The organisers of the Penny Arcade Expos will next year be introducing "Diversity Hubs" in an attempt to be more inclusive to attendees.
Website Indie Statik first posted images showing the plans, which have subsequently been confirmed to Kotaku by Penny Arcade.
The "Roll for Diversity Hub and Lounge" at PAX events in Seattle, Boston and Melbourne will be "a resource for PAX attendees to find information related to issues surrounding women, LGBTQ, people of color, disabled people and mental health issues in gaming".
They'll also serve as a "resource for for industry professionals and fans to interface in a setting focused on diversity, receive diversity training, learn more about diversity, and meet people from diverse communities".
These areas - "a safe and welcoming environment" - would also be lounges, which apart from the main PAX events would have their own stuff like diversity-themed booths and panels.
It's an interesting move. On the one hand, it's a proactive step. Penny Arcade has faced its fair share of criticism over the past year, much of it stemming from the company's poor handling of the "Dickwolves" fiasco.
On the other, it could easily be seen as marginalising these groups, creating what I've already seen be called a "zoo".
"Our goal was to highlight diverse groups (and organizations that represent diverse groups) in the industry that might not necessarily get exposure otherwise", PA's Robert Khoo tells Kotaku. "We have a limited number of slots, and the booths are free. In addition, since all of our content is spread out at the show rather than 'tracked', the hub will also be a resource for people to find the diverse sessions, events, and exhibitors."
You can read the proposal in full below.
PAX To Increase Inclusivity Effort With "Roll For Diversity – Hub And Lounge" [Indie Statik]
UPDATE: Penny Arcade's Robert Khoo has issued a further statement clarifying some of the company's aims:
Hi, everyone! I just wanted to quickly address some of the questions I've been getting about the Diversity Hub and Lounge and the thinking behind it.
A few months ago when the idea was bouncing around, we reached out to a friend of ours, Benjamin Williams (co-founder of Queer Geek and GaymerX) to help with the concept and execution. Together, we've been working to create something that both celebrates and raises awareness of different, underrepresented gamer groups while also encouraging attendees to discover where all the different diversity-driven content at the show can be found. (Although we've always had this content at the show, we wanted to give people an easier means of finding it)
Based on feedback from previous shows, it's clear that having a diverse lineup of both content and exhibitors is something folks want, but the reality is that some of those places might not be able to afford a booth. So we carved out a large room at the show in a high traffic area that highlighted some of these great organizations and offered tables to them for free.
Some of the criticism I've been hearing is that this isolates these groups and tries to shine an uncomfortable spotlight on them. Although I can see how some might see it that way, the goal is to actually drive awareness and even celebrate the groups and their goals. We felt that by unifying the groups, it created a really strong, positive focal point that would attract people to it, similar to how the Indie Megabooth does on the show floor. That said, if it doesn't work out the way we'd like it to or if it doesn't have the right vibe, we're flexible enough to do things differently for future shows.
The fact is that this discussion is already ensuring that the area won't be ignored, which I think is great. I really do hope people understand that we are constantly trying to make the show better.
I also want to make clear that we have always strived to make the ENTIRETY of PAX a safe place via our policies, our content, and our dedication to our attendees. The Diversity Hub and Lounge isn't meant to say the rest of the show isn't diverse or safe - it's meant to highlight, educate and celebrate.