Kate Edwards rose to the rank of Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association
(IGDA) in December 2012. Prior to that, she had spent the last 20 years of her games industry career improving cultural sensitivity and workplace diversity.
Inclusivity is no trivial matter to Edwards. When several high-profile members including Brenda Romero resigned in protest this March, following news that an IGDA-affiliated industry party at the Game Developers Conference had hired scantily-clad female models, Edwards made an open statement on behalf of the Association
apologizing for the incident, and promising that IGDA events would be a soberer affair going forward.
"It was chance to reiterate what the IGDA is really about, what we want to provide to our membership," Edwards tells Gamasutra in a recent interview. "It's always been our intention to hold more of a networking sort of event... not 'parties.'"
Many of IGDA's Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are geared toward raising awareness for and educating on workplace diversity and inclusion. It's something that Edwards, with her professional background, holds quite dear.
"Diversity is a strength. The greater the diversity of experience you can draw upon to create games that are not 'typical.' You might even open up new genres that people didn't even think about before," she offers. "Getting to that point is going to be a challenge. It will be partly a generational change, but it's also going to take a lot of advocacy."
Asked what specifically IGDA had done to advocate for these sorts of changes, Edwards declined to name any examples beyond her own work prior to becoming Executive Director. However, being fairly new in the role, that doesn't mean she's sitting idly by. These things take time, she says.
"Prior to taking the IGDA function, and I definitely saw improvements over time. It was slow, but it was there. Game developers and artists understood that the use of stereotypes is not only offensive, it's also lazy creativity."
At the moment, Edwards is gearing up for the IGDA Summit
, to be held July 31st to August 1st in San Francisco. Keynotes on the roster include Jen MacLean, formerly CEO of 38 Studios, and Ed Fries, co-founder of Microsoft Game Studios.