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Write What You Know, Learn What You Don't

Shawn Allen explains how his upcoming game, Treachery in Beatdown City, channels personal experience for its slate of diverse characters, and what other creators can learn from his approach.

As the video game industry grapples with growing up, some uncomfortable conversations are happening along the way, especially in regards to the way games treat gender and race. These topics provoke fiery, impassioned debates about the path forward, even as that path remains unclear.

At IndieCade this year, developer Shawn Allen gave a talk about how black and latino cultures might be the next frontier for independent games.

Treachery in Beatdown City draws from Allen's life growing up in New York. His observation are everywhere in the game.

“I wanted to bring up all the different possible reasons why there aren’t minorities in games,” he said.

What started as a small talk in front of a few of his close friends began to grow, and more and more people started coming off the street and listening to what he had to say. By the end, it was a full house, and he’s been asked to give the talk at other conferences.

Bringing up and talking about race is a complicated topic, and Allen’s own place in the conversation is complex, too. Allen is mixed. His mother is white, while his father is black.

“Race is something is that I always try to avoid, personally, but it’s something that always gets thrown back in my face,” he said.

Allen grew up in New York with his mother, and and the two were on public assistance. He described that path as a “rough way to live.” That’s probably an understatement, but it’s also part of his historical reality.

“I don’t know how anyone could grow up on that without having a really big sense of humor,” he said.

Allen is currently putting the finishing touches on the first episode of his debut independent game, Treachery in Beatdown City. Built on the PlayStation Mobile platform, Treachery in Beatdown City happily mixes elements from classic RPGs, beat ‘em ups, and other nostalgic touchstones. On the surface, the game simply looks like Allen played too much River City Ransom, but there’s more happening beneath the surface, especially because so much of the game plucks from Allen’s personal observations from life.

“It’s trying to create something that’s very personal to me in a very personal space,” he said, “but that also deals with the issues I have with gentrification in the city or entitlement on the streets.”

The game both cribs and mocks the premise for games like Bad Dudes, and asks the question: why would two beefy guys be going after the President instead of the FBI, CIA, or Secret Service? In the case of Treachery in Beatdown City, it’s because the major, loosely based on the very real New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, refuses to use city resources without millions in government aid.

“He doesn’t want to expend city resources trying to save a President, because why should he?” said Allen. “It just reminds me of stuff that goes on in the city all the time.”

So much of Treachery in Beatdown City is pulled from Allen’s own experience. Whenever I’d ask about a specific element in the game, Allen would have an anecdote to share about its origins and why it's there.

One of the enemies, for example, is called CT Punk, based on the “myth of the Connecticut punk, the trust fund baby that comes to hang out in New York.” These are folks who come from wealth, but choose to be poor without accepting all of the realities that come with it, wearing clothes worth hundreds of dollars while simultaneously begging for change to feed their dog.

(There are similar people in San Francisco.)

“C’mon, dude,” said Allen. “You’ve got like $700 worth of stuff on. Why do you have a dog if you’re homeless? This character’s kind of a chickenshit--kicks dirt in your face. He’s the Pidgey of the game, he tries to lower your evade. It brings in the RPG element of it. It’s not just pounding on things, there’s status effects. He lowers your accuracy, so the only real way to deal with him is to grab and punch him in the face.”

Being able to draw on what he’s seen, felt, and lived is key to the game’s authenticity, and that extends to the characters he’s conceiving and writing. One of the main characters is based on his Jamaican friend, another on his Puerto Rican wife. Neither are common racial archetypes for game characters, and Allen is aware of their uniqueness. It’s on purpose, but not simply to be different. It’s because Allen can speak in their voice.

I asked Allen if one of the reasons we don’t see more variety in game characters is due to a lack of diversity in the racial makeup of developers, which means they tend to rely on what they know and see around them.

“That’s a question I got at IndieCade, too,” he said. “A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way. A show like Living Single or A Different World, these are shows that are pretty much all black casts, but all the people are just people.”

The Walking Dead was a phenomenal game for a many reasons, but its inclusion of a black character as the lead was notable, partially because the game didn’t make a big deal about Lee Everett's race.

“People keep making a big deal about how he’s not like the typical badly written bad guy in games, and he was just a character in the game!" he said, "Yeah, but that’s one of the very reasons, I believe, that people like the game a lot. Because they were like ‘hey, we can talk about this and say he’s a positive black guy!’ [But] who also still ends up being the classic criminal guy, who may have killed somebody, despite being a fairly affable individual who’s smart. It’s like the Boondocks thing, where they talk about how smart you are when you can speak well. Because a black person, if they can speak well, they’re smart. You’re surprised by this. I felt like Lee Everrett surprised people that somebody could actually take time to write a normal person, who also happens to be black.”

I’ve written about these topics before, though typically it’s been about gender. Race, I've found, is harder to talk about. But whether we’re talking about race or gender, one of the first responses to a demand for more diversity in the characters we play is suggesting it will suddenly, unfairly diminish the creativity of creators.

Allen laughed at the idea that we should be too worried about limiting the creativity of modern game stories, given how similar and limited so many of them are currently. (He has a point.)

“Maybe if people took a little bit more time to think about their stories in general, they’d be way better,” he said. “We’ve been talking about recently about how we have this film worship going on in our industry. Our game writing’s still not at blaxploitation level.”

“[As for] injecting minorities into it, I don’t think you should just actively go about doing that,” he said. “For me, my characters--I had to take a step back. I had to say ‘I want to break the mold, so how do I do that?’ Well, I’m going to focus more on a female protagonist. I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation. I might know my friend, who’s a Jamaican dude, I know him very well. But I know him, so I can include somebody like him. I have my wife. I have my wife’s best friend, and my character will be based on both of them. I have an old, Cuban guy who used to be my boss, I’m going to be basing a character a little bit on the older generation of Latin Americans in this country. I’m trying to build off my personal experience.”

It might be easy to conclude that Allen’s saying it’s impossible for a white game writer to design a game story about the black experience, but it’s not that simple. It’s about writing what you know, and if you don’t know what to write, you do your homework. He pointed to the landmark 1983 film Wild Style, a movie about 1970s graffiti and hip-hop culture. The director, Charlie Ahearn, was white.

"A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way."

“He went to parties,” said Allen. “He went to places where they were. He starred graffiti artists as the characters in it. [...] He tried to reach into the culture and talk to these people and say ‘hey, I want you to be in this movie.’ He didn’t say ‘I’m going to make some fake documentary about you, I’m going to make a movie that involves all of you and your creative influences.’ Imagine if he’d just made that with people that weren’t creating the stuff. It wouldn’t have been the thing that it is.”

There’s no reasons games can’t do that, too.

It might start by encouraging more people to make games. The more diverse the pool of creators, the greatest set of ideas to pull from. To that end, Allen has started the “YouCan Make Games, Too” initiative. It’s a simple title card, similar to the “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” tagline you saw on games in the 90s. Allen wants this inclusive, positive message to be included in games, hoping to encourage minorities to consider the prospect of making them. It would include a link to a website with more information for budding creators.

“It’s all about trying to empower as many people as are interested in doing that as possible,” he said.

Allen hopes to submit his game to Sony in the next month or so.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
91 Comments
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Posted by AMyggen

This was a great read, Patrick.

Posted by Mortuss_Zero

Cool stuff, guy sounds super grounded and sharp.

Posted by Guppy507

Don't mock my Pidgey. :(

Posted by cabrit_sans_cor

Great article. I want to play this guy's game now.

Posted by chocolaterhinovampire

Fantastic article...keep this stuff up Klepek. I will say that I absolutely hate the word race largely for semantic/theoretical reasons (the word race is totally a social construction...just look at the changing conception of "whiteness"). Ethnicity is a more appropriate term in my opinion. Just a thought (not meant to be seen in any way as a criticism).

Posted by Nekroskop

More mature video games. Great.

Posted by cikame

The race arguments are ridiculous because they go on forever, i could turn all this around by saying something like, if most developers are caucasian why should they have to become 'informed' about writing characters of other races or genders, if this guy is writing from personal experience and upbringing why is it wrong for white guys to do the same? Other than the fact there are more of them in a position to in this industry.

Additionally, i see alot of developers writing for other races and cultures, Ubi and the Assassins Creed series cover a huge diversity, the japanese make games like Tekken with characters from all over the globe with their own stories.

Edited by AssInAss

@patrickklepek Typo in 3rd paragraph: “I wanted to bring up was all the different possible reasons why there aren’t minorities in games,” he said. No need for "was".

I like that Allen is gamifying real world examples into game logic, like the expensive clothes hobo who's just a typical status effect enemy. It's cute.

His overall message is inspiring where if you don't know about something, don't just bin the idea but do more research on it and get another person in the know's perspective. Like how war games have historical consultants, why not get someone from that race or gender to share their knowledge. Right now, the direction of this discussion is too much on "well, why don't YOU make a game about that then?" instead of learning what you don't know.

Posted by mrfluke

@cikame said:

The race arguments are ridiculous because they go on forever, i could turn all this around by saying something like, if most developers are caucasian why should they have to become 'informed' about writing characters of other races or genders, if this guy is writing from personal experience and upbringing why is it wrong for white guys to do the same? Other than the fact there are more of them in a position to in this industry.

Additionally, i see alot of developers writing for other races and cultures, Ubi and the Assassins Creed series cover a huge diversity, the japanese make games like Tekken with characters from all over the globe with their own stories.

your right, its just jaded generalizations going on. especially this choice quote

Allen laughed at the idea that we should be too worried about limiting the creativity of modern game stories, given how similar and limited so many of them are currently. (He has a point.)

too much of a power struggle going on, where basically one group wants more adult games and less the mindless games and vice versa.

we're heading towards the movie's model, where the big splashy stuff is for the masses as thats what the masses like (and nothing is wrong with that) , while the arty thoughtful stuff you have the small guys doing it,

Posted by Fairbrethees

Boring.

Online
Edited by AREYOULOCO

Perhaps this guy should check himself before he goes off about the state of video-game narratives. Multi-ethnic cast or not, this game looks like little more than weaponised nostalgia. That said, I haven't played the game. Maybe the story is great.

Posted by livelikeabomb


@mrfluke & @cikame:

I want to point out that Shawn Allen himself never said that game developers who are white should/shouldn't write about minorities. In fact, he said, "[As for] injecting minorities into it, I don’t think you should just actively go about doing that..."

Shawn Allen's words make him seem like a creative guy who has a particular method of making stories, not a writer preaching to other writers about what Shawn Allen commands. If anyone is making this issue sound like a power struggle, it's Patrick. I really enjoyed this article, but I think Patrick has an irksome habit of using people's words in such a way that allows Patrick to subtly preach about something, telling people what they should/must do rather than what they simply can do. I think Shawn Allen is merely telling other creatives what they can do, if they so choose; he's giving advice.

Posted by joshwent

I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation.

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

Posted by dr_mantas

Would be fine and dandy without that growing up nonsense from the get-go.

Edited by RockyRaccoon37

@joshwent said:

I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation.

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

What do you mean? Race and gender don't factor into personalities?

Posted by MatthewSerious
@joshwent said:

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

I disagree. There's a cultural aspect that plays largely in behavior that race has little to do with, and I think that's what the writer is trying to capture.

Edited by darkest4

I'm getting tired of this dick wagging contest of who can prove they are the most politically correct, racially sensitive, biggest defender of woman's right on the internets. So many people are just full of hot air, and exaggerate/warp issues greatly to make yourselves feel better about being some great pretentious defenders of human rights.

You can skew anything you want to be "racist",or "sexist, do video game creators have to avoid every single thing a black/mexican/white/female/male/etc person might do in a racial/sex joke just to not be called "racist" or "sexist", even if that character would really do that thing if they were a real person or it fits your story and that character's background naturally? Do developers have to make every non white male character automatically have to act like a robot devoid of any quirks, clothing style, revealing clothing, slang, food preferences etc in order to not be accused of being racist stereotypes or sexist by someone on the internet these days? How realistic would that be?

I used to like Patrick he brought so much interesting new content to the site, but this crusade is really starting to become annoying and his focus seems to be narrowing day by day, seems like all he does now a days is horror games and race/feminism/"internet is a jerk" stuff. Why can't people just have some fun and not get offended by everything and take everything personally? Everyone just needs to get over themselves and realize it natural for human beings to be how we are, boob (or chiseled abs and big arms) worshiping and racial humor and all, lighten up people.

Posted by ShatterShock

The video gaming industry is still and probably for at least the near future overwhelmingly created, covered and consumed by white western (and Japanese!) males. That the protagonists of video games reflect this reality shouldn't surprise anybody. I appreciate people like Allen getting to game design(even if I'm getting a bit tired of mining the NES aesthetic), because I think that if video game casts get more diverse, it should be because the creators become more diverse. I don't think it's really a good idea to make white people try to relate to cultural perspectives they have no experience with. They're better off making the games they want to make, while under served ethnicities should take up game design and make titles that fully represent them.

Posted by MatthewSerious

@darkest4: Duder, you could just read the first paragraph and decide this article is not for you. A lot of people are interested in this, and you kinda just opened yourself for unpleasant responses.

Posted by Humanity

@joshwent said:

I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation.

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

What do you mean? Race and gender don't factor into personalities?

I think we get into a lose-lose situation here. I don't know that much about Puerto Ricans so lets use an Italian person for example. Either you write an Italian character with race and gender factoring into their personality, which by necessity will incorporate certain racial stereotypes and people will argue "oh sure he's Italian so he HAS to love lasagna right? nice.." or you write the character without those traits and then people complain "apart from his name being Mario theres nothing Italian about this character!"

Posted by AssInAss

@darkest4 said:

I'm getting tired of this dick wagging contest of who can prove they are the most politically correct, racially sensitive, biggest defender of woman's right on the internets. You're all full of shit, and exaggerate/warp issues greatly to make yourselves feel better about being some great pretentious defenders of human rights. I used to like Patrick, but this crusade is really starting to become ridiculous, why can't people just have some fun and not get offended by everything? Everyone just needs to get over themselves and realize it natural for human beings to be how we are, boob worshiping and racial humor and all.

Is anyone forcing you to read this "crusade"? C'mon, you sound ridiculous. A little empathy wouldn't hurt. What's your particular race, culture, or gender? If it's not represented in games or is in a minority of games, wouldn't you be ok if more of it showed up more often in a positive way?

Variety is the spice of life, as they say, so I'm not sure why you are getting all up in arms about this.

There's plenty of games for your boob worshipping, racial humor, and all. It's not like those are going away. Even if they went away, would you fight for them to come back, start some petitions that things that you like are not being catered to? Maybe then you'd understand where others are coming from because until it hits your tastes directly, this is a non-issue for you that you can easily ignore and not bother writing a rant about.

Edited by joshwent

@humanity said:

@rockyraccoon37 said:

@joshwent said:

I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation.

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

What do you mean? Race and gender don't factor into personalities?

I think we get into a lose-lose situation here. I don't know that much about Puerto Ricans so lets use an Italian person for example. Either you write an Italian character with race and gender factoring into their personality, which by necessity will incorporate certain racial stereotypes and people will argue "oh sure he's Italian so he HAS to love lasagna right? nice.." or you write the character without those traits and then people complain "apart from his name being Mario theres nothing Italian about this character!"

Yep. We're in a weird place where it's up to every individual to judge if a character is really like how they're written, or they're just a stereotype. It reminds me of people arguing whether Obama is "black enough".

Like @matthewserious said, there are cultural aspects that undeniably effect behavior, but that's becoming increasingly separated from race. But even more to the point, if a character acts in accordance with their personal background and personality, that should be enough.

And fuck, what about all the people I know who are walking-talking stereotypes?! I know a Puerto Rican girl who wears hoop earings, has crazy long fake nails, and a really short temper so she'll randomly get in your face and start yelling in Spanish. If she was the main character of my game, I'd probably get tweeted to death and nasty Polygon articles written about me. Although, she's also gay, so maybe if she was my main character, and I included that for some reason, I'd get interviewed by Patrick.

Who the fuck knows.

Posted by RockyRaccoon37

@humanity said:

@rockyraccoon37 said:

@joshwent said:

I’m going to have a third, female protagonist, who’s female, who’s Puerto Rican. I’m going to give that over to my wife, who’s an amazing artist, I’m going to have her designer her, and give me feedback on all the sensibilities behind that. I’m going to talk to friends who are familiar [with that] when I want to write her. I’m not going to try and do all that from myself because I don’t necessarily know how a Puerto Rican would react in a situation.

This guy sounds nice and passionate about what he's doing, so not an attack on him at all, but this kind of thinking just seems like it's reinforcing racial roles. Why would a Puerto Rican have to react in a specific way to something? Isn't that... racist?

When I write, I get people to edit my work to make sure the characters seem to act in accordance with their personalities and motivations. Race and gender really shouldn't factor into that.

What do you mean? Race and gender don't factor into personalities?

I think we get into a lose-lose situation here. I don't know that much about Puerto Ricans so lets use an Italian person for example. Either you write an Italian character with race and gender factoring into their personality, which by necessity will incorporate certain racial stereotypes and people will argue "oh sure he's Italian so he HAS to love lasagna right? nice.." or you write the character without those traits and then people complain "apart from his name being Mario theres nothing Italian about this character!"

It's a tough thing for sure.

I think in this case context and tone factor into what kind of depiction is necessary. For example, in a Call of Duty game you can have characters of various races and as long as they aren't being stereotyped it shouldn't matter. That's obviously not a series that focuses on character and typically all of the military men are just that-- military men. They fit a mold and regardless of gender they can all fill that mold adequately without a meditation on their race and how that factors into who they are as dude shooting guys.

Not signifying a clear separation between black, white, or whatever, doesn't matter there.

The problem isn't that these characters of colour aren't given enough meditation on their race and how that defines them, but that just because Call of Duty gives us different ethnic characters-- or whatever other example might exist of a white-washed ethnic character-- isn't a good example of race representation.

Posted by jarowdowsky

@darkest4: Come on man, there really, really isn't 'plenty of games out there that have celebrated every race and gender'

That's just not a particularly accurate reflection of the gaming industry at all. Where's my game about the difficulty of dealing with PMS, the hispanic experience of the immigration market, post-operative transexual life, surviving the altantic crossing as a slave, organising a wedding for Roma family, the highland clearances, dealing with crime in a Mexican border town... There are literally millions of experiences even within reality that games haven't even considered touching on.

Whether we'd ever agree on a possible solution, and we clearly wouldn't, the reality is that gaming, as massive entertainment industry is the least diverse in the world. By a massive region, dolls for girls, superhero comics, board games... All vastly more diverse despite the problems in those industries. Dismissing that issue only weakens your approach to the solutions mentioned here.

Edited by Uberdubie

@darkest4: While the white knights for "racial sensitivity" are going to rabidly piss and moan over your post (and surely this one as well), I agree completely with your main point. The problem with Patrick's writing is that so often it comes from a "white guilt" perspective. I don't know if Patrick has personal guilt issues or what, but it really comes out in his writing. It's almost as if he wants white male readers to feel sorry for themselves. I love Giant Bomb, and I've thoroughly enjoyed some of Patrick's articles, but seeing so much of his recent writing with these guilt-ridden overtones is really unfortunate.

But back to this article -- I have *zero* problem with anyone featuring their own race or specific races in games; in fact I'm all for that. The problem is how this guy goes on about how white people (white males specifically) "don't get it". This is blatantly expressed in the following quote with Patrick highlighted:

"A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way."

^ Does a black woman also need to "become informed" to write for a young white boy? Or is this much easier to accomplish because blacks and Hispanics have far more elaborate personalities compared to whites? I know that sounds terrible, but that's what you're saying.

But just in case anyone thinks I'm taking his comments out of context, I'll select a more blatant quote from the all anti-white sentiment to choose from in this article. "Because a black person, if they can speak well, they’re smart. You’re surprised by this." This quote was in regards to how whites supposedly view black people; 'OMG THAT BLACK GUY IS INTELLIGENT (LIKE ME) BECAUSE HE DOESN'T SOUND ALL GHETTO!!' Uh, I'm white and I certainly don't think that way, regardless of anyone's race. Again, this is racist. I am never, ever "surprised" if a black person speaks well, nor do I presume one thing or the other based on one's accents and/or dialects. This is again, ignorant generalizing about the white race, in attempts to put them in a horrible light. Call me "insensitive towards minorities" or "white power dude" or whatever makes you feel better. I'm certainly none of those things. I'm only pointing out how disgustingly hypocritical this person is.

This entire article is very ironic. It preaches racial understanding, and yet Shawn Allen doesn't understand a thing about white people.

Edited by porjos

@fairbrethees: Excellent response. Your level of intelligence is so astounding, that all should benefit from your valuable personal reflections.

I'm kidding. I hope your life is not as worthless as the comments you post.

Posted by RockyRaccoon37

@uberdubie: Just a couple of quick points:

It's not about white guilt, it's about asking for a level of understanding, a desire for a diversity of perspectives, and maybe a little empathy.

To your claims of "racism" in this article, I'm not exactly sure what to say except that you've both misinterpreted what was being said and along with that, don't seem to have much of an understanding of what racism really is.

"A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way."

^ This is blatantly racist, and frankly, stupid. But I guess since it's racist against white people (white males again), it's acceptable... for some reason. This is literally saying it takes a lot more for a white person to relate to other races, than vice versa. How is this true? Because it isn't.

It is never stated that it takes more for a white person to relate to other races than vice versa. I'm a dude living in Canada, if I were to write about an Israeli living near the Gaza border, I'd have to do a hell of a lot more reading in order to understand what that experience is like in order to make it authentic and representational. That's all this says. It asks that anyone of any race, gender, social status, etc. writing outside of their knowledge becomes more aware of what they are writing about.

So many racist remarks and anti-white sentiment to choose from. "Because a black person, if they can speak well, they’re smart. You’re surprised by this." Again, this quote is in regards to how whites supposedly view black people; 'OMG THAT BLACK GUY IS INTELLIGENT (LIKE ME) BECAUSE HE DOESN'T SOUND ALL GHETTO!!' Uh, I'm white and I certainly don't think that way, regardless of anyone's race. I am never, ever "surprised" if a black person speaks well, or presumes one thing or the other based on one's accents and dialects. This is again, generalizing and assuming things about the white race, in attempts to put them in a horrible light. Call me "insensitive" or a "white-power dude" or whatever makes you feel better. I'm just pointing out how disgustingly hypocritical this person is.

Generalization does not equal racist. And at no point does Shawn say that this is something that white people have exclusively said. You're inferring that.

The fact that you read his comments as angry black man who is racist towards whites says a whole lot more about you than anything else.

White power indeed.

Posted by mrfluke

@mrfluke & @cikame:

I want to point out that Shawn Allen himself never said that game developers who are white should/shouldn't write about minorities. In fact, he said, "[As for] injecting minorities into it, I don’t think you should just actively go about doing that..."

Shawn Allen's words make him seem like a creative guy who has a particular method of making stories, not a writer preaching to other writers about what Shawn Allen commands. If anyone is making this issue sound like a power struggle, it's Patrick. I really enjoyed this article, but I think Patrick has an irksome habit of using people's words in such a way that allows Patrick to subtly preach about something, telling people what they should/must do rather than what they simply can do. I think Shawn Allen is merely telling other creatives what they can do, if they so choose; he's giving advice.

yep,

Posted by joshwent

@porjos: @monkfishesq: Come on duders. Personal attacks on editors or other users are NEVER okay. Discuss the content, not the author.

Edited by darkest4

@humanity: @uberdubie:

You guys said it better than I could.

My personal opinion is that there's too much hypocrisy, exaggeration and intellectually unsound arguments dripping in Patrick's articles/tweets ect lately and seems to be continually painting most of the gaming community/industry as "sexist" or "racist" for ridiculous or hypocritical reasons. I just miss the easier going Patrick who wasn't trying to put himself on a soapbox so much. That's my feedback, sorry it's negative, but it's the truth.

Posted by RockyRaccoon37

@darkest4 said:

@humanity: @uberdubie:

You guys said it better than I could.

My personal opinion is that there's too much hypocrisy, exaggeration and intellectually unsound arguments dripping in Patrick's articles/tweets ect lately and seems to be continually painting most of the gaming community/industry as "sexist" or "racist" for ridiculous or hypocritical reasons. I just miss the easier going Patrick who wasn't trying to put himself on a soapbox so much. That's my feedback, sorry it's negative, but it's the truth.

I find it odd that when people want to talk about serious issues they're often depicted as putting themselves on a soapbox. Does one do that solely by talking about the issues?

Posted by Humanity

@darkest4 said:

@humanity: @uberdubie:

You guys said it better than I could.

My personal opinion is that there's too much hypocrisy, exaggeration and intellectually unsound arguments dripping in Patrick's articles/tweets ect lately and seems to be continually painting most of the gaming community/industry as "sexist" or "racist" for ridiculous or hypocritical reasons. I just miss the easier going Patrick who wasn't trying to put himself on a soapbox so much. That's my feedback, sorry it's negative, but it's the truth.

I find it odd that when people want to talk about serious issues they're often depicted as putting themselves on a soapbox. Does one do that solely by talking about the issues?

I think many different things can factor into appearing to be "on a soapbox" but alas I don't want to derail this into a topic better left unexplored.

I'll just say that it's always good to raise awareness, but at the same time moderation is key in these sort of topics.

Posted by patrickklepek

Another trashy feel good SJW article from Patrick. I guess moving back into your moms house to start a family and not actually getting around to that part leaves you with a lot of spare time to write kotaku levels of trash.

I don't mind if you don't like some of the articles that show up on this site, but please try to be constructive in your criticism.

"A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way."

^ This is blatantly racist, and frankly, stupid. But I guess since it's racist against white people (white males again), it's acceptable... for some reason. This is literally saying it takes a lot more for a white person to relate to other races, than vice versa. How is this true? Because it isn't.

Disagree. What Allen is saying is that it doesn't make sense to write a character unless you can speak in an authentic tone somehow. He's trying to avoid what so many players fear about "forced diversity" in games: shoehorning. What he's saying is that designers should do their research to write about people in the same way they visit a location to set their games in. When a game developer wants to set their game in New York, they visit New York. Why isn't it the same thing with game characters?

@darkest4 said:

@humanity: @uberdubie:

You guys said it better than I could.

My personal opinion is that there's too much hypocrisy, exaggeration and intellectually unsound arguments dripping in Patrick's articles/tweets ect lately and seems to be continually painting most of the gaming community/industry as "sexist" or "racist" for ridiculous or hypocritical reasons. I just miss the easier going Patrick who wasn't trying to put himself on a soapbox so much. That's my feedback, sorry it's negative, but it's the truth.

Please feel free to point out specific examples.

Staff
Posted by RockyRaccoon37

@humanity said:

@rockyraccoon37 said:

@darkest4 said:

@humanity: @uberdubie:

You guys said it better than I could.

My personal opinion is that there's too much hypocrisy, exaggeration and intellectually unsound arguments dripping in Patrick's articles/tweets ect lately and seems to be continually painting most of the gaming community/industry as "sexist" or "racist" for ridiculous or hypocritical reasons. I just miss the easier going Patrick who wasn't trying to put himself on a soapbox so much. That's my feedback, sorry it's negative, but it's the truth.

I find it odd that when people want to talk about serious issues they're often depicted as putting themselves on a soapbox. Does one do that solely by talking about the issues?

I think many different things can factor into appearing to be "on a soapbox" but alas I don't want to derail this into a topic better left unexplored.

I'll just say that it's always good to raise awareness, but at the same time moderation is key in these sort of topics.

I don't know, I guess I find that to be a specious argument-- what you're saying is that one should talk about issues, but that there exists some kind of threshold where if that person mentions a topic one too many times they're deemed as putting themselves on a soap box.

If a topic is of importance to a person then they should be free to speak about it as much and as loudly as they like without being characterized as being disingenuous.

Posted by abara

Really interesting read. I enjoyed this one. Hope things go well for this guy's project.

Edited by mrfluke

@patrickklepek said:

@uberdubie said:

"A guy was asking me ‘how does a white man write a little black girl?’ I was like ‘you’ve just got to become informed.’ You’ve got to be around it in some way."

^ This is blatantly racist, and frankly, stupid. But I guess since it's racist against white people (white males again), it's acceptable... for some reason. This is literally saying it takes a lot more for a white person to relate to other races, than vice versa. How is this true? Because it isn't.

Disagree. What Allen is saying is that it doesn't make sense to write a character unless you can speak in an authentic tone somehow. He's trying to avoid what so many players fear about "forced diversity" in games: shoehorning. What he's saying is that designers should do their research to write about people in the same way they visit a location to set their games in. When a game developer wants to set their game in New York, they visit New York. Why isn't it the same thing with game characters?

if it was easy to find old tumblr responses and dig up some of the older articles i would be happy to engage in a debate with you.

but ill take you up on this response above though, i agree that designers should do research on the people of that city or area when your setting something like an open world game in said area.(the assassins creed games nail this aspect well, they have the appropriate city and main characters that suit the culture (you can even set the language to italian in assassins creed 2 and brotherhood)

but say now if the story calls for some globetrotting, like say an uncharted or a modern warfare (which have had characters in the appropriate areas speaking the proper language) i personally think its ok if it just boils down to the developer using the location for the set piece.

and with game development deadlines and such, it makes sense to have a specific focus, i bet if game devs had all the time and money in the world, they would love to research an area's culture and recreate it bit for bit on the level of a rockstar game. i do not think its deliberate ignorance of an area's culture like you think it is

id genuinely like to know what games your citing as examples of said criticism your talking about. or if its jaded generalization again.

Edited by livelikeabomb

Patrick is reaching out to people, asking to hear some specific, constructive criticism, so I'll try to offer some:

Hey, Patrick. This article was an interesting read, and I think the quotes you picked from Shawn Allen were fascinating, and I'm glad you gave me the chance to read his thoughtful points, and thank you. Thank you for writing interesting articles that are somewhat out of the box.

Unfortunately, I noticed some of what I might want to call dishonesty in the way you've organized the article. I'll start with the first paragraph, where you have written, "As the video game industry grapples with growing up, some uncomfortable conversations are happening along the way, especially in regards to the way games treat gender and race. These topics provoke fiery, impassioned debates about the path forward, even as that path remains unclear." Right off the bat, some readers are going to naturally expect some "fiery, impassioned debates" to swell up in the Shawn Allen quotes to come. This kind of energy, however, does not appear anywhere in the body of the article, at least not from Allen himself, who is ostensibly the subject of this piece.

According to what you have provided of Allen's points regarding his idea of good storytelling, he does not want people to be actively "injecting minorities into it." His main point seemed to be, "Maybe if people took a little bit more time to think about their stories in general, they’d be way better," and overall, I agree with his attitude. He is level-headed. And once again, I am glad that you wrote about him, but the problem is when you subtly (almost passive-aggressively) say things like, "There’s no reasons games can’t [research the lifestyles of other people like Charlie Ahearn did for his film, Wild Style], too." You're using Shawn Allen's words as a precursor to your own call to arms. You're once again telling the entire game industry to change and "grow up", which is going to strike many of your on-the-fence readers as quite bossy and high-handed. Shawn Allen is coming from a place of humility, whereas you're coming from a place of projected guilt.

And the disparity between yourself and Allen wouldn't be an issue if this article was not seemingly meant to be about Shawn Allen. You accidentally made this article be about you, and what you think. By reporting in this manner, you are paradoxically amplifying Shawn Allen's voice and taking some of the spotlight for yourself.

My father is extremely active, politically, regarding issues of race (partly because he is from Mexico and has experienced a lot of racial prejudice in his youth and even today), and one thing he has taught me is that the best way to give a voice to minorities, the best way to give a voice to anybody, is to remember to let them speak for themselves.

Again, Patrick. Thank you. Keep up the good work, and I hope I've made some sense.

Posted by 2kings

Oh, hey another NES looking indy game... yawn.

Seriously, when is this stupid fucking hipster bullshit craze going to be over? Why can't these self-congratulatory ass-wipes stop patting their own backs and learn how to code for real? At least it looks as though Jonathan Blow is trying.

Posted by triviaman09

The amount of upset and threatened that young White men get from any kind of diversity encroaching on their little Internet fiefdoms never ceases to boggle my mind.

Edited by indieslaw

What are the modern day versions of Living Single or A Different World? Seems like current TV is missing that kind of voice.

EDIT: Or maybe it's that my algorithm'd viewing suggestions are maintaining an insular pocket of media for me.

Posted by RoyCampbell

The amount of upset and threatened that young White men get from any kind of diversity encroaching on their little Internet fiefdoms never ceases to boggle my mind.

How are we to assume this exaggeration you've made has been relayed solely by "young white men"?

Check your privilege. Next time, preface your comment with a trigger warning. I'm triggered by stupidity and mild racism.

Edited by cooljammer00

CT PUNK!

CT PUNK!

CT PUNK!

Sorry, just thinking about WWE. Good read.

Posted by triviaman09

@triviaman09 said:

The amount of upset and threatened that young White men get from any kind of diversity encroaching on their little Internet fiefdoms never ceases to boggle my mind.

How are we to assume this exaggeration you've made has been relayed solely by "young white men"?

Check your privilege. Next time, preface your comment with a trigger warning. I'm triggered by stupidity and mild racism.

Yeah you're right. I'm sure LOTS of other people would be upset by more diversity in games.

That trigger warning you suggest should be on all Giantbomb forum pages and probably the entire Internet.

Edited by patrickklepek

My father is extremely active, politically, regarding issues of race (partly because he is from Mexico and has experienced a lot of racial prejudice in his youth and even today), and one thing he has taught me is that the best way to give a voice to minorities, the best way to give a voice to anybody, is to remember to let them speak for themselves.

Again, Patrick. Thank you. Keep up the good work, and I hope I've made some sense.

This is exactly the kind of criticism I am very happy to read: challenging, assertive, and backed up with reasonable arguments. Thank you. You make a good point, but I'd disagree with the conclusion, at least if we're talking about my intentions. My writing style, especially for Giant Bomb, is very casual, a mixture of what my subject is saying and my own thoughts. I can see why you might look at this article and see too much of me in there. It's why I try to offer the Interview Dumptruck with my material, a way to listen to our conversation with zero filter. But I think you make a series of good points that I'd do well to listen to when visiting subjects like this in the future.

Staff
Posted by jarowdowsky
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