In a keynote address at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Microsoft’s head of games Phil Spencer has called on the games industry to fix biases that leave women and minorities feeling uncomfortable, both in the workplace and in online game-worlds.
Spencer said: “In order for us to do our best work, we need our work environment to work well. It is incredibly slow and painful to get everyone on board and to admit your own biases. It’s about making a commitment to keep listening and learning. We must keep at this transformation because we know it enables our best work. That means all genders, all abilities and all ethnicities in all geographies. This is our quest.
Spencer recalled mistakes made by Microsoft over the years in which he was involved, including hiring scantily clad dancers at a GDC party in 2016 and the botched launch of the Xbox One. Regarding the latter, he said: “The team was in a world of pain. We hadn’t done our best work with the launch of Xbox One. Market share was taking a nosedive. It was painful to read all the headlines. The team thought the leadership team had gone tone-deaf about what our customers expected from us. So we hit refresh on everything, a comprehensive rethinking and rebuilding of our culture.”
Spencer went on to appeal to developers to create game-worlds that embrace the diversity of their participants, saying: “Toxic behaviour doesn’t just hurt the individual, it hurts our entire industry. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Am I building worlds where all of us can thrive and achieve more?’ The time to get our culture right is right now. It’s our increasing responsibility to make gaming for everyone. Representation isn’t just good common sense; it’s good business sense.”
Having transformed Microsoft’s Xbox games division since he took the reins in 2014, Spencer commands the respect of the industry. And in recent years, games-related problems like a lack of women among the developer community and levels of abuse in online gaming have been increasingly highlighted.