Creating space in the games industry

Diversity in Games (DIG) is a Vancouver-based organization that’s looking to build spaces to promote talent diversity and the advancement of underrepresented people in the video game development industry.

Dani Merrithew, co-organizer of DIG and a lead game designer at Blizzard Entertainment, says that the organization started in Vancouver 12 years ago out of the need for a safe space for women in the games industry to meet other like-minded individuals.

| Photo courtesy of Dani Merrithew.

More recently, the organization has rebranded itself and begun leading more in-person events to that aim, including workshops, industry events, school talks, and video game pitch competitions to connect a wide variety of genders and cultural backgrounds. Merrithew says the goal is to help game developers find and share their voice in this uniquely interactive story-telling medium.

“We provide a platform for marginalized game developers to share their stories and insight, as well as being vulnerable too,” Merrithew says.

DIG is hosting an in-person event on June 15 called Power Up Networking. The industry event will allow career-driven games-makers to meet with other developers and members of the games industry.

A changing games-making landscape

Merrithew remembers that when they first started working in the games industry, it was uncommon to find anyone other than men within the workforce. The lead game designer for the popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft says they’ve seen a great deal of change in the years since.

However, even though there is more diversity in the workforce now, Merrithew believes there is still much work to be done to make the games industry more inclusive.

“Diversity is so important because we want to hear these diverse stories from different people,” they say. “And we also want those diverse perspectives and how we make decisions. You can’t get that when it’s just a group of similar people.”

But Merrithew notes that having a diversity of perspectives and people in the industry is not an easy target to achieve. Getting a foothold in the games industry can be challenging at the best of times, often requiring financial security, backing and resources.

The past 18 months have been particularly challenging for the games industry, with major development teams, even successful ones, seeing substantial waves of layoffs.

“Over COVID we saw a huge increase of people playing games. Therefore, game studios were really ramping up hiring,” Merrithew recalls. “Now that things are settled back to normal, and people are travelling again and aren’t spending as much on games. We’re seeing this trickle effect from COVID [where] a lot of people have been laid off.”

However, due to those challenges, Merrithew and their co-organiser partner Anastasiia Kovaleva, a Game Producer at AdHoc Studio, think that it is more important than ever to create an inclusive community for people in the industry.

“A warm hug that can hold them”

Merrithew says the organization has recently been able to continue hosting in-person events and talks to promote diversity in games-making. In addition to networking events, they’ve also held workshops with the aim of educating people on how they can be allies to support others in the game industry.

Additionally Merrithew has had the opportunity to inspire youth looking to enter into game development. In late May of this year, Merrithew had a chance to talk to a group of Grade 8 students that had just started to learn how to code.

Merrithew says the opportunity to connect with youth and share more about the industry was a rewarding one.

“Since everybody is taking the same class, you get a good spread of different people who just need that exposure to someone in the [games] industry to learn what it is actually like and why they should join the workforce,” Merrithew says.

For Merrithew, they hope the organization’s continued efforts can allow games-makers across the province to find community and feel supported.

“Metaphorically speaking, we want to be able to give people a warm hug that can hold them when things are tough,” Merrithew says.

For more information about DIG, you can visit their Discord group community at:

For more on the June 15 Power Up event, visit:

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