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Let’s talk about autism in the video games industry

Anxious, sometimes clumsy in society, not always easy to understand but amazingly detail oriented, meticulous and innovative : they are often called the forgotten of the workplace. Who are they? They are the people with autism spectrum disorders, and we are so proud to count some among our crew members at Ludia.

Michel

Diversity at Ludia 

At Ludia, when we talk about diversity we want to include all types of differences, not only to be tolerant, but offer a place where we want each and every Ludian to feel free to celebrate his/her differences, share and discuss with open-minded people, and always feel accepted and respected.

So, in this context, Michel Blanchet addressed the topic of autistic people at the workplace during one of our Lunch and Learn a few months ago, to help everyone get a better understanding of those specific profiles and how to act around them and integrate them. Let’s take a look back at this topic that deserves such special attention.

The Asperger myth

Michel has been working at Ludia for almost 4 years. First as Build Master, then as Backend Developer 6 months ago as part of his evolution. When you see him, he seems quite different from what we have in mind when we think of autism: smiling, sociable with various interests.  “Autism is not something well known by everyone, and a lot of people have their own idea of what it is.” He explains to us that people still strongly associate autism to a kid that is rocking back and forth, that does not want to be touched nor be disturbed in his own world. “But autism is so much more. We all have our personal characteristics and differences.”

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What does it mean to be inclusive at Ludia?

At Ludia, we embrace diversity, whether in trades, origins, languages, individuals and their passions, expertise and personalities. Being a Ludian is also about taking action, even if small, to improve the feeling of being part of a crew and to build a more convivial, secure space at Ludia where we can all feel like home.

Leslie

This year is a special year at Ludia, because for the first time, the company decided to walk the Pride Walk with other Gaming studios here at Montréal on the 18th of August 2019. “ I am so happy we are finally being part of the Pride Walk, I have been waiting for that day” says Leslie Martin, a french Technical artist and Ludian for 6 years.

If there is one thing we can say about Ludia, is that everyone here feels accepted and part of a crew. It’s one of the reasons why people stay. “For a long time, I didn’t feel normal, wondering about my sexuality, my purpose, what it meant to be a woman. Today I have learnt to embrace my femininity, and changing countries broadened my view on things. LGBT in Canada is much more developed and accepted than in other countries, same sex marriage was already recognized in 2005!” Leslie does not really believe in gender binarism, gender is a spectrum. When we look at the new generations growing up in a more accepting world, the line between genders becomes more ambiguous and people are more free to be true to themselves.

A lot of initiatives have been set in place at Ludia to build a healthy working environment, for everyone to feel included and accepted. Starting with our given classes around manners and respect for each other at work, our lunch & learn sessions given by colleagues, where they speak about depression, burn-out, autism, self-improvement, meditation for instance. “It’s cool to see how people are more and more comfortable here to share their personal findings and experiences without being ashamed”

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Inclusion, our studio’s main pillar

It has always been part of Ludia’s DNA, to accept people for who they are, with their personalities and skills. And even if for some, this is not a topic for conversation, well to have women working in the video games industry, especially in programming, was not always easy (and still isn’t for some today).
But this was never an issue, nor even a question at Ludia, says Catherine Barbeau, who has been working at Ludia since its creation in 2007 and today in charge of technical back-end projects.

Catherine

An obvious integration

Catherine has been evolving at Ludia for 12 years now! She saw the company bloom from a small start-up to today’s mature studio. And what remained constant during this incredible evolution is the continuous integration of all types of profiles and an open mindset.

“At Ludia we are generally good when it comes to hiring people who are enjoyable to work with, therefore I was never put in a difficult position for being a woman. I always felt like I had  a great support around me, it wasn’t a problem at all. I know there are girls who would have different stories to tell, but for me it has always been very positive. I was able to find my place and evolve with the company.”
After having been in the Jurassic World Alive programming team as co-lead of a dozen programmers, Catherine is now in charge of a team of 5 programmers who provide all the server infrastructure for the games. Being part of teams composed mainly of men (which is still a reality in programming), and being their leader even has always gone very smoothly for her.

A natural recognition

Catherine is aware of how lucky she is that she never had to fight as a woman in her working-environment. However, she admits that she felt a bit anxious when she had to take her first maternity leave. “There were not many women at Ludia’s at that time: a one-year maternity leave was not common. I was really worried about what was going to happen when I came back. Was I going to lose my position? »

None of that happened of course!  A place was naturally found for her in the teams. During her second maternity leave, she left much more serene, and she is now glad to see her colleagues go on maternity or paternity leave with much less apprehension than she had felt at the time. As Ludia has evolved over the years, this was integrated in parallel to its culture: no more uncertainty and anxiety.

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