Southampton becomes first University to support ‘divesity in gaming’ pledge

WSA graduate Jess Murray
WSA graduate Jess Murray and a fellow student

The University of Southampton has become the first academic institution to sign-up to a new pledge, to help promote diversity within the gaming industry.

The #RaiseTheGame pledge has been set up by the trade body UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), to encourage and foster greater diversity within gaming.

Since 2013, Winchester School of Art has been running the Games Design and Art programme, making it the first Russell Group university to do so. The School was also the first higher education institution to get behind this new diversity initiative.

Programme Leader, Adam Procter, said: “Encouraging diversity into the games sector has been our focus since day one.”

The BA (Hons) Games Design and Art course at WSA focuses not only on design, but the ability to explore social and cultural thinking, such as representation and diversity.

“We had the opportunity to encourage a more diverse group of students into game making,” Adam added. “Technology in general in the eighties was advertised as ‘boy’s toys’.

“My experience of the negativity around women within the tech sector was always something in the back of my mind…if you’re told that you can never understand a computer, that’s disempowering.”

Last year the percentage of female students in the first year of the programme was 40 per cent and 52 per cent within second year. Jess Murray, a recent graduate of the programme, said, “Games design was never something I knew existed.

“From my experience of the course in terms of discrimination; the course itself and the tutors, they actively promote the opposite.”

Images from adventure game, Jazz and Azul.
Images from adventure game, Jazz and Azul.

Jess’ final year project, Jazz and Azul, was a single-player story-driven adventure game, which explored the theme of segregation between jazz and blues music. She said: “Doing this course encourages you to do different things like that.” Adam added, “The programme reinforces that there is a broader market and Jess’ project is a great example of that.”

The #RaiseTheGame initiative aims to ‘drive meaningful cultural and behavioural changes’ within the industry, as well as educational institutions.

Now the University has become a ‘pledge partner’, Adam believes it will allow students on the course to have a more ‘direct connection to the industry’, regardless of their gender or background. As part of this promise Adam will be seeking to further expand on the diverse range of speakers, who work within the industry, to talk to students: “It’s about trying to showcase diversity so people like Jess can walk into a job, without being discriminated or finding that it’s very difficult to find a role.”

Jess added, “Doesn’t matter your age, your gender…it’s about saying if you’re good at what you do, we welcome you.”

Since graduating in July, Jess is now hoping to become a Games Designer within the industry: “It’s not about how I can create a game. It’s about how can I create an experience.”

“I’d love to get into promoting games to a younger audience so that they can get into it.

“If we can see it that way then I really do think that’s what will change the entire game – pun intended.”

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