Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Xbox executive calls for more diversity in gaming

Xbox executive Sarah Bond.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Xbox, Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Xbox executive Sarah Bond described her determination to make an impact through her work in expanding Xbox's outreach to diverse game creators, in an interview with Axios.

The big picture: The number of Black people in the games industry has hovered around 2% for 30 years, according to the advocacy group Black in Gaming.

  • Opportunities for Black developers to get their games funded and played are rare, though it’s not for a lack of talent.
  • As developer Aerial_Knight noted to Axios recently, "the first time a lot of studios said 'Black Lives Matter'" was in June of 2020.

Bond's interview with Axios was set up largely to discuss Microsoft's ambitious plans to reach billions of players by offering games via streaming and not lock them to expensive consoles and PCs.

  • Bond heads Microsoft's outreach to game developers and its push to bring the tools for game creation to a more diverse array of creators who, she hopes, will also make games about more diverse topics.
  • "Your ability to see all humans as truly equal is really built by having closeness with other people, experiencing things with them, walking in other people's shoes, developing friendships — and gaming has the ability to do that, unlike anything else," she said.
  • "But if there are only certain types of games or certain types of voices or certain modes or access is not accessible to all creators, that effect is muted."

We asked Bond how she felt Microsoft and Xbox were doing regarding pledges to increase the number of Black people in leadership roles.

  • "There is no other place that I have ever worked in my career that I personally have found to be more inclusive and accepting of people as they are," Bond said.

As Bond continued, she noted to two public relations minders on the call that she was going "off book" to share a personal story:

When I was a little girl, I was in second grade and my math teacher wrote four numbers on the board: the life expectancy of a white man, a white woman, a Black man and a Black woman. And she said she was trying to teach us statistics.
I was the only African American child in the class and everybody started whispering: "Why is Sarah going to die earlier?"
It was awful.
And the teacher says, "Oh, we don't mean you, you know, because you eat good food and your family has money and a house. We mean other Black people." No joke. I mean, they did have a bawling kid in here.
And I said, "Well, then I'm going to live to be a billion years old."
And they were like, "That's not really going to work."
But the thing is, I realize now at a company like Microsoft and at a brand that has global consumer reach like Xbox, it is not about making it possible for one person to live a billion more years. It is about making it possible for a billion people to live one more year.
And that's what I'm doing.
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