Letter from the Editor

Diversity and Inclusion are Fucking Important

I want to talk a little bit about diversity, particularly in writing, probably particularly in writing about games. For many of you, this is probably 101 sort of stuff, but my hope is that this will open some eyes, change some opinions and encourage diverse hiring elsewhere in the space. Of course, this is just me speaking from personal experience. If what I say doesn’t mesh with the broader picture, please let me know (my email is linked at the end of the story).

I started Unwinnable as a platform for writing outside the norm. I like to read things from many different perspectives, and I believe everyone (especially non-writers) has at least one good story to tell (and most folks a good deal more). I like finding new writers. Because of this, Unwinnable has always been kinda, sorta diverse. Accidentally Diverse is maybe a better way to put it. Maybe even Naively Diverse. Working with people from many different backgrounds and experiences is a natural side effect of looking for writing from many different perspectives, right?

This Accidental Diversity was often curbed by our non-existent budget. When you’re looking for volunteers, that naturally privileges the most economically secure folks in the space. Spoilers: that’s almost always straight white dudes. Since the launch of the magazine in 2014 and its guarantee of a regular (if modest) monthly budget, I’ve attempted, with varying degrees of success, to include more folks of diverse experiences.

Right now, Unwinnable is made up of about 30 folks doing a variety of stuff. Half that number is straight white dudes (and a good number of them are still volunteers on the editorial side). If you look at just the folks who are writing regularly, the ratio is a bit better, with about 10 of 25 being straight white dudes. You might think “Hey, half is pretty good!” Through the lens of absolute equity though, it isn’t. It means that the vast entirety of non-white non-straight dudeness is crammed into that other half. Pretty much any demographic slice you take out of my staff, you’re going to find massive inequities. Maybe the clearest current example: out of 30ish people, exactly TWO are from outside the US. That is a terrible proportion.

Why is this a problem? Glad you asked. It is a problem of inclusivity. You can have a diverse staff just on the merits of having people of different backgrounds being in your organization. Making that organization inclusive requires addressing additional inequities.

When you have an unbalanced pool of writers, those in greater numbers (in our case, straight white dudes) can write about anything they want without being concerned about representing or otherwise foregrounding their identity. While we have a fairly diverse pool of writers, there is a risk of pigeonholing them into their identities. For example: Got a game that tackles LGBT issues? We’ve got an LGBT writer for that.

Diversity does not equal identity. It is not right to expect people of color and queer writers to have to represent their POC-ness and queerness all the time, especially since straight white dude writers don’t have to do that at all. This winds up reinforcing the idea of straight white dudeness being the default perspective, which is not the case.

This very thing happened yesterday. An editor realized they wanted someone to write about Black Panther and Yussef Cole threw his hat in the ring. Yussef is black and almost everything he has written for us has touched on his experiences as a black man, so he’s a natural fit for an interesting discussion of Black Panther. He’s also our only black writer.

The thing is, Yussef’s been working his way through classic horror movies lately. I love discussing them with him and desperately want him to write about them. I would hate for that not to happen because structural reasons at Unwinnable force him into the role of being our Black Experience Reporter.

There are tons of factors behind this, a lot of which a small, independent publisher simply can’t fix – at least not all at once. Most of it boils down to money, but there are also limitations imposed by the scale of our operation. We can only publish so much.

What isn’t a problem at all? The availability of diverse writers. I feel like there is a status quo in publishing that acknowledges reader appetite for diverse writing but also whinges about how difficult it is to find writers of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Yesterday, after we acknowledged that we should work to fill out our pool with additional diverse writers, I tweeted out a call for clips and pitches for the same. Usually, when I do this in a general way, we get about a half dozen responses.

As of this writing, that tweet is my most widely disseminated ever. We got over 50 responses in less than 24 hours. I haven’t read all the submissions yet, but every one that I have represents a talented, thoughtful writer.

And so we come to the moral of the story. If you are reading this and are an editor or publisher, you probably need a diverse staff of talented writers. I have a simple solution for how you can build one: invite them. Build an inclusive space, then ask them to write for you. They’ll come – because they want and deserve and have earned the opportunity. With them will come a vast group of readers who will find their experiences, perhaps for the first time, reflected in this new writing. After all, reaching and enriching readers is the reason all of us – editors, publishers, writers – got into this.

* * *

If you are reading this and are one of the many writers who answered our call, first off: THANK YOU. Second off, we only have a handful of regular spots to fill, but we are working out ways to include as many of you as we can afford on an irregular or pitch-to-pitch basis. We’ll be in touch directly, hopefully next week, with more details.

If you are an editor and are hiring, please drop me a line at stuhorvath@unwinnable.com – we’ve had so many more submissions than we can conceivably take on and I would love to have solid outlets to recommend they pitch.

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