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IGDA director promises diversity, inclusion and vigilance at events after GDC party fallout

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The executive director of the Independent Game Developers Association, Kate Edwards, outlined the organization's new ground rules for future events — promising inclusion and diversity, and increased vigilance in choosing its partners — in response to criticism of a party it held at GDC that led some members to resign from the group.

Edwards wrote on her IGDA blog that the group regrets it was involved in the YetiZen-sponsored party "as we do not condone activities that objectify or demean women or any other group of people."

To help prevent similar situations at future events, Edwards wrote the IGDA will offer networking events as its "primary focus" instead of parties. Those events will promote inclusion and diversity, she said.

"We want to ensure that everyone present feels comfortable because the activities are appropriate and respectful of the diversity of our membership," Edwards wrote. "If our membership ever finds that's not the case, we want and expect them to be vocal about their concerns — first and foremost to the IGDA leadership."

The IGDA will be "far more vigilant than in the past" with whom it partners, Edwards wrote, adding that while the group "honor local cultural differences amongst its global chapters," it also expects its chapters to uphold "values of inclusion and diversity."

The ground rules apply to non-IGDA events as well. The organization will offer recommendations to game industry companies and other organizations to promote more inclusive, productive events at conferences and trade shows. That will be paired with a "walk out and talk out" policy, which she outlined in her post.

"Quite simply, if I attend an event and find the content to be contrary to the IGDA ideals, regardless of the potential value of being present, I will leave the venue," Edwards wrote. "However, I won't do so without informing the sponsors/organizers of my reasons for walking out — both at the party and afterwards. I will always be respectful in my feedback; organizers are far more apt to listen to constructive recommendations over reactionary words. I'm hoping if enough people join me in this approach, companies and organizations will realize that the time for change has come."

In March, the IGDA received flak for its YetiZen-sponsored GDC 2013 party, at which scantily clad dancers were present. Several game developers, including veteran designer Brenda Romero, and members of groups associated with the IGDA, resigned from the IGDA in protest. Edwards apologized on behalf of the IGDA at the time, saying the event "doesn't agree with our core values as an organization."

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