EA's 'Full Spectrum' Event Addresses LGBT* Issues In Gaming
If a tree falls in the woods and everybody's too busy screaming about SimCity to notice, is it still a PR gimmick?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is irrelevant, because The Full Spectrum conference is something that's needed to happen for a while now, whether or not a company leverages its political statement in their favor. The first event of its kind, The Full Spectrum was an event co-hosted by EA and The Ford Foundation on Thursday in an effort to foster a serious discussion about LGBT* issues in the gaming industry.
Speakers from several different venues (Bioware Austin and Kixeye being the two major game representatives; other speakers were delegates from telecom companies, human rights organizations, and other major entertainment sources) highlighted issues not only facing women and other minorities hoping to enter the video game industry, but also the disagreement between real, human diversity and content reflected in modern gaming.
"It's a white dude-ly industry, still," Kixeye executive producer Caryl Shaw explained. "In general it is still a very hard place for women to get in, and that's got to change. Games are a place where people want to posture... in whatever way they know how to stand up for themselves," she commented. "It's really sad, but it has become part of game culture, and figuring out how to change that is why I wanted to participate in this event today."
One of the major, if surprising, concerns that the panel addressed was the community that had formed around video game culture. EA Battlefield community manager Jaap Tuinman, a moderator for EA's online forums. "We have a responsibility from a corporate standpoint where we create a safehaven that we can control." EA BioWare Austin general manager Matt Bromberg agreed, explaining the danger of communities filled with "things that make you want to stay in bed in the morning."
Even if the event was wildly considered a public relations stunt, there seems to be a huge wave of support for furthering public conversation from gamers and industry experts alike. Panelist Luis A. Ubinas said it perfectly:
With relentless pressure, change is possible. Attitudes can evolve, and a nation and society can be transformed. I want to emphasize the importance of the role [game-makers] could play. The images you present and the interactions you allow are going to help shape the future.