Inclusivity in the Gaming Industry While Building the Metaverse
The metaverse is no longer just a buzzword or an abstract concept of sci-fi plots. Nowadays, huge game developers have taken on the task of building this 3D digital world, largely stemming from AR/VR video games.
While the metaverse may be an increasingly important platform for utility and innovation, it’s also a site of profound opportunity, a forum for realizing the ideals of inclusivity and diversity that today’s thought-leaders and laypersons alike so often espouse. If the inclusive potential of the metaverse is truly to be realized, then it’s incumbent upon those in the gaming industry, as pioneers and creators of this realm, to lead the way.
Indeed, the gaming industry has been creating virtual worlds for decades now, combining creativity with technological expertise to build gaming universes that players cannot resist. Now, many of those same developers are putting their talents to use in constructing the metaverse, building virtual spaces where we all can learn, work, play, and socialize.
Why Diversity Matters in the Metaverse
In recent decades, the profound need for greater inclusivity and diversity across all spheres of life, from the classroom to the workplace to the broader community, has become more apparent than perhaps ever before. But what has also become apparent, unfortunately, are the myriad obstacles that too often bar the way.
And what makes these obstacles so seemingly intractable is their systemic nature, their entrenchment in the very structure of modern society. This makes barriers to inclusivity immensely difficult to root out because they are so difficult to identify.
They are embedded in our ways of being, seeing, and structuring the modern world and that means that, all too often, they operate at an unconscious level. We often reproduce and perpetuate them, in other words, without even realizing it.
And that is the danger when it comes to the construction of the metaverse, because, if developers are not careful, they risk building the same mechanisms of marginalization and exclusion in the digital world that exist in the physical one. This, ultimately, means the duplication of the status quo, the creation of a metaverse by and for white guys rather than one that really reflects and represents the wonderful heterogeneity of the real world.
Starting at the Beginning
If you want to build a truly inclusive metaverse, then you have to start at the beginning, with the people who are actually creating it. This means that companies and technologies involved in creating the digital universe need to be proactive in recruiting developers and creatives who can bring the breadth of experience and perspective that only a diverse team can yield.
Ultimately, such an investment in inclusivity makes great business sense because the result of your company’s efforts will be a product that appeals to, represents, and engages a much broader market. Why would your target audience or consumer, for instance, care about a metaverse that looks nothing like the world they live in and love?
So if you want to make your digital universe diverse and inclusive, then you need a diverse and inclusive team building it. This would include, for example, recruiting technologists from traditionally underrepresented groups in the gaming industry: Women, seniors, members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community, neurodiverse persons, and those with disabilities.
Building for a Diverse Audience
An inclusive metaverse won’t just emerge once you’ve built a diverse team of developers, though this is certainly an essential first step. But to fulfill the hope and promise of inclusivity in the digital space, such spaces must reflect the lived realities of diverse peoples.
Persons with disabilities, for instance, continue to be largely underrepresented in contemporary culture, including the gaming industry. And that can have devastating impacts, as persons with disabilities and those who are neurodiverse continue to be largely misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and misrepresented (when they are represented at all).
For instance, girls today who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often far more likely than their male counterparts to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This can be attributed to the fact that the manifestation of the disorder in girls often varies significantly from that in boys. Greater representation of the experiences, perspectives, and attributes of females living with ADHD in the metaverse would not only drive understanding and acceptance but could also promote more effective and timely treatment. Broadly, more cognitive diversity in the development of the metaverse will similarly contribute positively to representation of people with a variety of mental & physical health conditions.
In addition to more effectively representing persons with disabilities and neurodiversity in the metaverse, it’s also imperative that developers prioritize accessibility. Once again, the systemic and subconscious nature of exclusion and marginalization is apparent in the many default assumptions and norms that drive development.
Creators and technologies must no longer easily assume that audiences will experience, process, access, or use the metaverse in the same way. Rather, if the metaverse is to be truly inclusive and diverse, then it must be fully accessible to all, including those with sensory processing differences, those with low vision or blindness, those who are Deaf or have low hearing, and those with mobility or developmental challenges.
Perhaps never before have we had a greater opportunity to build a brave new world for ourselves, the ones we love, and the future generations who will inherit the fruit of our labors. But if the metaverse is to achieve its best and highest potential, gaming industry leaders who will be blazing the trail of the digital domain must prioritize inclusivity and diversity.