Last week more than 400 game industry professionals gathered virtually at the #gamesUR Summit 2022, the largest gathering of games user researchers in the world which is supported by the International Game Developers Association. This year’s event tackled key issues facing the videogames industry by starting a fund to provide conference travel assistance for underserved and underrepresented populations in the games industry.

Summit co-directors Hannah Murphy (games user researcher with gaming company Activision) and Ashley Guajardo (associate professor, lecturer, with the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering) created the travel fund as a way to solve a persistent problem in STEM and tech-related fields.

“We believe the talent and aptitude required to make and study games is equally distributed in any given population regardless of demographics,” Guarjardo said. “Access to resources to attend networking events like conferences, which often lead to first jobs in the games industry, however, is not. Our travel fund addresses that inequality and provides resources for marginalized folks to tackle financial barriers to attendance.”

The DE&I Travel Fund created by Murphy and Guajardo is one way to offset the high costs associated with conference attendance such as admission, airfare, hotel rooms, and dining.  The fund sources money from other conference-goers who can spare an extra $10 on top of regular ticket fees.

“We modelled our travel fund after the Queerness in Games Conference,” Guarjardo said. “They’ve had great success for many years now asking attendees to contribute a little extra if they are able so that others have an opportunity to participate.”

The optional $10 donation was wildly popular at this year’s Summit with about a quarter of all attendees choosing to pay a little extra. The additional contribution has resulted in a nest egg of over $1,000 to be used as travel grants for underserved community members next year.

This first collection of funds will be saved for next year. “Thanks to the generosity of the Summit’s sponsors, as well as hosting the event online, we were able to keep the cost of attendance low this year, so we felt it was wiser to roll the funds over,” Guarjardo said. “Tickets for students were just $5, general admission was $15, and our travel fundraising tier was just $25.”

For reference, similar online conferences can cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000 for attendance depending on the location and duration.

Looking forward to when the event will be in person again next year, Murphy said: “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a cornerstone of the #gamesUR Summit and we wanted to make sure that is reflected in our travel fund. The travel fund is paramount for supporting those in the community who may not have the means to attend our event on their own, and we’re here to help. This is our way of lowering the barrier to entry into the field of games user research to make our space more equitable.”

Murphy and Guajardo both hope to see similar efforts initiated by other events. All talks from the Summit are available for view for free via the group’s YouTube Channel.