Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir is the Senior Producer of the FIFA franchise at Electronic Arts. Prior to working on FIFA, she was Senior Producer for Star Wars: Battlefront. She also served as producer for CCP on the EVE Online franchise and Ubisoft on Tom Clancy's The Division. Outside of gaming she's involved with The Future is Ours, an organization that aims to educate young people about climate change issues and help them get involved in decisions that impact the future of the planet. At D.I.C.E. Europe she'll be talking about how ensuring diversity and inclusion of both creative teams and content is the smart thing for gaming companies to do. In the interview below, she discusses the importance of diversity in games, the importance of diversity in game studios, and whether or not the Tesla Model 3 is a game-changing vehicle.
At D.I.C.E. Europe 2017, you’ll be discussing why diversity and inclusion is important for both games and the games business. Let’s start with the content itself. Why is diversity important in games?
Diversity is important in games as it is with any other media. As human beings, we engage with content that resonates with us -- content that makes us feel invited and included. For the past 15 to 20 years or so in the games business, we've mostly seen the representation of a particular masculine protagonist in games. We've seen less diversity in terms of people of color and less gender diversity, although some franchises, such as the SIMS have stood out as inclusive in terms of gender, sexual orientation and race. This has started to change over the past few years. There's work to be done still, but it's moving in the right direction.
Looking at the movie industry, as an example, movies that have a broad representation of cast appeal to a broad audience. I don't believe that's any sort of rocket science. I believe very strongly that games have the same correlation. In games, we have a chicken-and-egg problem. We've narrowly defined the core gamer as an 18- to 25-year old male and have a wealth of content that appeals to that particular audience. Historically, other groups have felt less invited and less included by that content.
You mentioned that you were happy with the diversity in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Are there any other examples in movies or television that you think are progressive?
In movies and television there's definiEtely a trend towards diversity. Star Wars has shown that you can have two massive blockbuster movies with diverse ensembles and female protagonists. The Force Awakens and Rogue One have done very well at the box office. The Hunger Games and Wonder Woman are other examples of blockbuster movies with female protagonists. Right now a movie that's making waves, one that I haven't seen but am very intrigued by, is Atomic Blonde. That's a very recent movie that has been lauded for its action scenes and being sort of a female action movie. In the past, it was believed that you need a male hero to carry an action movie. Today we've seen that that's not necessarily true. The problem is that we take things as common wisdom and we take things as fact when they're not really. Like, "Do you need a male hero to carry an action movie?" We've long thought that to be true, but it's been demonstrated that it isn't. Another movie with an unlikely cast that has resonated incredibly well is Hidden Figures, which is about the African-American scientists at NASA. I found that movie very engaging and inspirational.
From gaming, Overwatch is a great example of broad and inclusive character design where gamers of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, genders, and races can feel included and represented. So kudos to them! We're seeing this trend towards inclusion and it's gaining momentum. The success of these works is a confirmation that it's the right thing to do.
The work you did in Star Wars: Battlefront was celebrated for being diverse. At the time, before The Force Awakens and Rogue One, many still viewed Star Wars as a whitewashed property. Do you feel that your team and that game were forerunners for where the industry was headed?
I'm not sure that we felt like forerunners, but we felt very strongly about the way we created the game. It's a multiplayer game that doesn't have a set protagonist, so you are the protagonist and you have a choice to represent yourself in the game. It felt very natural and very right for us as we devised our characters to be as broadly inclusive from gender, race, and age perspectives, knowing that Star Wars is such a broadly appealing franchise. It has a myriad of fans of all kinds and we wanted to invite them into the experience. Star Wars is very special to us and it was important for us to make everyone feel invited. We didn't really have an agenda or a point to make; we just felt like it was the right thing to do.
Is it easier to achieve diversity with products that have broad appeal, such as Star Wars?
It's really a case-by-case situation. As a creator, you have to question the premise and your biases. Everyone is biased to some extent. We might want to see ourselves as broadly minded, but our experiences and our biases are very much shaped by how we were raised and what we encountered. As storytellers, we tend to gravitate towards expressing our personal experiences. So if we have large, homogenous groups of people with a shared set of experiences then it's very likely that the same groups will express themselves in a similar way, creating experiences that cater to people that are similar. There's a mark of maturity for groups that recognize that and actively seek to challenge their own assumptions and biases, and also figure out a means to cater to a more diverse audience by diversifying themselves or seeking the perspective of people they know to be different from themselves. That could be anything from gender perspective to race perspective to generational perspective.
Let's shift to the industry side. With the games business being so overwhelmingly male, especially on the development side, why do you feel more diversity is important? And what has to change there?
That's a multilayered question with a complex and multidimensional answer. In order for teams to become more diverse than they are now, game developers need to think about their talent pipelines. That's part of what I want to demonstrate during my talk. If they feel like it's the smart thing to do from a business perspective and the right thing to do for catering to a broad audience, being cognizant of representation, and making experiences for everyone then companies will have to look at how they manage the talent pipeline. How are they sourcing their staff? How are they representing themselves to potential job applicants? How are they representing themselves to young people making education choices and career choices? In order for people to aspire to be something, it's important for them so see someone like them in that environment. We've seen so many examples of that throughout history. It's important for people in underrepresented groups to be seen in positions of authority and influence. Oftentimes our choices are made operating within the social norms and the social constructs. If we see game development as a particularly masculine field then that's going to deter a number of women that might have interests in gaming and the skills to thrive in that environment. They self-select out of it because it doesn't feel inviting to them.
In terms of education, we need a more diverse pool. As an example, many people view computer science and engineering as masculine fields of study, but they aren't inherently. We should also think about when we interview candidates or invite people into your team; people are going to feel more comfortable and confident if they're around people that they can immediately relate to. If they meet people that are like them, they immediately feel more comfortable and you can better assess how well they fit into your team or not. Having a homogenous team is easier to form and easier to align than having a diverse team, but it's limiting in terms of having different opinions and different viewpoints.
I’m very proud to be part of EA. We have a number of different groups that are working on diversity and inclusion within the company, and also thinking about how the company is representing different groups and different people within the experiences we offer. I feel like the industry is shifting and EA is taking a very active leadership role in that.
Since you’re involved with The Future is Ours and doing a wonderful job educating people about carbon emission levels, do you have any thoughts on the Tesla Model 3? Do you see it as a game-changing vehicle?
What Elon Musk has done with Tesla, as a modern-day real-life Tony Stark, is that he's made the electric vehicle something aspirational and desirable. He's gotten people to care about the future and care about addressing climate change. Whether or not the Model 3 is a game-changer as an affordable Tesla for the masses depends entirely on their ability to deliver at scale. The initial delivery of cars was low, so right now it's more of a symbolic game-changer than an actual game-changer. There's a chance that it can be an electric vehicle with an incredible mass uptake and that would be great.
Fairly or unfairly, the media has portrayed millennials as a generation that's all about "me." With that in mind, is it difficult educating young people about carbon emissions?
There's a misconception about millennials and gen-C, particularly about millennials being a self-absorbed generation. Young people are much more cognizant about the state of the planet and the massive risks that we face than the older generations. Young people have a disproportionately low ability to make decisions that impact the future of our planet. One of the objectives of The Future is Ours is getting them a seat at the table so that they can help make these important decisions. I definitely feel that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be cognizant of your impact on the planet and more willing to take action to combat climate change.