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Summer Game Fest 2023 Slammed… But Should Geoff Keighley Take The Blame?

Summer Game Fest 2023 featured

Those who tuned into Summer Game Fest 2023 on June 8, virtually or in-studio, were entertained by breathtaking reveals from some of the upcoming blockbusters in the gaming world. From Mortal Kombat 1 gameplay to the actual release date of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the audience left with a mouthful to gnaw.

Summer Game Fest

More fans tuned into Summer Game Fest 2023. It was reported that over 263,000 people chatted on Twitch during the broadcast of the Summer Game Fest 2023. The event was streamed by more than 500 channels. Also, it set a new record of over 2 million concurrent viewers at the peak.

Perhaps, this had something to do with the sudden cancellation of E3. Those who had prepared for E3 turned to Summer Game Fest to satiate their lust for upcoming game trailers. Summer Game Fest 2023 lived up to the hype by showcasing games across a broad genre—albeit not everyone shares that sentiment.

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Days after the almost 2 hours show, Summer Game Fest was called out for lacking diversity. At several points during the show, host Geoff Keighley called up celebrities and veterans in the game industry on stage for a live interview.

Ed Boon, the co-creator of Mortal Kombat was called out to talk about Mortal Kombat 1. Nicholas Cage also appeared on stage to shed light on his appearance in Dead by Daylight. Bryan Intihar spilled the release date for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. Not a single female appeared on stage throughout the duration of the show.

Summer Game Fest 2023 critics looked beyond women

Summer Game Fest 2023

“Aside from the woman who is clearly the head of production rushing on stage and whispering in Geoff’s ear during trailers, there were no women highlighted at any point during this event,” said Alyssa Mercante of Kotaku.

Although the absence of women on stage was the first issue that some critics of Summer Game Fest 2023 pointed out, others also highlighted how the show was run by white males—notwithstanding that some of the games showcased had female and people of color as lead characters.

For an industry that is already struggling with diversity, critics argued that Geoff Keighley and Summer Game Fest should have done more to reflect diversity. For example, Gina THEE Torres was featured in Immortals of Aveum. Another game called Lysfangha The Time Shift Warrior featured a woman of color as the protagonist. They are suggesting these people should have been called on stage too.

Some compared it to the Day of the Devs which appeared to showcase more diversity. A Twitter user with the handle @adashtra even claimed the Day of the Devs featured “122% more non-white men!” It took a while but Geoff Keighley has reacted to the backlash.

Geoff Keighley clears the air on Summer Game Fest 2023 lack of diversity

Geoff Keighley at Summer Game Fest
Geoff Keighley at Summer Game Fest

Geoff Keighley, the creator and presenter of Summer Game Fest, recently appeared on a radio show and set the record straight regarding the criticism of Summer Game Fest’s lack of diversity. In an interview with CBC, Keighley mentioned that Melanie Liburd, a star of Alan Wake 2, was expected to appear on stage but missed out due to a scheduling conflict.

“I think generally we do a pretty good job with diversity in our shows,” Keighley said in defense of Summer Game Fest. “That was something that’s a fair flag. We also want to be authentic to the games that are being presented on the show and the developers that are making them. So, yeah, I think we’re conscious of it.”

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Whether the explanation offered by Keighley will satiate critics is a discussion that should be left for another day. But should Keighley take all the blame for the lack of diversity in his show? Here is my honest opinion.

1. Diversity should not be forced. It should happen naturally

I don’t think that females and people of color should have been called to the stage at Summer Game Fest 2023 just to tick the diversity box. Seeing that there is a diversity gap, it is up to female developers and people of color to say, “You know what, this shouldn’t be!” and work together to fill the diversity valley.

A good starting point should be increasing advocacy for younger women and people of color to pursue a career in different aspects of game development. They could also come together and form a studio and push for collaboration with other studios to create authentic stories that will shoot women and people of diversity into the limelight.

2. Geoff Keighley is working hard to build the reputation for Summer Game Fest

Just as Keighley pointed out, the show has built a reputation for showcasing “authentic” games and making exclusive reveals. If the door was flung open to just any game, believe it or not, the show’s audience would have dwindled over the years. Compare the size of the audience of Summer Game Fest 2023 to that of Day of the Devs 2023 and you will understand what I mean.

When people tune into Summer Game Fest, they want to see a certain kind of game. Geoff Keighley should not take the blame when women and people of color are not making the kind of games that his audience loves to see.

3. Studios should also be held responsible for the lack of diversity

Instead of shoving all the blame down Keighley’s throat, game studios should be called out for not doing more to improve diversity in their workspace. In fact, game studios should be the major culprit because statistics have shown the unwillingness of some studios to hire women and people of color into executive positions. We all know that it is people in these positions that are mostly called to speak on behalf of the studio during events.

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Looking at it from another angle, studios that already have a diverse workforce should consider sending more women or people of color to represent the studios in shows like Summer Game Fest. I bet Geoff Keighley would never have sent a woman or a person of color back if Insomniac Games had nominated one as a representative.

4. Those playing the diversity card are not gamers

It is easy to argue that the majority of those playing the diversity card are non-gamers. No gamer tuned into Summer Game Fest 2023 only to check if there was a woman or person of color on stage. They were probably engrossed in analyzing the games showcased at the event to notice diversity nuances.

This is in no way saying that diversity doesn’t matter. That would be silly! Diversity matters because seeing a diverse team in any field can be the biggest motivation that some children need to persevere in some fields. The lack of it can be a huge disaster for future generations.

Therefore, while I would encourage Geoff Keighley to do more to push for diversity in his show, I would also call out studios to consciously build a diverse workforce and—when possible—nominate women and people of color to be their faces in different shows.

Nevertheless, diversity should not be forced or we will encourage mediocrity. Personally, I would always choose a great game over a jack-from-the-trash-bin made by the most diverse studio.

Should Geoff Keighley be criticized for the lack of diversity at Summer Game Fest 2023?


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