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GRUX SIG Tackles Equity

Games Research and User Experience

| 31 May 2022

May 20, 2022- Last week more than 400 game industry professionals virtually gathered at the #gamesUR Summit 2022. The Summit, which has run for 11 years, is the flagship event for the Games Research and User Experience (GRUX) special interest group of the International Game Developers Association. This year’s event tackled key issues facing the videogames industry in a very palpable way- by starting a fund to provide conference travel assistance for underserved and underrepresented populations in the games industry.

Summit co-directors Hannah Murphy (Activision) and Ashley Guajardo (EAE, University of Utah) created the travel fund as a way to solve a persistent problem in STEM and tech related job fields. Professor Ashley Guajardo states, “We believe the talent and aptitude required to make and study games is equally distributed in any given population regardless of demographics. Access to resources to attend networking events like conferences, which often lead to first jobs in the games industry, however, is not. Our travel fund addresses that inequality and provides resources for marginalized folks to tackle financial barriers to attendance.”

The DE&I Travel Fund created by Murphy and Guajardo is one way to offset the high costs associated with conference attendance- such as admission, airfare, hotel rooms, and dining. The fund sources money from other conference-goers who are able to spare an extra $10 on top of regular ticket fees. Guajardo says, “We modelled our travel fund after the Queerness in Games Conference. They’ve had great success for many years now asking attendees to contribute a little extra if they are able so that others have an opportunity to participate.”

The optional $10 donation was wildly popular at this year’s Summit with about a quarter of all attendees choosing to pay a little extra. This ‘little extra’ has resulted in a nest egg of over $1,000 to be used as travel grants for underserved community members next year.

Why not this year? “Thanks to the generosity of the Summit’s sponsors, as well as hosting the event online, we were able to keep the cost of attendance low this year so we felt it was wiser to roll the funds over. Tickets for students were just $5, general admission was $15, and our travel fundraising tier was just $25,” says Guajardo. For reference, similar online conferences can cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000 for attendance depending on the location and duration.

Looking forward to when the event will hopefully be in person again next year, Murphy says, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a cornerstone of the #gamesUR Summit and we wanted to make sure that is reflected in our travel fund. The travel fund is paramount for supporting those in the community who may not have the means to attend our event on their own, and we’re here to help. This is our way of lowering the barrier to entry into the field of games user research to make our space more equitable.”

Murphy and Guajardo both hope to see similar efforts initiated by other events. All talks from the Summit are available for view for free via the group’s YouTube Channel.

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