By Stanley Pierre-Louis, President & CEO, Entertainment Software Association

In the age of COVID-19, our ability to connect with others has largely relied on technology – and video games have served as a critical outlet.

With one in three people on the planet now playing video games, many of us turn to this leading form of entertainment to relax, play and connect. Games like Animal Crossing and Fortnite offer a way to socialize while living vicariously in elaborate online worlds – a possible precursor to what technology futurists refer to as the “metaverse.” There is no unified definition of what this will turn out to be, but most agree that our increased presence online during the pandemic has accelerated the evolution of a cohesive, virtual universe that will arise as we continue to find new ways to live, work, learn and play online.

The metaverse will not likely be a specific game, nor will it likely be a single online platform. It will arise from the intersection of all our virtual lives. And as we live more and more of our lives online, it’s incredibly important for everyone developing these new technological ecosystems to remain committed to creating virtual experiences and online spaces that welcome diverse audiences irrespective of age, race, culture, gender identity or sexual orientation.

How can we achieve this? One thing has become abundantly clear in the social awakening that followed the murder of George Floyd. To make progress, we must deliberately and intentionally make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority at every level – from our work environments to the online worlds we create and inhabit.

As game designers develop the building blocks for tomorrow’s metaverse, they must examine who is being included in this process and how to include those not represented – especially when those missing from the room are Black, Latinx, female, LGBTQ or those with diverse physical attributes, along with people from a variety of cultural and societal backgrounds.

We have a powerful opportunity in front of us. By being intentional now, as these technologies are emerging, we can create virtual worlds where social equity is not an afterthought, but rather baked in from the outset.

These are just some of the timely questions I discussed with Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat at the recent online event, GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse. You can watch the full video of our chat here:

As our industry continues to evolve, I am eager to listen to, and partner with, our community of players and creators as well as my colleagues in Washington. What further commitments can we make to ensure fair opportunities for all, inside (and outside) of the metaverse? Let’s keep this dialogue going.

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