The company that works to make the video game industry safer
Kim Belair co-founded Sweet Baby Inc. to feel safer in the video game industry and keep working in it. Three years ago, she and her co-founders were working at Ubisoft, the developer of Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed, when Belair realized she would have to try something else if she wanted to evolve.
“I was just starting to see that there weren’t a lot of ways forward, especially for women, especially for marginalized identities,” Belair said. “And Sweet Baby started out simply as a way for me and two of my colleagues to work together in the industry.”
For years, the video game industry has struggled with issues of toxic behavior, sexism, and institutionalized racism, echoing conversations in other industries. The latest high-profile example, the Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard, the company behind the Call of Duty franchise.
At Sweet Baby – which designs stories for a variety of games, including the recent Sable – Belair hopes to solve some of the gaming industry’s most important issues and promote the idea that it can provide a safe working environment. . “I think part of our job is just to show, ‘Well, these structures have to change,'” Belair said in an interview with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal.
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: Let me quote you from an article you wrote last year on this topic and Sweet Baby and all that. You wrote: “You don’t have to start your own business to feel a little more secure. Talk about it a bit.
Kim Belair: Yes, I think I wrote that last year during this series of #MeToo events happening in the industry. A lot of sexual abuse was presented. All these people were named, and people realized how dangerous it is for women in this industry, for marginalized identities, for people who have no place. And I realized that, you know, as a CEO of a company and as a member of my own company, I am able to create a culture within Sweet Baby that is very, very useful to me. I realized that, you know, it’s such a small experiment in the grand scheme of things. For the most part, the people who work in this industry will work for large companies that may not have that kind of culture. And I hope they don’t have to create, you know, this little ship, this little safety submarine, to navigate the harsh ocean waters of prejudice and toxicity.
Ryssdal: It’s a good analogy. But, you know, I feel like a lot of people are probably vaguely more than vaguely aware of misogyny and some of the really terrible behaviors of male gamers. There is contemptible conduct. I don’t imagine people realizing that within the industry there is an analogy.
Bel Air: Yes. I think a lot of the time people kind of know it as an idea, don’t they? They know it’s something that exists, but most of the time they don’t know what it looks like. And then they might say, “Yeah, I haven’t seen that” when they don’t realize that a lot of things that affect people are microaggressions. And so I think the perception of the industry is, sometimes, either people will look at it and say, “Yeah sure, there are issues, but it’s overall good.” Or they look at it and they say, “Well I see a lot of very loud people saying a lot of very toxic and horrible things. It doesn’t have to be an industry for me, so I’m going to step out of it. And so I think part of our job is just to show what we can do to fight it and show, hey, that these structures have to change.
Ryssdal: Law. The catch here, of course, is that you have to run a business. So here’s the business question: How’s business going? How are you?
Bel Air: Thanks for asking. [We’re] do very well. We announced our involvement with Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 and Wolverine. We have Suicide Squad coming up with Rocksteady. We have Goodbye Volcano High with the folks at Ko_op. We work a lot. And I think what’s really, really interesting about it is that it’s not something that I thought we would be able to do, given the position we have. You know, these are all creative projects at the end of the day, and I’m very encouraged by the business and the clients that we’ve gotten because it allows us to collaborate on a scale where people can really see the change that we’re doing. to bring.
Ryssdal: There’s a chance that this question I’m about to ask seems awkward, but hold on for a minute. I wonder if it’s very stressful for you to run a business when you have to focus on the nuts and bolts, but there is a huge amount of subjectivity involved.
Bel Air: I think the hardest part of any creative industry is that feeling of subjectivity, where, you know, if the numbers balance out in an accounting job, you know you did a good job, right? not ? But I can write a story, and three years later it’s in the game and I just hope it’s good. You know, you end the day and sometimes you write a script, and you’re like, “Oh, man, I don’t know if that’s good. And then someone reads it and says, “Wow, that really shines.” Or something you’ve spent a lot of time on and someone says, “Yeah, I really didn’t feel a thing for that. So it’s a very subjective matter. And I think subjectivity forces us to be really sure what we’re doing, what we’re doing, and sort of develop a sense of storytelling that’s all our own, that we feel confident to guide us in. But the only way to measure this success is if the customers keep coming back? Do the games resonate with people? Do the stories resonate with people? And that’s all we’re looking for.