Xbox introduces a new framework to enhance inclusivity in game development

Xbox has announced that it's deploying a new product framework for developers aimed at boosting inclusivity in video game development. The framework, called 'Gaming for Everyone Product Inclusion Framework,' has been used by Xbox's internal studios since 2019.

The Framework focuses on four key 'doorways' to help developers think about their current projects and how they can be made welcoming for a wider audience. The four doorways include approachability, representation, globalization, and accessibility. Those four platforms cover and overlap on topics such as ensuring games are able to be played by as wide an audience as possible and portraying a wider variety of characters in games.

In an interview with Game Developer, Xbox exec Katy Jo Wright, who is the head of Gaming for Everyone and sustainability at the company, explained that this Framework came into being after she and her team spoke with developers across Xbox's global studios. They learned that while there was enthusiasm for inclusivity efforts like the Xbox adaptive controller and Sea of Thieves' exceptionally robust character creator, there was a sense that rank-and-file workers had little agency over inclusivity in their day-to-day work.

'We were seeing it happen in pockets, but we weren't seeing it kind of consistently across the organization,' she said.

Related:Why are Valve and Discord permitting harassment against Sweet Baby Inc.?

Wright explained that the Framework isn't meant to be any form of mandate or checklist for developers. She observed that when inclusivity efforts are treated in such a way it can lead to inauthentic or inadequate video game experiences. She said she's eager to see how developers adapt the Framework in what will hopefully be unexpected ways, to include communities who've been less-engaged in video games.

The game industry's commitment to inclusivity is being put to the test

Microsoft's announcement of this framework comes at a strange moment. In late February and early March, a new reactionary harassment campaign reared its head to single out game narrative consultancy agency Sweet Baby Inc. for its work on games like Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Alan Wake 2, and God of War: Ragnarok. Instigators falsely blamed the company for forcing the studios behind those games to include a diverse slate of characters as part of a political agenda.

Wright was game to take up the topic. For Xbox, she said, inclusivity is ultimately just good business. 'Today there are 3 billion people playing games,' she said. 'When we think about it as a business, our job is to grow and to reach more players. And we want to do reach more players in a meaningful way.'

It's true that video games, in different fashions, have excluded various demographics in different ways. This may impact players with disabilities, players of races or sexualities that have been demeaned or rarely seen in games, or players who struggle to even understand the basics of gameplay.

Developers looking for further resources on inclusivity can swing through a dedicated Discord channel that Wright said will be available. She's eager to connect with those who want to give feedback or improve on the framework. 'I'm so curious to hear from other people—like, what's working? Where Where are you getting stuck while you're intentionally trying to open a door? [Which] of the resources are helpful? What are the resources would that we can continue to learn and grow.