Let’s Start a Conversation - Interview with Next Games’ Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Group Lead Felicia Prehn
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Felicia Prehn. I’m a blind, non-binary accessibility specialist and advocate, and have been in the Finnish game industry for over six years and worked at Next Games for a little over a year in the Player Experience team. I was elected as the lead for the company’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging group at the beginning of the year.
What is the Next Games Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging group?
We started our Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Working Group in September 2020 to really give the topic a bigger focus in the company. The group’s mission is to create a workplace that brings out the best in all of us and helps our company improve in all areas related to Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB). In the group employees from across the company work together to make Next Games the most welcoming and inclusive place to work. Anyone who is interested in the topic can participate!
What is your perception of the state of the diversity, inclusion, and belonging topics at Next Games?
When I joined Next Games, I was eager to share my passion for diversity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility with my colleagues. As I didn't know many of my new colleagues yet, I was worried about how their reactions to me talking about important things, like transgender rights or taking action against ableism (discrimination or prejudice against disabled people), might be seen. In the past, some have said it’s inappropriate to discuss such topics because it “makes everything political.” Thankfully, at Next Games, the reaction was the opposite, with people being open and ready to listen and learn.
I often have colleagues approach me to ask questions about DIB topics, like how to use pronouns or when it’s OK to use certain terms or words. Everyone is eager to learn and understand. I think everyone at Next is supportive of what we do and of the topics of DIB in general.
Why do you think it is important that there is a special group focusing on these topics?
Talking about diversity-related topics at work is essential because it makes marginalized members of the team feel seen, but it also helps other people better understand the people they are working with. By empowering people to openly discuss their differences and concerns about diversity-related topics, we foster a culture of openness, belonging, and safety, which in turn makes people want to stick around.
We strongly believe that our work in diversity, inclusion and belonging encourages greater and more meaningful cooperation between our colleagues, creates opportunities for more voices, personalities, and life experiences to influence the games we make, increase our well-being, and ultimately, diversify the game experiences we create to the world.
What kinds of activities have you started through the DIB group at Next Games?
We are actively working with our recruitment team to ensure that the people applying for open positions are from as diverse of a group of people as possible and that those people are being judged by their experience, knowledge, and passion, and not irrelevant factors like gender or sexuality.
We share articles and information about different days, like Transgender Day of Visibility, Autism Awareness Month, and the International Day of Persons With Disabilities.
We organize weekly meetups, like the Finnish Language Lunch Club, where employees can practice their Finnish skills in a judgment-free discussion club.
The company has also always had women in the executive management team and other leadership roles.
What are your recommendations for other games companies or the industry at large based on your experiences on the diversity topics?
There might be an assumption that having internal DIB projects involves massive overhauls, workshops, and training. While workshops and events are fun and important, so is the simple act of sharing articles and acknowledging important events, like Black History Month and Transgender Day of Visibility. And about ensuring that your workspace is a place where people feel safe enough to be their most authentic selves, and bring up issues or topics that are important to them.
So if you're looking to start your own DIB initiates, starting a conversation is the first step!