important, of course, that hasn’t changed, but in our post-2020, post-COVID, post lockdown, post-everything life, the word and the research landscape with it have changed drastically.

00:47 - While it is probably obvious that academic and industrial research collaboration are still instrumental in our field, I felt that I could better use this presentation opportunity  to explore how this collaboration can fuel positive social change, and empower games and user researchers moving forward in this new world.

01:08 - So I teamed up with Samantha Stahlke, and collaborated with Andres Drachen, Lennart Nacke, and received feedback from Steve Bromley, Neha Kumar, and few other colleagues to make this talk about some of the challenges we are facing within our community, but also to talk about larger societal challenges  and the role games can play in addressing them.

01:30 - The global pandemic has brought people all over the world to an online workplace out of necessity.

01:37 - In addition to changing how we communicate, this has had the effect of making social and economic inequality even more painfully obvious.

01:47 - The world is facing unprecedented financial dilemmas.

01:52 - Alongside economic turmoil has come long-overdue social turmoil, with the rise of movements like Black Live Matter, demanding justice in the treatment of marginalized communities.

02:03 - Fittingly, we are seeing an urgency to act on related issue in the games industry, such as addressing systematic issues in workplaces and the workforce, representation in the products we create, and making experiences more accessible for everyone.

02:21 - Currently, many of us are struggling to adapt within our own lives and community, so it can seem impossible to even start thinking about the larger challenges facing society. Games user research is one small part of the game’s ecosystem; one and small part of the world.

02:39 - However, games touch so many lives. Not just those of us who have the luck to work with them, but also those who play them and the families and friends of those who play them.

02:50 - Games reach an enormous amount of people and there is– in this– an inherent responsibility  to use our connection with the world to try and create a positive impact.

03:03 - We have an opportunity to act; games have huge potential for societal benefits.

03:08 - but to realize this, we will need to make some bold steps, not just within the games user research community, but importantly, in the game sector at large.

03:17 - This year’s summit brought together around thousand participants.

03:22 - Its impact is expected to go beyond the core audience of games user researchers.

03:27 - And we want to use this opportunity to widen the conversation and confront some of the challenges we are facing within the game sector  across industry and academia.

03:39 - And so this is not a talk about negotiating contracts.

03:43 - This is a talk about working together; about how working together can help us make better games, and how working together can help us make a better world.

03:54 - We hope that this presentation can act as an inspiration.

03:58 - NARRATOR 3: We are not offering solutions for the challenges we will discuss here.

04:02 - Still, we believe continuing the conversation on these topics is necessary.

04:08 - Addressing our problems and taking advantage of the opportunities they create requires forward-thinking.

04:15 - And we need to consider what these solutions might look like in a world that will be different from the one that we lived in just a few years ago.

04:24 - At the heart of this talk is the consideration that we can work together across institutional borders; that we can create a more connected, inclusive, and productive community in games user research, as we are entering the next decade.

04:39 - NARRATOR 2: Our journey in creating this talk started with a reflection on personal experiences caused or accelerated by the pandemic.

04:47 - Of course, some of our inspiration comes from first-hand experience, trying to pull together interviews and write a book from our dining rooms, teaching students about game design and research online, the joy of attending meetings in pajamas, and unfortunately, the sheer misery of working in isolation, where the already blurry, work-life boundaries of academia are almost completely erased.

05:09 - Some of these experiences came from our colleagues, like hearing about how a very bright, hard-working child struggled with a badly gamified math teaching app that tried and failed to enhance  the learning experience with time pressure and forced competition.

05:24 - Or watching researchers turning to tools like Discord and Parsec to keep their studies running remotely.

05:30 - We’d like to start by thanking our friends and colleagues for sharing their stories and work in helping to shape this talk.

05:37 - The world is facing an unprecedented set of problems with needs that will shift dramatically over the next 10 years.

05:43 - That thing that’s been invading our immune systems, our families, and our news cycle for the past year has changed things for sure.

05:51 - But after COVID, we’re going to have to deal with what comes next.

05:55 - The future of an economy unavoidably pulverized by lockdown, unparalleled financial inequality, a fractured education system, and those challenges we were already facing pre-2020 are still looming over us.

06:09 - To counter these societal challenges, we will need to innovate, develop new markets, and new technologies, rethink our education system and more, not only to make sure we can weather the next crisis, but to improve the lives of everyone around the world.

06:24 - Games can play a role in this. Games for education, games for social awareness, games to just help real people get through the day.

06:32 - Games continue to have an enormous, but largely unrealized potential for societal benefit.

06:37 - We all want to use games to make the world just a little bit better in some way.

06:41 - NARRATOR 4: While it may seem impractical to try and exert this influence from our little corner of the world, we nonetheless, have to do what we can.

06:51 - We’re working in an industry that has immense reach, and ability to connect with people all over the world.

06:56 - We have a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of data on user behavior, user experience, learning, psychology, and the list goes on.

07:04 - As developers and researchers, we have a collective responsibility in the game sector to use this for positive societal change, but this is one of those lovely goals that’s a whole lot easier to talk about  than to do anything about. So where do we start? NARRATOR 1: Well, if you’re an academic, you may have some brilliant and vague ideas about games for therapy, or teaching kids about water safety or using brainwaves to control stuff.

07:30 - And that’s cool, but way too much academic work ends up having little impact.

07:35 - Much of it is just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, never leaving academia.

07:40 - Research is suffering under outdated publication channel and outdated funding model.

07:46 - Many universities are balancing budget in the middle of the crisis, some forced to terminate researchers and focus on revenue generation through increasing class sizes.

07:56 - NARRATOR 2: On the flip side, if you’re an exclusively commercial researcher or developer, you’re probably laser-focused on doing something to make one singular game better.

08:06 - Maybe you’re a consultant, spending a few weeks to report on UX or you work in-house at a big developer, constantly running numbers on retention as you try to keep the revenue curve on that new release nice and steep.

08:17 - There’s often no room for vague and exploratory ideas.

08:22 - NARRATOR 4: In some ways, academics and industry professionals are two extremes, but we are working towards the same eventual goals: making games better, and making better games, along the way, positively impacting society.

08:34 - The obvious answer here, and the one we’ll be advocating for in this talk, is to embrace collaboration, in the broadest possible sense, as a driver for positive impact, and to take a critical look about how we treat collaboration in general.

08:48 - For academics, this may mean compromising on some of the things we usually force to focus on, like citations and publications per year.

08:56 - For the industry, it may mean engaging more activity with R&D programs, embracing technological leaps, and paying greater consideration to social issues.

09:05 - NARRATOR 1: Collectively, we need to make it easier for academia and industry to develop impactful solutions and share knowledge.

09:13 - This could be joint investment in R&D work between universities and the industry.

09:18 - It might involve data clearing houses, which take industry data and anonymize it for use in academic research.

09:26 - In academic research, it could mean co-development of training programs and courses.

09:31 - This talk is not a call for the industry to help bailout academics in the wake of financial uncertainty.

09:39 - It’s a call to use the research capacity and diverse backgrounds of universities and companies to push the entire field forward.

09:47 - We know that games user research is just a small part of the game’s sector, but we are part of the game’s user research community and therefore this is where we start.

09:57 - Hopefully, we can influence others along the way– our colleagues, our studio management, our university leadership, our founders, and investors.

10:06 - NARRATOR 4: Our aim is not to prescribe a specific course of action, but to talk about current challenges and those we might face in the next decade, and what we can do to address some major challenges we are and will be facing.

10:20 - So let’s take a look at some of these areas and where we should get started in working on them together.

10:25 - Specifically, we want to talk about education, socialization, and accessibility, as well as equality, diversity, and inclusivity.

10:35 - These are not the only challenges that we face, but they form a jumping-off point.

10:40 - NARRATOR 2: So to start out, let’s have a look at education.

10:49 - The world was already facing enormous poverty before COVID-19.

10:54 - This has expanded vastly over the past year.

10:57 - Inequality in society has never been more marked than it is now.

11:01 - While there are complicated, interlocking systems at work here, one of the main ways out of poverty is education.

11:08 - In this, games continue to have a large, and largely underexplored potential.

11:14 - If you were around in the 90s, you probably have a lot of nostalgia or perhaps disdain for things like scented markers, beanie babies, and blockbuster video.

11:24 - Right alongside these other paragons of the decade was a booming market  for educational children’s games pioneered by outfits like Broderbund, and The Learning Company.

11:33 - Many people, myself included, grew up playing the likes of Carmen Sandiego, The ClueFinders, Reader Rabbit and a host of other franchises.

11:41 - And although these games were often quite obviously a stack of math worksheets wearing a cartoon trench coat, they were something special.

11:49 - NARRATOR 4: The first wave of entertainment lastly died out after the early 2000s, but we are seeing a resurgence in popularity as more and more children have access to mobile devices.

12:01 - And with the current situation keeping many children at home instead of in the classroom, ______ learning opportunities are needed more than ever before.

12:09 - While there are vast differences in how much technology children have access to, younger audiences are flocking to the platforms.

12:16 - And search for the case and games on the Google Play Store will turn up hundreds of wildly popular hits.

12:21 - And that’s not just Duolingo either– Math Prodigy Game, Periodic Table Quiz, ABC Kids, Toddler Learning Games.

12:29 - Dozens and dozens of offerings, promising children a good time and promising parents available learning experience for their little researchers in training.

12:39 - But dig in a little further, and lots of commercial games in that sea of options are lacking.

12:45 - Some are rushed, perhaps with the assumption that anyone under 12  probably isn’t going to notice weak texture work.

12:51 - Most do a pretty good job of being shiny and appealing to children though.

12:55 - Far more concerning is the prevalence of shoddy design, which can lead to errors in teaching or worse yet, creating a bad experience for children that puts them off learning.

13:06 - NARRATOR 2: These kinds of apps tend to lean heavily on gamification, using game-like features to inject a little fun into learning information  that kids might otherwise find uninteresting.

13:17 - Instead of just solving math equations, players are solving math equations to earn badges and compare their best times with peers on a leaderboard.

13:25 - But taken in isolation, these features can have problematic implications.

13:29 - Time pressure and hyper-competitiveness breed anxiety, and teaching kids to expect an instant reward for every problem solved is probably not a pattern we’d like to enforce.

13:40 - Many of the edutainment games 20 years ago took the form of point-and-click adventures with educational elements added to an already fun children’s story.

13:49 - Today, parents and teachers have to be careful that they’re not reaching for something which might ultimately give their kids anxiety, wrapped in a confusing message about work and reward.

13:59 - These games might still be profitable; they wouldn’t be made if a sufficient fraction didn’t generate revenue to justify their development.

14:07 - But it is an open question if they’re actually realizing the incredible potential games have for societal benefit through education.

14:15 - NARRATOR 1: On the academic side, the situation is different, but not much better.

14:20 - Switch over from Google Play to Google Scholar, and you will find thousands of academic papers on educational games, serious games, and similar, including a few of ours.

14:31 - Only a small fraction of these academic papers include anything resembling actual game prototypes.

14:37 - And those that do exist, virtually never get produced and released, nor even used by any meaningful population of learners.

14:45 - A lot of the game prototypes that come out of academic research may have solid foundation in design and psychology, but lack the incentive to scale up to commercial productions  with the requisite scope and level of polish to see a full release.

14:59 - We are, simply put, producing research for the sake of publishing papers, and getting published is usually the only priority for academics.

15:10 - Publications keep your faculty happy and your grant officer happier.

15:14 - Whether your research actually has a positive impact is often a priority far down the list.

15:20 - This is a massive systematic problem in academia.

15:22 - NARRATOR 2: We can all agree that games for education are promising.

15:27 - After all, every game already has to teach players about its inner workings, both through explicit instruction of things like controls, and giving players the chance to learn complex systems of mechanics through experimentation.

15:40 - If we can harness this type of design in teaching information about the real world, games could help to revolutionize education worldwide, and thereby positively impact society.

15:50 - Not just to educate, but also to spread awareness about crucial topics such as mental health, environmental issues, media literacy, equality, and diversity.

16:00 - But the way we’re going about realizing this potential right now is less than ideal.

16:04 - Where does this leave us? On one side, we’ve got developers with the resources and know-how to pump out fun characters and glossy interfaces with engaging designs.

16:14 - On the other, we’ve got researchers with a direct connection to education and the requisite background to evaluate learning.

16:21 - By working together, we can have the wherewithal to bring educational games to market and figure out whether those games are doing their job, both in terms of teaching efficacy and player experience.

16:32 - NARRATOR 4: As we mentioned earlier, we do not have any explicit solutions for this.

16:37 - We feel a desperate need to act, but recognize that solving this problem needs collective effort, not just in GUR, but across games.

16:45 - We need governments to support the realization of education games.

16:49 - We need big studios to feel incentivized to invest in educational titles, And so support the smaller indie companies that make good educational games.

16:58 - On the academic side, we need university management to stand up to the mythification of science and support their researchers in focusing on collaborating with industry.

17:07 - Because collaboration helps to ensure that all that knowledge about figuring out whether education games are doing their job, often, hidden in academic research labs will see the light of day in commercial development.

17:19 - We have to try and create systemic change from within our companies and universities to drive resources towards games aimed at a positive societal benefit and indeed, drive change within the games that we can influence.

17:33 - It is a tall order, but we have to do what we can from the ground, as individual researchers across industry and academia.

17:40 - We can try to build small partnerships; reach out to each other and try to combine forces in driving our games in the right direction.

17:48 - Small success stories can eventually become large ones, grabbing attention and igniting a larger change.

17:54 - We’ve seen this happen time and time again; small initiatives that snowball.

17:59 - In the beginning, all it takes is time. We know time is at a premium right now, but we will not get anywhere unless we act.

18:07 - NARRATOR 3: More thoughtful games user research applications and education can improve everyone’s experience with educational games.

18:15 - GUR should play a key role in evaluating these educational products.

18:19 - GUR ranges from usability for younger audiences to reviewing accessibility and inclusivity to determine whether this helps kids actually learn better in school.

18:28 - With this, we might even see a renaissance in educational games– expanding their reach whether for teaching math, learning data literacy, informing kids about global climate change, combating misinformation or promoting equality and diversity.

18:45 - At the same time, we’ll be giving parents something they’re more willing to trust, and children something which they’re more likely to enjoy and from which they are more likely to learn.

18:57 - NARRATOR 4: Stepping back from education, let’s have a look at the next challenge we would like to examine: social interaction. Loneliness, even our increasingly connected society, was a well-recognized problem before the pandemic.

19:22 - In the time since, that problem has greatly accelerated.

19:25 - Physically, the pandemic has driven us apart.

19:28 - Being able to socialize remotely is one of our few saving graces.

19:33 - For those of us living with others, it gives us a much-needed way to stay connected with remote friends and family.

19:39 - For those of us living alone, it’s a lifeline.

19:42 - NARRATOR 2: And this lifeline keeping us together isn’t just Zoom calls and Discord– it’s games.

19:48 - It’s playing Stardew Valley with the friend you haven’t been able to hang out with for a year, even if she lives right down the street.

19:55 - It’s signing up to try League of legends and finding a few new friends after a random lucky match.

20:01 - It’s making a Minecraft server with the friends you used to go out with every week, and remaking your favorite haunts in a virtual world.

20:10 - The pandemic has shown us the true utility of games as a social tool beyond their entertainment value.

20:16 - And the games industry has profited greatly from this over the past year.

20:20 - NARRATOR 1: The pandemic has also highlighted or rather, re-highlighted some challenges in this regard.

20:28 - Player demographics are shifting as more people turn to games to stay connected, making sure that games are welcoming for players of all cultures, needs. motivation, or those less experienced with technology, is key.

20:42 - And with this flood of new players come more of the same old issues online games have been dealing with since their inception, such as toxicity, griefing, harassment. smurfing, and cheating.

20:54 - NARRATOR 4: Addressing these issues is a difficult challenge, as all developers and researchers and everyone else can appreciate.

21:02 - But developing games that help us interact with one another also presents promising opportunities.

21:07 - Clearly, there is a lot of potential to improve on and expand on how games can bring people together.

21:14 - We can rethink games as vehicles for social interaction, as well as build services around games to facilitate the formation  of meaningful relationships.

21:23 - This means exploring lots of different questions.

21:25 - How can we design social features to make it easier for players to form connections that turn into meaningful friendships? How can we make games more welcoming for players with little extent experience in games? And how can we avoid the unsavory consequences that sometimes spring up in online play? NARRATOR 2: We already knew that games were viable as a channel for social connection, but the past year has underscored their importance in this respect.

21:52 - Pursuing collaborations that marry expertise in designing and testing amazing online experiences with models of social behavior is a potential pathway toward addressing loneliness in society.

22:05 - But it requires viewing games as more than commercial products.

22:08 - It means taking a long hard look at our games, and the services we provide around them, And considering how they can help players form meaningful relationships.

22:17 - NARRATOR 4: As for the role games user researchers can play in all of this, it’s a matter of making sure that  our evaluation efforts are pointed in the right direction.

22:26 - We can dive into the unique challenges of evaluating online play, and multiplayer experiences in general.

22:32 - We can help push our collective knowledge forward.

22:34 - Academic-industry collaborations could look at things like developing novel matchmaking features that make it easier for players to find groups they enjoy working or competing with.

22:43 - We can also try to contribute to design guidelines for things like social features and matchmaking to promote positive social experiences and the formation of meaningful social connections.

22:55 - NARRATOR 3: Continuing our theme of promoting positive experiences for all, we would also like to look at accessibility.

23:09 - Now accessibility is essential to anyone who wants someone, other than their clone or carbon copy, to enjoy playing the game they create.

23:19 - Thankfully, accessibility gets increasing attention from many game developers.

23:24 - Many studios have been investing in it for years and with good reason.

23:29 - Making your game more accessible is not just a matter of  having customizable subtitles and avoiding red-green color schemes, despite those mistakes still being made today.

23:38 - It is putting all players at the heart of your game’s design.

23:43 - Collectively, we’ve done a much better job of realizing that our players do not have the exact needs as us.

23:49 - However, we can still do better, and one way to do so could be through research collaborations.

23:56 - User-center design  and the representation of different user needs are critical for successful games design.

24:03 - These factors can be necessary for getting your proposed work past the review board or granting agency in academia as well.

24:11 - Yet in commercial development, these might not be as vertically integrated with the decision-making process.

24:17 - NARRATOR 2: When you hear the word accessibility, the first thing you think of is probably what we’ve already talked about– meeting players’ individual needs and accounting for things like impairments to hearing or vision, providing alternate modes of control, and so forth.

24:32 - Colloquially though, accessibility can also refer to anyone’s ability to access research and knowledge.

24:39 - To begin with, most published research is not written accessibly, is not presented with commercial relevance in mind, and despite being taxpayer-funded, is hidden behind paywalls. This makes it anything but accessible to the public, and the industries it seeks to benefit.

24:57 - Early career researchers in particular, may have little ability to put societal benefit at the forefront of their work, as they are trapped by an unrelenting pressure to publish.

25:07 - On the academic side, a rethink is needed. Ultimately, this means challenging the way academic research is currently measured, funded, and valued.

25:17 - A daunting task indeed. NARRATOR 4: But we can start by making our work open access.

25:23 - Proper open access licenses can be pricey, and not everyone can afford them.

25:28 - But unless you’re working with a publisher that does not allow it, putting your pre-prints up as an archive when possible costs nothing.

25:36 - For a smaller developer or an aspiring researcher, or a student, finding a paper on a method they need without a paywall, is a literal game-changer.

25:44 - When we have results that are relevant to the real world, we need to take the time to translate them into a language that makes them applicable.

25:53 - To a degree we can, we should publish, not only papers, but also, guides, data, and methodology, to make our research more accessible.

26:01 - If you own the rights to your data, and it doesn’t contain any sensitive information, ask whether keeping it to yourself is really a good idea.

26:09 - Share your data sets. Share your stats work.

26:12 - See instructions on reproducing your work, and if you’re developing a research tool, consider open sourcing it.

26:18 - NARRATOR 2: We can also speak of accessibility in terms of developers having access to GUR methods and tools.

26:25 - And like its other meanings, accessibility in this context has historically been regrettably overlooked.

26:32 - Access to methods, knowledge, and fancy tools are often gated by financial barriers or kept entirely confidential.

26:40 - We know that this past year has forced a massive security rethink on studios  with everyone working from home, as well as delays, financial and commercial risks, and other forms of hardship.

26:52 - However, we advocate that now would be the wrong time to entrench ourselves and tap the brakes on the positive changes we’ve seen in the past years.

27:00 - All aspects of accessibility should be at the front line of our game design thinking, even when it means an ever so slight relaxation of secrecy to allow more team members in for the sake of academic-industry collaborations; even when it means spending resources that could have been profit or trying to influence those that make decisions about spending to do so.

27:21 - NARRATOR 1: This is a challenging problem. Large studios may have the resources to develop a capacity for increasing their R&D output, but will also try to protect the knowledge gathered for its commercial value.

27:34 - Many smaller studios may not have this capacity at all, so collaborating with academic colleagues can in some cases be an answer.

27:42 - We have an incredibly supportive community, and hopefully, we can push for resources to be channeled towards empowering this community to build open collaborative resources.

27:54 - In essence, just as we want to make our games more accessible to all players, we should aim to make the capacity for quality research more accessible  to all developers, researchers, and students.

28:06 - Our community is a strong and supportive one; and by rethinking how we develop and share knowledge, we can make it even stronger.

28:14 - NARRATOR 2: And in the spirit of inclusion for all, that brings us to our last topic.

28:28 - EDI is a favored acronym of corporate mission statements and grant agencies everywhere, but what should we be focusing on to actually support equity, diversity, and inclusion? To describe it generously, the history of inclusivity in games has been complicated to be a bit less charitable, while maintaining an appropriately diplomatic tone, there have been a substantial number of problems, both historically and currently.

28:56 - In between scandals like Gamergate, and floods of abuse allegations, this industry has navigated one problem after another.

29:04 - And while the collective, we, are slowly getting better at awareness of and efforts to promote inclusion, the reputation of our field isn’t exactly shining in this respect.

29:15 - Players are diverse. People who care about developing games are diverse.

29:19 - But the industry itself doesn’t reflect that diversity, and too many interactions in our community have suggested that it can be downright hostile at times to marginalized groups.

29:29 - Discussions like this seem obvious. We shouldn’t have to say that characters and games should reflect the diverse audiences that play them.

29:37 - We shouldn’t have to say that the people developing those games should reflect that diversity as well, and that each and every one of them should be treated like a human being.

29:45 - We shouldn’t have to say that  evaluating our game should also mean making sure that they’re inclusive.

29:50 - We shouldn’t have to say that the things we create shouldn’t exclude anyone.

29:56 - Yet if we didn’t have to say these things, we wouldn’t see so many abuse allegations or tokenism, caricature, and hypersexualization of the other, masquerading as meaningful representation.

30:09 - We wouldn’t see motion tracking and facial recognition that only work well for light skin or caucasian features, and break for the majority of people that live on Earth.

30:20 - And we wouldn’t see so many promising students and young developers suffering imposter syndrome for fear of not fitting into the same social identity as the vast majority of their peers.

30:31 - But beating ourselves up over this won’t lead to a conversation or improvement.

30:35 - Realization and determined action will. NARRATOR 1: The fundamental point we want to make is that equality, inclusivity, and diversity are enormous problems in society worldwide.

30:48 - As members of the game development community, we have the direct ability to create positive impact, by making sure our games better reflect this principle, and by extension, making sure our own culture better reflects these principles.

31:03 - Again, this is an area where both academia and industry can take action.

31:07 - Universities and colleges can work to make their programs more welcoming, and actively reach out to groups underrepresented in particular programs.

31:16 - This might mean connecting with local high schools or collaborating on efforts to foster inclusion, like initiatives promoting women in STEM.

31:26 - it also means allowing students to self-organize once they are in university, creating clubs where they can feel their individual voices are heard.

31:35 - This is not just something that’s done to the institutions either.

31:39 - With online teaching, we can try to open up our courses to external learners.

31:44 - As part of this effort, we can also try to bring in many different researchers to bring a variety of perspectives and voices to course material.

31:53 - Supporting open education is one way for academics to help include everyone, like students who may not have any games user research courses in their local school or those who may not have the resources to attend a traditional university.

32:06 - NARRATOR 3: We can support these efforts in many ways, and it is in our best interest to do so.

32:12 - We want to see students succeed. And when they do, they will be responsible for the next hit franchise bringing in millions of players.

32:21 - For companies that can afford it, funding student awards and working with universities to provide internships are well worth the investment, so is a direct involvement in educational programs that actively support equity, diversity, and inclusion.

32:37 - Scholarships, internships, and other forms of support, have the potential to make education more accessible.

32:43 - We would LOVE to see more scholarships for students from less privileged backgrounds  transforming our landscape of learners into an accurate representation of the landscape of people who want to learn.

32:57 - This point brings us to the composition of the industry itself.

33:01 - Just as we should ensure that prospective students  from all backgrounds can study game development and user research, we need to follow through after graduating them.

33:11 - More open resources and education are a great start.

33:15 - In GUR specifically, which is possibly one of the more diverse game development groups, the SIG has done a fantastic job with its resources. For those who can influence hiring procedures, whether in GUR or other areas of the game sector, including academia, we need to continue to improve our hiring and promotion practices.

33:37 - NARRATOR 2: Lastly, when it comes to issues and opportunities in the products we create, working together can help us here as well.

33:44 - We can survey representation games and make recommendations.

33:48 - We can strive to eliminate racial, cultural, or language biases  in the automated systems that support game experiences.

33:55 - We can fix motion tracking algorithms that favor light skin.

33:58 - User researchers can focus on evaluating inclusivity in games, instead of just usability and enjoyment.

34:05 - Together we can work to make sure that EDI can receive the consideration it deserves throughout the development process We must create positive change, and we can start small in our own work.

34:16 - Use what influence we have. We can make games better for everyone, and that’s what inclusion is really about.

34:22 - NARRATOR 3: To conclude, games have always been an exciting field to work in, whether as a developer or a researcher.

34:33 - While we face challenges in elevating our community and our creations, we make progress with every passing year, with every game that ships and every paper that gets published.

34:45 - Some decades ago, game accessibility was rarely discussed, even in academic research.

34:50 - Today, the game awards recognize a studio every year for innovation and accessibility.

34:56 - Eight years ago, Gamergate brought out the worst in the player community, leading to harassment threats and toxicity.

35:03 - Today, the Fair Play Alliance boasts almost 200 member organizations, committed to wiping out toxic behavior,  discrimination, and harassment in player communities in online games.

35:14 - NARRATOR 2: In preparing this presentation, we kept coming back to the fundamental fact that games touch enormous numbers of people, and have an incredible potential for positive social benefit.

35:25 - it’s what brought many of us into this field in the first place.

35:29 - The pandemic has shown us just how incredible the connective power of games can be.

35:33 - But to unlock this benefit, there’s a need to compromise very directly with principles that can seem like immovable walls– accepting that you’ll write fewer papers this year to make time for writing guides that help others use your research; dealing with increased development costs to promote better accessibility; and meaningful diversity in the narratives we create; sharing telemetry data and analysis results; making games that promote awareness of issues like inequality and climate change.

36:01 - NARRATOR 4: As we mentioned in our introduction, we have no real solutions; this is merely a call to action.

36:08 - We are under no illusions that a concerted efforts towards realizing the potential for societal benefit will just happen.

36:15 - And it can seem like an insurmountable task.

36:18 - But sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for everything to be okay is not going to get us anywhere.

36:26 - With everything that’s happening in the world, we are going to need enormous amounts of innovation and creativity in the years to come to tackle substantial issues across inequality, education, poverty, diversity, representation, and much more.

36:42 - NARRATOR 1: The game sector has always been a powerhouse of innovation.

36:48 - The world needs us to take that capacity and bring it to bear internally in our community, and externally, to take an active stance in tackling the challenges facing us all.

36:58 - We have always faced challenges, and we have always met those challenges with innovation.

37:02 - The challenges of today, using games for positive social experiences, continuing to promote accessibility, and making our community more inclusive, aren’t just things we need to work on.

37:14 - They are an opportunity for us to innovate together.

37:18 - Together, we can take the opportunity to make our community better, to make our games better, and to make the world a more playful place to be.

37:28 - Thank you very much. .