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Warner Bros. ‘inclusion rider’ could bring more diversity to video games

The media company tells Polygon its work will begin in the TV and motion picture space

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘Tomb Raider’ - Red Carpet
Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara at the opening of Tomb Raider at the TCL Chinese Theater in March.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

This week WarnerMedia, the parent company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, became the the first major company in the entertainment industry to adopt a broad-ranging diversity and inclusion policy. The goal, according to a statement issued to the media earlier this week, is to make that policy company-wide. So what is this new policy, and how will it pertain to the company’s many video game projects?

The team at NPR does an excellent job framing the inception of this new inclusion policy. They trace it all the way back to the actor Frances McDormond who, in her 2018 Oscar acceptance speech, introduced the concept of an “inclusion rider” to moviegoing audiences.

While a rock band might include a rider in their contract for, say, appropriately-sized slices of bread to be made available in their dressing room, Hollywood actors commonly insert riders into their contracts as well. Some have floated the idea of an “equity rider,” which could potentially shrink the pay gap between male and female actors. McDormand’s suggestion was that powerful actors demand more diversity and inclusion in the movies they participate in, and put that demand in writing. High-profile riders could mean more opportunities for minorities in front of and behind the camera.

WarnerMedia’s efforts began with negotiating a variation of that inclusion rider into the production of Just Mercy, an upcoming film starring Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson. The statement credited Jordan, an executive producer on the film, in part for the policy’s creation. But, as president and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara told NPR, the same policy will extend to its other media products as well. That includes projects from HBO and Turner, as well as Warner Bros. itself.

“[The policy is] going to cover all of our television, film, video game and digital productions,” Tsujihara told NPR. “We believe that this is what audiences want. It’s the right thing to do. And ultimately, it’s just good business.”

Polygon reached out to Warner Bros. to see how the new inclusion policy will be implemented in its video game projects. They stressed that the announcement of the policy, and its application in the production of Just Mercy, is simply the first step. How and when it will be applied to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE), a division of Warner Bros., is unknown at this time.

WBIE owns Avalanche Software, Monolith Productions (Middle-earth: Shadow of War), NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat and DC fighting games), Playdemic, Rocksteady Studios (the Arkham series of Batman games), TT Games (the Lego universe), and Turbine, as well as WB Games Montreal and WB Games San Francisco.

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