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Inclusiveness and Low-Hanging Fruit

I love last week's story about Natural Selection 2 including a female marine as a playable character. Whenever these stories show up (and I'm pleased to see they're showing up more frequently) "certain" people argue that the developers should have spent the resources on a feature that impacts a larger group of existing players. But that misses the point.

For most projects, the unfortunate reality is that inclusiveness isn't going to be a primary concern. It isn't going to eclipse or take resources from a major feature. Inclusiveness is largely about low-hanging fruit.

A game I made back in 2007 was initially called Smiley and his Shooty Adventure. At some point during its development I wondered, "Why is Smiley a 'he'?" There wasn't a reason. Not mechanical, graphical, or for the (non-existent) narrative.

So I renamed it to Smiley's Shooty Adventure. It involved tweaking the logo, renaming the project, and changing the window title. That's as low-hanging as they get!

If something as simple as swapping out the player model, including a gender option, making your team colours red and blue, or even just renaming a project, will make a larger audience feel included, why not?

Of course, there are countless other things a developer can do to be more inclusive. Getting them all is a very challenging, if not impossible, task. Some developers will go above and beyond, and that's great! But every developer should set aside some time to identify their low-hanging fruit. It might be as simple as changing a line of text.

posted 11 July 2013