Diversity and inclusion have been hot topics in the gaming industry for some time now, and it’s one that Blizzard plans to put front-and-center at BlizzCon 2018. In an article recently published by Polygon, Blizzard’s Diversity and Inclusion Leader Kelly Stevens and Executive Producer Saralyn Smith go into detail about the ways in which the industry giant behind World of Warcraft and Overwatch plans to encourage and celebrate diversity and individuality at its upcoming yearly convention.
One of the main manifestations of Blizzard’s D&I focus is a part of BlizzCon that the studio is calling the Nexus, where up to 200 attendees at a time can gather “in an open house format” to listen to both Blizzard employees and “external speakers” host discussions that Stevens compares to TED Talks: “People can come and listen to a story related to that individual, related to diversity and inclusion in general, or at Blizzard,” she says.
According to Polygon, “The speakers include members of the LGBT community, women, military veteran representatives, and people with disabilities. The Nexus is near an escalator and an elevator, and gender-netural bathrooms will be available.”
Even beyond the Nexus itself, Polygon says, “BlizzCon will be at standards ‘beyond ADA compliance,’ with quicker queues, wheelchair seating at stages, an accessibility kiosk, listening devices, and three sign language interpreters available on site.” The company’s professed commitment to diversity, inclusion, and accessibility isn’t limited to the physical convention either; Blizzard is also taking measures to ensure that BlizzCon content delivered via the online Virtual Ticket is also accessible by providing “closed captions and subtitles, including on archived content, for viewers who are hearing impaired.
In addition, Blizzard wants to try to include the online audience in the BlizzCon festivities as much as possible by allowing users “to vote on topics and questions, respond to questions in panels, join in on Q&A with developers, and vote to influence the direction of events.” It’s an ambitious undertaking, but an admirable one.