In our latest Spotlight, we chat to Dom Shaw, EDI Coordinator at Ukie and one of the key leaders at the helm of the #RaiseTheGame initiative designed to make the UK games industry more inclusive. We find out more about how Dom became involved with Ukie and #RaiseTheGame, then dig deeper into what the pledge is all about and how it’s uniting organisations, shifting strategies and facilitating the knowledge-sharing required for meaningful change. We also get Dom’s advice for underrepresented talent looking to start a career in the games industry today, and find out what Ukie value most about being a Creative UK member.
Can you tell us more about your role with Ukie and how you came to be involved?
Dom: I originally started at Ukie as the maternity cover for the office manager, only planned to be there from January to November covering office manager duties. Then during March time when everyone encountered COVID in the UK, my duties moved into being about management of Ukie’s online infrastructure. I became much more IT and platform-driven, which loosened my workload and schedule as the physical office was now under lock and key. Due to some colleagues leaving around the same time the #RaiseTheGame pledge was launching, some gaps opened that needed filling and I raised my hand and said I’d take it on.
I identify as LGBTQ+, I’m autistic and dyslexic, and I come from a low socio-economic background so I already had a keen interest in the area of inclusion and diversity in the games industry. So initially, my new role was a voluntary move inspired by passion but when I really started running with it, I fell in love with it and realised how much of a natural fit it was for me. My own experiences of how bad the industry can be have inspired me to want to make it better and be that facilitator bringing people together so they can empower and uplift themselves.
Can you tell us more about the #RaiseTheGame mission and how it came to be?
Dom: The #RaiseTheGame pledge is all about creating long term impact and change though diversity, inclusion and equality in the games industry. The pledge was originally created by six organisations, which include Ukie, Electronic Arts (EA), Facebook Gaming, Jagex, King and Microsoft Xbox. The industry was experiencing various different problems and people started to see that we needed something to champion the voice of diversity in the industry and to really drive it forward. The six organisations came together, along with support from other organisations, to build a welcoming initiative that’s always there to support, to symbolise commitment to change, and to provide a call-to-action to anyone that’s thinking about how they can influence this change.
We also run a number of other initiatives, including our Video Game Ambassadors programme, which was, originally, very white CIS male-led. Using #RaiseTheGame as its backbone and the support of Into Games (who are an academic partner of the pledge), though, the programme has shifted the platform to be made up of more than 40% female professionals, along with at last 2-3% non-binary and trans professionals. We’ve also got over 15% people of colour on the platform as well, so already #RaiseTheGame is influencing action. #RaiseTheGame came to be because it was needed but overall, it has supported us to become more inclusive in our wider day-to-day actions at Ukie.
#RaiseTheGame aims to ‘Inspire Meaningful Change In The Games Industry’ – what does this mean to you?
Dom: For me, it always comes back to our three pledge pillars: equal opportunity recruitment, inclusive workspaces and diversity in external and internal activities (events, marketing, and so on). So when we think of the recruitment process, for example, I don’t want to see game companies solely rely on cherry-picking from one talent pool – I want to see anyone being able to join the industry.
This means we need to make our recruitment practices more accessible, more visible and more inclusive to anyone, regardless of their background. If somebody on the autistic spectrum wants to become a leader in the industry, for instance, we need to support that. We, as an industry, have a responsibility to make sure we’re providing equal opportunities for everybody. Of course, it’s still going to be a competitive industry but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accessible; there shouldn’t be barriers in the recruitment process.
In terms of inclusive workplaces, I don’t just mean the physical workspace, especially now we’re moving into the new era of hybrid working. It’s also about attracting and retaining talent because if we can retain talent, more talent will want to come in to create games and inspire people. If you treat people well, they produce better work, they come up with better ideas and they think of ways to make your company better, which means more funding, more projects and wider audiences. Retaining talent and making employees feel included is a meaningful change we all need to see more of.
Our third pillar – diversity in external and internal activities – is a bit broader than the other two pillars but it’s still vital. In terms of marketing, for example, Marvel’s Miles Morales game focused on Miles being one of the first black superheroes – there aren’t many games that show a black protagonist who is a positive role model. The representation in the game was wonderful because it felt so natural and fluid – they didn’t tokenise characters at all. I’d like to think #RaiseTheGame inspired some of that through Sony Interactive Entertainment being one of our partners.
What advice would you give to somebody from an underrepresented background looking to start a career in the games industry?
Dom: Not to plug but I would absolutely tell them to have a look at the #RaiseTheGame website and check out the Pledge Partners page where we profile all of the organisations committed to Diversity & Inclusion. It gives people chance to see who is making the changes and accommodations to make them feel welcome, or who has roles and cultures they might want to be a part of. Also check out the event pages across Ukie websites and attend them for networking opportunities because that would be another great step in boosting visibility, meeting people and demonstrating interest.
I would also recommend looking into mentorships because there are specific mentor programmes with the games industry that are there to support people from underrepresented backgrounds. More information about all of this and all of the amazing mentorship programmes out there can be found on the #RaiseTheGame website too.
What do you value most about being a Creative UK member?
Dom: What Ukie values most about being a member is that we feel connected to the wider Creative Industries. I’ve very much been focusing on the games industry [in this interview] but when we think about Diversity & Inclusion, it’s important to look outwards as well as inwards. For us, it’s important to regularly network with organisations outside the games industry and Creative UK gives us amazing opportunities to do that. If we don’t, we’d lose track of what’s happening beyond us and we’d lose opportunities to be inspired.