We will make games where everyone sees themselves within the story and identifies with the characters. For me this is a very personal policy, and one that everyone on the Artana team is behind. Here’s the origin story:
Like most generally decent guys I’ve long identified myself as a supporter of equality. However last year I came to realize that truly creating equality is more than just being nice and considerate. During a conversation with very senior and accomplished women it was a surprise that, in professional conference settings, multiple of them had been sexually harassed. Multiple of them avoid industry get-togethers if alcohol will be flowing. Multiple of them cannot just participate freely in our professional community like I can, without worrying about being put into an uncomfortable situation. I was shocked to imagine these amazing women needing to manage considerations like that. It is not how I want the places I live and call home to be for any of my peers and friends.
Having that information and concerns I then looked to my four-year-old daughter and imagined her future. She is so bright, creative, and naturally a force for good in the things she does that the idea it could be her someday needing to scrutinize professional opportunities from the lens of harassment and implicit or explicit exclusion really brought it home. While I wanted to help these other women and people like them already, my daughter gave me a very personal and concrete gravity well for all of these ideas.
Additionally, in some of the games I’ve done in the past, women in particular have been frustrated by the lack of their representation. I didn’t understand this, because they are history games about very specific things, and in the context of what was being presented including women characters would not have been correct; it felt gratuitous and just wrong. However, thinking about that objection with these more recent experiences in mind, I better understand. Seeing yourself as an included character, or as someone represented on a conference speaking stage, or feeling comfortable and safe at a social event, are powerful and important things.
So, I am no longer just the typical nice guy who espouses equality. I am someone who has developed a much better sense that real equality requires proactive work. I’ve historically rolled my eyes at “political correctness”, but some of that now will need to be part of what I am trying to do. Because that is what is needed to create an environment that truly is inclusive and fun for all. And certainly gaming, if any industry can, really should be inclusive and fun for all!
NOW - what does all of this mean for Artana? We are going to steer our experiences to be Inclusive - Fun for All by these approaches:
1. Any game we make where characters can be represented with specific gender or race we will do so with as much diversity as possible, as the theme allows. So a fantasy game we release will ALWAYS have great character diversity; whereas a history game may be more difficult.
2. For themes that do not allow diversity in character representation while still keeping the integrity of the historical story we are trying to tell, if the game is successful and we have expansions we will ALWAYS include ahistorical representations introducing more diversity of gender and/or race in the character universe. Thus hardcore historical players may ignore those but they are always available for everyone else, for whom imagining themselves in the story is more important than thematic orthodoxy.
3. When offering employment and internship opportunities we will strongly encourage female and ethnic minority candidates to apply. The tabletop games design and publishing space is largely dominated by white males. There are many smart and lovely people among them, but diversity of perspective and participation will make our company, as well as our industry, stronger.
This is a formal policy and we encourage your engagement on these ideas as well as holding us accountable to them. If you don’t really get it we are happy to share more about the things we’ve learned and how this approach WILL really help create more fun for all who engage with the things we make. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.
Dirk Knemeyer
Founder, Artana
March 26, 2015
Illustration Credit: Squirrel Girl cbk, Flickr