With a commitment to supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion, UKRI seeks to work with organisations to improve how they engage with communities currently underrepresented in their existing activities. This includes considering the reach and inclusivity of activities across ethnicity, socio-economic background, disability, sex and age.
With that in mind there is an interest to understand what games could uniquely offer to support engagement with traditionally underrepresented communities.
Existing player data provides some (albeit limited) insights into current videogame audiences, particularly around age and gender. For example, in 2021 Ofcom reported similar levels of game playing in men and women at 61% and 63% respectively. However while they were equally likely to play games they did so in different ways, with men more likely to use consoles and women smartphones. In short, game genre and platform influence player demongraphics.
Within the games industry, many are working to improve the diversity of representation within games – and within the games workforce . And audiences are building around games, characters and stories more reflective of and relevant to their particular communities and interests.
This suggests the potential is certainly there for games to engage a diverse range of communities, including those traditionally underrepresented in existing engagement work. However, as with all engagement activities, to stand the greatest chance of success those experiences should be designed with the specific audience in mind from the start and an understanding of the community embedded in the creative team and process.
This applies also to mitigating the impacts of digital exclusion on participation in engagement initiatives.
Games can of course now be played on a wide variety of devices. The widespread ownership of smartphones in the UK means they can enable inclusion of communities who might not have access to PC or console experiences.
However, there is still a significant proportion of the population who risk being excluded, even with smartphone-based activities. There may be many reasons for this including access to equipment, skill or limited interest. Ensuring non-digital alternatives are not just available but core to engagement initiatives around games (rather than a peripheral add-on) is crucial to avoid exacerbating the impacts of such digital exclusion.