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Guest Column: Visibility is Not Enough

While guest contributor Heather Alexandra is thrilled with the diverse casts of some recent games, she argues that diversity should extend beyond the realm of the fictional.

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Two years ago, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, my Inquisitor sat down to have drinks with Iron Bull and his mercenary cohorts. This was the first time I really got to know Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi, Bull’s right hand man. I got to learn about his yearning as he looked up at his father while he shaved, his hate of women’s clothing, and the prejudice he faced back in his homeland of Tevinter. Because Krem is transgender, born into a body that did not fit his gender identity. In hearing about his struggle, I heard a story not unlike my own. It was gobsmacked; AAA games were the last place I expected to hear a trans story. I looked to see who they got to voice this transgender character. It was Jennifer Hale.

For some, this means nothing. It means they got a quality voice actress with a history of expressive performances. For me, this was a problem. Here I was, faced with one of the few trans persons I’d ever encountered in a game and they weren’t even voiced by a transman. In fact, as I looked for more information on Krem’s creation, I came upon a blog post by his writer, Patrick Weekes. Turns out that very little about Krem, in the conceptual and creative phase, is transgender. Weekes is a heterosexual, cisgendered man and while Krem was animated by the highly capable and talented Jon Epler, he is not a transman. To his credit, Weekes sought out two unspecified genderqueer friends in writing Krem but Dragon Age’s first prominent transgender character was created with a minimal amount of input from trans writers, animators, or performers.

Sadly, our industry seems ill equipped to take action to change this status quo. Whenever I go to PAX or other conventions, I make a deliberate point of attending LGBTQ panels. There’s a great sense of solidarity to be found, but I’ve always walked away disappointed. The thing I hear, time and time again, is that it is important to be visibly queer. That being proud of our identity and presenting it openly will embolden our brothers and sisters to join us in solidarity. That being open and visibly gay, trans, gender fluid, or whatever will help change the industry by showing people that it is safe to be queer if you are working in games.

Athena and Janey from Tales from the Borderlands.
Athena and Janey from Tales from the Borderlands.

We are told, time and time again, that visibility will be transformative. But the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that while visibility may be necessary for change, it is not sufficient. Visibility alone will not bring the change that we want. Visibility is not enough. If it were, Krem would not have been voiced by Jennifer Hale or written by Patrick Weekes.

This is not to suggest that gaming has not become more inclusive. It absolutely has. There are more gay and bisexual characters in games. There are more black protagonists in games. There are more three dimensional and well rounded women characters in games. For all its failings, Inquisition still has Dorian and Iron Bull. Assassin’s Creed still has Aveline and Adéwalé. Uncharted still has Elena and Chloe. These are characters that deal with their sexuality, that are affected by their blackness, and manage their relationship with their femininity while still being complex and compelling.

But when marginalized people are allowed little say in our representation, we continue to be marginalized. Even games that succeed elsewhere fail on other accounts: Uncharted 4 deftly navigates Elena’s character but undercuts itself when the highly capable Nadine Ross is voiced and motion captured by Laura Bailey. The message is that our experiences matter so little outside of token lip service that anyone might take up the torch and create a simulated version of us. A white woman can play a black character, a cisgendered woman can play a trans man.

Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4.
Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4.

Representation is powerful. Having these characters matters. It acknowledges our existence. However, visibility is ultimately of middling worth when marginalized people are not included in the formation of their icons. It allows for the creation of inauthentic characters, the perpetuation of stereotypes, the preservation of insularities, and the continuation of professional and hobbyist cultural failings. Things are left incomplete; works are left imperfect by grand magnitudes. And this imperfection has a cost.

One need only look at recent response to minority characters to understand why I feel this way. When Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear released earlier this year, players encountered Mizhena. Mizhena is a cleric who explains that she took her name after she and her family found her birth name did not suit her. She was raised as a boy but took the new name when she realized she was, in fact, a woman. Many players, or at least a loud subset of players, were outraged. Incensed at the idea of a trans character in their game, they downvoted the title on Steam and started a smear campaign against the developer, Beamdog.

It was a repeat of a cycle we saw last year, when critic Tauriq Moosa used The Witcher 3 to explore and examine gaming’s trouble with racial representation. And while I would be remiss to ignore that The Witcher is a proud product of Polish culture, I believe Mr. Moosa’s point was well made. If we cannot find a place for minorities in our fantasies, how will we ever find a place for them in our reality?

Marcus Holloway from Watch Dogs 2
Marcus Holloway from Watch Dogs 2

Thus, we are faced with a two pronged problem: visibility cannot be enough in an industry that does not allow minority voices to participate in the creation and performance of the characters meant to represent them nor can it be enough in a wider games culture that holds a loud and dangerous subset of reactionaries who will not even broach the existence of minority characters in “their” games. How can we even begin to suggest that visibility is enough when the reveal of Watch Dogs 2’s Marcus Holloway has people longing for the days of douchebag Aiden Pearce?

An argument might be made that no level of inclusion in the creative process could properly combat the forces of transmisogyny, racism, or other biases. It is compelling to say that we must settle, if only because these forces can never be destroyed. Yet, by allowing margialized people to participate in the professional processes they’ve been denied access to, I do believe that these forces can be adequately opposed. By providing authentic representatives, crafted by artists with applicable life experience, we can expose players to our struggles. We can put them in our shoes or make them witnesses to our pain. We can ensure that we are not ignored.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin's Black Panther.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin's Black Panther.

Other mediums are managing this feat as we speak. When the time came to choose the next writer for the new Black Panther comics series, Marvel didn’t hand it off to an in house writer like Brian Michael Bendis. Instead, they sought out the voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates. The result was one of the best selling comics of the year. And while a films might still cast Eddie Redmayne or Jared Leto to play transwomen, Netflix’s decision to cast Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black proved to be revelatory, bringing the transgender experience, as presented by a transwoman, into thousands of homes. It is unacceptable that games continue to lag behind. It is, I dare day, downright shameful.

Visibility will never be enough. Visibility, I fear, is easily placated. It demands only that we be seen, if only for a brief second. Forward facing representation demands that we be made equal partners in art. We cannot be adjacent to creation. Our avatars and digital representatives cannot be adjacent to the adventure. From start to finish, conception to play, our voices must not just be heard. They must be actively courted and included. Without these measures, games will tread water on representation and be all the worse for it.

262 CommentsRefresh
Avatar image for hassun
Posted By hassun

One last thank you to Austin for setting up this guest contributor program.

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Posted By ChocolateCoffin

This was a great article. If anyone is interested in some academic stuff about representation in games I'd definitely recommend Adrienne Shaw's 'Gaming at the Edge'.

Avatar image for dudleyville
Posted By Dudleyville

"If we cannot find a place for minorities in our fantasies, how will we ever find a place for them in our reality?" People's inability to separate fantasy from reality still shocks me to this day. What an over exaggerated question.

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Posted By venfayth

Austin, I assume you're still going to be reading these comments, thanks for all your hard work and thank you for bringing great articles like this one to Giant Bomb, and I hope you continue to do similar fantastic work in all your ventures.

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Posted By AMyggen

Great article!

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Edited By tabiicat42

I'm so happy this guest contributor program exists. This is *perfect.*

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Posted By HAlexandra64

"If we cannot find a place for minorities in our fantasies, how will we ever find a place for them in our reality?" People's inability to separate fantasy from reality still shocks me to this day. What an over exaggerated question.

But it's not. If people bend over backwards, going so far as to mod a trans character out of their game because they are morally repulsed by their existence, how can I ever expect them to find a modicum of tolerance for me or my brothers and sisters?

Avatar image for mrmazz
Edited By MrMazz

Great article thanks Heather and Austin!

EDIT: Reading through these comments, I find it a bit odd (though understandable a bit) that people seem to bristle at giving someone else a seat at the table in the creative process. That's not that hard is it? You just get another chair and maybe have to sit a couple inches closer to Chad. My brother is a transman, he really likes Krem same kinda hangups as Heather but also would like ya know if there was a bit more involvement on the creative process. On that note, the whole protecting the creative process bit, it seems like people think it's a one person job. It's often not, it's filled with lots of compromise of all kinds to get something made.

Avatar image for dtowndrew
Edited By dtowndrew

If I am understanding the core argument of the article, it is that games are falling into tokenism with respect representing diversity of gender/race/etc. It did make me think, would it be a progressive step if there was a LGBT person voicing a prominent non-LGBT character in a AAA game? It seems like there are two sides to the representation coin here. There is a production side with respect to LGBT persons working in the industry and a consumer-facing side with respect to LGBT characters represented in games. Thought-provoking article.

Avatar image for yesindeed
Posted By YesIndeed

Great article! I used to cringe at representation of gay people on television as just about every single character was incredibly stereotypical (not to mention, written, acted, and directed by straight people). It was tough as a gay kid growing up in a small town, seeing gay people on TV and thinking "they're nothing like me" and feeling awfully lonely about the whole thing. As big names have come out of the closet in the last two to three decades and began writing, acting, and directing gay characters, this problem is quickly vanishing. Hopefully the same will one day happen with games.

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Posted By MagicFlounder

Wonderful article! I hope that the guest writers program continues, it's really good stuff.

Avatar image for jweston
Posted By jweston

Asking this question in the best possible faith: how do you feel about when actors of color portray white characters? For example, Kratos is voiced by an African American. You also bring up Nadine Ross in Uncharted 4, yet a fairly major character in that is also an elderly white woman portrayed by a much younger African American actress.

The fact that examples such as these are few and far between perhaps helps make your point, but the question is--is it a matter of representation in actors, or should actors' race/gender (I recognize gender poses different questions than race) be a limiting factor in roles they can or cannot play? If actors of all races were equally represented behind the scenes, would race still matter in voice casting? I'd hate to think we'd lose out on Phil LaMaar's Samurai Jack if so, or is an African American actor portraying a Japanese character also problematic?

Avatar image for giantstalker
Posted By Giantstalker

I don't really agree with this at all but it's an interesting window into how some people think. Some value in that I suppose

Avatar image for dudleyville
Posted By Dudleyville

@halexandra64 said:

@dudleyville said:

"If we cannot find a place for minorities in our fantasies, how will we ever find a place for them in our reality?" People's inability to separate fantasy from reality still shocks me to this day. What an over exaggerated question.

But it's not. If people bend over backwards, going so far as to mod a trans character out of their game because they are morally repulsed by their existence, how can I ever expect them to find a modicum of tolerance for me or my brothers and sisters?

Equating modding a game to real life tolerance by a handful of people is an absolutely ridiculous comparison. There are always going to be people that are going to feel that way. Trying to force diversity pushes the people who are open to idea away.

Avatar image for halexandra64
Edited By HAlexandra64

@jweston said:

Asking this question in the best possible faith: how do you feel about when actors of color portray white characters? For example, Kratos is voiced by an African American. You also bring up Nadine Ross in Uncharted 4, yet a fairly major character in that is also an elderly white woman portrayed by a much younger African American actress.

The fact that examples such as these are few and far between perhaps helps make your point, but the question is--is it a matter of representation in actors, or should actors' race/gender (I recognize gender poses different questions than race) be a limiting factor in roles they can or cannot play? If actors of all races were equally represented behind the scenes, would race still matter in voice casting? I'd hate to think we'd lose out on Phil LaMaar's Samurai Jack if so, or is an African American actor portraying a Japanese character also problematic?

In many ways, yes! When you consider the limited roles that Asian actors and actresses have access to (or tend to have access to), it is definitely a problem. Marginalized people are consistently denied access to a broader culture and economy and are left to compete with each other while those with privilege have no such barriers. In fact, those with authority count on this competition as one of the things that will keep them in their position of authority.

As for the initial question: because of the deluge of systemically persistent obstacles that marginalized folk must deal with I don't think you can compare, say, a black actor taking a white role to a white woman taking up the performance of a black woman. Consider the economics of it all. Whatever hypothetical white man was in contention to get the role of Kratos before Terrance Carson got the gig probably has a wider pool of potential jobs (and statistically higher paying ones) than Carson would have if he did not get the part. Laura Bailey and Jen Hale need work, sure. We all do. But they're both highly seasoned voice actresses with plenty of opportunities before them whereas I promise you than a transman actor trying to pull down work does not.

Avatar image for gmanall
Edited By Gmanall

Hmmmmm I'd be curious of the practicality of implementing any of these ideas, like how many gay, trans, gender fluid voice actors are there(Considering it seems like 10 people voice 80% of roles)? Also are they up for the challenges of video game voice work? Are they affordable? How about random logistics(Location, other contracts, schedule ect). Also considering voice actors are a small group I'd assume any attempts to fulfill the criteria would result in not picking the best voice actor, would you be willing to make that trade off? What if by choosing that trade off it leads to a less impactful story? I'm just thinking out loud...

Avatar image for halexandra64
Edited By HAlexandra64

@dudleyville said:

Equating modding a game to real life tolerance by a handful of people is an absolutely ridiculous comparison. There are always going to be people that are going to feel that way. Trying to force diversity pushes the people who are open to idea away.

I'm not fool enough to think that I can change a bigot's mind by having a trans character in a game. That character is not really for them.It's for the people who will listen, for the people who are possessed of reason. Those people will come to know of certain struggles through art, possibly being exposed to stories and, thus, ideas that they never imagined and considered.

That character is also for the marginalized. To remind them that they can be heroes. To remind them that they matter. To remind them that they are not invisible or unwanted. We don't get these things if we don't push for them, advocate for them, and fight for them. I believe that these things are valuable enough that we have a very moral prerogative to demand them.

Avatar image for yeliab55
Posted By yeliab55

Why do people care who voices a character? Shouldn't whoever sounds most like the creator's vision for that character be picked, whether it's a black woman playing a white character or a white woman playing a black character?

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Posted By MATATAT

@dudleyville: Any fantasy narrative worth its salt is almost always an extrapolation on worldly events. The ones that aren't are usually a joke. So trying to draw a line between the two doesn't really make sense.

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Posted By conmulligan

@hassun said:

One last thank you to Austin for setting up this guest contributor program.

Seconded! I hope it doesn't wither on the vine with Austin gone.

Avatar image for halexandra64
Posted By HAlexandra64

@yeliab55 said:

Why do people care who voices a character? Shouldn't whoever sounds most like the creator's vision for that character be picked, whether it's a black woman playing a white character or a white woman playing a black character?

No.

Avatar image for superultra
Posted By SuperUltra

However, visibility is ultimately of middling worth when marginalized people are not included in the formation of their icons. It allows for the creation of inauthentic characters, the perpetuation of stereotypes, the preservation of insularities, and the continuation of professional and hobbyist cultural failings.

I feel like a lot of games, movies, comics, etc. are guilty of this these days. It's like they are being diverse just for appearances. I haven't read Black Panther, but I think Marvel did a good job with the new muslim Ms. Marvel character. It was written by a muslim woman and didn't come off as pandering to the "sjw" audience. It was just a good comic while also showing the difficulties of becoming a superhero as a muslim girl who doesn't look like a "typical" superhero.

Avatar image for tobiasparker
Posted By TobiasParker

Maybe instead of trying to make people feel bad you should try to empower transgender people to take on careers in voice acting. A company shouldn't have to pick a less talented person in order to meet your definition of equality. If you are dead set on this path then guess what will happen. You will have no representation in games because no one wants to hire a C-list voice actor just because he or she is transgendered.

Avatar image for dudleyville
Posted By Dudleyville

@dudleyville said:

Equating modding a game to real life tolerance by a handful of people is an absolutely ridiculous comparison. There are always going to be people that are going to feel that way. Trying to force diversity pushes the people who are open to idea away.

I'm not fool enough to think that I can change a bigot's mind by having a trans character in a game. That character is not really for them.It's for the people who will listen, for the people who are possessed of reason. Those people will come to know of certain struggles through art, possibly being exposed to stories and, thus, ideas that they never imagined and considered.

That character is also for the marginalized. To remind them that they can be heroes. To remind them that they matter. To remind them that they are not invisible or unwanted. We don't get these things if we don't push for them, advocate for them, and fight for them. I believe that these things are valuable enough that we have a very moral prerogative to demand them.

Demand is the key word there. Demanding creators have certain characters is what is wrong. If a character naturally fits, then it should go that way. If the creator of the game wants a transgender character, that is their choice, and it should not be anybody else's. Ultimately the consumer will decide if they like that character or not. Forcing it on someone else, good intentions or not, seems more about the person demanding looking for vindication rather than trying to get tolerance and acceptance.

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Posted By CarlosNYM

What a ridiculous standard. Adherence to this rule would lead to much less minority representation in gaming.

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Posted By PeezMachine

I'm not sure I'm on board with the "don't cast Jen Hale" side of this essay. How many people responsible for the creation of a trans character need to be trans for it to be acceptable? Writer? Voice director? Concept artist? Animator? I'm a hundred percent on board with the fact that I'm probably not the best person to write a story that is a deep dive on uniquely trans issues, at least not without doing a TON of research, but I don't see anything wrong with lending my voice to a character, provided the writing and direction are good (and assuming I were a voice actor).

Avatar image for halexandra64
Posted By HAlexandra64

Demand is the key word there. Demanding creators have certain characters is what is wrong. If a character naturally fits, then it should go that way. If the creator of the game wants a transgender character, that is their choice, and it should not be anybody else's. Ultimately the consumer will decide if they like that character or not. Forcing it on someone else, good intentions or not, seems more about the person demanding looking for vindication rather than trying to get tolerance and acceptance.

You seem to misunderstand what is being demanded. The demand is not for more transgender characters, black characters, asian characters or anything else, although I certainly would not object to more. The demand is that when those characters and icons are created, we are allowed proper, equitable participation in their creation.

Avatar image for yesindeed
Posted By YesIndeed

Deciding that we need to pay *more* attention to what race, gender, or orientation people are is regressive and counterproductive, only serving to further separate everyone into labels and groups. I kind of hate it and wish we would stop.

Don't you think that's a little simplistic? People are already separated by labels and groups, and unfortunately we live in a world where some of the labels come at a great cost to the people who live under them. Yes, in an ideal world none of this would matter - everyone would just get along and opportunities would be equally available to everyone, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. This is not reality, though. We live in a world where minorities disproportionately struggle to find genuine representation and work. We live in a world where minorities have routinely been denied access to beneficial opportunities that the majority has been given simply because of these groups. The problem needs to be corrected, and wishful thinking isn't a practical solution.

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Posted By allodude
@yeliab55 said:

Why do people care who voices a character? Shouldn't whoever sounds most like the creator's vision for that character be picked, whether it's a black woman playing a white character or a white woman playing a black character?

The issue is not just black and white. On one hand, you have issues of authenticity, mimicry at best, mockery at worst. Ultimately it should be up to the devs to pick the best VAs. However I wonder if picking specific ethnicity/race actors allows devs to have characters with non-American accents, without the social media backlash. Like look at Blizzard with Overwatch. They went out of their way to hire two Japanese actors for Genji and Hanzo, both characters who speak with an accent. Imagine if they had two non-Japanese actors imitating the accent.

In the end, it's giving work to a more diverse group, which is pretty admirable I think.

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Edited By paulunga

Thanks for the (hopefully not last) guest article Heather & Austin. Interesting think piece. Something I never even thought about.

I'd rather have a good, accomplished voice actress who can portray the character well than someone that shares the character's gender identity or race. That goes for any combination. Sadly I don't even know any genderqueer/transgender VAs, which is a problem, but I'm wondering how many there are in the first place. And how many of those are good at what they do. AND have the range to accurately portray a certain character.

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Posted By Shaanyboi

A solid read, and one final thank you to Austin for taking on the initiative of creating this outlet for guest contributors. You will be missed!

@yeliab55: "I have this idea for a Pakistani character, but I want Blake Lively to play her. She just looks right."

You see how bad that sounds?

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Posted By Gaff

@halexandra64: This is going to sound selfish, but if this means more Sleeping Dogs in the world (with regards to new, quality games set in new environments with a fitting voice cast), then I'm all for this.

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Edited By HAlexandra64

@paulunga said:

I'd rather have a good, accomplished voice actress who can portray the character well than someone that shares the character's gender identity or race.

Those two things are not mutually exclusive though. There are plenty of talented black actresses who could have played Nadine.

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Posted By AMyggen

@paulunga said:

I'd rather have a good, accomplished voice actress who can portray the character well than someone that shares the character's gender identity or race.

Those two things are not mutually exclusive though. There are plenty of good black women who could have played Nadine.

Exactly.

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Posted By bylaska

Hmm. I need more convincing. If I was presented with evidence folks weren't being given jobs because they were transgender then that is certainly wrong.

On the other hand critiquing something simply because the creator wasn't transgender seems a little harsh. If it's a bad take on a transgender character then it makes a bit more sense, but then you'd have to acknowledge that is based on how you think a transgender person should behave and that you yourself are making generalizations.

The exception would be of course a truly negative take on being transgender which of course is wrong, but also doesn't seem to be the limit of this articles scope.

Further if we follow this logic will it limit transgender creators to only working with transgender subjects as well?

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Posted By HAlexandra64

@bylaska said:

Further if we follow this logic will it limit transgender creators to only working with transgender subjects as well?

Not at all. And I should say that I think Krem is well written and I know a great deal of care went into his creation. But that doesn't make things perfect or even ideal. If it was, then visibility would be enough. The major thing here is that Krem provided an opportunity that was not taken. I'm not lamenting Krem's existence or even Krem's writing. I applaud those things. What I lament is that missed opportunity.

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Posted By TruthTellah

I hope whoever comes in next will carry on the legacy of bringing Giant Bomb articles like this. Thank you so much, Heather and Austin.

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Posted By MarekkPie

@darth_navster said:

@skippysigmatic said:

I guess my comment wasn't gentle enough to avoid deletion, so I'll try again.

Deciding that we need to pay *more* attention to what race, gender, or orientation people are is regressive and counterproductive, only serving to further separate everyone into labels and groups. I kind of hate it and wish we would stop.

By the way, introducing a guest column specifically geared towards bringing multiple viewpoints to the site and then proceeding to delete comments that voice opposing viewpoints is pretty crappy.

Respectfully, that's complete nonsense. Not paying attention to race, gender, or orientation is what got us into this situation of homogeneous representation in the first place. Those of us in minority groups don't have the luxury of not paying attention to it.

Piggybacking on what was said here: just yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas' admission process which took race into consideration as lawful under the Equal Protection Clause. The case states that the University of Texas had previously used a race-neutral admissions process, but upon further study found that this method "did not reach its goal of providing the educational benefits of diversity to its undergraduate students."

It really brings up two points:

  1. Diversity is educational. Rather than homogenizing the experiences of people around us, diversity brings perspectives and ideas that otherwise would be sidelined to the forefront.
  2. Not paying attention to marginalized identities does not work if the goal is diversity. Not paying attention simply leads to a homogenized experience tailored to those already represented.
Avatar image for cactusapple
Posted By Cactusapple

@yeliab55 said:

Why do people care who voices a character? Shouldn't whoever sounds most like the creator's vision for that character be picked, whether it's a black woman playing a white character or a white woman playing a black character?

Well it just so happens that an actor or actress that has actually lived the experience of the character being portrayed will be a better representation of said character than someone who hasn't. Your question contains its own counterpoint, this is basic logic.

Avatar image for mrwakka
Edited By MrWakka

Great article, I hope these continue even after Austin has moved on.

I feel like I'm some ways this is a catch 22 for some though, you seem to be saying from my understanding that for a truly real portrayal of any minority figure requires only the involvement of minorities in its creation. A straight white writer cannot write for a black transgender character. Then does that not lead to less minority characters as a whole?

I have often come across the opposite arguments, that an author should be more inclusive and that saying they don't feel qualified to write X character is no excuse.

So it seems like you are damned if you do, damned if you don't, either way you will face criticism because you happen to be a straight white person. Which seems counter intuitive.

That said having more people active in the industry that can offer unique perspectives couldn't hurt. Though I don't entirely agree with your assertions I hope to read more in the future from you and other guest writers.

Avatar image for sil3n7
Posted By Sil3n7

@yeliab55 said:

Why do people care who voices a character? Shouldn't whoever sounds most like the creator's vision for that character be picked, whether it's a black woman playing a white character or a white woman playing a black character?

No.

How would you propose that artists be forced to create art you deem acceptable? At knifepoint or would you prefer a gun?

Why stop at race and gender. Hinduism is basically nonexistent in games. Would you like to force games to adhere to creeds and ideas on a universal level as well?

Your stance is anathema to creative expression.

Avatar image for kcin
Edited By kcin

Comparing the skill and experience of gaming's existing (extremely small) stable of voice actors to the potential lack thereof in trans, queer, or PoC voice actors who could otherwise fill the shoes of characters like them is another way of saying that the status quo suits you. You're right: Nolan North and Jennifer Hale are extremely skilled, talented, and experienced voice actors, capable of playing many characters, and on whom you can rely for a good performance with, I assume, minimal fuss.

However, if the status quo remains unchallenged, it will never change. We will never know of actors who are not like those we currently cast. For example, Laverne Cox would not have walked onto the screen of televisions worldwide, galvanizing aspiring queer and trans people who had, until then, likely felt, "why bother trying? No one casts someone like me." Mickey Rooney was cast in an extremely racist yellowface role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, for which he was actually lauded by some. Nowadays, that kind of thing is unacceptable. Why? Because it has since been shown to Western audiences that (would you believe it!) not only can Asian people act, but they can write their own roles, too!

Additionally, the article is not saying "everyone must play/write/develop characters exactly like them". The issue is that there doesn't appear to be any effort at all made to incorporate marginalized people into the games industry in any meaningful way. Before reaching for the reliable straight cis white person for your queer/trans/PoC role, why not try someone who actually suits it first? That's all this is about. And please, don't say, "They aren't there to fill these roles!" You don't know that. How can you know that? Because you haven't seen someone like that cast before? That's exactly the point.

It's more than just that there aren't different actors/developers to fill these roles, it's that there doesn't appear to be any incentive to even try entering these fields yet. And for companies like EA or Ubisoft, even logistical issues can be overcome (like, for example, geographical distance) in order to do the right thing, hire that perfect person for the role, and maybe be the first to establish a new, higher standard.

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Posted By EricLFarley

I can't speak for trans performances but as a black man I've always rejected the idea that a black character has to be voiced by a black person because it suggests at a base level that we speak differently from white people. My whole life I've been told by black people and white people alike that I "talk white" or I'm "very well spoken" and it's infuriating. Talking white is taken as speaking grammatically correct and white people don't own speaking grammatically correct. So when it is a "well spoken" black character what difference does it make if it's a black or white person playing the role. If you didn't know who was playing Nadine would you have guessed one way or the other about her race. No! Nadine was a kick ass woman who just happened to be black and that's okay. Sometimes characters can be a minority without minority being their character and in cases like that the race of the voice actor doesn't matter. The idea that you have to be that thing to portray that thing goes against the very concept of acting.

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Posted By Deathpooky

One hopes that this is the awkward intermediate phase for the industry. Better representation of all of the gaming audience in games will lead to better representation within the industry itself and all the ancillary parts of the industry like acting. Though with acting it doesn't help that the same five people appear in nearly everything.

But at least we've gone from mostly white dudes creating a bunch of stock-standard white dude protagonists in big budget games, to mostly white dudes creating a slowly improving mix of characters in big budget games. And the results so far have been great for games - some of the best characters in recent games have been ones that have broken the mold.

The next step is hopefully getting more voices to help craft those characters and tell more interesting stories. But unfortunately that's a longer-term problem given the insular nature of the industry in how work is given out, and given the general problems the industry has with representation in employment.

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Posted By PeezMachine
@sil3n7 said:

How would you propose that artists be forced to create art you deem acceptable? At knifepoint or would you prefer a gun?

Why stop at race and gender. Hinduism is basically nonexistent in games. Would you like to force games to adhere to creeds and ideas on a universal level as well?

Your stance is anathema to creative expression.

Unless I really misread something, Heather's essay isn't about what kind of art gets created, but rather about how it gets created and who creates it. So, to borrow your Hinduism case, it's more "why was this Hindu character, whose religion is central to their character, created solely by Roman Catholics?"

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Posted By HAlexandra64

@sil3n7 said:

How would you propose that artists be forced to create art you deem acceptable? At knifepoint or would you prefer a gun?

Spare me the hyperbole. People can make whatever art they want, performed and created by whoever they wish. But that does not shield them or their work from criticism.