Collaborative video game design work and diversity




Simons, Rachel Noelle

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The video game design industry is one of the most significant fields for both producing and using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) today. Many industry leaders, researchers, and players continue to argue that diverse representation in both games and the workforce matters for the health of the industry and for an equitable society. Very little research thus far, however, has directly considered how to better support diversity within collaborative video game design work. I identified three concrete areas to study diversity within this field (understanding the structure of organizations, understanding collaborative work tool selection and use, and broadening the participation of underrepresented and marginalized groups) and developed three corresponding research questions. I addressed these questions by employing qualitative methods of multi-sited ethnography, digital ethnography, and modified grounded theory. I conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with game designers in different job roles within 19 different organizations; these interviews drew out instances related to diversity in participants’ daily practices and experiences. I then analyzed all interview data using an iterative process of thematic analysis, guided by my modified grounded theory approach. I inductively developed a list of salient structural features of participants’ video game design organizations that is directly based on their discussions, including: size, task division and allocation, coordination, decision making, and recruitment and hiring. I additionally developed a list of significant rationales for how and/or why particular tools were selected, including: fitting an existing workflow; size; cost; the influence of upper management; ubiquity or industry standard; ease of use; and familiarity with the tool. Both of these ontologies can be used to examine specific effects of diversity within an organization and to suggest changes accordingly. In addition to these conceptual contributions, I generated concrete recommendations that can be used to support the inclusion of underrepresented and marginalized groups within video game design organizations; these suggestions emphasize a need to place diverse people in diverse positions within an organization and to overcome the hiring conundrum. The conceptual and practical contributions of this dissertation can therefore positively impact diverse stakeholders within the video game industry and related research fields.



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