Diversity and Inclusion in Games feat. Erik Agudelo - 125
11:03PM Feb 8, 2021
Board Gaming with Education
Happy Black History Month, I want to share with you one really great website that's doing a lot of things related to board games, and black history. And as a board game geek, if you go to the website, you can see some really amazing designers that are highlighted, or content creators that are highlighted in the industry. Really cool what they're doing this month, so be sure to check that out. And coming up on today's episode, we have a pretty important topic when it comes to the board game hobby education and just the world in general. So I'm excited to have Eric on the show to chat about inclusion and diversity in game design. And I also have dejuan as a co host too. And he had chatted on a panel about a topic very similar to the one we'll discuss on episode today. So coming up, we have a few links, a lot of links actually a lot of information coming from the show in this episode. But I want to really point you in the direction of one video that I watched recently that really got me thinking and I really appreciated what I was able to sit in on and listen to this conversation. And this is a video put together by Jason from shelf stories. And it's titled panel of black creators and board games chat with friends. So I highly recommend checking out this video after listening to the show. I think one thing we can all benefit from is learning from different perspectives and experiences. And I think this is a very valuable video when it comes to the board game space. So check that one out after this podcast episode. And let's get into the show in this very important conversation.
Board Gaming with Education, a podcast for anyone curious about how games and education mix. We explore various topics like game based learning, gamification, and board games and the impacts they have on learning. here's your host, Dustin Staats.
So welcome to another Board Gaming with Education episode today I have my co host Dave, for this episode. I'm super excited to be joined by Dave, welcome back doesn't know you're doing a conference in April. I don't know the exact date. But one sharing a little bit more about that because I know it's definitely in line with what our listeners are coming to the show about. Sure.
Thanks, Austin. So the conference is the games based learning virtual conference. It's happening Friday, April 16, Saturday, April 17. And Sunday, April 18. completely online. We've got a lot of really great speakers lined up. Everything from constant Stein Cuellar, from the University of California Irvine talking about games for learning to Tracy Fullerton who wrote the seminal work on game design to New Jersey's own Jeff angle Steen talking about his work, publishing about game mechanics. If you'd like some more information or would just like to sign up to attend, the website is gbl. Conference calm that website is gbl conference calm and you can sign up, we're gonna have earlybird tickets all the way up until March 16. I believe so don't wait acts super, super awesome. And I'm excited for that conference. I know, we need more of these types of conferences that are related game based learning gamification, so excited to attend.
All right, Dave, we're gonna go into our topic. And then we'll be back just after our chat with Eric.
Welcome to another topical episode of Board Gaming with Education. I am thrilled to be joined by Eric. Eric agudelo. I think I said it right. This summer, and we're talking about diversity and inclusion in games. So I'm excited to get some expertise knowledge from Eric, and learn a little bit more about this topic. But before we get there, I want to introduce Eric, he's a game designer. And he has some experience in designing games for education. He's working on a couple projects in that sphere right now. But I'm gonna let him share a little bit about that. Eric, would you mind introducing yourself a little more?
Sure, they'll say thank you for having me. So the games I'm working with at the moment, are primarily low tech. So I'm focusing on game design, more game design. But obviously, there is opportunity to take the designs further and use the elements, such as even creating replicas of the board games using tools such as a tabletop simulators. But nonetheless, yes, I'm focusing on the use of game design as a form of education. And I'm doing that with the University of Economics Graco. And another big project that I'm working with, is on the use of artificial artificial intelligence in order to capture behaviors, when people interact with games and try to make some predictions. Based on just behaviors that we can use for different things, but that one I am working with at Trinity College, and is kind of a work in progress, because in order to develop the AI, I will need. The funding needs to be bigger than what I do in other universities of economics curriculum, which is pretty much in the University of Economics, Krakow, and doing it out of my own pockets. And this is not so difficult to do it. Right. Right. I imagine there's a much larger budget when it comes to comes to AI.
Right. Awesome. So I want to go into our topic, and we're going to first define diversity and inclusion. Can you define those terms for us?
Yeah, I was thinking about it as an even though I have written two papers on the on the issue is difficult to explain. So one technique that I learned sometime in the past is perhaps to try to explain it for what is not or the opposite. And the first thing that I can that came to my mind when I was thinking of the opposite, sorry, the opposite of diversity inclusion, is perhaps discrimination. And, for example, in Europe, when we study employment law, which I happen to study, there are seven grounds for discrimination. And you can, you know, people that are, say, for example, find themselves in such situations, they can be on either sides of the argument, on the grounds of discrimination for say, for example, age, sex, disability, ethnicity, and religion and sexual orientation. So, I would say that diversity and inclusion in games are games that address these topics, and have a good balance offer to the players. And at this point, I also want to say that diversity and inclusion can be addressed in two different ways. based on the research that I have done is either the game is diverse and inclusive, or the people who worked on creating the game, they were working on the a diverse and inclusive background. And as a result of that, they produce a more diverse and inclusive game without formally having to address those issues.
Right? Yeah, if I mean, if someone is designing a game, hands down their experience and background, and I guess, whatever they've experienced in their life is going to be a product of the game, right? So you have people that are designing a game with diverse backgrounds, you're going to likely see some of that show up in the game.
Exactly. And that's one of the premises that a lot of people use when they address diversity and inclusion in information, which is something that I pushpretty much in all the same exercises that I do, regardless whether they address diversity and inclusion or not, is that the more diversity, the better the product will be?
So what would you say an example? Or do you have a good example of a game that is a game that uses diversity or inclusion, either in the design or as a product of the game? Well,
one game on a it's a simple game to play beautiful, is a is a board game called Azul, Azul summit Pavilion. I happen to buy this game when I was doing a bit of research on diversity inclusion, and the two things were not connected at all. I just happened to buy the game and then I was playing it and I realized something really interesting. One thing that affects lots and lots of people. And in fact it affects affects more people as we get older, because our eyes start to deteriorate is to be colorblind. Maybe we are not born born colorblind, but our ability, the ability of our eyes to detect some colors deteriorates through the year. So what I'm saying is, if you put together the amount of people who were born with some form of colorblindness flaws, that everyone's eyes, as a matter of fact, more men than women, their eyes start to deteriorate. More people need support in order to capture information in gameplay, not only through color. So the mistake number one when you're a designer is if you're talking about transmitted information through color, when you transmit information only through color. So I mean, the game I was talking about a soul, he has this beautiful, beautiful little tiles that you have to arrange together, um, you know, recreate a pavilion, the pavilion of a king in Portugal. And the tiles come in four colors. But for example, some people can sometimes mix, dark orange and race and I am one of those people. And what what I realized that designers need is the red color has a symbol and the orange doesn't so even when you mixing colors, you know that the one with the symbol is a color and the other one without it is a different color. So this is a really good example of having a beautiful game that has beautiful colors. But if a person with say, for example, colorblindness happens to buy the game, they can still play it, because the designers pay a lot of attention. And we're careful enough to consider this, I would assume so I don't know the whole story behind the design of the game, but I would assume they did. And they put the symbols on the colors, just to make sure that color is not the only source of information. So this is really good design, I would say,
right, that's, I mean, that's a really good example, it's where the design of the game makes access to the game more universal, there's, there's a really cool, I am trying to find it. And I'm gonna say it from memory, but a really cool meme. And it's a school employee shoveling snow outside of a school. And there's a ramp with snow covered in their steps with snow covered I'm not 100% of this is and what the meme looks like. But it's kind of the idea of Behind The Meme. And there's someone in a wheelchair that wants to get into the school. And then there's all the other students that want to get into the school. And the janitor says something along the lines, I'm shoveling these steps. So all these kids can get into the school. And then the student in the wheelchair says, Well, you know, if you shovel this ramp, we can all get into the school, including myself and the other students. So you make that more accessible to more people.
Exactly. And another topic that I put forward in one of the papers that I wrote on the topic, and that I hope that more people understand is that maybe Okay, yeah, maybe you need to put a few extra hours of design, and ensuring that you have a diverse and inclusive team to begin with in order to produce a diverse and inclusive product. But once you do, once you have that base cover, the products you're going to develop is going to be purchased and use by more people than if you didn't. So in the case of for example, the ramp, anyone can use a ramp, but not everyone can use the steps. So yeah, right, right. So I wonder, we kind of touched on why it's important. Can you share a little bit more and talk a little bit more why it's important to consider these things in designing games? Well, there are a couple of answers. One is that we must, especially in games for education, games for education have to be well designed games, if we cut corners, in a commercial game, okay, you know, whatever. But if we cut corners, in a game for location, we are risking exposing the people we want to help, which in this case, are the learners to something that is not a good quality of good quality. And I would believe that if people are in the business of good for education is because they really are passionate about what they do. And also to safeguard this requirements when it comes to games for education. If you want to say for example, access the markets of schools, universities, or even working with people under age, you know, children under age, there are lots of, you know, hoops that we have to jump through. And these hoops are design in order to ensure that we're more and more in order to ensure that the solutions that we are putting through, be it games or models or frameworks for integration using games are diverse and inclusive. So I mean, the first answer is, we have to because we should do it anyway. But the second is that now there is more and more regulation put in place to ensure that our games comply with the minimum amount of diversity and inclusion. And the third is that, as we mentioned already, a game that is designed with this, let's call them best practices in mind will be a more successful commercially a game ran, I think it goes back to that idea to where if you're creating a game that's more diverse and more inclusive, you're creating a game that's more appealing to a larger group of people. Indeed, indeed. And another example that I read about, I haven't had the chance to experience and experience it myself. But it was a case that they did a study on fortnight and they realized that a lot of people were changing the colors, color settings on the game for colorblindness.And they'd say okay, but this is not right. You know, not 40% of the players can be okay, it wasn't 40% It was a high number. But it didn't match with the expected number of people with color blindness, color blindness, and they decided to do a bit of research about it. And it turns out that by using this settings for Columbia color blindness, it makes it easier for the players to see, for example, certain objects. And ultimately, what everyone wants in any game is to win it. So the way you see these settings, because it made the game better for them to perform some some actions. And so it goes back to all of these that, that we discuss that when you create a game that is, that takes in consideration the needs of people with less quality specific needs. It may, it may be the case that these settings are these characteristics, characteristics of the game are beneficial for a lot more people than you initially thought.
Right. And I do want to I want to give a shout out to a game I've been playing recently that was really great at showing representation in the game. And it's part of I went and looked up the their Instagram, I knew the company, but I want to go check out their Instagram after playing the game. And I believe this is part of their mission statement since it's in their Instagram profile, biography if that's what that's called, but it says games are for everyone, we make games more accessible on a global scale and empower new gamers. And that's deep water games and their game floorplan had a lot of different characters from different cultural backgrounds, from different paying attention to pronouns and representation in sexes and all different diverse characters in the game, which was really cool.
And then something that came to my mind, as you were talking about representation, because Okay, so far, probably I focus a little bit more entirely on, say, for example, disabilities and other things, but diversity and inclusion includes a lot more, you know, so, gender, we talked about it a what I mentioned, that is, should should be also included, and ethnicity. And when you see characters that are carefully created, and they represent people from different parts of the world, that makes the game, again, more entertaining for the players. that's proven already. Not everyone, are we at some points, it was okay. But it's not anymore, that all the characters are, you know, one ethnicity. Now people want to see, and the game becomes more interesting when you have different ethnicities. But another issue that happens is when players, especially children, but I believe it also happens with adults, when they see a character that either consciously or unconsciously remind them of who we are, we feel more attached to the character and therefore to the game. So it is kind of a win win situation to have all of this diversity and inclusion built into the game and into the characters that we create.
Right? I think I'm trying to process that through the psychology of, I guess, development, right? When you grow up, and you are watching certain types of characters, or I mean, there's a huge movement for representing more women in like superhero movies, right, and having that empowerment for women, and little girls. So I wonder, for, for me personally, and what maybe you have some tips for others who are thinking about this and how they can be shared, whether they think about diversity, inclusion, consider how or why it's important. For me, I've, that's something that always crosses my mind. And I always try to be more inclusive in my podcasts, and my guests that come on the show and my community. And I'm trying to always consider that. But I wonder if you have any suggestions for me or for others on what we can do to make sure that's something that's on the forefront of what we're doing.
So, I mean, the first thing is, we need to be upfront. And we need to be honest, that if you try to create a game, especially if you're a small company, and then you want to address all the potential diversity and inclusion issues, it will be impossible, because it will be impossible. You know, for example, if you are developing a game console that needs to be played by somebody, for example, who cannot use both arms. I'm not saying that you cannot produce such game that you exist, but the controls will be so specific, that if your company at this stage is on the point of say, for example, trying to make profit to stay in business. You know, it's the decision to make. Nonetheless, even though we cannot address all the diversity and inclusion issues, we can address them by actively considering. And this, I would say is the answer to your question by actively considering diversity and inclusion, and the best way to do it, is by actively pursuing a diverse and inclusive team. Because when you expose people to your prototype on usually the first people that see that prototype are those working in it, they will be able to see you know, things, and without necessarily saying, okay, you know, this is a diverse and inclusive issue, list addresses, blah, blah, blah, they just changed the design of the game, or proposed changes that they consider are important, you know, and it's kind of part of the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive team. But another way to do it as well is, when you test your game, when you test your prototype of your game, be conscious that I mean, if you want to sell the game, in the neighborhood where you where you grew up to maximum of 10 people find sure that's there. And don't complain when the game doesn't sell in China or in India. But if you're just you know, trying to design a game, and you want this game to be sold, or used by people in all over the world, try to test it with as many as many people as you can. So I would say yeah, that's the final recommendation.
Right? That's, I mean, that's so so so important, too. And I remember thinking about that, when I was I was listening to some game design podcasts. And that thought had never crossed my mind before. But it's so obvious it's in you need to play test your game with people in different I guess, I don't know, with different experiences, different backgrounds, especially if you're trying to create a game that's more universal? I don't know. Like, I guess it really depends on your audience. But most of the time, you want a diverse play test group, right?
It has to be actively pursued. You know, it's not just saying I wasn't sure I played tested with people in my say, for example, local library, and whoever came in. I cannot control that. Okay, yeah, perhaps we cannot control that. But we can try to push for more diverse playtesters by going to areas where we traditionally would an NGO, or finding other other alternatives. But I mean, the, the key is to actively pursue diversity because an inclusion because if we think is going to happen organically, it may, but it may not.
Right, that's awesome. And that's I mean, I'm thinking of it from a teaching perspective, too. When I'm thinking about my students in the classroom and being conscious about lessons does lesson designs, or any games I bring into the classroom and thinking about, well, is this a game that's kind of been through that process, I would feel more comfortable bringing into my classroom, because I know my students have a lot of diverse backgrounds and influences and experiences.
Exactly. And you know, with the classroom,you know, the game can be beautiful, I can explain many things. But imagine you are showing a game to primary school children, and the game is about, say, for example, fire and safety. And then all of a sudden, all the fire people are firemen. And then they are rescuing a lot of women, you know, okay, you you might teach the kids the importance of fire safety. But on the other hand, you're also in a way, letting them know that the people that is coming to the rescue are always going to be maimed rescuing women, which we know is wrong. But we don't pay too much attention because or we didn't pay too much attention because we thought that the main learning outcome of the game was to teach, say, for example, fire and safety. And that's why we need to be careful with as I said at the beginning, especially designers of game for location that are going to be presented, or the products are going to be presented to children, two learners who happen to be children, that's when we need to be a little bit extra careful.
Right, right. And so do you have any resources that maybe someone can any resource suggestions for others that they can go to to learn more about this topic or to I don't know, I guess, help them be more diverse and inclusive to consider those things in their lives.
And there are lots I cut from the top of my head. I don't but I wrote an academic paper published by the University of economic growth. And all the citations are there, I suppose. You know, I can send you the link. And now that I'm thinking extra credits, the YouTube channel has a an amazing playlist on diversity and inclusion. And that's a really good way to start. Right. And I love Extra Credits the YouTube channel. So if you if you're listening, you haven't checked it out, I would definitely recommend checking out extra credits. And I'll link, if you send me the link to your paper, I can definitely add that to the show notes to you. Yeah, I would. I was, briefly when I quickly read in the paper just before our talk, just to refresh my memory add. Yeah, the paper is freely available, as long as you have the link to it. So I would share that with you. Oh,
awesome. Thank you so much for that. And before we move into our game, is there any last thing you'd want to share with anyone listening today?
Well, okay, one, one project that I'm working on at the moment, and it will come to his final conclusion in two days, is I actually gave my first, you know, TEDx talk, the format has changed a little bit, because now we've got owner, we have to do the recording at home, rather than doing it in public. And the recording is not live. But it's, as I said, it's a recording, and then it has to be sent to the organizer of their today TEDx events, which is independently organized, but it will be live in two days. So I presume by the time your audience listens to this, it should be available on the internet. So yeah, I would invite you to come in and listen to that, and to also my colleagues, because the topic that I chose, and I think, okay, the main topic is climate change. But I address it from the point of view of using game design as a tool to understand complex systems, such as climate change, and I believe many other people in the group also use game design as a form of education in order to, you know, fight against climate crisis. So
awesome. Yeah, I'll definitely maybe if we have a link to that, add that to the show notes, too. All right, Eric, stick around. We'll be back with you and Dave to play a game after our chat with Dave.
All right, and we're back in Dave, we were chatting before we started recording, and I kind of knew you had done something similar on a panel discussion related to this topic. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that panel, and then maybe we can talk about this conversation that Eric and I had?
Sure. So one of the panels they done before with was with one of our colleagues, Jess crean just cream, it was a panel called representation in games. And in that panel that we did for Pax online, we talked about how different individuals and people from different groups and constituencies are basically represented in games, individuals, maybe from different backgrounds and experiences, as well as people who maybe have different needs and abilities that require games to help cater to them, so that they can experience it as well. So that was a panel that we had recorded a while ago, I've shared with us and I think should be available in the show notes a link if you'd like to see a free replay a recording of that panel. So that'll be available in the show notes.
Super awesome. And so let's kind of talk a little bit about what Eric and I discussed in for me, and this is something I'm always learning about and always trying to do better at. But what are some things that kind of stood out from the conversation between myself and Eric.
So I think that, uh, the the word of the day for this particular episode was diversity. And I think that, you know, Eric talked about discrimination is sort of the opposite of diversity. But some other words that I would also like to include would be words like exclusion, or homogeneity, where you know, everyone is from the same background or experiences or mindset, prejudice and in equity. So really, when I think Eric is talking about representation, what I'm thinking about is how can we make our games and how can we make our our experiences with our students more inclusive? And how can we provide a more equitable experience for a lot of different players, a lot of that has to deal with diversity and representation, but a lot of it also has to deal with accessibility and access to our different games.
And super, super true. And I think one thing that Eric had talked about is having a diverse or having representation in the design team of the game and having that allows for a better product in the end allows for a better game in the end, right? Because then you have all these different experiences contributing to that game development.
Yeah, exactly. I think that since your game design is really a product of your experience, a lot of this translates between games and education. Because if you're of the mindset that I believe in education is the transformation of experience into knowledge, then that type of experience that your individual players or students have, are really going to be informed by how you as a game designer, or you, as the educator, present that experience to your students. So I think it's incredibly important that individual educators and designers be as inclusive and as equitable, and be as represent representative as possible in their designs and in their teaching.
Yeah, and that's super important. Again, you just said teaching and in whenever you use games and teaching, and it's also important to consider how that game comes across with to your students. One example that I've learned in my game based learning slash gamification journey, is that competitive games aren't always the answer. Those aren't necessarily the most engaging for all students. And it's important to kind of learn what parts of that competition are toxic, and how to avoid that in your classroom.
Yeah, I think that a lot of educators, particularly when they want to use games based learning for the first time, they'll turn to the games that they played a lot, as, you know, individual players or as children or anything else. While competition can be useful in some circumstances, I think that when teachers are looking to start using games based learning for the first time, it's often a better approach to, to focus on games that have more cooperative elements, I think, like one of the biggest titles out there, not just because it's a cooperative game, but because it's a good game is pandemic as a game that includes those cooperative elements. But another one that I believe we talked about before is called Magic maze, which is a real time cooperative tabletop game, where individual players are responsible for moving common characters, but in very specific directions. It's super fun. And it's something that I've used with my own students in the past for training and team building.
Yeah, that's super awesome. I think that's one we we need to get added to our store. That's, I know, it's came up several times or come up several times. But I just always forget about it. That's a good one. All right. So Dave, do you have anything else to add based on the kind of conversation that Eric and I had?
Yeah, I think that one of the important things that are brought up before is sort of like the future direction of when it comes to the player experience and individual people playing games in general, usually against an artificial intelligence or anything else. I sent you this before, but in the shownotes, you should be able to see two news items that I think would be useful for your listeners. One of them is on the future of AI in video games, and how that affects the human connection. And then the second one is on AlphaGo, which is a program that was created in order to beat the best go players in the world. And if you've never heard a go, it's one of the oldest board games available. It's a tabletop game that is very simple to play, but takes almost a lifetime to master. So I recommend that people check out those two articles.
Super awesome. Thank you for sharing those two. All right, so let's move into our game. We're gonna play wavelength.
All right, so Eric, we're gonna move into our game, I was explaining this game a little bit to you. But for anyone listening, maybe haven't that hasn't played it before didn't listen to previous episodes, the game is called wavelength. And you can actually play the game on long wave.web.ap online, but at the base off the board game wavelength, and in the game, there's a dial, the dial moves all the way to the left all the way to the right, and there's a range on the dial, the left represents one end of the spectrum or the or the right represents the other end of the spectrum. And you might have spectrums like cold, to hot or sweet to spicy or salty, or supervillain to superhero. Those are some examples. I just used the website to come up with my range for our game. So on the far left, and in the podcast, we're going to represent the far left as a zero would be unnatural. And the far right would be 100. And that would be natural. So our range again, is unnatural to natural, zero, unnatural, 100 natural, and I have a number that I want you to guess. So the number is between zero and 100. And I have a clue to give you that represents a number on that. Scale zero to 100 of unnatural to natural. So the clue I'm going to give you is cardboard. So think about the scale of zero unnatural to 100. Natural. Where does cardboard fall?
I would put carnivores on 22.
Alright, that's, that's pretty close. I'm learning I'm not very good at giving these clues. I'm putting a number.
Okay, so zero is unnatural to 100 being natural.
Okay, so with cardboard, I guess without asking any clarifying questions I would have to go with I would have to say 40 I think because cardboard doesn't occur naturally. But it is made out of like wood fibers and paper and everything. It's not like completely neutral. So I would go at 40 that would be my, my final answer.
The number was 45.
Oh, I missed it. So you were I guess my glue was okay. Cuz you got it is almost spot on.
And Eric went a little bit lower. So yeah, I think you were you were on the right track with my clues. I thought that cardboard is something that is recycled. So it comes from something natural, but usually it's and it depends on the type of cardboard right? You can get very recycled down cardboard. Exactly.
Awesome. So Dave, thank you again for coming on the show. If anyone wanted to reach out to you, where might they do that? And can you share the conference? Again, just the maybe the quick recap of what that is and where to find that?
Sure. So if any of your listeners want to find me best places, my website, my website is University xp.com. There's a university, the letter X letter p.com. And again, we're hosting the games based learning virtual conference that's happening Friday, April 16. Saturday, April 17. And Sunday, April 18 2021. completely online. If people want to sign up for it, you can do so at gbl conference calm. That's g as in games B as in based LS and Learning Conference calm. Early Bird tickets will end on March 16 to 2021. So don't wait. Act. Super. Super awesome.
Thank you again, Dave.
Eric. Thank you, again for coming on the show. If anyone wants to reach out to you, or again, let them know what kind of projects you're working on. How might they do that?
Sure. So my website is three words put together, play, learn develop those IE four, four islands, they are land domain. And through there you can find all my social media on what I'm doing. Yeah, my research as well as I share is through social media. And usually it is a combination of Playland developed so in LinkedIn, or Twitter, if you put those those three words, you probably most likely will find me.
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Thanks for having me. It was a really good conversation.
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