"Corporations really have to take accountability, and do what's right," said 2K director of diversity, inclusion, and equality Toni Ligons, PhD during Take-Two's E3 livestream today. It's the sort of thing you expect to hear during a 30-second segment about corporate responsibility that plays before loud E3 trailers about guns, but that wasn't the case for GTA publisher Take-Two. I jotted that line down about 30 minutes into a 45 minute panel about corporate responsibility and "diversity, equity, and inclusion" in the games industry, which was the entirety of Take-Two's E3 "keynote."
It's not quite what the viewers on the E3 Twitch channel were expecting. When Take-Two said it was doing an E3 show, we thought it would talk about GTA Online or Borderlands, maybe announce something new from Firaxis. Parts of E3 are business-focused, but it's best known for being the premier consumer-facing videogames event. It's where consoles and blockbuster games are announced.
Take-Two disregarded that and did its own thing, with a discussion you might typically see at an event like the Game Developer's Conference, and a lot of viewers stuck with it: On the official E3 Twitch stream, there were still over 100,000 viewers as the segment concluded.
The panel featured Take-Two directors speaking with games industry executive and USC professor Gordon Bellamy of Gay Gaming Professionals (opens in new tab), Games for Change (opens in new tab) president Susanna Pollack, UFC professor Jim Huntley (opens in new tab), and Girls Make Games (opens in new tab) founder Laila Shabir. It was an overview of systemic problems around gender, race, and sexuality in the gaming business, with commentary on specific experiences of discrimination and alienation as well as Take-Two's corporate perspectives on diversity and recruiting.
I've embedded GameSpot's co-stream of the panel at the top of this article. After a countdown and brief intro from the E3 desk, the "E3 Exclusive" graphic does its swoosh, and then we see Take-Two communications VP Alan Lewis saying, "Hello, I'm Alan Lewis, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Take-Two Interactive," and the hopes viewers had for game announcements evaporate into the grey field behind him.
The important topic couldn't help but cause a certain amount of comedy as co-streamers who expected to do live commentary over game announcements were faced with a 45 minute talk directed at the LinkedIn crowd. One streamer I saw gave up part way through and went to watch trailers from yesterday. Another, Yoda Wise (opens in new tab), only made a few comments: "I'm all for all of this, man ... but this is E3 Monday and I thought I was tuning in for game announcements."
The Twitch chat I saw was mostly emote spamming, but elsewhere there were angry reactions ("show us GTA 6!") and racist or otherwise hateful remarks in response to the topic of inclusion (I skimmed some YouTube comments).
There were positive responses, too.
"That was something I was not expecting, but kind of glad that we got it," said a streamer reacting to E3 shows on YouTube channel Slightly Off Topic (opens in new tab). "It was a good discussion. I was expecting games, we didn't get it, but it was still a good discussion nonetheless." (I'd embed the video but I can't locate that part of the stream.)
As for Take-Two's games, the 2K label is publishing Gearbox's fantasy-themed Borderlands spin-off Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, which was announced earlier at E3, and Firaxis released a Civilization 6 bundle. That's all I saw. Take-Two owns Rockstar, but Rockstar has historically been too cool for E3, preferring to make announcements when and how it wants.