Gaming for Everyone: Creating an Inclusive Environment for a Global Player Community

  • 07.20.2023
  • DE&I
  • Events

This week, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) gathered with cross-sector experts, innovators and changemakers in New York City for the 2023 Games for Change Festival, marking the event’s 20th anniversary of celebrating video games for positive social change. ESA was invited to open the Festival with a fireside chat between ESA President & CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis and Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro Gaming President Cynthia Williams, and also to deliver an address on the state of the U.S. video game industry at the inaugural G4C Games and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit at the United Nations.

The fireside chat with Pierre-Louis and Williams explored the universal appeal of video games and industry efforts to cultivate and nurture creators, games and communities that promote a more inclusive world.  Pierre-Louis spoke about the widespread appeal of video games, citing data from the ESA’s recently released 2023 Essential Facts for the U.S. Video Game Industry report

“We know that 65% of Americans play regularly – that’s more than 212.6 million people – and who is playing video games defies traditional stereotypes,” said Pierre-Louis, president & CEO of the ESA. “And that’s just in the U.S. An estimated 3 billion people around the world play video games. Games bring people together. This can be families across generations or turning strangers into friends across physical global borders.”

Williams was quick to add that while 3 billion people around the world might be video gamers, she believes everyonein the world is a gamer because of the universal desire for fun.

When asked about Wizards’ approach to creating and offering games that appeal to such a diverse audience, Williams reinforced that “people are more likely to play a game when they can see themselves in that game.”

“By the games we create and by the tools we create, we enable more people to connect with their family and with their friends more frequently – and give them choice,” Williams said. “We just have to serve all of their needs because I do believe that games are a powerful force for change. Games bring people together in a way nothing else can.”

A highlight of the conversation was when Williams shared a story from her childhood on being excluded from playing Dungeons & Dragons by boys in her neighborhood when they said, “girls can’t play D&D.” Pierre-Louis was quick to quip, “and look at you now!”

 Games for Change 2023 day 2 at The Times Center in New York, New York on July 18, 2023. (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

In addition, the ESA participated in the G4C Games and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, the first-ever event to convene the video games industry at the United Nations. Produced in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women and UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), the event convened leaders across the video game industry, media, non-profit and policy sectors to discuss how games can drive progress on key pillars of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including climate action, education and justice.

Pierre-Louis opened the day by discussing the size and scope of today’s video game industry, the potential of the video game industry to impact change due to its size and reach, and how inclusive innovations are contributing to meaningful societal transformations across the globe.

Games for Change 2023 day 1 at The United Nations in New York, New York on July 17, 2023. (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

“Whether at home or across the world, we will inevitably run into someone who plays video games,” said Pierre-Louis. “When I look at the numbers that define the reach of video games, my key takeaway is that those of us in the industry have an awesome responsibility, and an incredible privilege, to use this reach for good. Our diverse and global player audience deserves games inspired and created by a diverse and global workforce.”

Through interactive, engaging and educational sessions, the Festival moves the industry forward into a promising and innovative future. Congratulations to Games for Change on another historic event and to all the game-changers who continue to propel the video game community forward.

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