During his three years at Bungie, Chris Wright was one of the founding members of the company’s Diversity Committee. In that – and his prior time at Activision Blizzard – he developed both a creative itch that needed to be scratched, and a desire to create more diverse and inclusive spaces within game development.
After leaving Bungie, he went on to form Poorly Timed Games – a studio of about 29 people, over 65% of whom self-identify as LGBTQIA+, POC, or otherwise not a cisgender, heterosexual white man, according to Wright.
“I wanted to see if we could build a team and a game that had better representation, because the teams I’ve worked on have been pretty diverse teams, it’s just always felt a little odd to me that a lot of the games don’t reflect that diversity,” Wright told Gayming. “And this wasn’t an overarching goal. But I will say, as someone who’s done a lot of panels and been to a lot of talks about diversity, DEI and LGBT life, one of the quickest ways to annoy me is to is to trot out that old line, like, ‘look, we just want to hire the best people.’ Because to me that that feels like you’re implicitly saying that women, people of color LGBT people are thereby not the best people. And I find that to be really personally insulting.”
Wright said that he didn’t use any professional recruiters when looking for members of the Poorly Timed team. Despite that, and being a “pretty unknown studio,” Wright feels this is the most diverse company he’s ever worked for.
“And so, to me that that kind of shows like the industry could still do more,” he said.
Another way that the Poorly Timed team tried to do more was by hosting a charity marathon in support of the Trevor Project alongside the early access launch of their first game, Grim Tranquility. Since the game launched on the first day of Pride Month, Wright and Poorly Timed wanted to do something to celebrate and support the queer community alongside their game launch. This was partially inspired by streams the Destiny 2 community put on, which Wright saw during his time with Bungie.
Several queer content creators are participating, including iamBrandonTV, ButCoffee, AdventurerLuna, PandaPandel, and more. The streamers are racing to see who can raise the most money for the Trevor Project by the end of the month.
“While we’re hopeful that people will play our game after seeing a lot of streamers, we really hope that, especially with how the laws are going in certain states, that people realize the significance of organizations like the Trevor Project and hopefully donate, or at least get the word out so that we can try to help an organization like that, that helps kids who need it,” Wright said.
Poorly Timed’s debut title is a sci-fi, roguelite, tactics RPG that asks players to explore different planets in a colonization effort to establish a new home for humans after the Earth has been all but destroyed by climate disaster. In line with Poorly Timed’s more ethical game development ethos, Grim Tranquility was created with an “emperor of the mountain” approach, where the best idea in the room wins, regardless of who on the team it came from.
“Even though I was the creative director, some of the best ideas were not from me, and all the different viewpoints that our team had, I think really allowed us to kind of evolve any idea we had into the best possible format,” Wright said. “When we did our when we did our VO auditions, we let the entire entire studio, which I think was about 10 or 12 people at the time, listen to any of the auditions they wanted, and vote on who they thought were the best representing each of the roles. So I think the openness of our studio is something I’m really I’m really happy about. And I know it’s been something a lot of the team has been really happy to be in a place like that.”
Poorly Timed Games is still in the early stages of its game development journey, but hopefully its staffing and practices surrounding crunch will help pave the way for a successful new look for this industry. With both veterans and newcomers alike onboard, only time will tell.