I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity and inclusiveness lately (as in, the last 12-13 months or so), mainly with regard to game design. My rant the other day had an element of this and…well, I’m on a plane heading for Chicago at the moment with shit-for-TV playing instead of Guardians of the Galaxy, so I might as well pound out a blog post on the subject.
[creating games with “adequate diversity” (and with attention to including all sorts of folks) is something of a hot-button topic these days, so I’ll probably take shit from both sides for my reflections on the subject. I’m cool with that]
Gosh, where even to start? I feel challenged to even address the subject of diversity when I come from a place as privileged as I do. I’m white, male, straight, American, non-trans-anything. I’m married with a couple kids. I’m Roman Catholic and even though Catholics sometimes take some heat for their religion, it’s tough to feel marginalized when you’re part of the single largest religion on the planet (at least, if you’re including the “lapsed” and “non-practicing” Cat-Lickers).
I’m about as white-bread normal as they come. I’m a drinker, but a functioning one. I eat meat, but know it’s bad for my cholesterol. I’m not a porn watcher, but I want it to be accessible (except for my kids). I watch a lot of football. I drive a car and have a bank account. There’s nothing “oppressed” about my life, and (for the most part) the society I live in is one set-up and designed to support me. I may bitch-and-moan when Americans stupidly vote Tea Party Republicans into office, but that’s just a principle thing. I and my family benefit from having a Republican controlled Congress. Paying less taxes just means I’m getting richer…my health care and retirement and whatnot is already paid for, and I live in a nice enough neighborhood of Seattle that if my kids end up going to public school they’ll be in one of the best.
It’s a disgusting abundance of privilege that I have.
[sorry…had to break to eat my cheese blintzes, fresh fruit, and sausage. Oh, and order another complimentary Bloody Mary. Business class, ya’ know?]
I’m not in the top 1% of Americans, probably not even the top 10%, but I’m well above “median income,” and I’ve never really suffered; and hell, there’s no real suffering in sight. I own a nice house, I’ve got no crushing debt (car and student loans were paid off long ago), and while two kids can mean a financial burden, I’m still able to get to a few Seahawks games. Whether or not people of the same sex can marry has no effect on my life; what does matters is if my cable and high speed internet are up-and-running. Regardless of whether or not I “support the troops,” the troops are certainly supporting me and my lifestyle. The fact that I have time and energy to complain about WotC or lack of diversity in films or the weather in Paraguay should tell you that truthfully, I really have no complaints at all.
Thus it’s a challenge for me to have any kind of “cred” when it comes to talking about changing game (design) culture. I can’t talk from a background of being oppressed or underrepresented or misrepresented because, hey, I belong to the ruling class. And it’s not like I got this through hard work or metaphysical visualization-manifestation. I just happen to be born into the right place at the right time with the “right” gender-color-orientation. Dig?
So why bother? When the best you can be considered is an “ally to the cause” and the worst is some misguided dude with “white knight syndrome,” why the F even bother? Why not just continue to design shit without any secondary agenda? “For my children?” They’re already set on a course for being as privileged as myself (if not more so). Because of my “white guilt?” No: it’s hard to feel guilty about “writing what you know,” even if what you know isn’t incredibly diverse. Because it’s “different” or “novel?” Well, novel ideas are a better way to get on the market than recycled hash, but that’s hardly a reason to make the effort when the hash sells fine.
No. There are a couple-three reasons at work here (for me, anyway):
- There’s a problem in gaming and I don’t want to be part of the problem. The problem is, there’s a lot of white-male (sometimes juvenile) designers designing games for a white-male (sometimes juvenile) audience…not necessarily on a conscious level, mind, just because that’s what they know. And there are more people out there who game…or who might enjoy games…than just white males of a juvenile persuasion.
- Growing the hobby (i.e. creating more audience) is something I’m all about. It seems only logical (to me) that making games more inclusive (with inclusive language, concepts, art) are going to make some folks (who might otherwise have been “turned off”) more interested in exploring the hobby. Maybe not, but I don’t need to cater to the die-hard, grognardy, fans. There’s already people (designers/publishers) doing that and keeping those folks involved in the hobby.
- It’s the Goddamn “right thing to do.” That is to say, it’s not right to be exclusive when it comes to design…not when we live in a world where different cultures and backgrounds are afforded the same opportunity (and thus access) to the same games. If they’re there, why leave them out, or make them feel marginalized?
My wife is originally from Mexico (she’s lived steadily in the US since 1997). In years past, when I asked her to state her race (for example, on a census report) she said “Mexican.” Nowadays, she identifies as a “Latina” but that’s not really a race, either. Technically she is a mestizo, as are the vast majority of native Mexicans: a person of mixed (white) European ancestry and native Mesoamericans (“Indians”). Because nearly all of Mexico is “mestizo” they’ve stopped using the term, thus my wife’s lack of a term for herself. (she has absolutely zero identification with “Native Americans”). My wife is NOT white. Our children are white with dishwater blond hair and green eyes (like their papa), and they’re different enough that my wife has remarked she might be identified as “the help” when she’s out with them.
I asked my wife her opinion about the diversity (or rather, lack of diversity) in film-thang (she doesn’t care about games). She states that it doesn’t bother her and that she doesn’t care. She says she’s always considered it silly that people complain about underrepresentation in film because she “goes to movies to see other people anyway” (whether they’re white, or black, or blue-skinned). It doesn’t matter to her what ethnicity is cast in a film, unless it’s a piece about a particular culture or time period.
What IS of concern to her, and what IS important is the lack of strong female characters in film. Star Wars (for example) has white folks and non-white folks and alien folks…but why are they so over-whelmingly male? A couple bit parts aside, the only female character in the prequel trilogy is Padme, and what purpose does she really serve besides acting as a goal/objective for the (male) protagonists in the first couple films before being relegated to mere “set decoration” in Episode III?
So, my (non-white) wife would say lack of diversity/inclusion bothers her more when it’s gender inequality that’s on display. If she were a gamer, I’d imagine the same standard would apply: if she’s pretending to be a wizard or cyber-hacker it doesn’t matter whether she’s white or black or “troll-colored.” The equal representation of male and female (and active, protagonist female) is more important.
All right, this is getting long….maybe I’ll get back to this subject in a "Part 2," but right now I’m getting to land. Later, Gators.
[posted from Chicago O’Hare]
[posted from Chicago O’Hare]