News June 14, 2023

A Year of Reflection: Pride in the Games Industry

Meet Hektor Johansen, Junior Writer on Project Fantasy

Pride month is here, and it marks my one-year anniversary of entering the games industry, working as a Junior Writer at IOI. ”
Hektor Johansen

I remember feeling comfortable during the initial conversations of the hiring process. Still, even if I was not asked, I always thought about "when do I let them know my partner is a guy and how will that affect my chances". Having spent one year on Project Fantasy writing stories and Pride Month being here again, it's time to reflect on how I have experienced the industry and give some advice to new and current developers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. My history growing up as a young gay man in the '80s and '90s, I lived a heavily "edited" life. By editing, I mean that I was always conscious about what I was saying, the pitch of my voice, my body language etc., and I was carefully matching the vocabulary of my friends. I watched what I was wearing, what poster I hung on the wall and what music I listened to.

Today, in the wake of #MeToo, I love it when someone voices their concern over suddenly having to watch what they say or how they act in certain situations. It's tough. But for most marginalized people, it is every day of every week of the year. Constant watchfulness or vigilance can go in either of two directions—self-awareness or Self-doubt. The problem with having to monitor, second guess and auto-edit your every single thought and action is that it can lead to low self-esteem or sense of self. On the other hand, with the proper support and safe spaces to thrive, this process can become an inquiry into "Who am I really?"

Looking back at the past year I've felt very at ease. I'm not spending energy trying to guess what I have to say to fit in, but I can just be me. It's a tremendous release of energy not having to monitor my every move but feeling safe and trusting that this place wants me for who I am and my skills, viewpoints, stories, and bursts of colour glitter. The game development industry can become a haven for more women, LGBTQIA+, and Neurodiverse Individuals.

At IO Interactive, it is not that "we don't see colour"; everyone is the same. We see your brilliance and acknowledge your story, that’s why we want you.  When I was looking at the industry from the outside in, I remember thinking that the harsh comments of game chats represented what the industry was like. I am reminded that online chats and digital environments are often far more polarizing and hostile than the living and breathing world. 

A piece of advice I would give to LGBTQIA+ developers looking to enter the industry would be: Look for allyship. People and companies sympathetic to the course are gems. Let's find each other and share stories about how we change the industry from the inside out. Diversity and "colourfulness" have always existed. Now let the games we make reflect our world and support each other.  🏳️‍🌈