Riot Games is not a gaming company most folks in our industry would consider a paragon of community in or off the court. The fact that the company has fostered demonstrably toxic gaming communities as well as egregiously awful studio culture over its lifetime – replete with lawsuits, sexual discrimination, and labor scandals that went to the tippy top of the company – is fair to bring up any day, but especially on a day when the studio is focusing on efforts toward designing “online spaces that are healthy, [are] inclusive, and foster belonging.”
But this week Riot Games took another step toward atonement and announced the “Designing for Digital Thriving Challenge” alongside non-profit IDEO, which essentially prompts participants to propose ideas for designing healthy and inclusive online spaces. “Participants from all over the world will be able to draw inspiration from three topic areas when creating their innovations and designs: ‘Designing for Marginalized Voices,’ ‘Fostering Healthy and Resilient Digital Spaces,’ and “Building a Future for Kids and Families,'” Riot says. “The winning submissions will receive funding and support from IDEO and Riot Games to help implement their ideas in hopes of establishing digital thriving as a high watermark for the industry as a whole. Winners will be announced in late November 2022.”
IDEO’s explainer on the challenge further clarifies that this is open to a wide variety of people, not just folks in industry.
“You may be a gamer reimagining a better experience for yourself and your friends, a community moderator who’s seen it all, a mental health expert with an understanding of the impact of digital engagement, a designer or developer who’s looking for mentorship to help amplify your voice and bring your idea to life, a parent who thinks about the safety of their child online or even an industry outsider who has a fresh perspective on how to redefine what good looks like online. The primary participant submitting the proposal must be at least 18 years old. We especially invite participation from underrepresented populations in the gaming or digital design industry, including people of color, people who identify as women or non-binary, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a purposefully open invitation. We’re casting the net wide to capture ideas at every stage, of any scale, from around the world.”
The deadline for submissions is November 1st, and there’s a $50,000 cash prize for each winner.