The Independent Game Developers Association (TIGA) is a trade association representing the business and commercial interests of video and computer game developers in the UK and Europe announced their shortlists and nominations for awards on the 19th of September 2018. VRFocus and their VR Diversity Initiative programme have been shortlisted as a finalist for the Diversity award in the TIGA Games Industry Awards 2018. The Diversity Award showcases that diversity is finally coming to the forefront, and equal representation in the videogame industry is being taken seriously by having a category for diversity. By having the VR Diversity Initiative shortlisted, it shows that for the first time virtual reality (VR/360 film), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are now also embracing the need for diversity as a new medium.
Since launching in 2017, the VR Diversity Initiative has run three workshops. In order to qualify as an under-represented individual, participants have to say whether they are either LGBTQ, female, an ethnic minority, from a lower income household or have a disability. So far fifty participants have attended the VR Diversity Initiative across 2018, with over 50% of participants being women and a large number of individuals from an artistic background.
The VR Diversity Initiative is running it’s fourth VR Diversity Initiative workshop on the 19th of October at Plexal. After it’s growing success and feedback the programme hopes to grow and spread across the UK. It’s aims and objectives are to offer participants from under-represented groups the opportunity to learn XR skills and create a rough working VR prototype. Whether this be a WebVR, 360 film or Unity project.
So far the feedback from both workshop leaders and participants has been very positive. When Nina Salomons asked whether VR would potentially be a future career choice after participating in the VR Diversity Initiative, Michael Tison, part of the Rugby Portobello Trust commented: “Walking down this morning, I would have never ever have thought that, but slowly throughout the day when you were saying things, my mind started to race into what my interests are and how VR could affect people in those areas. So definitely.” He uses his skills in football coaching and working together with autistic children in East London as an example of how he could use VR to potentially help them.
Steve G wants to start up his own immersive tech company and was blown away about the use case of the Microsoft Hololens. “I wish people could actually see what I’ve seen today, you can see the potential. I quite like to do this, but today the 360 video just blew my mind completely.”
Kyaw Tun Sein, one of the Unity workshop leaders says, “The impact of VRDI is huge. After just a few hours people who had never touched Unity before before developing a project with confidence.”
Marc Bond, a participant who has hydrocephalus & cerebral palsy, attended with his assistance dog, Neo. He said: “I felt confident coming to this workshop because for the first time I wasn’t the only disabled attendee. There were significant disabilities here for a change, people in wheelchairs, people that had visible conditions so for me it was fantastic.”
Ben Harris, SportsAble’s Community Fundraising Manager said, “it was the best day I’ve had in years”. After taking part in the 360 film workshop, he’s now bought four 360 film cameras and will be using them as a teaching aid to teach basketball classes to individuals with disabilities.
The CEO and Editor of VRFocus Kevin Joyce says, “the VR Diversity Initiative is important to the VR, AR and MR scenes simply to grow the influence we have on the kind of content that becomes available down the line. There are only so many ideas and so many unique proposals that can come in terms of content from a narrow background. There’s a very high risk of slipping into the same rut that the games industry is in where they’re now crying out for people from diverse backgrounds. The VR industry being so youthful has the opportunity to get it right from the start. VRFocus has established a great network of developers, content producers and hardware manufacturers, and through the VR Diversity Initiative we’re going to leverage this network with the hopes of raising opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds across the spectrum of AR, VR and MR. Be it through internships or hopefully potentially careers down the line.”
With the medium of VR,AR and MR being so new it’s heartening to see that the industry are embracing the need for equality in such a new and niche medium. However what’s most important is the community the VR Diversity Initiative manage to create, and the impact it can have on the UK XR industry.
You can vote for VRFocus in the Diversity Awards category from Thursday the 20th of September till Friday the 19th of October here.