Rainbow Jam 2017: Diversity and Inclusion in Scotland’s Gaming Scene

Calling all would-be video games developers: the Rainbow Game Jam is back for another year to celebrate and promote diversity within the games industry.

Rainbow Jam 2017 is calling for participants to create games exploring and celebrating a variety of topics including gender, sexuality, identity, life, and love. Running from August 19th to September 3rd, users will have just over two weeks to develop an original game, working to a theme that will be announced closer to the date.

Co-organiser and mobile games developer Steven Taarland commented on the ethos behind the Jam: “The Rainbow Game Jam came about from wanting to make a space for people to create small projects, where they can express their own ideas and creativity around the themes of diversity and inclusion – touching on diversity in games, and LGBT people in games. We’re seeing this in a lot of AAA and mainstream games, but we want to see it in smaller ones, and get more games out there to appeal to wider audiences.

“I also personally wanted to see more inclusive stories. You’ve got big games, like Dragon Age, which has LGBT representation, and that’s fantastic, but it’s almost scratching the surface in terms of representation for an audience which is still a huge part of the gaming community. It comes from this desire to see ourselves represented in the mainstream, and pushing it in smaller games is going to raise awareness and show that there is an audience here for this kind of product.”

Scotland has long been recognised for its vibrant games development scene, which Taarland believes it taking important steps towards promoting diversity within gaming.

“Scotland is quite interesting in that there is quite a diverse games scene. You’ve got the variation between mobile studios, focusing more out towards Dundee, indie studios all around the country, and you’ve got AAA studios such as Rockstar North as well. Its nice to see that even within these types of studios, they’re exploring diversity in their products. Especially with bigger games like Grand Theft Auto, where they’ve got a big international audience. It’s important to this stuff taking off and taking over.

“From an indie point of view, you’ll find that indie developers are a lot more experimental with what they’ll work on, so they’ll explore more niche narratives and gameplay, and tell more stories.”

You don’t have to be a seasoned developer to participate in Rainbow Jam 2017. Submissions are open to everyone regardless of background, from students and hobbyists to artists and AAA developers. Last year’s Jam, which was centred around the notion of ‘identity’, received 31 submissions that explored ‘identity’ in a variety of different ways.

“Every single one of them was completely different in the way that they interpreted this theme of identity,” said Taarland. “Some of them explored LGBT themes, with others lightly touching upon it, but you also had these really personal narratives.”

Notable examples from Rainbow Jam 2016 include Bye Sex, an interactive text-based story documenting the events that lead up to how the author currently identifies themselves sexually, and Who Am I?, a nostalgic 2D pixel ‘platformer’ with a small narrative about self-discovery.

“It’s up to how they interpret the theme… we had people submitting games where it was more about a cultural identity rather than gender or sexuality. It’s getting this mixture of people and backgrounds, and how they relate to a theme, and how they can take that and run with it to make something hugely different.”

Guidelines for submissions and further information can be found on the Rainbow Jam 2017 event page.

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