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CDSJ Sponsors Diversity Within Video Gaming Industry Discussion

Video game controllerA panel of video game industry experts will discuss the historical lack of diversity in most video games and how that is changing at 6 p.m. on Friday, February 23 in the Student Union and Recreation Center Theatre at Central Washington University.

The free, public discussion, titled, Diversity in Gaming, will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The event is sponsored by the university's Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ).

"It has been a straight, white, male-dominated industry but you see so much more representation now," said CDSJ student programmer Ashley Reynolds, a senior from Las Vegas. "For example, Call of Duty-which is a major game known around the world-only began with white, male characters. Slowly, people of color have become involved and women are now playable characters. It's encouraging to see that representation being taken seriously, even though there is still a long way to go. It will resonate better with some of the people who are playing."

The Pew Research Center determined that nearly a quarter of those ages 18 to 29 in the United States surveyed considered themselves to be active gamers. Acknowledged video game players were divided nearly evenly between men and women. Pew also found that, while there were no ethnic differences in who plays video games, 19 percent of Hispanics self-identified as gamers, compared to 11 percent of blacks, and 7 percent of whites.

An active gamer herself, Reynolds, an event management major, aspires to a career producing video gaming conferences. She has been working for eight months to bring the CWU program together. It will feature a trio of panelists, from across the nation, who will discuss current gender, identity, and race issues in the industry, how they are improving, and what still needs to be done.

Comprising the panel will be:

" Shana Bryant, a senior producer for the Seattle-based Private Division, which publishes games from top independent developers. She will discuss the lack of African-American representation in gaming, and how the development side has changed in diversity from when she started as one of just a handful of women in the industry.

" Tanya Depass, director of I Need Diverse Games. The non-profit foundation looks to provide safe online spaces for gamers of all ethnicities or identity. She will talk about what is being done to incorporate increased diversity in game development.

" And Morrigan Johnen, community and social media manager. She comes from Crystal Dynamics, a 25-year-old studio that has developed franchises like "Tomb Raider," "Legacy of Kain," and "Gex." She is a frequent contributor on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender gaming panels across the country, where she discusses being transgender in a masculine-dominated industry."

As each has expertise and national status in different aspects of gaming-from development, through production, and to distribution-they will discuss a host of issues that affect inclusion within the industry.

"They will share about what it's really like-and what it's really like for women, or a person of color, or someone who is gay-in the video gaming industry," Reynolds explained. "I hope this will lead to those who come to the panel discussion to also critically analyze the content of the games they are playing."

Prior to the public presentation, the panelists will address university communications, along with women, gender and sexuality studies classes while on campus. 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

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