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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.
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.

No Caption Provided

“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.

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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+

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JJWeatherman

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Edited By Achaemenid • 

I'm getting really tired of any white/cis/male whatever person who tries to have a discussion about representation of minorities in games being called a white-knight or self-congratulating hipster. Maybe we just actually care about these sorts of things? is it that mindblowing?

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Theory

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Edited By Theory • 

I haven't had time to sit and read long form articles recently... but that was a great read. Good job Patrick

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triviaman09 • 

@achaemenid said:

I'm getting really tired of any white/cis/male whatever person who tries to have a discussion about representation of minorities in games being called a white-knight or self-congratulating hipster. Maybe we just actually care about these sorts of things? is it that mindblowing?

Word.

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joshwent • 

@achaemenid said:

I'm getting really tired of any white/cis/male whatever person who tries to have a discussion about representation of minorities in games being called a white-knight or self-congratulating hipster. Maybe we just actually care about these sorts of things? is it that mindblowing?

Word.

What?!? You can't seriously be against dismissive attitudes towards white male's opinions when you yourself wrote "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."

Generalizations and race-based negation of people's opinions are destructive no matter what "side" they're on.

Practice what you preach, buddy.

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mrfluke

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Edited By mrfluke • 

@patrickklepek said:

@livelikeabomb said:

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.

seems your very selective in your criticism, ill know next time to not even bother.

its fine. im actually very glad you listened to livelikeabomb, he did write a very excellent post, also a good bit of what he was saying in his big post is, generally speaking, what some users have been trying to tell you for a long, long time, but you never listened/responded to their feedback, you only saw the users that give you blind raw anger and generalized that the internet is bad and people on the internet are straight white males., rather than step back and try to see their perspective,

but whatever, i just hope you actually internalize livelikeabomb's feedback for the future..(which i don't think you will do)

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cabrit_sans_cor

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cabrit_sans_cor • 

Boo hoo. There are people who are different from me who want to see different things in MY video games.

Boo fucking hoo.

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unholyone123 • 

No Caption Provided

Okay everybody! Remember, when ever you get into trouble just use your race, gender, etc. as demonstrated above. Also, when you are about to punch an enemy in the face in a fighting game, make sure you take the time to understand where he or she is coming from. Study about his or her ancestors and the struggles that they went through. Then consult somebody of the same race or ethnicity, give them a hug and tell them that you were ignorant before, but now you know. After doing this you may proceed with the punching of the face. Be careful, however, you must make sure you punch yourself in the face too make sure that everything is equal. Finally, both people must break down and cry and apologize for hundreds of years of oppression. Repeat this process for every enemy in the game and remember, they aren't really your enemy, just misunderstood. Have fun, but not too much fun. Too much fun is an insult to racial minorities and women.

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Achaemenid • 

No Caption Provided

Okay everybody! Remember, when ever you get into trouble just use your race, gender, etc. as demonstrated above. Also, when you are about to punch an enemy in the face in a fighting game, make sure you take the time to understand where he or she is coming from. Study about his or her ancestors and the struggles that they went through. Then consult somebody of the same race or ethnicity, give them a hug and tell them that you were ignorant before, but now you know. After doing this you may proceed with the punching of the face. Be careful, however, you must make sure you punch yourself in the face too make sure that everything is equal. Finally, both people must break down and cry and apologize for hundreds of years of oppression. Repeat this process for every enemy in the game and remember, they aren't really your enemy, just misunderstood. Have fun, but not too much fun. Too much fun is an insult to racial minorities and women.

No Caption Provided

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triviaman09 • 

@joshwent said:

@triviaman09 said:

@achaemenid said:

I'm getting really tired of any white/cis/male whatever person who tries to have a discussion about representation of minorities in games being called a white-knight or self-congratulating hipster. Maybe we just actually care about these sorts of things? is it that mindblowing?

Word.

What?!? You can't seriously be against dismissive attitudes towards white male's opinions when you yourself wrote "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."

Generalizations and race-based negation of people's opinions are destructive no matter what "side" they're on.

Practice what you preach, buddy.

To be fair, I never flatly dismissed anyone's opinion. Anecdotally, I just expressed surprise at seeing a lot of Internet commenters get up in arms about things that cannot possibly be bad things, such as more diversity in games, feminism, etc.

Also, while I admit to being guilty of a generalization, and I grant you that they are harmful, they are a lot more harmful and you are a lot more likely to encounter them if you are on the other side of this conversation and not representative of the typical Internet video game forum-goer (or video game character).

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Edited By patrickklepek • 

@mrfluke said:

seems your very selective in your criticism, ill know next time to not even bother.

its fine. im actually very glad you listened to livelikeabomb, he did write a very excellent post, also a good bit of what he was saying in his big post is, generally speaking, what some users have been trying to tell you for a long, long time, but you never listened/responded to their feedback, you only saw the users that give you blind raw anger and generalized that the internet is bad and people on the internet are straight white males., rather than step back and try to see their perspective,

but whatever, i just hope you actually internalize livelikeabomb's feedback for the future..

I'm selective because I don't have infinite time. Since it clearly bothered you, I'll take a closer look tomorrow. OK?

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unholyone123 • 

@unholyone123 said:

No Caption Provided

Okay everybody! Remember, when ever you get into trouble just use your race, gender, etc. as demonstrated above. Also, when you are about to punch an enemy in the face in a fighting game, make sure you take the time to understand where he or she is coming from. Study about his or her ancestors and the struggles that they went through. Then consult somebody of the same race or ethnicity, give them a hug and tell them that you were ignorant before, but now you know. After doing this you may proceed with the punching of the face. Be careful, however, you must make sure you punch yourself in the face too make sure that everything is equal. Finally, both people must break down and cry and apologize for hundreds of years of oppression. Repeat this process for every enemy in the game and remember, they aren't really your enemy, just misunderstood. Have fun, but not too much fun. Too much fun is an insult to racial minorities and women.

No Caption Provided

Loading Video...

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Sooty

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Sooty • 

2D brawler

many deeps

many feels

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Edited By mrfluke • 

@patrickklepek said:

@mrfluke said:

seems your very selective in your criticism, ill know next time to not even bother.

its fine. im actually very glad you listened to livelikeabomb, he did write a very excellent post, also a good bit of what he was saying in his big post is, generally speaking, what some users have been trying to tell you for a long, long time, but you never listened/responded to their feedback, you only saw the users that give you blind raw anger and generalized that the internet is bad and people on the internet are straight white males., rather than step back and try to see their perspective,

but whatever, i just hope you actually internalize livelikeabomb's feedback for the future..

I'm selective because I don't have infinite time, and you can't immediately just get upset because I didn't respond to your specific comment. Since it clearly bothered you, I'll take a closer look tomorrow. OK?

the only reason it bothered me was that his comment was very directly after mine, so it felt like a deliberate skip over, if it was not a deliberate skip over, then i apologize for what came off to you as a overly bitter tone,

but in any case its fine, as i stand by what ive said that livelikeabomb really did nailed it

that user touched upon a lot of what ive seen in the comments of your heated stories what a lot of users have generally been trying to tell you , to get you to listen to them for so long,

you've said you listened, you've said you'll internalize it,

i just hope you do follow through and internalize the feedback, thats all

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RockyRaccoon37 • 

@mrfluke said:

seems your very selective in your criticism, ill know next time to not even bother.

its fine. im actually very glad you listened to livelikeabomb, he did write a very excellent post, also a good bit of what he was saying in his big post is, generally speaking, what some users have been trying to tell you for a long, long time, but you never listened/responded to their feedback, you only saw the users that give you blind raw anger and generalized that the internet is bad and people on the internet are straight white males., rather than step back and try to see their perspective,

but whatever, i just hope you actually internalize livelikeabomb's feedback for the future..

I'm selective because I don't have infinite time. Since it clearly bothered you, I'll take a closer look tomorrow. OK?

I'm also mad and can be passive aggressive Patrick, recognize my comments and make ME feel worthwhile as well!

you shit.

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Edited By mrfluke • 

@rockyraccoon37: i question your logic,

yea it bothered me because it was very directly the next comment after my own, but reading said comment, im very glad that klepek actually responded to that one. and frankly i could care less now if he takes up to debate with me or not.

because a lot of what that user wrote has been a lot of what ive seen people (myself included) in the comments in his heated stories have been trying to tell him and to get feedback from him on for a long while,

again the simple fact that the user got through and got his attention and made him reply, is very honestly good enough for me, (you're probably thinking im lying out my ass, dont know how else to convince you other than to say im not) ,

you indirectly mocking me also goes against what you said in these very comments

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.

are you a hypocrite?

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Edited By Milkman  Online • 

"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?

Yes? Who said they didn't?

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rcath • 

This was a really good article.

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Edited By Goldanas • 

@milkman said:

Yes? Who said they didn't?

Nobody. And that's his problem. The example given very explicitly has a white person not understanding someone else/a minority. This is a stereotype of whites. It doesn't offend me personally, but it is quite obviously selective.

It's like if you asked what kind of people show up at a KFC, and I say, "You are likely to see black people there." Note that I've omitted the part where you're generally likely to see an equal amount of anybody of any kind there.

In my selective specificity, I have made a racist remark.

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Familyguy1

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Familyguy1 • 

@joshwent: If they cannot respond in a reasonable well thought out and constructive manner, what makes them duders? It seems they just want to get a punch in when they can sometimes. This is something thats to be expected on the comments of Patrick's articles, which is frankly sad and childish.

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RockyRaccoon37 • 

@mrfluke said:

@rockyraccoon37: i question your logic,

yea it bothered me because it was very directly the next comment after my own, but reading said comment, im very glad that klepek actually responded to that one. and frankly i could care less now if he takes up to debate with me or not.

because a lot of what that user wrote has been a lot of what ive seen people (myself included) in the comments in his heated stories have been trying to tell him and to get feedback from him on for a long while,

again the simple fact that the user got through and got his attention and made him reply, is very honestly good enough for me, (you're probably thinking im lying out my ass, dont know how else to convince you other than to say im not) ,

you indirectly mocking me also goes against what you said in these very comments

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.

are you a hypocrite?

You should read what I actually wrote.

I'm not saying you're being disingenuous-- quite the contrary, I've been around long enough to see you complain about Patrick and many of his articles.

What I was suggesting (mostly as a somewhat mean-spirited joke, admittedly) was that you were seeking attention and recognition from a person, who by all accounts, you don't seem to like.

And on top of it all you cap your "criticism" (actually it was more of your personal response to developers and why they should or should not put research and development into level design) with a nice passive aggressive attack:

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

Anyway, reading over your post again made me want to tackle some of the points you had made.

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.

What difference does it make if the game is open world or linear?

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

I don't see anywhere in the interview from either Patrick or Shawn claiming that developers are engaging in deliberate ignorance. Obviously the development cycle plays heavily into where time and resources are spent, and that cycle can be especially tight (ironically enough) on big budget annualized games like Call of Duty.

And anyway, the point isn't that a game should attempt represent or recreate an area's culture-- you're right that is an enormous undertaking-- but that a minority or marginalized character of ethnicity or gender be portrayed in a way that takes into consideration their culture, their socio-economic status, and present a believable or challenging representation of how that character would exist within the world they occupy.

For example, if I played a game, or watched a movie with a Palestinian character living in modern-day Israel (or vice-versa) and they were just another character treated no differently than any other, it would be an inaccurate, uninteresting, and problematic representation. It becomes jarring and removes you from the experience-- it can lose its ability to be immersive and potentially offend.

And just to be clear, I don't think that this kind of thoughtful representation is necessary in all cases when dealing with people of a certain race or gender, but that in many cases it could be touched on and isn't, or worse yet the representation is inauthentic and potentially offensive.

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Edited By Lurkero • 

@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.

The problem with writing about other cultures is that usually people do it even if they aren't informed and it usually ends up in a bunch of negative stereotypes that, while sometimes true, are exaggerated and pretend to represent all people of a certain culture or ethnicity.

If you don't want to take the time to learn about something please do not try to write about it or depict it.

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ArbitraryWater  Online • 

There's nothing wrong with other kinds of people getting represented in games. We could certainly do with fewer brown-haired white dudes as protagonists.

But I've read enough books and seen enough movies to know that it takes a certain amount of talent to be able to meaningfully write from different racial, cultural and gender standpoints, something I frankly think most writers are incapable of. For example, a lot of acclaimed fantasy authors can't write female characters for crap, and I don't think "trying to understand the female view of the world" would fix that. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I am saying that it's harder than this article seems to present it as being.

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bacongames

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Edited By bacongames • 

I'm pretty much in accord with everything here. If developers can and have experiences they can tap for reasons to shake things up in reflection of what is an increasingly boring and expected character roster, great!

The only thing I disagree with is his discussion of Lee if only because in my personal experience, I felt it refreshing for a black protagonist to indeed be treated as well written and normal character while still nodding to the fact that race pops in subtle and not-so subtle ways. Race is indeed differential and it was a great way of doing that while still keeping the character well written on their own terms relative to other video game characters. That it was (pleasantly) surprising to me was that the target hit on both counts, well written and commitment to that protagonist, more than anything. But here we're getting into subtleties that stuck out to me rather than anything else.

Great article Patrick.

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pochunki

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pochunki • 

I'm a straight white male and to be honest trying to write any dialog for a character that was not the same way sounds terrifying to me. The last thing that I want to do is come off as uninformed, ignorant, or racist in any way. So no matter how "informed" I am, I don't want to write from the perspective of another race/gender/sexual identity/whatever else because I would always be worried that I didn't have the full picture. As someone who is painfully average (at least in the US) and considered "privileged" in terms of race, gender, etc, how can I know the life of someone who does not have these benefits?

Good article, though. Really interesting.

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audioBusting

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audioBusting • 

Interesting read. This is so complicated to talk about because it's hard to communicate what it's like to have a completely different life. It's not just about race or gender, it's a lot to do with the cultural background and the way of thinking associated with that life. Growing up as a girl is not the same as growing up as a boy, and it is even more true when it comes to different races. I believe racism, sexism, classism etc comes from being unempathethic about those differences. We have to constantly try to understand others as social beings, but it's so much harder to do when there are even more differences between our lives.

That's why it's good to base a fictional character on an actual person, because then you'd have to consider their whole lives and where their personality really comes from. I'm not a writer, but I think it really shows in the end product when the author cares enough about that. I agree that writing interesting characters should still come first, and the details like race should come naturally. Writers should do that with characters of the same race/gender, unless they want every character they write to be like themselves. I know it's hard, because I can't do it at all myself!

It is interesting to me how much I didn't care about Lee's race, in comparison to some others. Maybe it's because I'm not even American. I just think he's an interesting character among all the other characters, who are also quite diverse, now that I think about it (I mean, a African-American woman with a Persian boyfriend?)

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AMyggen

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Edited By AMyggen • 

@goldanas said:

@milkman said:

Yes? Who said they didn't?

Nobody. And that's his problem. The example given very explicitly has a white person not understanding someone else/a minority. This is a stereotype of whites. It doesn't offend me personally, but it is quite obviously selective.

It's like if you asked what kind of people show up at a KFC, and I say, "You are likely to see black people there." Note that I've omitted the part where you're generally likely to see an equal amount of anybody of any kind there.

In my selective specificity, I have made a racist remark.

What are you talking about here? Jesus Christ, some people just want to get offended over nothing.

The interview subject used that as an example of why he thought writers needed to get informed before writing about people that aren't like them, and he used the example of a white dude writing about a black girl. OF COURSE that writer would need to do some research if he was to write the character that was a black girl in an accurate way, because that person probably has no knowledge about what it's like growing up 1) a girl, and 2) black.

And that goes for everyone, he's just being "selective" here to prove a point. If a black male writer were to write a character that's a white girl? Of course he'll need to learn something about that experience. If I, as a white Norwegian male were to write a Pakistani character, I would have to do tons of research to even come close to doing a good job.

That's ALL he's saying. There's nothing racist about it. He's using an example to prove a point, and it's obvious for anyone who doesn't have an agenda that he would say the same if it was the other way around (that little black girl would probably need to do some research if she was to write a white male character).

And of course there's nuance to this, the example he's using of a black girl can come from completely different backgrounds, social status etc. But then you'll have to adjust your research accordingly.

You just seem to WANT to misunderstand this as much as possible so you can insert your own strawmen into the discussion.

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AMyggen

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AMyggen • 

No Caption Provided

Okay everybody! Remember, when ever you get into trouble just use your race, gender, etc. as demonstrated above. Also, when you are about to punch an enemy in the face in a fighting game, make sure you take the time to understand where he or she is coming from. Study about his or her ancestors and the struggles that they went through. Then consult somebody of the same race or ethnicity, give them a hug and tell them that you were ignorant before, but now you know. After doing this you may proceed with the punching of the face. Be careful, however, you must make sure you punch yourself in the face too make sure that everything is equal. Finally, both people must break down and cry and apologize for hundreds of years of oppression. Repeat this process for every enemy in the game and remember, they aren't really your enemy, just misunderstood. Have fun, but not too much fun. Too much fun is an insult to racial minorities and women.

Strawman city up in here, it seems.

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HS_Alpha_Wolf

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Edited By HS_Alpha_Wolf • 

@assinass said:

@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.

Its a quote, you're barking up the wrong tree.

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Quackers

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Edited By Quackers • 

I feel that the overall message is good. Research and invest yourself into what you are writing about. But at the same time, I find that the experiences he talks about are contrary to learning more about your writing subjects. While listening to the interview, a certain level of disdain comes out about the CT Punk, Ugly Joe, and the Give Me A Dollar woman. And it makes me wonder more about these characters. Who are they, why are the behaving like that, and what are their stories. Answering those questions I feel would give a better foil to a well realized protagonist and a stronger story.

@patrickklepek - I think the caption under the first image should have observation pluralized. "His observation are everywhere in the game." Thank you for the article and interview.

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mrfluke • 

@mrfluke said:

@rockyraccoon37: i question your logic,

yea it bothered me because it was very directly the next comment after my own, but reading said comment, im very glad that klepek actually responded to that one. and frankly i could care less now if he takes up to debate with me or not.

because a lot of what that user wrote has been a lot of what ive seen people (myself included) in the comments in his heated stories have been trying to tell him and to get feedback from him on for a long while,

again the simple fact that the user got through and got his attention and made him reply, is very honestly good enough for me, (you're probably thinking im lying out my ass, dont know how else to convince you other than to say im not) ,

you indirectly mocking me also goes against what you said in these very comments

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.

are you a hypocrite?

You should read what I actually wrote.

I'm not saying you're being disingenuous-- quite the contrary, I've been around long enough to see you complain about Patrick and many of his articles.

What I was suggesting (mostly as a somewhat mean-spirited joke, admittedly) was that you were seeking attention and recognition from a person, who by all accounts, you don't seem to like.

And on top of it all you cap your "criticism" (actually it was more of your personal response to developers and why they should or should not put research and development into level design) with a nice passive aggressive attack:

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

Anyway, reading over your post again made me want to tackle some of the points you had made.

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.

What difference does it make if the game is open world or linear?

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

I don't see anywhere in the interview from either Patrick or Shawn claiming that developers are engaging in deliberate ignorance. Obviously the development cycle plays heavily into where time and resources are spent, and that cycle can be especially tight (ironically enough) on big budget annualized games like Call of Duty.

And anyway, the point isn't that a game should attempt represent or recreate an area's culture-- you're right that is an enormous undertaking-- but that a minority or marginalized character of ethnicity or gender be portrayed in a way that takes into consideration their culture, their socio-economic status, and present a believable or challenging representation of how that character would exist within the world they occupy.

For example, if I played a game, or watched a movie with a Palestinian character living in modern-day Israel (or vice-versa) and they were just another character treated no differently than any other, it would be an inaccurate, uninteresting, and problematic representation. It becomes jarring and removes you from the experience-- it can lose its ability to be immersive and potentially offend.

And just to be clear, I don't think that this kind of thoughtful representation is necessary in all cases when dealing with people of a certain race or gender, but that in many cases it could be touched on and isn't, or worse yet the representation is inauthentic and potentially offensive.

i appreciate your level headed civil reply, it would be rude if i didnt reply back

i dont hate patrick, id say im somewhere in the middle, i like spookin with scoopz and worth playing, but whenever he decides to tackle this subject, its always very slanted, and its also frustrating cause he's said the point of these articles is to foster discussion (he's said this on his tumblr), He's better at it now, but before he used to never reply back at people in the comments, my view is since this is his job and he creates these articles to foster discussion, he should be directly taking part in the discussion that happens.

and i dont look at it that i was seeking attention, but rather i wanted to have a dialogue with him, but i again, its fine, cause he listened to the user livelikeabomb's comment, and that comment touches upon a lot of stuff users have been posting to try and get a dialogue with him on.

(i wouldnt be surprised if a group of real blind angry people that hate patrick aggressively, were once people that have been trying to dialogue with him and just got fedup.)

now this comment

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

was aimed at patrick more than the developer, if it was easy/not extremely tedious to dig up tumblr replies and old articles i would cite specific examples of patrick generalizing, and for what its worth he also had openly admitted on tumblr he does generalize.

now for your question

What difference does it make if the game is open world or linear?

i make the specification cause ok, is there really time or a focus, for something like a call of duty or a battlefield to write peripheral characters that match their area, vs using that time where it really counts? for example, Modern warfare 3 i remember there was a mission where you were in paris fighting the russians, i dont think the game would be much better if you see some french people in the periphery while your gunning down terrorists, but thats also a game by game basis, not every game your gunning down people,

now say your playing a open world game, i think the expectation would be if your setting a game in a area, you would be meticulous in how you create it, assassins creed and gta are the best examples of this, they meticulously create their game worlds, and create important characters that suit the timeline and area.

now for the deliberate ignorance part, it was a question on tumblr someone asked patrick about representation and he replied and said most companies ignore representation out of ignorance (if it was easy to dig up old tumblr replies i would show you), which i just don't agree with one bit, i just think Dev's in big companies just have their focus on getting a core game done, so focusing on something thats arguably peripheral to the core game i think would be detrimental to the core game.

(for example, if i was a developer and i had to choose between more elaborate back stories for my soldiers in xcom enemy unknown or adding units or tightening the gameplay, i would choose gameplay, and if you look at how xcom enemy unknown was, it seemed like they started on that path of having a diverse cast, but put all their resources into the core gameplay.)

And anyway, the point isn't that a game should attempt represent or recreate an area's culture-- you're right that is an enormous undertaking-- but that a minority or marginalized character of ethnicity or gender be portrayed in a way that takes into consideration their culture, their socio-economic status, and present a believable or challenging representation of how that character would exist within the world they occupy.

and this is why gaming is so diverse and is such a overlooked catch all for all types of people, i think this level of meticulousness you will see from the indie guys, cause its their project and they are only beholdent to their deadlines, they are not part of a major game company where the focus is on the core experience and have to ship a product by X date.

For example, if I played a game, or watched a movie with a Palestinian character living in modern-day Israel (or vice-versa) and they were just another character treated no differently than any other, it would be an inaccurate, uninteresting, and problematic representation. It becomes jarring and removes you from the experience-- it can lose its ability to be immersive and potentially offend.

and this is where we have different tastes, cause ok, i get what your saying as that would cause dissonance, but what is the focus of said theoretical movie? if its to display a Palestinian character's life in Israel, then yea if they get that aspect aggressively aggressively wrong, (cause a person's life is probably the most subjective thing :P) then id say its problematic, but if said theoretical movie is say an action movie where said palestinian character's life is in the periphery, then this is just me, but i would accept a bit of peripheral dissonance if the main story is well executed.

And just to be clear, I don't think that this kind of thoughtful representation is necessary in all cases when dealing with people of a certain race or gender, but that in many cases it could be touched on and isn't, or worse yet the representation is inauthentic and potentially offensive.

if your willing to share, id like to know what games your citing as examples of this, and if they are peripheral characters to the main game or if they are significant characters in a main game,

(and if you can keep the examples raced based, cause im going to wager your a dude, we're both dudes, i personally dont think we can speak on what bothers the other gender because we are not that gender)

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MormonWarrior

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Edited By Brodehouse • 

Allen is pretty much accurate that a better informed writer is a better writer. I don't think anyone was arguing that.

The argument hasn't been "more informed writers make better work" it's been "not creating entertainment for this group constitutes hatred and discrimination of that group". People have been arguing against that. When you say things like "so many white brown haired hetero male protagonists, video games are so sexist, we can do better guys" you continue to proliferate this meme, that content created for what is perceived to be the majority constitutes hatred and discrimination of what is perceived to be minority. Let people make whatever they want without your social molding and let economics take care of the rest. Liberal guilt shouldn't override everyone's ability to make and use whatever it is they want.

There's also the part where until all the millenials got cringey, the only thing we cared about in the video game community was the video games. Something tells me Call of Duty is the most popular game for black people as well as whites and everyone else (well, maybe Starcraft for Koreans). The rest of the world that doesn't get mired in ethics debates is too busy caring about and enjoying the games rather than conspicuously overcompensating for the simple fact that more white men like playing video games right now than other groups. It happens. Sometimes more black men like doing X than other groups, that is not racism against non-blacks. That's just how people's choices went, and it'll evolve over time like anything else.

Hey everyone. Be excellent to each other.

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dudeglove

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Edited By dudeglove • 

Please don't ever work for Gawker, Patrick.

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PurpleSpandex

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Edited By PurpleSpandex • 

12 minutes in and this dude hasn't answered a question asked yet, he just changes the topic.