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Michael Heywood: The Future of Gaming Includes Everyone

Michael Heywood: The Future of Gaming Includes Everyone

Hello, friends! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today, I’m super excited to speak with Michael Heywood, the co-founder and CEO of Included Games. Get ready to be inspired!

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Michael! Tell me, what challenge are you all at Included Games addressing?

Michael: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! At Included Games, our mission essentially is to make everyone feel included in games. We want everyone to be represented in the games they play and feel like the industry is a place they belong.

Spiffy: That’s wonderful. What motivated you to do it?

Michael: As LGBTQ+ founders, we felt like games weren't as inclusive as other media forms like movies or TV when it came to the sorts of characters and stories they featured. We think it's important for you to see yourself represented in the media, and for all of us to see people different from ourselves. As games evolve into the metaverse, it becomes even more important that we are all able to participate authentically and respect and celebrate each other's differences.

Spiffy: I couldn’t agree more! How would you say Included Games is working towards a more equitable world?

Michael: We're building multiplayer games based on a super inclusive character creator. We're building them on mobile and they're free to play, so that as many people as possible from all over the world can join in. In our upcoming game, squads of four players cooperate and compete to hunt for treasure—it's a fun place to hang out with old friends or make new ones.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone for your team. What impact does that make?

Michael: Actually, here's a sneak peak at an upcoming milestone. We've just announced a generative art NFT project celebrating the art of drag queens. We chose drag queens since we see them as crucial to the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ equality movement, and because they're a naturally fantastic subject for art! This is one of the first LGBTQ+-themed NFT collections, and we hope it shows that the future of the internet belongs to everyone.

Spiffy: That sounds fabulous! How about sharing an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? Tell us what you learned.

Michael: Most recently, we've been talking to venture capitalist firms about further funding for our company. Many of them think that our focus on inclusion is too niche to support a mass market hit game, but we think everybody wants to be included. So despite an unsuccessful pitch, we keep researching and learning, building the game, reaching out to our audience, and hunting for those investors who share our vision of what the future should be!

Spiffy: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?

Michael: Today, our community manager taught me about Discord discovery services since we're just launching our community on Discord (a popular voice and text chat platform). That just popped up in a conversation about something else and reminded me how a great team is made up of people with different knowledge backgrounds, all working together towards a goal they believe in.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Michael: If you think you'd like to work in games, but aren't sure you fit into the industry for any reason, put that hesitation out of your head. It's a fantastic, exciting industry with lots of people working to make it more inclusive. Find the area you love most, develop your skills, and you'll be very welcome!

Spiffy: Thanks again for chatting with me, Michael—it’s been an honor!

Michael Heywood is the co-founder and CEO of Included Games, where he is working with an amazingly talented team to build games that make the world better. (Nominated by Lorenzo Thione at Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 9, 2022)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.