Creative Assembly is one of the oldest game developers in Europe and has been developing games for 36 years. In terms of their ED&I journey, they have been recognised within the games industry as providing best practice in their education outreach work. They have won awards for best places to work, and multiple awards for their education work, and their CSR work.
“We spend a lot of time speaking to students about careers and skills in games and it isn’t just about delivering talks, we provide mentorship and even feed into curriculums by working with teachers. Sometimes, particularly with our scholars, a programme of support runs over many years. Our outreach work can be anything from a few hours up to a long term relationship with a student, whilst they’re learning.”Emma Smith, Head of Talent, Creative Assembly
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The Journey so far
In 2014 Creative Assembly started their Legacy Project, which is the company’s commitment to education, outreach and working with the next generation of game developers, representing their community and social impact workstream. They have over 800 employees now and although they recognise they still have a long way to go, their demographic has changed over the years, now seeing 19% of staff identifying as female, and over 20% from ethnic minority groups. They have grown significantly as an organisation and have improved their diversity profile, in an industry which suffers from a perceived lack of diversity.
Creative Assembly’s award-winning Legacy Project focuses on education. This began from recognition that there was a lack of knowledge about the industry and the jobs available. Computer Science as a subject was only introduced to curriculums in the UK in 2014 so there was a lack of understanding in Schools and with parents, including some negative perceptions about computer games not being accessible and not being a place for diverse individuals.
Creative Assembly set up their Legacy Project to reach out to young people who had a desire to join the games industry but didn’t know how to get there.
The project also focuses heavily on underrepresented groups who traditionally did not see the games industry as a place where they were represented or where they belonged.
The goal of the project is to influence and change perceptions of the games industry, and to increase skills for the future. They speak to children and their parents, from the ages of three, all the way through to postgraduates, even PhD students, advising about the games industry, specific skills and software requirements, the opportunities which exist and the variety of educational routes they can follow.
They have also partnered with a College called ELAM (East London Academy of Music) in East London who are a high performing College with a games design course for 16 to 19 year olds. ELAM is situated in a low socio-economic area with a high proportion of their students being from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. They also see a high proportion of female students and those who are neurodiverse.
New Interventions and/or Initiatives
The business runs a number of hiring initiatives aimed to diversifying applicant demographics, and specifically focuses on broadening their skills search, without diluting requirements. For example, recognising that many industries have strong transferable skills and do not necessarily need previous games industry experience.
Opportunities and Challenges
Creative Assembly wants to continue to reach more diverse people from across the globe, to help individuals see that they can have successful careers in a professional game’s development environment.
However, the studio recognises that there are still many areas of the world who do not have easy access to the internet and to computers. This continues to be a challenge, and one which the games industry as a whole could further support. In 2020, Creative Assembly donated over £30,000 in high specification laptops to disadvantaged young people, who had no access to technology during global lockdowns. These laptops enabled them to continue studying through the pandemic.
Outside of the education work, Creative Assembly runs a number of D&I training initiatives for their employees – this has grown over the years and touches on all aspects of the business, from hiring practices, to inclusive team environments.
When they began rolling out training it was common for employees to feel weary about the purpose of the training; with an inherent human response to feel that it was due to a perceived problem with their own behaviour and/or work. Over time, through their communications and approaches, they have helped people understand that training is an avenue to hear from others experiences, and broadened understandings of what inclusion looks like.
There used to be funding from the Government through the Skills Investment Fund, which was for film, games and TV. It opened up opportunities for games developers to take more of talent risk, particularly with graduates and new people coming in – because they subsidised the cost by 50%. NextGen Skills Academy offer apprenticeships for Games courses but that public funding and investment in industry made a significant difference for them and for the future Games workforce. Creative Assembly would love to see similar support replicated in the future.
Successful Outcomes or Metrics
“It’s well communicated that diversity and inclusion is in everything that we do, not just in how we engage our employees, but also how we make our games, how we represent our characters.Emma Smith, Head of Talent, Creative Assembly
Creative Assembly have embedded diversity over the long-term, improving their employee demographic (although they recognise there is still a long way to go) whilst growing the company successfully and retaining their competitive edge. In terms of a measurement of success, they see continued improvements in the demographics of those applying to join the games industry, and through the gradual improvements in education within the UK.