Monday, November 17, 2014

Everyone's Allowed To Play

As a casual gamer, and not someone terribly interested in broader social issues in entertainment, I'm something of a bystander when it comes when it comes to questions about diversity in gaming. And as someone without much of a stake in the issue, I tend to take what strikes me as the simple view on things. People play games, and to a certain extent, write games, in order to imagine themselves in other places, times and circumstances. And given that games tend to reflect people's imaginations, they are only as diverse as their imaginations are. And most people have very limited imaginations.

Now, where exactly the limits are is open to debate. Some people blame creators for not stepping outside of their own limits, and some people blame audiences for not being open to including people unlike them in their fantasies. For me, the blame game is secondary.

What we need are more people, telling more stories. My conceptualization of a near future science-fiction setting where humanity has colonized the Solar System has a metric truckload of Asians in it. Why? Because China and India are really populous places, and they are unlikely to be left out of the land grab that moving into space would entail. If you assume a breakdown of national borders in space, you can pretty much rest assured that there will be Chinese and Indians just about everywhere you go, and Mandarin and Hindi will be spoken everywhere. So it strikes me as realistic that humanity in space would look much different then suburban America. But if I want this near future science-fiction game (or any science-fiction game where the majority of humans come from the Earth as we understand it today) to come to fruition - then I should write one, and make it clear to any artists I commission what my expectations are. And then I put it out there, and see if it swims. In the same vein, if I want to see a game where roles for Africans and African-Americans don't come across as tokens, then I should write that, and put it out there. If people appreciate it, they'll buy it.

If I write a good game, people aren't really going to care about what origins I give the sample characters, or what ethnicities are represented in the in-game fiction. They might have some appreciation of it, but it's unlikely to directly drive sales. But if people are going to insist on Space Suburbia or the carefully crafted focus-group "multiculturalism" of TV dramas, then I should expect that's what people are going to make - because at the end of the day, making games in a business, and business is about taking someone else's money and making it your money by providing them with a good or service that they're willing to pay for.

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