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Three Opportunities to Improve Character Design in the Games Industry

Jessica Tompkins  (Senior Researcher, Electronic Arts)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall

Date: Wednesday, March 23

Time: 10:30 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, Summits Pass, Expo Plus Pass, Expo Pass, Audio Pass, Independent Games Summit Pass - Get your pass now!

Topic: Advocacy, Business & Marketing

Format: Session

Viewing Experience: In-Person/Virtual

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: No

Why have video game characters historically been portrayed in stereotypical ways and what, if anything, have game designers done to confront this issue at their studios? Tapping into rigorous academic research conducted by the speaker, this lecture shares historical trends in game character design over the years and conveys insights pulled from 19 interviews with game designers about how these tropes have been encouraged, maintained, and eventually challenged in professional game studios. This research found that stereotypical and status quo character designs were historically institutionalized as normalized design practices, aided by a largely homogenous (i.e., mostly male and mostly white) labor force in the games industry. Building off these themes, this lecture discusses three key opportunities for industry practitioners and educations to challenge the status quo in game character design and ultimately adopt a more inclusive approach.


Attendees will walk away with a historically contextualized understanding of the social and cultural forces in the workplace that perpetuate stereotyped depictions in character design. Three opportunities towards adopting a more inclusive approach to character design for designers, educators, and studio leadership will be shared.

Intended Audience

This lecture is intended for designers, educators, and leaders in the games industry looking to level up their knowledge of the social and cultural forces that lead to stereotyped portrayals in character design, as well as what they can do to confront these forces. No prerequisite knowledge is required.