At Bungie, we want everyone to feel that their identity is welcome. It’s one of our core values and manifests in the things we make, in the ways we communicate and interact with our fans, and crucially, in the way we run our studio. It means recognizing and welcoming different points of view and lifting up underrepresented voices. This is an ongoing concern and not something that is ever “complete.” Rather, it’s an effort that we strive to improve over time and through input from Bungie employees from all over the company. The latest example of this effort is the introduction of Inclusion Clubs as part of Bungie culture.
Earlier this year, the first Inclusion Club – Black at Bungie – was formed. With the goal of celebrating and uplifting Black employees at the studio, the Black at Bungie Inclusion Club has been on the vanguard of not only setting an example of what Inclusion Clubs can be for Bungie employees, but also helping to facilitate and navigate vital conversations during a pivotal moment in modern society.
Created and powered by Bungie employees, Inclusion Clubs (ICs) are groups that exist to connect those of similar cultural backgrounds and those who wish to connect as supportive allies. ICs are also a resource within Bungie, there to provide culturally relevant perspectives, advice, and ideas on everything from organizational culture to the products we create.
The concept of Inclusion Clubs came from the Bungie Diversity Committee (BDC), which is dedicated to improving upon Bungie’s standards for all matters of diversity and inclusion. While the BDC is dedicated to addressing broader issues of diversity, Inclusion Clubs were created to support the goals of specific underrepresented groups, and to provide employees with resources and budget that they can use to support the causes that matter to them.
Kareem Shuman is a technical dialogue designer working on Destiny 2. He’s been involved in a leadership role with Bungie’s Diversity Committee for more than two years and is a founding member and leader of the Black at Bungie IC. He says that, while the problems of racial injustice sometimes seem insurmountable, it’s groups like Black at Bungie that can make a tangible day-to-day impact.
“Racial injustice is a really big boss to try and fight,” Shuman said, when asked about the kinds of conversations that the IC has undertaken in recent months. “[So] let's break it into chunks and look at the things we are good at and that affect us on a daily basis here at our work. What can we be doing better at Bungie? What can we be doing for our peers? What can we be doing in our game and the content that we make and that millions of people play around the world? Those are things we have control over, in some ways very directly and in some ways there's systems in place that have been around for a while and we need to poke some people and some things to see if they can be improved.”
The launch of Black at Bungie preceded a groundswell in the ongoing discussions around racial equality and justice, both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery earlier in 2020, cities in the States have seen protests and demonstrations demanding policy and societal change. Black at Bungie has been an important part in helping to inform and shape the studio’s public statements and actions, such as the support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Though the club is only a few months old, the group has been busy. They funded a sponsorship of the recent Game Devs of Color Expo (https://gamedevsofcolorexpo.com/), which was held online in September. In addition, the recent addition of the Be Heard pin and emblem on the Bungie Store came as a result of collaboration with members of the Black at Bungie IC. All profits from the sales of the pin and emblem are benefitting the Equal Justice Initiative (https://eji.org/), which is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive judicial punishment in the United States, to challenge racial and economic injustice, and to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
“The club is still building,” says Phyllicia Majors, Bungie’s office manager and a member of the Black at Bungie IC. “We've been talking a lot about how we can support other groups and show our faces and represent Bungie.”
“[I’m] very proud to see the Black Lives Matter pin,” Majors said. “I've seen it in the game where they put the [emblem] [and thought], ‘Wow, they're standing behind what they say.’”
In addition to Black developers, the Black at Bungie IC includes allies like Z Schleif, who works as a narrative lead in the studio. “I have no role in the day-to-day of the club itself except to observe, and to provide solicited feedback and support when requested by my Black peers,” said Schleif. “However, I strongly believe that being an ally doesn’t stop at the day-to-day of the club. As an ally, I am committed to helping create an actively antiracist studio culture at Bungie and to promoting active antiracism in the media we create.”
Looking at the future, Black at Bungie plans on furthering its mission to uplift members of the Black game development community and continuing the ongoing dialog around racial equality and justice, both in the game development world and beyond. Bungie fans who are interested in learning more can look forward to hearing more from Black at Bungie here on Bungie.net and on existing Bungie social media platforms.
Black at Bungie is just getting started in its ongoing mission of uplifting underrepresented voices, sharing diverse perspectives and championing a more diverse and inclusive game industry. In a momentous year, where social change has been at the forefront of so many people’s mind, Shuman says the very existence of Black at Bungie is an important step for the company to keep making meaningful changes in this space.
“I never thought we would see companies making official contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement like we did for [LGBTQ] Pride in previous years,” said Shuman. “But when injustice keeps stacking up, eventually it becomes too much for people to ignore, even those who are not themselves a target. Seeing so many stand up and protest, donate, and actively support these causes has been a huge inspiration. We have allies both at home and abroad and it's a beautiful thing to see.”