How Electronic Arts is trying to make different video games | MarketingwithAnoy

Tulay McNally, director of inclusive design at Electronic art, chooses his words carefully as we talk about creating different characters for video games. Raised in Germany, McNally is no stranger to the international video game industry. She worked at Square Enix, Sega and Bioware before joining EA. McNally’s team at EA helps with the development of characters from underrepresented groups and with public communications.

Her caution is justified – Activision Blizzard was torn a month before our interview for its reductive approach to video game diversity, one that assigned numerical scores to marginalization, making identity a kind of scorecard that developers could use to decide who to include (or exclude) from character rosters. McNally remains excited to talk about EA’s inclusive design framework, though she’s quick to stress that the company doesn’t take a legalistic approach to diversity.

“It’s really a loose framework of guiding principles and design philosophies that we adapt to our engagement with each game team,” says McNally. She points to Maxis Studiosthe team behind The Sims 4 (which recently added the option for players to adapt their Sims’ pronouns), as part of the company that is already seeing success creating content with a diverse player base in mind and doesn’t need as much help. “Some other game teams may be more in the beginning. They may need a little more support, education and hand holding,” she says.

Released in 2018, EA’s Battlefield V got backlash for putting women in the fight against World War II. Despite this, the foundation for the company’s approach to inclusive design on a large scale was laid through collaborations between Pacific expansion development team and the company’s Asia and Pacific Islander employee resource group. An intensive review process for this Battlefield V Downloadable content covered everything from introductory trailers and storyboards to small weapon charms and player skins. In addition to its employee resource group, EA reached out to geopolitical consultants for contextual authenticity.

After helping to lead the voluntary initiative forward Battlefield V, McNally prepared a business case for continued use of an inclusive design framework and presented it to EA’s chief operating officer, Laura Miele. The company created a new position for McNally as a result of this meeting: director of inclusive design. Talking about her current team of four at EA, she says: “Two of them focus on game accessibility. The other two focus more on the cultural sensitivity and representation side and also work with game teams.”

Volunteer employees and a new internal team complement the work of external, professional consultants. “We know we need that guidance,” McNally says. It’s a battle against hubris, not a trade-off.

While some conservative consumers may react negatively to the prospect of inclusive character design, the argument for approaching video game storytelling from multiple perspectives is not only deals with equity. Inclusivity is also good for business. A goal of the inclusive design framework at EA is to spark discussions with developers throughout the creation of a game. It does not make economic sense to wait until the later stages of development to start asking questions that may require time and resource intensive fixes.

Leave a comment