Taina Myöhänen: Embracing diversity, equity and inclusivity in the games industry

Taina Myöhänen accepting her award (photo credit: Katariina Salmi)

The Finnish Game Awards is a yearly event that gathers game industry professionals from Finland who, for this one evening, abandon their comfy casual wear and dress to impress. 

Originally, the main aim of this celebration was to award the best new games made in Finland in the previous year. From 2019 onward, recognition has also been given to people working for the Finnish game industry. One of these personal recognitions is the Power Player of the year award, which is given for a significant contribution to the industry.

I received a Power Player of the Year 2021 award for the work done for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Finnish games industry at the 2022 event. The award was not from my work as a researcher, nor was it from my previous job in game industry management positions. The award was from being the first chair and one of the founding members of We in Games Finland, the non-profit organisation that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Finnish games industry.

This hasn’t been a lifelong career for me: I entered the game industry first time in 2006, and We in Games, or WIGFI for short, was established in 2019. Between these years, I changed positions, left the game industry and came back, partied a lot, and finally came up to the conclusion that either I try to support the industry to grow a better workplace for everyone, or find another place to work.

However humbled and honoured I was to receive The Power Player of the Year award, the work for diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be done alone. WIGFI is a group of volunteers working in the industry and, in their free time, putting time and effort into making the industry even better. During the first four years of existence and my time as a chairperson of the organisation, WIGFI did plenty. To list a few of our accomplishments: yearly Mentorship program offered beginners and newcomers the fast line to industry practices via mentoring. Speakers’ List was created to promote speakers from the game industry minority groups, supporting both their voice and representation. Gender in Play, a joint project with The Council of Women of Finland that was funded by The Ministry of Justice, studied character diversity and gender-based violence in games made in Finland, and provided the best practices for diversifying characters and preventing gender-based violence in games. WIGFI also took part in the Better Games Together initiative with notable industry partners Metacore, Next Games, Rovio and Supercell.

And it is not only WIGFI who does the work: there are individuals in the industry doing (usually unpaid) DEI work at their organisations, among their colleagues, or in their projects. Also similar organisations to WIGFI exist around the globe. This is not a competitive action: all the work for diversity, equity and inclusion matters, and together we can achieve a lot. We need official organisations like WIGFI, game changers inside companies, and individuals ranting loudly on Twitter. We need different voices who can all bring more understanding about different aspects of inclusion and belonging. And we need the whole industry to partake in this action. Therefore the award matters a lot: the fact that industry organisations decided to give the award to someone for DEI activities sent a strong message that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not indifferent to the Finnish game industry.

At the end of 2022, I stepped down from the position of WIGFI chair. Years with WIGFI left me with so many unanswered questions that I next want to focus on research and find some good answers. For one question, however, I already have an answer, and it is this: why diversity is so important in the game industry? It is because games are the most profitable entertainment form in the world, bigger than music and movies combined, and almost everyone plays games, as we can see from the yearly study made by Tampere University Game Research Lab. Making the industry more diverse will make games more diverse in the longer run, and that holds the ability for even bigger change.

Author bio and contact info:

Taina Myöhänen is a researcher at Tampere University Game Research Lab studying diversity in the Finnish game industry. Myöhänen holds over 15 years of industry experience from the game industry in Finland and was a founding member and the first chair of We in Games Finland, the organisation promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the games industry. Outside research, Myöhänen loves motorcycles, wild domestic animals, and old wooden lodges.

Contact email: taina.myohanen@tuni.fi