Michael Condrey, best known as one of the studio heads for Sledgehammer Games, the development outfit that made Call of Duty: WW2, has been plucked up by Take-Two Interactive to start up a new studio in Silicon Valley, working on an unannounced project under the 2K Games publishing label.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Condrey explains that the one priority at the top of the list was “diversity”. He explains…
“This is definitely a personal priority for me,” he tells us. “One of the most exciting things about setting up a new studio is the opportunity, from a clean canvas, to shape the commitment to culture from the start. In fact, almost three years ago to the day, I spoke about the subject with GamesIndustry.biz.
“Diverse teams are more creative, more innovative, hit deadlines better and ultimately create experiences that are compelling to the broadest audience possible. It’s hard to argue when you watch the critical and commercial success that films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman have achieved in Hollywood. Hiring people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints is critical for our new studio to grow and flourish. It also shows for future hires that there are people in all levels of the organization who represent beliefs and experiences like their own.”
Condrey’s last outing, Call of Duty: WW2, had some typical trappings of the feminist agenda, but they tried keeping it to a minimum within the story mode, blocking off just a single mission where players took on the role of a real-life female spy who was a member of the French resistance. The multiplayer was a little more “woke”, as they allowed players to take on the role of black female Nazis, but most people hand-waved that off as the company just letting players pick and choose their customized character for the online multiplayer mode. The removal of the swastikas, however, was met with a little more hostility, as people saw that as a form of historical revisionism, but Sledgehammer claimed that gamers were racist for wanting swastikas in the game.
Regardless of all of that, the more concerning topic at hand is Condrey’s focus on “diversity”.
Typically we’ve seen “diversity” used a lot by Silicon Valley types to mean “non-straight white males”. The term “diversity” has been a call-sign for most studios and projects to put straight, white males at the back of the line. It’s become a growing trend lately to highlight movies or products where straight, white males either don’t appear or have minor roles and call it “diverse”.
The media has spurred on the idea that limiting or remove straight, white males from the product somehow makes the product more “diverse”.
In the realm of gaming, we’re seeing more and more studios talk up “diversity” while attempting to remove straight, white males from the employment pool, or limit their role in the company. Ubisoft, for instance, just recently had their own diversity and inclusion initiative to bring more “diverse” voices to their employment pool.
Riot Games, even in the face of a controversy relating to sexism in the workplace, also started up a diversity and inclusion division, which resulted in a workshop at PAX that excluded straight males (of any race), and also had the unintended consequence of getting one of their employees fired.
The developers of Mafia 3, Hangar 13 Studios, also opted to reorient their studio culture around being “activist focused on diversity”. Much like Riot, the company’s internal memos noted that they would be focused on hiring in more women and giving them a more prominent role in the company.
This also ties into a Facebook-funded social engineering program called “Women In Gaming”, for which the mega-corporation will attempt to balance out the number of women working in the gaming industry to match that of men. Various developers have joined in on the program, including Hangar 13 Studios, and the developers of the upcoming release of Gears of War 5, The Coalition.
In the case of Condrey and the upcoming mystery project, we don’t know what the game is, what it will be, or what platforms it will be arriving on. All we do know is that the studio is eyeing the next generation of systems, that they’re working under 2K Games, and that the studio will be “diverse”.
Of course, we all know what has become of various studios and projects that got “woke” by becoming more “diverse”… they oftentimes end up on a little master list that seems to be steadily growing in size.