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Amplifying New Voices workshop teaches diverse game talent how to lead and speak

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Amplifying New Voices will take place on Sunday as a one-day workshop that focuses on professional skills and representation, held ahead of the Game Developers Conference. It’s aimed at underrepresented people in the gaming community.

The 6th annual event brings together veterans with new voices in the game industry to train a new generation of speakers and presenters. It provides training for early or mid-career developers to professionally represent their game or company to their peers, audience, and/or media.

As the gaming industry becomes more diverse, game conferences need to reflect that diversity. But too often the same old speakers show up on stage, with not enough women or people of color speaking or even applying to speak. That’s what Amplifying New Voices was set up to change, said Meggan Scavio, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), in an interview with GamesBeat.

The AIAS Foundation organized the event with donations from the GDC, which offers space and AV help, to defray the costs of the event. The AIAS also raises more money from other sponsors to help fly the participants out from all over the world. The sponsors this year include Microsoft, Sony, Supercell and Electronic Arts.

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Amplifying New Voices was founded by industry veterans Perrin Kaplan, Zebra Partners; Robin Hunicke, formerly of Funomena; Caryl Shaw at Double Fine Productions; Brandi House, formerly at Meta’s Oculus; and Sibel Sunar, head of Fortyseven PR. Scavio said the group came together in the wake of GamerGate, when it was clear that highlighting diverse game developers could benefit everyone in the industry with more knowledge about who makes the games that we love to play so much.

“It was our opportunity to try to tackle representation in games and really show the world who is making games, not the just people we put forward,” Scavio said. “We’re providing the skills for underrepresented game developers to become the next generation of spokespeople for games.”

I agree with the approach the group takes toward training people how to be storytellers. For a long time, I tried to seek out the most prominent CEOs that I could find to be speakers at our GamesBeat Summit events. But it turned out that many of them held back from speaking candidly due to various corporate restrictions. And it turned out that focusing on anyone who was a good storyteller could result in both better speakers and a more diverse selection of people.

This year, the applicants came from around the world, from triple-A studios as well as indie game studios. Past applications came from all over, and the applications are often diverse. Wren Brier, the creator of the hit indie game Unpacking, went through the program.

Scavio said the training focuses on how to be a good speaker, but also on skills like writing a bio in a way that will help you become selected as a speaker. Too many people wind up being too modest when putting together a bio, Scavio said.

The program provides a full-day workshop of hands-on training and coaching for applicants who demonstrate high potential as new voices, with the goal of creating outstanding, activated role models for under-represented groups and perspectives. It also educates them about personal and professional PR and enhances their public speaking and presentation skills. They teach them, for instance, how to do an interview with Dean Takahashi and not be intimidated.

All of the professional helpers are volunteers, and the environment is supportive. ANV accepts about 36 people out of an application pool with perhaps 150 or so applicants. The ultimate goal is to normalize diversity in games.

“It’s a passion project for all of us,” Scavio said. “I love amplifying the voices so much that I really want to talk about it all day.”

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