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Posted by Sweep (8983 posts) -

The argument used to be

that these (gestures vaguely at videogames) are games being made by predominantly men, being played by predominantly men. It's easier for both designers and players to relate to what they know, and in an industry that strives for empathy (Or should do, at the very least) picking white male protagonists is a numbers game. It's supposedly easier for men to empathise with men. As Dara O'Brien once said in his standup about why he doesn't do Islamic jokes:

[People used to come up to me after gigs and go] You'll make jokes about the Catholics, and the Protestants, but you wont make jokes about the Muslims, will you? To which I would say, there are two reasons I don't do jokes about Muslims:

  1. I don't know a fuckin' thing about Muslims.
  2. Neither do you.

That's not to say that people shouldn't be making attempts to bridge that gap, and it's disappointing that the easiest route is the route most travelled. Just because I have a penis doesn't mean I can't relate to someone without a penis, and there should be more effort made to make both male and female characters that actively attempt to relate to a wider range of players. However, when you consider that most games contain fairly minimal character development, the role of protagonist becomes somewhat redundant, and the argument is one of principle - that a certain type of person is being under-represented by the medium as a whole. I get that; the standard white male lead doesn't fairly reflect a culturally diverse society, nor his position of dominance over the other characters and the world he inhabits. This flag is being waved by some people who won't even play the game, and it's a larger issue that videogames can't take sole credit for.

Looking beyond these principles is the core issue:

Personally, unless you're going to actually explore the unique perspective that a different faith/gender/race could have on the game, it doesn't fucking matter what your virtual murderer looks like.

It's a shame that more people, both developers and players, don't agree with (or are even aware of) this, and that steps are not being taken to do something about it.

Thanks for reading,

Love Sweep

#1 Posted by TruthTellah (9481 posts) -

So, kind of the classic "improve character writing in general" instead of focusing on "adding diversity to the cast of characters"?

Can't we attempt to do both?

#2 Posted by Sweep (8983 posts) -

So, kind of the classic "improve character writing in general" instead of focusing on "adding diversity to the cast of characters"?

Can't we attempt to do both?

Well... actually, asking for both is exactly what I'm saying. Unless you're going to write better characters then there's no point adding more diversity.

#3 Edited by ElixirBronze (447 posts) -

White as a Sheet

This is somewhat related and an interesting read all around. It talks more about developers being afraid to depart from the norm too much because of the enormous backlash things like that can generate.

So for me, striving for game content diversity is a case of being once bitten and twice shy. i've hired both women and people of colour to work with me at Untold Entertainment, but i've always been terrified of saying the wrong thing around them. i'm altogether too nervous to write a female or a person of colour in one of my games, for fear of the Anita Sarkeesians and the drama and English teachers of the world calling me out for inappropriate chest size or for perpetuating harmful stereotypes. And on the flipside, i worry that i'll catch flack for continually writing games with only white male protagonists.

Ryan Creighton - Untold Entertainment

The reason we have under-represented demographics in games probably stems from a mixture of what's discussed in the article and what you're saying about develeopers writing about what they know.

#4 Posted by KentonClay (259 posts) -

"I get that; the standard white male lead doesn't fairly reflect a culturally diverse society, nor his position of dominance over the other characters and the world he inhabits. This flag is being waved by some people who won't even play the game, and it's a larger issue that videogames can't take sole credit for."

This is true, but this particular flag is being waved mostly by people who write about games for a living or are at least passionate about games as a medium, so of course that's where their focus is going to lie. There are plenty of critics who talk about diversity in other mediums, and work by people in academic fields about why representation is important, and how depictions of people in media can affect us on an unconscious level.

The problem is kind of a lumbering behemoth that stretches across all media and needs to be tackled from multiple angles.

#5 Edited by TruthTellah (9481 posts) -

@sweep said:

@truthtellah said:

So, kind of the classic "improve character writing in general" instead of focusing on "adding diversity to the cast of characters"?

Can't we attempt to do both?

Well... actually, asking for both is exactly what I'm saying. Unless you're going to write better characters then there's no point adding more diversity.

Oh, then I wouldn't quite agree. Even the simple act of having more diversity can be good, as it not only offers more opportunities for character writers to try something different, but it also allows for potentially greater identification with videogame characters from the diverse audience.

So, while the long-term goal is more diverse and better characters, adding diversity can by itself have positive effects for those who are not the current "norm". Sure women would appreciate well-written female characters in games, but even just having them in more games would be nice. Sure black individuals would appreciate well-written black characters in games, but even just having them in more games would be nice. Videogames often have us embody characters, and it is nice to at times embody characters which more resemble yourself.

A lot of female characters that women have appreciated throughout gaming history aren't necessarily well-written female characters, but the fact that they are there is rather powerful in its own right.

Pursuing diversity will itself have positive side-effects; so, it doesn't have to include improvement in character writing. What benefits us -most-, though, is certainly an improvement in both diversity and writing. We should be encouraging both, as they're even better together.

Still, if diversity doesn't come hand in hand with better writing, that can have its own value. In our desire for both together, we don't need to diminish the impact of diversity alone. :)

#6 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

This might be a good time to hear from someone who actually is both a minority and female, Ubisoft conference host Aisha Tyler:

http://recode.net/2014/06/07/ubisofts-e3-host-aisha-tyler-really-its-getting-easier-to-be-a-woman-gamer-qa/

Re/code: Two years ago, you wrote a widely shared post on Facebook about the backlash you’ve received from people who don’t believe you’re a “real gamer.” In those two years, has anything changed?

Aisha Tyler: Yeah, I think so. I’ve always been playing, but the more time I spend talking about it, I think the reaction is changing. But still now, even, I’ve been tweeting a lot about Watch Dogs and people will go, “Wait a minute. You game?” But the tone and the percentage of negative responses has definitely diminished over time. There’s always going to be haters, but it’s definitely improved.

What is it specifically that those haters are reacting to? Is it the assumption that only guys play games?

Tyler: It’s kind of a very boilerplate, “Oh these girls that show up at these shows are trying to glom on to our culture.They don’t really play.”It may also be a reaction to the videogame equivalent of car girls that show up at conferences and they’re meant to lure guys in.There’s just a general idea that they hired some actress who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. The thing I find fascinating about it is, it’s a marginalized culture of gamers, and the associated culture of nerds, a group of people who’ve been ostracized and excluded. And now they’re really busy trying to exclude other people. It’s like, “I was hazed. And now I’m going to haze.”

One of the big issues people talk about in games is representation, making more main characters who are women or minorities or from other under-represented groups. Do you agree that that’s important, playing as someone you look like in real life?

Tyler: I think that’s happening already, especially in games where you create your own avatar, something like Mass Effect or Fallout. Players are playing themselves, and they’ve been doing that for a long time in MMORPGs [massively multiplayer online role-playing games]. In some of the games that are campaigns, I think some of the most successful games of the past few years — something like Gears of War, where the secondary lead in the co-op mode is latino, and then a game like The Walking Dead, the lead is a black man.

So to continue that change, is that something where game companies like Ubisoft or Telltale Games need to be taking the first step? Or does the audience need to speak up first?

Tyler: I don’t know. It’s hard because you can’t legislate creative diversity. I think it’s more that the gaming community’s more diverse, and they’re going to ask for more diverse experiences. They’re going to demand them. If you’re a game company, you want to create a singular gaming experience, and part of that is doing stuff that nobody else is doing. If you’re trying to create a game that feels different, you’re going to create a lead that feels different. It’s not going to be just another white guy.

As we go forward, people are going to want to play as those characters because they feel different. They don’t want to play the same kind of character over and over again. Some gamers always pick an avatar that looks just like them, but others want to live a different identity inside of a game.

She makes some good points, and manages to do so without pointing fingers, which is always a good idea when trying to change someone's mind. Creating a lead character that will stand out is certainly a good motivation for developers, and it isn't talked about very often when it comes to this issue.

#7 Edited by Fredchuckdave (6162 posts) -

It does matter, if anything it matters much more than games that cater to a specific demographic; because no one mainstream is going to pay attention to those games. When I saw the Farcry 4 main character's hands I was shocked that he might actually be a black person, but nope those are gloves; because it matters so much that the protagonist is white in an FPS. Every protagonist has to look like this:

Let's not neglect the non brown-haired white guy demographic either; we're just as oppressed by video games! Also Ageism, Childism (not since The Last of Us has there been a prolific child murderer, despite child murderers being all the rage these days), Tallism, and Shortism.

On a more serious note, you want to talk oppressed groups in video games: let's talk about white people in the fighting game community.

#8 Posted by Karkarov (3291 posts) -

I find the whole thing laughably hilarious and sort of reverse race issues. I love that the article @spaceinsomniac brings up mentions things like Dom from Gears of War. I played Gear's of War plenty, how many times do you think I thought about Dom or Coles ethnicity while playing the game? Bear in mind I even played Gears 2 100% through as Co-op and I was the one playing Dom himself. Not even once, that's how many times I thought about it zero. It has nothing to do with the story, it has nothing to do with the gameplay, and it doesn't make Dom more or less relate-able.

I play games for fun and to enjoy them, I figure most gamers are the same. All I care about is if your game is good, I couldn't care less if the protagonist is white, black, hispanic, muslim, male, or female. If you want to take on race and sexism issues you need to find a different avenue then video games because video games in general are not about tackling social issues and there are far better platforms to use to run your crusade.

#9 Posted by Levius (1231 posts) -

I think it's important to not lose sight that there are unforeseen demographics you don't even think of when you use the term white. I know a guy with Polish ancestry who was pretty happy to see that there was Polish characters in the new Wolfenstein who weren't cleaners/builders with Russian accents. Maybe it is more of a thing in America, but I always think that "white" is an odd term to use in over here in Europe.

Online
#10 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@sweep said:

@truthtellah said:

So, kind of the classic "improve character writing in general" instead of focusing on "adding diversity to the cast of characters"?

Can't we attempt to do both?

Well... actually, asking for both is exactly what I'm saying. Unless you're going to write better characters then there's no point adding more diversity.

There's a joke in here about lobbying for greater diversity in poorly written characters. I just can't tease it out.

#11 Posted by ajamafalous (12164 posts) -

@karkarov said:

I find the whole thing laughably hilarious and sort of reverse race issues. I love that the article @spaceinsomniac brings up mentions things like Dom from Gears of War. I played Gear's of War plenty, how many times do you think I thought about Dom or Coles ethnicity while playing the game? Bear in mind I even played Gears 2 100% through as Co-op and I was the one playing Dom himself. Not even once, that's how many times I thought about it zero. It has nothing to do with the story, it has nothing to do with the gameplay, and it doesn't make Dom more or less relate-able.

I play games for fun and to enjoy them, I figure most gamers are the same. All I care about is if your game is good, I couldn't care less if the protagonist is white, black, hispanic, muslim, male, or female. If you want to take on race and sexism issues you need to find a different avenue then video games because video games in general are not about tackling social issues and there are far better platforms to use to run your crusade.

This is pretty much how I feel, except for the last sentence.

If people want to try to break new social ground (or whatever) with video games, then fine, be my guest, but I'm here to play a fun video game first. I'll never be able to be empathetic with SJWs (for lack of a better, less pejorative term) because I literally could not care less. Diversity/equality/whatever other buzz word is not what I come to games for, and it has no bearing on whether or not I am capable of enjoying a game. Just because I believe in these things doesn't mean I need to see them in every single thing in my life just for the sake of forced diversity.

#12 Edited by Oni (2114 posts) -

@karkarov said:

I find the whole thing laughably hilarious and sort of reverse race issues. I love that the article @spaceinsomniac brings up mentions things like Dom from Gears of War. I played Gear's of War plenty, how many times do you think I thought about Dom or Coles ethnicity while playing the game? Bear in mind I even played Gears 2 100% through as Co-op and I was the one playing Dom himself. Not even once, that's how many times I thought about it zero. It has nothing to do with the story, it has nothing to do with the gameplay, and it doesn't make Dom more or less relate-able.

I play games for fun and to enjoy them, I figure most gamers are the same. All I care about is if your game is good, I couldn't care less if the protagonist is white, black, hispanic, muslim, male, or female. If you want to take on race and sexism issues you need to find a different avenue then video games because video games in general are not about tackling social issues and there are far better platforms to use to run your crusade.

To you. You are speaking from your perspective. Maybe to others, it does matter. You don't get to decide what should or should not matter to other people. And saying games "can't do" or "aren't about" doing X or Y is silly, who decides that? You? That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. A matter of simple inclusion isn't tackling a social issue actively, it can just be there passively. You don't even have to call it out. Meanwhile, Gone Home dealt with a social issue and did it well. So your limited view isn't really reflective of anything but your limited mindset. Like, "you figure" most gamers are the same as you. But not everyone is. Who are the people that want more diversity? That write articles? They don't exist, or don't count? The evidence that counters your claim is literally in your face, but you're denying it exists.

As for OP, I'd argue that writing more diverse characters will naturally lead to better writing because every character won't be the same straight white male going through a lazily written Hero's Journey for the umpteenth fucking time. You're arguing from the position that straight white male is the default and anything that's not that needs to have some kind of reason for not being straight, or white, or male. People don't need reasons to be any, or none, of the above, so why should characters in fiction? And if the argument is "writers write what they know" then they're shitty writers. Being a writer is entirely about empathy. If you can't do some research and write from a different perspective, you're a shitty writer, maybe.

Also, you don't get to say what matters and what doesn't for other people. It matters to people. It's really that simple. It's easy to say it doesn't as a straight white dude, because you're pretty much always represented in media.

#13 Edited by Sweep (8983 posts) -

@oni: Well yeah, I'm kinda assuming people will interpret this as my opinion and not fact because it's written in my blog. I just can't be fucked to keep typing "in my opinion" at the beginning of every sentence.

And yeah. They are shitty writers.

#14 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

On a more serious note, my argument has usually been the following:

games being made by predominantly men

Probably not.

being played by predominantly men.

Certainly not. (I'm especially serious on this one. I'll always cite ESA data on gamer demographics, only to be shot down by hardcore-gamer-dick-waving. After a while, it gets frustrating.)

#15 Edited by EXTomar (4951 posts) -

Even in my experience from the 90s, there have always been women making video games but it is more on the "art side" than "tech side". The issue is that there aren't enough women in the production/leadership places let alone the tech side.

#16 Edited by Oni (2114 posts) -

@sweep said:

@oni: Well yeah, I'm kinda assuming people will interpret this as my opinion and not fact because it's written in my blog. I just can't be fucked to keep typing "in my opinion" at the beginning of every sentence.

And yeah. They are shitty writers.

Saying "it does not matter" isn't the same as saying "I don't care." It does matter, just not to you. Maybe that seems like a semantic distinction, but it reads pretty differently.

#17 Posted by Sweep (8983 posts) -

On a more serious note, my argument has usually been the following:

games being made by predominantly men

Probably not.

being played by predominantly men.

Certainly not. (I'm especially serious on this one. I'll always cite ESA data on gamer demographics, only to be shot down by hardcore-gamer-dick-waving. After a while, it gets frustrating.)

Yeah, that's why I started with "The argument used to be", because we all know that it's neither true nor relevant any more.

@oni said:

@sweep said:

@oni: Well yeah, I'm kinda assuming people will interpret this as my opinion and not fact because it's written in my blog. I just can't be fucked to keep typing "in my opinion" at the beginning of every sentence.

And yeah. They are shitty writers.

Saying "it does not matter" isn't the same as saying "I don't care." It does matter, just not to you. Maybe that seems like a semantic distinction, but it reads pretty differently.

I kinda figured the way I deconstructed how it's important in the previous paragraph made it apparent that I'm able to differentiate between what does and doesn't matter. If I go back in and write "personally" at the beginning of the next paragraph then will you dry your eyes? :D

#18 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@sweep said:

@video_game_king said:

On a more serious note, my argument has usually been the following:

games being made by predominantly men

Probably not.

being played by predominantly men.

Certainly not. (I'm especially serious on this one. I'll always cite ESA data on gamer demographics, only to be shot down by hardcore-gamer-dick-waving. After a while, it gets frustrating.)

Yeah, that's why I started with "The argument used to be", because we all know that it's neither true nor relevant any more.

I have trouble believing that it ever was relevant; the stats I cite have been fairly consistent since they've first been measured, which was around 2004. The difference is less about changing demographics and more about people being more vocal (although this could be why the arguments are less relevant than they once were).

@karkarov said:

I play games for fun and to enjoy them, I figure most gamers are the same.

And continuing my serious note, this is why I hate the "Video games. They're supposed to be fun" argument I see a lot: it's used to shut down conversation rather than foster it. It's a phrase that's used to tell me to shut down my brain and just enjoy what the game's presenting me, all other issues be damned. It might also be accusatory in that it's saying the issues we're bringing up don't mean anything, but I'm certain others have already dug into that. Somebody (I know who they are, I just can't type their username) came up with an alternative that I really like: "Video games. Stop being mad at them." Or something like that. (Then again, I can see that going just as wrong, too.)

#19 Edited by HH (634 posts) -

1. let players design their own character

2. equip npcs with relevant racial or sexist slurs to throw at player

3. equip player with a gun

4. everyone's happy

i think all this focus on writing good game characters is only useful up to a point, because unlike any other medium my feelings, my input will supersede anything the 'artist' has to say, and that's where the greater focus should be - in providing me with characters to bounce off, rather than inhabit.

and by far the best writing that's been done in games thus far IMO, more game-suitable than even Last of Us, is all that background banter from the gta games. keep that coming, but stuff that's meant to humanize lara croft or whatever, i don't doubt that it can catch up to movies in terms of quality and how natural it sounds, but it just gets undermined to hell when the cut scene ends and you slaughter twenty guys with a big grin on your face. the two things just don't mesh.

#20 Edited by Corevi (5065 posts) -

Whenever a normal game tries to do a different protagonist they get yelled at for not handling it correctly. It's a no win situation.

Online
#21 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

On a more serious note, my argument has usually been the following:

games being made by predominantly men

Probably not.

being played by predominantly men.

Certainly not. (I'm especially serious on this one. I'll always cite ESA data on gamer demographics, only to be shot down by hardcore-gamer-dick-waving. After a while, it gets frustrating.)

I'm glad you're frustrated being with being shot down, because I'm frustrated seeing people still clinging to that stupid demographic data. As I recently posted in another thread:

That's a bullshit figure that is absolutely worthless when trying to calculate the ratio of male to female Assassin's Creed players. Not that it should be a determining factor--game developers shouldn't decide the gender of their protagonists based on the gender of their players--but people who argue your side of things keep using that statistic like it doesn't include a massive amount of female Candy Crush players in their mid-forties.

Fewer than 1 in 5 Mass Effect 2 AND 3 playthroughs use a female protagonist. That doesn't exactly scream almost 50 percent of console gamers being women, or that gamers are dying to see a 50/50 representation of female to male protagonists.

However, it does say that even in a heavily relationship-focused game that includes elements of romance, either considerably less than 20% of players were female, or female Mass Effect players don't care to be a female protagonist.

It's sad that the closest thing to actual data on the subject of the male to female ratio of retail console game players are some throwaway statistics from Mass Effect info graphics, but I guess the actual numbers don't support the narrative that game journalists wish was true.

Believe me, I'd like it to be true myself, but it's not. The actual percentage of female Mass Effect players could be anywhere from 10% to 20%, and perhaps even a bit above or below those numbers, but it's clearly nowhere near the 47% suggested by the ESA.

#22 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

like it doesn't include a massive amount of female Candy Crush players in their mid-forties.

This is the dick-waving I keep bringing up. People flat-out dismiss the statistic (this one, by the way) by saying that it probably includes filthy casuals in their measurements. There's a lot wrong with that, even I can't quite organize it all in my head right now. I'll just cite Aisha Tyler and say that it excludes for the purpose of holding onto an outdated identity.

Fewer than 1 in 5 Mass Effect 2 AND 3 playthroughs use a female protagonist.

A.) Where are you getting this information? Did the developer/publisher actively share this information, or is it through some other source?

B.) That doesn't necessarily mean that less than 1 in 5 Mass Effect players are women. People play as different genders than they are. I also imagine that the persistent character thing might fuck shit up.

C.) I'm not sure how representative Mass Effect can be of video games, given how many people there are who don't play Mass Effect. There's a lot wrong with this statistic (although not nearly as much as the other thing I said was wrong). You could do a lot more by gathering other games like this with similar stats. Maybe MMOs (although again, limited perspective; gotta bring in more genres).

(Also, I'm doubtful that Mass Effect is a "heavily relationship-focused game", but that's utterly beside the point.)

#24 Posted by Counterclockwork87 (743 posts) -

I couldn't care less if a game is just white people or has no females, I just want it to be fun.

I'm 100 percent hispanic and I'm basically a first generation American, I've NEVER cared about playing as a Spanish guy. I don't care about seeing hispanics in movies, video games, art, etc. I just want something good. I'm a writer, and there's a little phrase we throw around: Write what you know. Shockingly, since most people who make video games are white, they write white characters...anything else usually comes off as inauthentic.

Maybe video games needs its Spike Lee, but I really only want fun games.

#25 Posted by Deathstriker (335 posts) -

I couldn't care less if a game is just white people or has no females, I just want it to be fun.

I'm 100 percent hispanic and I'm basically a first generation American, I've NEVER cared about playing as a Spanish guy. I don't care about seeing hispanics in movies, video games, art, etc. I just want something good. I'm a writer, and there's a little phrase we throw around: Write what you know. Shockingly, since most people who make video games are white, they write white characters...anything else usually comes off as inauthentic.

Maybe video games needs its Spike Lee, but I really only want fun games.

The problem with "writing what you know" is that a character being a different race doesn't have to affect the story. How many times did Will Smith being black in I am Legend change the story (or pretty much any movie he's been in)? Nick being Hispanic in Dead Rising 3 was never really brought, Lee in The Walking Dead only got a few lines about being black, etc. They should write a Hispanic, black, Asian, etc guy the same way they'd write a white one (for the most part). When they try too hard it comes off crappy and perhaps offensive like Cole Train in Gears.

#26 Posted by Bocam (3832 posts) -

So instead of just repeating the sentiment that we need more diverse better written characters (as that's a given), I'm just going to give a shoutout to one of the greatest video game characters ever made: Kaine.

Kaine is a hermaphrodite. It doesn't define her personality. The game doesn't make a big deal about it, it just says oh by the way she's a hermaphrodite and moves right along. That's why people should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. You should play Nier. Everybody should play Nier. @patrickklepek should play Nier.

#27 Edited by GaspoweR (3528 posts) -

@sweep said:

@truthtellah said:

So, kind of the classic "improve character writing in general" instead of focusing on "adding diversity to the cast of characters"?

Can't we attempt to do both?

Well... actually, asking for both is exactly what I'm saying. Unless you're going to write better characters then there's no point adding more diversity.

Yeah, I actually subscribe to this notion as well. Its better that both are done though moving forward, game devs and companies need to have that mentality in mind from the get-go in order to start bridging that gap. It's useless to constantly criticize companies/publishers/devs for NOT doing it in the first place or not doing ENOUGH of it. How about we as a community encourage instead of lambaste, right? Overt negative criticism gets us no where. It's better to offer suggestions instead of outright telling them constantly that they're doing nothing or they're doing it wrong. That kind of feedback just creates a negative loop and I'd rather game devs be encouraged to create diverse characters instead of being coerced and feel compelled to do it because of fear of a public outcry. That stuff just sucks.

#28 Posted by jiggajoe14 (838 posts) -

@bocam: I keep getting told I should play Nier. Should I play it?

#29 Posted by Yummylee (22577 posts) -

@counterclockwork87 said:

I couldn't care less if a game is just white people or has no females, I just want it to be fun.

I'm 100 percent hispanic and I'm basically a first generation American, I've NEVER cared about playing as a Spanish guy. I don't care about seeing hispanics in movies, video games, art, etc. I just want something good. I'm a writer, and there's a little phrase we throw around: Write what you know. Shockingly, since most people who make video games are white, they write white characters...anything else usually comes off as inauthentic.

Maybe video games needs its Spike Lee, but I really only want fun games.

The problem with "writing what you know" is that a character being a different race doesn't have to affect the story. How many times did Will Smith being black in I am Legend change the story (or pretty much any movie he's been in)? Nick being Hispanic in Dead Rising 3 was never really brought, Lee in The Walking Dead only got a few lines about being black, etc. They should write a Hispanic, black, Asian, etc guy the same way they'd write a white one (for the most part). When they try too hard it comes off crappy and perhaps offensive like Cole Train in Gears.

Wait wot... people find Cole Train to be offensive? Why? If it's because of how hyperactive & loud he is, that's more so because he's portrayed as a stereotypical meat head athlete than it has anything to do with his race.

#30 Posted by Evilsbane (4749 posts) -

@bocam said:

So instead of just repeating the sentiment that we need more diverse better written characters (as that's a given), I'm just going to give a shoutout to one of the greatest video game characters ever made: Kaine.

Kaine is a hermaphrodite. It doesn't define her personality. The game doesn't make a big deal about it, it just says oh by the way she's a hermaphrodite and moves right along. That's why people should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. People should play Nier. You should play Nier. Everybody should play Nier. @patrickklepek should play Nier.

Maybe I played a different game but I am pretty sure I remember a very extended sequence on the taunting she went through as a child because of what she is and how that directly lead her to be "Possessed" so, it absolutely defines her character and personality granted that story is a NG+ thing but it is still there.

#31 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

I just remembered something:

To everybody who keeps saying that most video game developers are white.

#32 Posted by Sweep (8983 posts) -

@counterclockwork87 said:

I couldn't care less if a game is just white people or has no females, I just want it to be fun.

I'm 100 percent hispanic and I'm basically a first generation American, I've NEVER cared about playing as a Spanish guy. I don't care about seeing hispanics in movies, video games, art, etc. I just want something good. I'm a writer, and there's a little phrase we throw around: Write what you know. Shockingly, since most people who make video games are white, they write white characters...anything else usually comes off as inauthentic.

Maybe video games needs its Spike Lee, but I really only want fun games.

The problem with "writing what you know" is that a character being a different race doesn't have to affect the story. How many times did Will Smith being black in I am Legend change the story (or pretty much any movie he's been in)? Nick being Hispanic in Dead Rising 3 was never really brought, Lee in The Walking Dead only got a few lines about being black, etc. They should write a Hispanic, black, Asian, etc guy the same way they'd write a white one (for the most part). When they try too hard it comes off crappy and perhaps offensive like Cole Train in Gears.

It's probably just because I read all the Gears books (I know, shaddap) but Cole's character had an extra layer of depth for me so I never really had a problem. The problem with games like Gears is there are very few moments which aren't crazy firefights, so there isn't much room for tender character development, but I still think they did a pretty great job of humanising their cast in Gears 3 and, arguably, even in Gears 2.

#33 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

@spaceinsomniac said:

like it doesn't include a massive amount of female Candy Crush players in their mid-forties.

This is the dick-waving I keep bringing up. People flat-out dismiss the statistic (this one, by the way) by saying that it probably includes filthy casuals in their measurements. There's a lot wrong with that, even I can't quite organize it all in my head right now. I'll just cite Aisha Tyler and say that it excludes for the purpose of holding onto an outdated identity.

Fewer than 1 in 5 Mass Effect 2 AND 3 playthroughs use a female protagonist.

A.) Where are you getting this information? Did the developer/publisher actively share this information, or is it through some other source?

B.) That doesn't necessarily mean that less than 1 in 5 Mass Effect players are women. People play as different genders than they are. I also imagine that the persistent character thing might fuck shit up.

C.) I'm not sure how representative Mass Effect can be of video games, given how many people there are who don't play Mass Effect. There's a lot wrong with this statistic (although not nearly as much as the other thing I said was wrong). You could do a lot more by gathering other games like this with similar stats. Maybe MMOs (although again, limited perspective; gotta bring in more genres).

(Also, I'm doubtful that Mass Effect is a "heavily relationship-focused game", but that's utterly beside the point.)

It's only dick-waving if I suggest that those people are "not real gamers" or whatever. I don't care about anything of the sort, I don't wish to exclude anyone, and I'm the person who posted Aisha Tyler's statement in the first place.

Again, my statement:

That's a bullshit figure that is absolutely worthless when trying to calculate the ratio of male to female Assassin's Creed players. Not that it should be a determining factor--game developers shouldn't decide the gender of their protagonists based on the gender of their players--but people who argue your side of things keep using that statistic like it doesn't include a massive amount of female Candy Crush players in their mid-forties.

What I am saying is I would like to see some actual numbers of the male to female ratio of retail console gamers, but I don't think that would support the story that the ESA is trying to tell.

And yes, 18 percent in both mass effect 2 and 3 is a number that the developer shared.

B.) That doesn't necessarily mean that less than 1 in 5 Mass Effect players are women. People play as different genders than they are. I also imagine that the persistent character thing might fuck shit up.

No, it mean what I said it means:

"Even in a heavily relationship-focused game that includes elements of romance, either considerably less than 20% of players were female, or female Mass Effect players don't care to be a female protagonist."

I've also noticed that the vital importance of female gamers to play as female characters that they can relate to seems to disappear rather quickly whenever I mention this particular statistic, and then out comes "well, people like playing as different genders than they are," right on cue.

Finally, the only way the persistent character thing "might fuck shit up" is if the player never wanted to play as a female in the first place. It's been an option for all three games in the series.

@video_game_king said:

Also, I'm doubtful that Mass Effect is a "heavily relationship-focused game"

Have you played Mass Effect? I can't think of a single game containing any shooting gameplay that is more focused on story and relationships.

#34 Posted by Bocam (3832 posts) -

@video_game_king: Don't be silly, everybody knows japanese game developers are just white guys in costumes.

#35 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

It's only dick-waving if I suggest that those people are "not real gamers" or whatever.

You are, though. You're just using coded language. Assassin's Creed games have been released on the PC, and a lot of people buy Kinect for Just Dance and other casual experiences.

I've also noticed that the vital importance of female gamers to play as female characters that they can relate to seems to disappear rather quickly whenever I mention this particular statistic, and then out comes "well, people like playing as different genders than they are," right on cue.

Then we might change the conversation to one about representation in general, regardless of the people playing. But then......I'm gonna need to sort this one out....

Have you played Mass Effect? I can't think of a single game containing any shooting gameplay that is more focused on story and relationships.

But where's the focus in the game? I haven't played the games (and therefore open myself up to ridicule at this point), but I imagine they play less like Love Plus and more like Gears of War (IE it's romance elements tacked on a shooter, not shooter elements tacked on a romance game).

#36 Posted by Counterclockwork87 (743 posts) -

@counterclockwork87 said:

I couldn't care less if a game is just white people or has no females, I just want it to be fun.

I'm 100 percent hispanic and I'm basically a first generation American, I've NEVER cared about playing as a Spanish guy. I don't care about seeing hispanics in movies, video games, art, etc. I just want something good. I'm a writer, and there's a little phrase we throw around: Write what you know. Shockingly, since most people who make video games are white, they write white characters...anything else usually comes off as inauthentic.

Maybe video games needs its Spike Lee, but I really only want fun games.

The problem with "writing what you know" is that a character being a different race doesn't have to affect the story. How many times did Will Smith being black in I am Legend change the story (or pretty much any movie he's been in)? Nick being Hispanic in Dead Rising 3 was never really brought, Lee in The Walking Dead only got a few lines about being black, etc. They should write a Hispanic, black, Asian, etc guy the same way they'd write a white one (for the most part). When they try too hard it comes off crappy and perhaps offensive like Cole Train in Gears.

You're thinking too surface level though. When you write a good character you have to live with them. You have to think about what they eat for breakfast, what their mother is like, their extended family, that time they were bullied in elementary school...every little thing you can to make that "character" a real person. A lot of character writing in video games is bad precisely because they aren't worrying about stuff like that. So while you could just change your white character to an Asian character you're not thinking about how their upbringing possibly changes who they are as a character. Also, don't kid yourself and believe that their lives would be exactly the same and the only difference would be their race; there's customs in every culture.

You bring up Lee which is a REALLY good example of it being done right. It didn't matter that Lee was black, except it DID matter in certain situations where his race was implied. There wasn't much of it but a situation or two came up where Lee's upbringing as a black man in America mattered and made it's way into the story. It's no coincidence that The Walking Dead also happens to have some of the best writing in video games.

Obviously people of all races can write characters of other races but getting down to the nitty gritty you have to really put yourself in their shoes and lots of writers are uncomfortable doing that.

#37 Edited by EpicSteve (6499 posts) -

It's safe to assume the bulk of most dev teams are male. There's no reason men can't write a good female character. Frozen had great female characters and had a mostly male senior creative team.

When you get to more minority groups like trans, Muslims, or homosexuals, you might run into the problem of a creative team not being exposed to those people much if at all in their life. Not only does writing these kind of characters become difficult, it's also likely as innocent as not thinking about those groups when writing. I assume most writers pull from what they know and are exposed to self consciously.

It gets weird if you're writing a story and artificially think, "Ok, where am I going to put my black characters and gay characters?"

Not to excuse the overabundance of white males, but most the criticism against it suggests more nefarious intentions at play.

I remember some journalist having a fit on Twitter after MOH came out about everyone you shoot being "brown". I had to educate him that most terrorist soldiers come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other muslim countries which the vast majority of those people are that color and religion.

If you were going to make a WWII game all your characters would probably be white men unless you were telling a tale of a segregated unit. This doesn't excuse 90% of videogames, but not all story writers are racist homophobes.

I never realized part of what made The Walking Dead game and The Last of Us was that their main characters were younger females. A age and gender not usually presented. I'm just so used to white male adults.

That being said, if I was making Assassin's Creed unity, I'd toss in a female character.

#38 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

@spaceinsomniac said:

It's only dick-waving if I suggest that those people are "not real gamers" or whatever.

You are, though. You're just using coded language. Assassin's Creed games have been released on the PC, and a lot of people buy Kinect for Just Dance and other casual experiences.

There's a difference between "not real gamers" so we should look down upon them, and "not real gamers" so they don't really count when planing a product that they will never buy. It doesn't matter if it's men, women, or children, if there are gamers who only play casual and motion games, they shouldn't be considered part of your potential audience when planing a traditional multi-million dollar retail game.

But again, it shouldn't be a determining factor, and game developers shouldn't decide the gender of their protagonists based on the gender of their players.

Have you played Mass Effect? I can't think of a single game containing any shooting gameplay that is more focused on story and relationships.

But where's the focus in the game? I haven't played the games (and therefore open myself up to ridicule at this point), but I imagine they play less like Love Plus and more like Gears of War (IE it's romance elements tacked on a shooter, not shooter elements tacked on a romance game).

Romance really isn't a big part of ME, and it's arguably handled kind of poorly. Having said that, relationships are a huge part of ME. I would guess that I spent more time in the ME trilogy talking to people than I did shooting them. There are loads of dialogue trees. See for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvZJzyYUuc4

#39 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

they shouldn't be considered part of your potential audience when planing a traditional multi-million dollar retail game.

Who do you think are buying these games? Why do you think a lot of the AAA games sell themselves like big Hollywood blockbusters? How do you think the developers intend to profit off bloated budgets? I doubt it's by appealing primarily to audiences like us.

Wait a minute......who the hell are we?

#40 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@spaceinsomniac said:

they shouldn't be considered part of your potential audience when planing a traditional multi-million dollar retail game.

Who do you think are buying these games? Why do you think a lot of the AAA games sell themselves like big Hollywood blockbusters? How do you think the developers intend to profit off bloated budgets? I doubt it's by appealing primarily to audiences like us.

Wait a minute......who the hell are we?

Audiences like us? I never mentioned an "us." I'm just saying that AC Unity developers intend to profit by appealing to AC fans, not people who only play casual and motion games, because they're not the potential audience for the game. At the very least, they're not the probable audience.

#41 Posted by EXTomar (4951 posts) -

So who are them?!? Don't you see the problem with this kind of sweeping generalization? The suggestion that Ubi is making decisions like this because Ubi wants to appeal to us instead of them is preposterous.

#42 Posted by hollitz (1630 posts) -

@sweep said:
Unless you're going to write better characters then there's no point adding more diversity.

Couldn't disagree more.

Think of where the industry of predominately white males appealing to predominately white males has gotten us. We've kind of hit a wall.

I think you're ignoring the appeal of games to younger generations. If a younger female of color were to play a game that she related to, maybe she'd be more apt to engage with gaming as a hobby. Maybe she'd be more apt to want to make games some day. Maybe she'd be more apt to create an experience beyond what the industry is currently capable of.

There's always a point to engaging different audiences. You just might not see it immediately.

#43 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@hollitz said:

If a younger female of color

There's an irony in how dehumanizing this is.

#44 Posted by ProfessorEss (7523 posts) -
#45 Edited by Oldirtybearon (4897 posts) -

@professoress said:

@video_game_king said:

@hollitz said:

If a younger female of color

There's an irony in how dehumanizing this is.

No shit. I've been railing pretty hard against how progressive types have segmented people into "white" and "non-white" categories. There are "the white people" and then there are "the people of colour" (i.e. everyone else). It's gross, racist, and more than anything I wish these people would knock it off.

#46 Edited by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

Fuck that noise. I just want them to make more games of different genre styles. Need a new Tokyo Xtreme Racer in my life.

#47 Edited by Gaff (1890 posts) -
"Write what you know."
"Again, write what you know."

#48 Posted by Brodehouse (10134 posts) -

I really enjoyed Guacamelee, and I am here to apologize for enjoying such a horribly ethnocentric and chauvinistic piece of dross. There's pinatas and tacos and luchadors because the developers are racist and think that's all Mexico is. And of course the main character is a man. Boooo!

#49 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
#50 Posted by Ford_Dent (349 posts) -

I see this "write what you know" thing tossed around a lot when this topic comes up and uh...

If all you "know" is what it is like to be a white dude, then what the fuck are you doing calling yourself a writer in the first place? Part of being a writer is learning about other cultures and other experiences--you don't have to live it to know what it's like. I mean... what the fuck do you think fiction is, exactly, if not writing about people you aren't? Yes, it can be nerve wracking to write from a perspective that isn't your own in fiction, but that's a poor reason to give up. "I might fail/people might be mad at me" is a shitty reason to shy away from a challenge. Go out in the world. Learn about the culture you're representing. Have some empathy. Then write and see what happens.

Additionally, I find it curious that it's the writing that seems to be the sticking point--we talk about how bland shooter protagonists are, and I've seen multiple people say "it didn't matter if x character was black or female or Mexican etc., because they weren't well-written in the first place" and while yes, okay, let's talk about how the writing needs to improve, let's also talk about the fact that if it really "didn't matter if x character was black," then we need to ask why didn't you make them black then? It's literally swapping some colors around, it's not hard, and honestly if I'm going to have to see a bunch of poorly written shooter protagonists, they might as well be diverse in appearance.

As for those saying "I didn't notice the race/gender of x character," that is part of having privilege--somewhere down the line (deep in history, and I mean waaaaaay back), "white male" became the default setting for everything. Have I read multiple articles by gamers of different races and genders saying it would be nice if they could see themselves in a game? Yep. Is it that difficult to imagine how nice it would be, were I in a historically oppressed minority, to see characters that looked like me in the sorts of power fantasies that action games are? Nope.

This isn't a big ask. It's not! Yet the reason we're seeing more white dudes on gaming sites bring these topics up is because, well... nobody seems to listen to the other folks when they bring it up. White dudes are, fairly or not, in the positions of power in society--god willing, that'll change eventually, but this isn't a quick process. If you're in the position of power, and you hear people who aren't saying they think things are fucked up, is it that much of an ask to listen to them? To use what power you have to help? I don't think it is.