[Sponsored] Positive gaming: How EA is making the gaming industry a more welcoming place to work
Chris Bruzzo, Chief Experience Officer at EA, tells us what the publisher is doing to create a more diverse and welcoming industry, and the work it’s doing to reduce harassment inside and outside of games . This article was created in collaboration with EA.
This year, EA has increased its investments in equality-seeking organizations. What caused this increase, and do you think the gaming industry is doing enough in this area?
Video games can be a powerful tool for change – they open us up to new ways of thinking and can connect us when we’re apart. The time spent in virtual worlds and in gaming communities can have great meaning in our lives. As creators of these worlds and custodians of these communities, we have a responsibility to reflect the diversity of those we serve through our games and to be a positive force for change.
At Electronic Arts, we are committed to inclusion and equality and consider these two principles an important part of the well-being of our communities. That’s why we support organizations in the UK and around the world that share these values.
In the UK in particular, we’re really proud to be one of five founding members of the #RaiseTheGame pledge and this year we’re sponsoring the LGBTQ+ Gayming Awards for the second time. We also have a long-standing partnership with SpecialEffect, the UK-based non-profit organization that specializes in helping people with physical disabilities to play video games.
As an industry, it is undeniable that we have a lot of work to do to live up to the responsibility that our communities entrust to us. We have made good progress, but it is an ongoing effort and we will continue to hold ourselves and our peers to the high standards that our players deserve.
You have also strengthened your inclusive recruitment strategies. What steps have you taken to diversify EA’s workforce, and why is it so valuable?
Inclusive recruitment strategies are crucial. Over the past 18 months, the gaming community has grown tremendously: we serve more people than ever before, and as we’ve grown, our audiences have diversified. If we want to reflect our players in the worlds we create for them, then we need to have that same diversity reflected in the makeup of our people.
Inclusive recruiting has long been built into the way we do business, but it continues to be a priority. Over the past year, more than 300 managers have completed our global Hiring for Results training, in addition to nearly 1,500 participants. We have inclusive recruiting strategies developed specifically for each business unit and review each job description for requirements that may have an unintended bias in their language. Last year, we saw an 11% increase in more diverse apps than the previous year as a result of these efforts.
We’re also focused on fostering an inclusive culture once people join EA, and we’re very proud to see these efforts recognized for their impact. Earlier this year, The Human Rights Campaign gave EA a perfect score for its LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, and Anita B, a nonprofit dedicated to recruiting and advancing women in tech, awarded Electronic Arts the Top Companies for Technical Women award in 2020.
The industry is currently grappling with high profile stories of abuse and misconduct. As a large company, how do you ensure bad actors are weeded out and workers have their voices heard?
We are deeply committed to having a respectful workplace that allows all of our employees to thrive. We know diversity strengthens our teams and believe our workforce should reflect the full range of identities and experiences we see in our players. We have seen the stories unfold around us and each cycle has challenged us to look more and more carefully at the cultures we are creating and the process we have put in place to support our people.
We need to create environments where behaviors that facilitate these situations are never tolerated. At EA, we ensure that clear and secure processes are in place for our employees to report any type of abuse. We have procedures that facilitate alternative avenues for escalating issues, avoiding the need to go to line managers if necessary.
We have strong staff welfare policies in place, including our ‘Submit a Concern’ initiative which allows employees to bypass the normal reporting structure if they feel the need to. Over the past few years, we have created and developed our People Relations team which also brings expertise and impartiality to the investigation of complaints.
Recent events have led us to talk about this issue at all levels of the company. We have taken steps to make our position clear to every employee in addition to issuing a public statement encouraging anyone to come forward. Talking about these issues makes a big difference and we hope it helps everyone to speak up and ensure there is no hiding place for the culprits. At EA, we take every allegation seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and are committed to ensuring safe spaces for employees and people outside our company who interact with our employees to come forward.
What can you tell us about your work with bands like Girls Who Code and your virtual intern program?
Simply put, we seek out programs and partnerships that help us make our industry a better place. Ensuring we invest in the next generation of female tech talent has long been one of the ways we do this, for example through our partnership with Girls Who Code.
This year we held our seventh summer internship program, introducing over 600 girls to coding this year alone. We also signed the organization’s #HireMe pledge to promote meaningful career opportunities to the Girls Who Code alumni network. I am very proud to say that 11 have already decided to join us as interns, including one working full-time as a software engineer. Here’s to many more who will join our ranks in the future!
But I also think it’s important that efforts to attract more women into our industry don’t stop at skills and recruiting. Employers must make careers rewarding and meaningful for their employees, no matter who they are. At Electronic Arts, we have gender pay equity globally, but there are still too many companies lagging behind.
What advice do you have for developers and publishers looking to reduce community toxicity in their games?
Online communities reflect what we find offline. They can be amazing places of friendship and support, but unfortunately there are some bad actors too. We are determined to uphold our commitment that gaming should be fair, safe and fun for everyone and we take action against those who seek to disrupt this in our game or adjacent communities. Video game communities should be respectful and welcoming to everyone. As an industry, we have a responsibility to set boundaries and clarify what is acceptable and what is not.
Last year, we launched the Positive Play Charter to clarify our expectations of our community. Defining what we consider “fair” is only half the battle, but it allows us to hold players accountable – anyone publishing games needs to be clear about what they will and will not accept. Holding players accountable has a real impact.
Recent data from Apex Legends shows that when players receive feedback on their behavior, many of them modify it. 85% of Apex legends players who have received an email from us after exhibiting behavior contrary to our Positive Playing Policy, have not repeated the behavior.
This type of work is extremely important to us and we will continue to advance it to both reduce in-game toxicity and make all of our games more accessible.