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  • Natalie Markovits

Making the world a better place through video games

Updated: Dec 29, 2022



What will you listen to in this episode?


1. Minute 06:16 - We asked Micka how he became an accessibility diversity and inclusion specialist and Micka shared his background with us. He also mentioned that the video game industry is making progress in this regard, but still, the main problem is unconscious biases and preconceived ideas.


2. Minute 10:50 - Micka shared with us games that are doing a good job of representing minorities such as Last of Us, Overwatch, or Dead by Daylight.


3. Minute 14:21 - Micka also emphasized what the LGBTQ+ community is looking for in video games. "The idea is to move away from the usual stereotypes that have been served to us for years and I'm not saying that we should all represent gay men in this way. Just that is refreshing to be reminded that identities are diverse and that stereotypes and unconscious biases are frequent."


4. Minute 15:14 - We shared with Micka a few mentions that we found through Affogata from people talking about inclusivity in video games in the open share and we asked Micka his thoughts about these comments.


5. Minute 20:26 - Lastly, Micka told us about a new event he is working on for everyone around the creation of video games but integrating all the ethical and social topics in the design process. "The name is the 'Vertical Game Jam', and the goal is to bring together participants to create a video game around an ethical theme by including constraints of inclusion, representation, and accessibility and the teams will be guided by mentors and final jury members, who are prestigious diversity champions from the video game industry."


Audio



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Transcription


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 00:50

Can we make the world a better place through video games? Hello, and welcome to the Affogata podcast, Let's Talk Customer Feedback. I'm your host Caro and today we have the pleasure of hosting Mickael Dell'ova, player experience designer at Remedy Entertainment and accessibility, diversity and inclusion specialist. Micka, hello, how are you? How are you doing today?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 01:19

I'm doing great, especially because I am with you today.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 01:24

Oh, Micka, listen, we don't go a long way. But we've met before we'd like we share so many interests and it's so much fun to have you today in the podcast. Thank you so much for being with us.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 01:35

Thank you.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 01:37

So, let's get to know Micka a little bit before we jump into our main topic today, which I'm of course extremely excited to talk about. But I want to ask you Micka a few questions. Who are you Mickael? Three words that describe you. Come on, shoot.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 01:57

I would say empathetic, committed, and honest, with a pinch of humor.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 02:07

It's true, without a pinch of humor, all the rest is not it's not really worth it, and let's think about something as if you will have a time machine, would you travel to the past or to the future and to when?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 02:24

Okay, for sure in the future. I'm not a nostalgic guy and I'm always looking forward and in my discipline, for example, I always try to innovate and be a step ahead and I would probably be the next year to see the event around inclusion in video games I am creating meets great success.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 02:53

Wow and we wish you great success and although I do know about this event, I want you to share everything with our listeners today and so we're talking about it more in-depth. But the last question that I have about you is what's your favorite project of all time?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 03:11

Yes. So, my favorite project is the event I'm working at the moment.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 03:16

I can't believe it.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 03:18

Yeah, because it's going to bring together everything I like to do. It takes human consideration and knowledge sharing and video games and yeah, of course, some amazing people I've been lucky enough to meet along my journey in the video game industry. So, yeah, I'm obsessed with this project.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 03:41

And you should, I think it was one of the first things that like Mickael and I we met in the past one of our co-founders and obviously online like many things that happened today, and I think one of the first things that made me feel a strong connection with you and understand your passion is this amazing project that you're working on. And can you remind us when are you planning to launch or around?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 04:08

Yeah, next year in June for the diversity and pride month so surely in June, I don't have the exact date. But yeah, this is the project of my life which gathers talented and inspiring people with a common goal to make the world a better place through video games.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 04:31

And that's exactly what we're here to talk about today. You gave me the hook. So, we're gonna take it. So, before we dive deep into today's subject, how to make the world a better place through video games. Let's listen to a short story from our tales of the feedback crypt.


Story 04:49

There was an article a few years ago that revealed the sexist nature of a big game studio's workplace. The article discussed an incident regarding a female employee who presented an idea to her colleagues, which was not well received. However, when she asked a male colleague to present her idea, everyone applauded him, despite the woman having presented the idea before, the very same one and this is just one story out of millions of stories that happen to all minorities in the industry. Thank you for joining me and see you next week on tales from the feedback crypt.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 05:44

So, with that crazy story in mind, I don't know how that's gonna sound in the podcast, we can't wait to hear what Mickael has to say about all these. So, let's start. Mickael, are you ready? I'm starting with the question.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 05:58

Yes, I'm ready.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 05:59

Yes, let's do it. So, first question, of course. Let's start with a bit more about your background and how you started this journey as an accessibility, diversity, and inclusion specialist and where do you think that the games industry stands in this regard?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 06:16

Yeah, I think everything started from my relationship with video games. I come from a low social background, I have a cognitive disability and I'm gay. Yeah, it's a full diversity package. So, I have always found myself different, and not being part of the norm and video games for me, have always been a safe place, a sort of window on the world and before video games, I had my first career in web design. But yeah, I was looking for more meaning in my life to answer my deepest calling. That's why at the age of 30, I decided to go back to school to learn game design, and with the goal to create this safe space for others, the ones who need it most, the forgotten ones. So, in this regard, the video game industry is making progress, but it's still a long way off and in my opinion, the main problem is unconscious biases and preconceived ideas.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 07:25

I understand and I think that, well, that's something that we're going to mention a little bit later, when I will show you a little bit more about what we found using Affogata, we found some mentions of this topic, and one of the people who are like commenting about it, he said like, and this doesn't only apply to games, it also applies to every other form of media, even books, and movies. So, thank you so much. So, of course, we read your articles and we are, first of all, like, you know, many of us are exposed for the first time to this topic and all of us are inspired by all of it. In one of your articles, you have a phrase written that says, "in a video game, you can be whoever you want. But above all, you should be able to be yourself." I found that phrase very close to my heart and can you please tell us more about this phrase? And if you think people actually do feel themselves when playing video games nowadays?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 08:33

Wow, I say that. Yeah, kidding. Yes, it's totally me.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 08:41

Yes. It's a great phrase. You need to trademark it.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 08:44

Yes, it refers to what I said before about my childhood. When you are outside the norm on the fringes of society, whether it's for disability, gender identity, or sexuality, you need to escape reality more than anyone else and that's the magical power of video games and this is why it's so crucial that game developers are careful to offer inclusive experiences because society reminds that every day that we are different. We don't need a video game to recall it when we are trying to escape the reality by yeah, just playing video games.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 09:33

I absolutely understand and the same thing as inclusion like you're saying like why do you have to feel someone else when you want to be yourself? It goes in also into people with special capabilities, right? And I'm sure that something that also is, they also feel the same way and representation in the media is extremely important and it's something that up until now we don't see much, and I saw a recent trend earlier this month and it reminded me of what we're discussing today. I don't know if you saw that Disney released the new Little Mermaid movie trailer, and Arielle is actually African American and well, of course, everyone had something to say about that and people filmed little girls reacting to this and it brought tears to my eyes looking at how important representation is and in video games, it is really shocking to see that there's almost no LGBTQ+ character representing the community and why do you think this is? And do you see the industry changing anytime soon?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 10:50

Yeah, more and more of them, the Last of Us, Overwatch, or Dead by Daylight, for example, do a great job on representations. But on the other end, they there is still no triple A solo game with an openly gay male hero. And, yeah, in my opinion, are two main reasons for this. One is that from a marketing point of view, video game studios think that gamers are not ready for that, and therefore won't buy a game because of this and the other is that the majority of video gaming projects are led by white heterosexual men who don't make this type of topic a priority because they are not simply concerned about that and it's always the topic of objectivity and biases in the videogame industry, but in a lot of other industries.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 11:57

Yes, and it's very interesting what you say about marketing these games and the fear that there is and but we see in other media forms like movies and books, we see that this has advanced, a lot more than in my opinion in the games industry. So, I think there is, you know, I think people there is a future. I wish that triple A studios or bigger game studios, they will take this jump and take this risk, like movies did and I'm not saying that movies and books are there. They're just not there yet, either. But I do see a lot more representation than in video games. And can you please tell us a little bit more about some games that have included characters that represent their LGBTQ+ community in their games? And if you could, please tell us as someone from the community, what would you really like to see in games that include the LGBTQ+ community or any other and their represented communities in the industry.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 13:12

Yeah. As I wrote in my article on the importance of queer representation in video games, I have two examples, I find relevant in terms of the representation of gay man characters. The first will be in Overwatch from Blizzard by officially assuming that one of the most played characters is openly gay. Overwatch has firstly broken the preconceived idea that players would stop playing again because the most played character is gay. But more importantly, as a broader representation of gay man as a strong male figure, ex-military, elite shooter, far from the typical gay friend of you know, fashion consultant or shallow joker. Only interested in partying shopping and drinking margaritas, and I love margaritas but that's really the point.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 14:16

That's not the only thing you can do, I guess. If not, you wouldn't be talking sober over here.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 14:21

Yeah. The second video game to take very positive action on queer representation is Behavior Interactive with Dead by Daylight and the studio, which is no stranger to diversity and representation, has announced recently, a few months ago, that one of its iconic characters is also gay and once again, what is interesting in that David King is moving away from the usual stereotypes that have been served to us for years and I'm not saying that we should all represent gay men in this way. Just that is refreshing to be reminded that identities are diverse and that stereotypes and unconscious biases are frequent.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 15:14

That's amazing. David King being the character, right. Okay. I actually, honestly, I don't know Dead by Daylight, I will check it out from this. But, you know, what would you say now about this David King character being like moving away a little bit from this usual stereotype that we often see, we used to Affogata. I'm just gonna remind people who don't know what we do. Like, we're like an AI-driven player feedback analytics platform, we gather, and we analyze every player feedback from the open web, and from internal sources for game studios.


So, what we did is that we took the liberty to open a stream on this topic before our episode Micka and one of actually one of the comments we found on, I think it was Reddit. Te user says, actually, I'm trying to read it here. 'There are not enough high fantasy games, where you also get to be LGBTQ+, like, slice of life stuff is boring to me. Let me fight dragons and also be gay" and by the way, he says here that books and movies too. What do you think about that is exactly what we were talking about before?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 16:35

Yeah, it's closed off. Yeah. What I said before, for me, it shows how important is to think about game systems in an inclusive way and it echoes the stakes of accessibility, as there is also unconscious or conscious assumed homophobia sometimes, but it's more the unconscious is sometimes driven by your lack of knowledge. But our only goal as game developers should be to make games for everyone, which are not dividing, and which leaves each player the freedom to be wherever they want, the freedom to dream and of course, we also have to be reasonable. The goal is not to put, you know, a rainbow flag and unicorns everywhere, and make all characters gay. It has to be logical in terms of narration, and player experience. We just need video games that mirror our society and that break stereotypes and preconceived ideas, because it is dangerous, and we have this responsibility to make that evolve some topics.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 17:56

I just want to say that I was super surprised to see that we found over 16,000 mentions of these in the last I think it was three months, from June till today. So, 16,000 mentions talking about inclusivity and gains and I'm going to read this one more and then I'm gonna add in the description of the episode, I'm just saying this to our listeners, we're going to add some of them so that you can also read them. But for the moment, just want to share one more with you and it's a little bit of a controversial one and in my opinion, I don't agree, but this person Gigi Reloaded wrote, "not every product is or has to meet for everyone in the same way. Not every game is which is why there's a rating. Gaming isn't about inclusion or exclusion. It's about the artists or developers visions and having no difficulty setting their prerogative." What do you say about that?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 19:04

That is really close to what I said just before. You have to be reasonable in the representation the goal is not to put a rainbow flag everywhere. I'm working on Alan Wake and I'm not providing the idea that Alan Wake is gay, it's not logic and it's just one little piece of representation, little piece of everyone in games just to have some representation and from the media saying to them, yeah, you have the right to be like this and that exists because when you live in the little town, for example, or a difficult country about this topics, you need to have something to grab to just to love themselves.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 20:05

Yeah, it's so true. And first of all, thank you so much for your time, Micka. I know we spoke about your event in the beginning, but we're going to talk about it again now. Remind us again, to help people watch this amazing event. So, around next June, what we're gonna see?


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 20:26

Yeah, I'm creating an event for everyone around the creation of video games but integrating all the ethical and social topics in the design process. More exactly objectivity, inclusion, and accessibility. It is, in fact, a game jam. The name is the 'Vertical Game Jam', and the goal is to bring together participants will in teams have to create a video game around an ethical theme by including constraints of inclusion, representation, and accessibility and the teams will be guided by mentors and final jury members, who are prestigious diversity champions from the video game industry and I'm also starting to get some great partner, but I can say much more.


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 21:27

Don't share until it's done and so once we have something to share, we will also, of course, add it to the description of the podcast whenever you will have a landing page or something to share.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 21:42

I'm working on it!


Caro Solari, Head of Marketing at Affogata 21:45

That's what we'll see. Whenever you do, we will update the description. We'll share it in our comments and Micka, it was, as always a big, big pleasure to talk to you and I want to thank you so much for taking the time to participate. I know you're super busy, Micka just recently moved from one country to another and he managed to have time to talk to us. In my opinion, this has been one of the most interesting and important podcast episodes we have because it does shed light on a very, very important and close topic to my heart and I would like to thank you for sharing your insights and your knowledge.


Mickael Dell’ova, Player Experience Designer at Remedy Entertainment & Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist 22:27

Thank you for giving me a voice. Thank you.



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