GameSkinny

The Straight White Guy Industry

If you aren't straight, white, and a guy, you don't matter to game publishers.

by

I am ridiculously privileged. Look at me. I'm a straight white guy. Nearly the entire game industry is built to appeal to me. Sure, there are games for a more general audience, such as Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, and Portal 2, but most of what goes into video games is tailored to get me, or someone else like me, to buy games. Everything from the idolized, macho men who always get the job done being on the game box’s cover, to the objectified, skimpily-dressed female side characters whose only role is their cleavage is meant for me.

Women, LGBTQ+ players, and players of color are often an afterthought, an asterisk, or a footnote.

These people don’t matter until the “core” gamer crowd is addressed. Oh, but don’t worry. Female gamers get Cooking Mama and pet games that end in the letter Z. At least LGBTQ+ players get BioWare games. At least players of color get side characters who get emotional deaths. That Assassin’s Creed spinoff had a person of color as the protagonist, right? Publishers don't owe them (or anyone, for that matter) anything, so why bother? A great portion of people, particularly the more vocal users of the internet who would probably choose a false interpretation of a fedora over any other kind of headwear, complacently believe we live in this mythical post-discrimination society, which simply isn’t the case, and the video game industry is a perfect example of this imbalance.

The problem isn't that there are tropes in gaming, it's which tropes the video game industry has chosen to fixate upon for the past twenty years.

The first popular games with anything resembling stories, such as Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda, followed the typical tropes of “hero rescues princess” and “man saves the day” because that’s how many stories have always been for thousands of years. Tropes such as these are sometimes unavoidable because everything is a trope. A buff macho hero is a trope, a defenseless princess is a trope, and a flamboyant gay man who can't defend himself is a trope, but so is a lead who is a strong lesbian woman who will shoot all opposition in the face while making immature jokes. The problem isn't that there are tropes in gaming—that's unavoidable—it's which tropes the video game industry has chosen to fixate upon and which tropes it has chosen to avoid for the past twenty years.

In a world where movies about Disney princesses who aren’t white make headlines for the character’s ethnicity, it isn’t too surprising that video games that don’t follow the unofficial rules of this straight, white, teenage boy industry are either panned, unsuccessful, or never even made.

Developers had to fight to get the protagonist to even stay a woman–they were directly told that the game would not succeed without a male lead despite nearly half of gamers being women.

Released in early 2013, Remember Me is a dystopian, futuristic third-person action/adventure game with combat similar to the Batman: Arkham series with dashes of Tomb Raider, among other things. The game stars Nilin, a female protagonist who is mixed race. Her race is somewhat unclear, but her name bears Indian origin, but considering a voodoo priest in voodoo-hell was the first black protagonist in a game, Remember Me is a huge step in the name of any sort of diversity in the video game industry.

Sure, there have been characters like Sheva from Resident Evil 5, Isabela in Dragon Age II, Daisy from Bioshock Infinite, and Sgt. Avery "Hold Me" Johnson from Halo, but people of color who are protagonists simply don’t appear  in mainstream video games very often. As it turns out, Dont Nod Entertainment actually had to fight Capcom to get the protagonist to even stay a woman–they were directly told that the game would not succeed without a male lead. This is odd reasoning, of course, considering nearly half of gamers are women, and there are more adult women playing games than there are boys under the age of eighteen playing games.

Another example is the recent Call of Duty: Ghosts. In the entirety of the six-hour campaign, three people aren't grizzled white men: a female astronaut who dies within ten minutes of her introduction, a black soldier who dies within ten minutes of his introduction, and a female pilot whose helicopter presumably gets blown up off-screen after the only level in which she appears. In a game that supposedly involves the United States being crippled by their own weapons, leaving a ragtag group of soldiers, you’d think the resistance would be more diverse than White Guy #1, White Guy #2, White Guy #3, and Stephen Lang.

Bioware received great deal of flak and free press in 2011 for letting players make their characters gay, despite having a history of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans* characters.

Somewhat similarly, when BioWare released Dragon Age II in 2011, they received a great deal of flak (and free press) for allowing players to have their characters be gay, despite same-sex relationships being possible in Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, and even Knights of the Old Republic (though Mass Effect didn’t allow male same-sex romances until the third game). BioWare stuck by this decision and made same-sex relationships possible in all future titles since, such as Mass Effect 3 (and presumably Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is due for release late 2014). BioWare even revealed characters who were previously thought to be straight as having fluid sexuality, with same-sex relationships now possible for some, such as in Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3, though some can only be romanced by protagonists of a specific sex despite their orientation.

There’s nothing wrong with BioWare doing this.

Representing gay, lesbian, bi, and trans* characters in a positive light is rather progressive, especially for the video game industry, but only BioWare seems to be doing this. If you were to ask the common gamer to name five games with possible LGBTQ+ protagonists, it would be next to impossible for them to not mention a few BioWare games. Yet another frustrating part of the matter is that nearly every depiction of members of the LGBTQ+ community in games, even in BioWare games, is a caricature of some stereotype inserted for the purpose of comic relief (particularly with the depiction of trans* characters), such as Wade, Haren, and Serendipity.

The most frequently targeted demographic—straight, white guys—don’t even notice any of these issues or tropes.

Possibly one the most unfortunate and easily remedied aspects of this entire situation is that those in the most frequently targeted demographic—straight, white guys—don’t even notice any of these issues or tropes. I recently played Resident Evil: Revelations, a delightful, stupidly convoluted horror game from Capcom. The game mostly stars Jill Valentine, who has been in the series since the first game. Jill wasn’t nearly as sexualized as she could have been, with the biggest issues for her being the unnecessarily low-cut wetsuit and how she wears a wetsuit as opposed to more tactical clothing (though it suits the setting, since the game takes place on a ghost ship) while her male counterparts wears more loose-fitting clothing. She remains as strong a character as always, and is more than capable of killing zombies as effectively as her male counterparts.

Players are used to the hyper-sexualization, objectification, and dehumanization of women in games.

While Jill is slightly excusable, Revelations also features Jessica and Rachel, two hyper-sexualized characters who barely have any depth beyond legs and breasts. Jessica’s wetsuit features a missing pant-leg, all in the name of showing more skin (and high fashion, I guess), while Rachel’s wetsuit is arbitrarily unzipped down to below her bellybutton, revealing cleavage that's more akin to games aimed at teenage boys who are just entering puberty, like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. At first, I thought, “Well, it’s just Capcom. They’re a bit weird,” but that reaction shows just how used players are to the hyper-sexualization, objectification, and dehumanization of women in games—it's industry standard.

Women are also objectified in games after the developer has already finished them.

A great number of mods for popular titles feature obvious changes to female characters, such as mods that give female characters skimpier armor in Skyrim and Alyx more pronounced features in Half-Life 2, just to name a few. Players also take it upon themselves to change promotion art to make female characters bustier. For the plot, of course.

"But men are objectified all the time. Look at their muscles!"—a somewhat reasonable assessment, though fundamentally flawed. Male characters are generally seen as muscular and resilient, which not all men are. The female characters are sexualized and objectified while male characters are idealized. Gamers are meant to want to be like Master Chief, Adam Jensen, Silent American Soldier #5, and Ezio Auditore. Gamers are meant to want Jill Valentine, Lara Croft, Miranda Lawson, and Chun-Li. Male characters are generally ideals for the gamer while female characters are generally rewards for the gamer.

It's understandable why video games are made this way.

Appealing to the demographic of straight, white, teenage boys is a low-risk way to make easy money. Just look at Call of Duty and Halo—they star macho men who kick the crap out of opposition all in the name of honor, heroics, and badassery, and the games sell unbelievably well. Same with Killzone and Assassin’s Creed. Being a badass sells—nobody is saying it doesn’t (or at least I’m not).

What is perhaps more frustrating, is the gaming community's vitriolic reaction to anyone who addresses this obvious imbalance.
Unfortunately, addressing this inequality is difficult, at best.

Take the release of Grand Theft Auto V, for example. GameSpot reviewer Carolyn Petit criticized GTA V for misogyny throughout the game. She still gave the game a 9/10, stating almost everything positive everyone else has said about it. Despite giving a near perfect score to Grand Theft Auto V and only using three sentences in the nine-minute review to make the point about the female characters, the army of the internet decided that her reasoning was flawed because Grand Theft Auto is obviously infallible, and proceeded to post hateful messages demanding that Petit both be fired for her review and be ignored because she's trans* (both of which are still showing up today). When a community reacts this violently against any sort of dialogue about imbalance, it's no wonder why game publishers are scared to publish anything but the norm.

"But that's the way things are. They won't change."

"But that's the way things are. They won't change." It's an easy conclusion to make, and it's even a justifiable one. If a publisher has the choice between a macho man shooter and an emotional story starring a woman doing anything that doesn't involve her cleavage, it's obvious what will happen. The publisher will spend years working on the shooter and its multimillion dollar ad campaign as it's sold by the millions, and the other game will maybe be a downloadable title, if it ever exists. It's clear which one is more profitable.

If the internet loses its mind over people criticizing Grand Theft Auto or a new MOBA, is it really a wonder why publishers don't experiment with new ideas and stories? They're scared. Considering game critics get as much backlash as they do, publishers and developers would only get more (and they do). The only way gamers can get the games they want, games for the entire gaming community (especially for those not in the straight, white dude demographic) is for publishers to take the financial risk of allowing developers to do something different.

As mentioned above, the recent Call of Duty: Ghosts was about what you'd expect. Women barely show up in the single-player campaign, and it stars a bunch of white dudes fighting against people who clearly hate America. In multiplayer, however, players can actually play as women. The female characters have just as much protection as the men, their hitboxes are the same size as the men, and they are just as tall as the men. The change is purely cosmetic.

Those who play multiplayer will notice a decent number of players sporting female soldiers—not a lot, but some—not because of some strategic advantage, but because they can. If players of what is arguably the most popular video game franchise in history don't bat an eye and actually want to customize their female characters' appearance, it makes one wonder why other franchises don't follow suit.

But gamers can help.
People like me—straight, white guys—don't understand the difficulties of not being appealed to in nearly every medium, platform, business, institution, and community. We probably never will.

It is possible to drown out the furious, men's-rights-screaming cries of the players who get mad when they feel uncomfortable because a male character is hitting on them, when the protagonist isn't a grizzled space marine, or when a female character just refuses to sleep with their own character. In truth, people like me—straight, white guys—may not be the best people to be making these changes—at least not alone. As much as members of privileged groups might like to understand the difficulties of not being the most powerful and appealed-to demographic in nearly every medium, platform, business, institution, and community, they don't, and they probably never will.

Straight, white male players are constantly validated and catered to with the constant flow of white macho men starring in games.

Players of color, female players, and LGBTQ+ players, on the other hand, hardly ever receive anything close to this level of validation, if they even receive it at all, which can be emotionally devastating. When people use the term "privilege," this lack of devastation is what they mean: the privilege to not need to understand because it doesn't disadvantage you. That does not mean that those with privilege should feel guilty for their privilege, but they should be aware of the obvious advantages of being privileged, particularly with their influence in the eyes of game publishers.

This influence is why players who are members of the straight, white guy demographic need to voice that they too want video games to be welcoming to players of every demographic, while players of color, female players, and LGBTQ+ players continue to enter the industry and sound their voices. With this lies the responsibility of privileged gamers to understand that there is a considerable difference between speaking out for the sake of a group and speaking over a group—gamers must work to not unintentionally silence their peers. Silence is simply no longer an option for every member of the gaming community. Gamers of every demographic need to work together with publishers and developers by saying that they want games for a more diverse audience—an audience that wishes to maybe be a mature adult someday instead of a blithering racist on Xbox Live.

An awareness of other demographics and a willingness to not instantly repel those demographics are both necessary to make gaming appealing for all players.
Does this mean that game developers and publishers should have a checklist so each demographic is depicted?

Of course not—no medium should. Making sure that each demographic is represented is well-intended, but also easy to do wrong. This can frequently lead to one-dimensional characters and not address the core of the problem: a lack of effort. Publishers need to develop an awareness of the massive pool of character traits and personalities they can pull from to create diverse casts of interesting, believable characters and actually create these characters. This starts with remotely diverse groups writing the games, so there are less unwittingly creepy, offensive plots that developers almost miss, and more plots that don't outright disgust and repel gamers.

Not every story has a place for a gay character, a woman, a white man, or a soldier, and the subject of diversity is not always relevent to criticism of a game, but a willingness to see what other characters are possible in a given situation is necessary for interesting stories, and this willingness will open up new story possibilities that haven't been explored in games. Today, it is more possible than ever for gamers to get the games they want made—developers will listen and publishers are too scared to go against the gaming community.

It can happen.
Gamers who truly want progress in the gaming industry need to inform the ignorant, not attack them.

Before any massive changes happen, however, there lies the first, momentous step of rational discussion. Unfortunately, this step is often circumvented and replaced by instant name-calling and shouting that those who oppose diversity in games are ignorant, racist, homophobic sexists who need to check their privilege when they simply don't understand the problem and need it calmly explained to them.

Now, players of color, gamers who are women, and LGBTQ+ players are justified—these groups have every right to be angry—but a loud, angry response filled with name-calling is somewhat flawed, though justified, in that it prevents any sort of productive discussion and forces the ignorant to violently defend a position in an argument they don't fully understand—an argument that will ultimately make the ignorant more likely to remain adamant in these uninformed beliefs.

As unfair as it is, people will use your tone to ignore what you have to say if they can.

The word "ignorant" does not mean that a person is a racist, homophobic sexist who promotes rape; it means that they either don't know the problem or have no frame of reference to fully understand it (similar to the word "privilege"). It is far more constructive to say, "what you are saying perpetuates sexism because," than it is to say, "you are a sexist because." Criticize arguments, not people. As unfortunate and unfair as it is, people can and will use your tone as a reason to ignore what you have to say no matter how justified the cause is, so it may be best to minimize the chance that they can dismiss you. Gamers who truly want progress in the gaming industry need to not attack, but inform the ignorant about what is wrong within the industry.

The privileged need to actually listen and learn from those who are affected by this discrimination.

Perhaps most importantly, those who are privileged need to learn to actually listen to those who aren't privileged. As previously mentioned, the privileged don't understand what those who are discriminated against go through on a daily basis. They can sympathize to a point, but they probably don't understand and probably won't ever have to. The only way they might ever understand is to actively listen and realize that arguments that attack ideas—ideas that have been reinforced their entire lives—are attacking just that: their ideas, not them as a person. Ask questions. Pay attention. Learn. I consider myself somewhat informed, but admittedly, I'm ignorant and uninformed about many things. I constantly try to learn and understand, and by doing so, I (shockingly) begin to learn and understand, at least to a point. Both sides of the conversation need to actively try to allow an environment of learning and progress to exist. Only then can a productive discussion ever occur.

It’s encouraging to see games emerge that depict women and people of color as strong protagonists, such as Gone Home, Tomb Raider, and Telltale's The Walking Dead, and games with characters of the LGBTQ+ community who aren't obvious caricatures, such as Mass Effect 3, but these games should not be notable for these reasons or be just emerging—they should be standard. Change is coming to the gaming industry. Slowly, but it's happening.

There are obvious differences among everyone in this community—there are men, women, people of color, people who are straight, people who aren't, people who are in between, people who don't care, people who are grandparents, people who are in high school, people who are religious, people who aren't sure, people who only play shooters, people who only play indie games, people who overlap on several different identifiers, and many, many more that I couldn't possibly name. What unites us all, however, is that we are gamers—all of us. Maybe players will eventually live in a world where a character who isn't a white guy starring in a game won’t turn heads or make stock holders panic.

Until that day, you owe it to your fellow gamer to fight for it.

 

* Author’s Note: Some people use different terms for different groups, all of which I couldn’t possibly name. Inevitably, it’s possible that I used incorrect terms or omitted other terms to classify some groups, orientations, races, or identities, for which I apologize if I offended members of these groups. I know that I'm obviously not the ideal candidate for this subject considering my race, orientation, sex, and gender identity. The purpose of this article is to ignite a discussion about the obvious inequalities that exist surrounding the demographics depicted and targeted by video games. If you would like to take part in a thoughtful discussion, please comment below and bring others into the discussion to keep the conversation going.

I'd also like to extend a special thank you to Milo Price, Tracy Sherwin, Amy White, Amy and everyone else from Tumblr, anyone else I'm missing, and especially Chan Benicki for helping me complete this feature. This would not be the work that it is without you. Thanks.

Originally Published Dec. 9th 2013

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Brian transcribes for a tech company in Redmond, WA, writes a somewhat mostly regular technology column for Briefed: Vancouver, writes for Simply... more »

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Comments
  • 1
    Bob _7501 7 months ago
    How about.... if black people want to have a game, they can make one. How about... if gay people want a game, they can make one. Companies are making games the way they want to and they sell. Who are you to demand that they do something else?? Oh the plight of the poor Asian engineers who can't program their own game if they want one? Are you serious?
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Who are you to demand they /don't/ do something other than the norm? Why do you care? Does it take away representation of your own demographics as a result? And yes, I /am/ serious.
  • 1
    Exhuminator 7 months ago
    According to this information:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MonicaMcGill/20130604/193603/Examining_the_Pipeline_Demographics_of_Undergraduate_Students_Studying_Games.php

    Most of the people studying to make video games are actually white heterosexual males. If that is true, perhaps that's why the lead role in games they create is often a white heterosexual male...
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    You're right, but I think the same could be said about STEM courses--it's perpetuated that men do it, so men continue doing it and women don't. It's a bit of a vicious cycle.
  • 60
    Venisia Gonzalez 7 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I found this article very interesting and it was a great read. I "hear" what you're saying here. It would be nice to see games have more diversity in their protagonists. The game industry is lacking in that department and yes the games you mentioned here should be acknowledged for more than just having that difference. It's a double edged sword so to speak. We want and need games to be different, yet we have people complain and scream when things are different. Even in today's society with what "progress" is being made, we still have those that argue against it. I hope through gaming we can change that.
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Thanks!

    I think a lot of that double-edged sword you mentioned has to do with old IPs more than it does with new ones. Other than the execs at Capcom, people didn't really care one way or the other about Remember Me staring a woman of color (I'd argue a lack of good advertising played into its downfall mostly) probably because it's a new IP. It's like how people got upset when Donald Glover expressed interesting in the role of Spider-Man when people suggested it. They got upset because Peter Parker was originally written as white, but Donald Glover isn't white, so they saw it as "hurting" their beloved character.

    I think a combination of gradually more realistically diverse casts of characters (for those older IPs that "need" a white dude as the protagonist) and more new IPs (which the industry is /terrified/ of doing) are the solid ways better representation can happen. Obviously, making the workers themselves more accepting of women would help, or making the community a bit less bigoted, but that's significantly more difficult problem to solve.
    Last edited 7 months ago
  • 40
    Amazon Eliza Steel 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    It's not the companies only customer base are white males in a certain age range, they're just the easiest to market to. The statis quo from past few decades.

    Why change that model? Why take risks?

    That's what the suits are thinking. They've still got the gamer so stereotyped in their heads as a teen or 20-something, socially damaged, or a couch-potato unemployed loser white guy. Look at the commercials where they show people playing. It's either the perfect family around the Wii or two bros on a couch.
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Of course that's why. Same reason Nintendo does so many Mario games while ignoring old IPs like Star Fox: it's safer. Games cost a lot to make and if they bomb, they bomb hard.
  • 60
    Fathoms_4209 8 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    If an author sets out to write a particular story, and that story requires certain types of characters, fine.

    If someone sets out to create something for the express purpose of dropping in characters with "alternative lifestyles" (or whatever), that's an insult to all art.

    That's really all I have to say on this matter.
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 8 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    If you were to look above where I say "It can happen" about two-thirds of the way down, you'll see that I say that creating characters just to meet a quota is harmful. You get flat, boring characters that not only insult the possibilities for the character, but also insult the player.

    And "alternative lifestyles?" I think that kind of mentality is harmful because suggesting that being a woman, or gay, or bi, or trans*, or a poc, or anything that isn't a straight white dude is a deviation from a misinterpretation of "the norm"--"the norm" being a straight white dude--demeans the groups mentioned as being lesser than the groups in power.
  • 25
    Germaximus 9 months ago
    Correspondent
    I feel like a weirdo because I really do not care what nationality the character I play as in a video game is. I don't even care about my own skin color, or others. I still generalize of course, that's just a bad habit that's hard to drop. If I happen to be going through the "ghetto" I may fear for my useless life. But I don't actually care about race, ever.

    It drives me crazy seeing the big deal people make out of it. Not because I think they're wrong, but because I think it shouldn't be an issue. And that is what's wrong with the world.

    Remember Me is a beautiful game by the way. Really loved that story. Nilin wasn't objectified but she was still sexy which made me laugh.

    I don't pick and play games based on the main characters skin color. I don't understand this world or why game developers find the need to change a characters sex because of how it will look. But again, I think I'm a weirdo.

    I do prefer to play as a female because women are pretty to look at. They don't have to be objectified.
    Last edited 9 months ago
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    I think your reaction is generally the point of things like this. I don't care that Tomb Raider stars a woman or that I prefer a female Hawke in Dragon Age II. Indifference of what race, sex, and orientation of a character is good in that you judge the merits of the character as a character first, but I try to not ignore it, because then you get the whole "I don't see race" thing, which is kinda harmful too.

    And whether I play as a guy or gal depends on the game, if I have a choice. Like, Dragon Age: Origins provides me with the narrative I want as a guy, but I prefer Dragon Age II's voice actress for Hawke far better than the male version. That and her hair is less ridiculous than the weird hair choices for guys. They all look like plastic.
    Last edited 9 months ago
  • 1
    JSully_8154 9 months ago
    What a disgusting article. Can we move on past this idea that white males are by default racist and the cause of all the evils in the world? We elected a black president. Racism is dead. Move on and find some other pretend injustice to waste your life whining about. It's clear this article was written by some white beta male who's been brainwashed into feeling guilty about his race and gender and so is trying to win the imaginary approval of minorities, women, or other white males as delusional as himself.

    I know being politically correct, which means parroting "racism sexism bigotry!" over and over, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it's nauseating. This is the last article I will read from gameskinny.
  • 40
    Amazon Eliza Steel 7 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    - So, after a few centuries of slavery and only 50 years of Civil Rights after segregation and the Jim Crowe laws - we manage to elect 1 African-American president. A man that is bombarded DAILY NON-STOP by 24/7 hate of a scale we've never seen before in a national leader...

    But, somehow... somehow that balances the books. Okay, folks nothing to see here. All mass murder, kidnappings, beatings, forced labor, removal of cultural identity, etc. etc. It's all good now. We can just forget about all that. One minor politician from Illinois managed to win the White House. We're good now.
  • 1
    jinji_1143 9 months ago
    as a straight white guy who plays games from this industry.. you're all welcome. take care, brush your hair..
  • 1
    jinji_1143 9 months ago
    and to all of our blue brothers and sisters, with the super tight scaled butts... we dont want to see fat asses.. (though you wouldnt know it from the cowards afraid to comment in public media, after all.. heavy people watch tv..) please forgive us and our awful way of life, ..one day.. things will equal out... "it's not your fault zuaron.. shut up tylad... ..it's not your fault.. shut up tylad"
  • 1
    jinji_1143 9 months ago
    yeah great read, the white guilt is thick with this one.. white peo- ..males bad, everyone else good, lets not rag on the white females, we loves them so, musnt do, do not want. HA! am i getting the memes right, sissies? authority and law bad, white? southern? christian? male? public enemy numero uno cracker. All those dirty cops and all the innocent drug peddelers and whores thats an honest living when you think about it! agh just i give in, so well written, so irreverent, about as edgy as a tennis ball, kudos minorities
  • 1
    Johnny Boy Public 9 months ago
    Utter and total bollocks from people looking to find issues; professional malcontents.

    Is there a problem with our culture? Yes, but it aint games. Games have been one of the most progressive forms of media out there. So sorry that Hollywood style games - out for the biggest buck - dont pander to each and every special interest group out there.

    Like many, I am no misanthrope or misognyist. I think most people are tired of the victim industry churning out articles about how terribly sexist the game industry is, when it is reallyt just a reflection of overall culture.

    To wit - you complain when will we see a TG protaganist in a game? Well, we will certainly see one before we see a TG President of the US of A. For that matter, how about a woman president?

    The issue is much larger than games, and the majority of the people kicking up a fuss refuse to acknowledge that. The approaches being advocated have been tried and guess what - abandoned - because? They didnt SELL $$$$$$ which is ALL the publishers care about.

    Truth.
    Last edited 9 months ago
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    If by "progressive" you mean "have most games completely ignore a group," then sure.
    It's not a matter of them not all pandering to every group, it's a matter of almost every game pandering to the same group every time with every game. Almost half of gamers are women. 48%. That doesn't strike me as a "special interest group," that strikes me as a huge portion of the gaming community.

    And if you were to check the sources I link to within the article, you'd know that almost all games with female protagonists, for example, get far less funding and advertising than games with male protagonists. It's not really a black and white situation of "well these games don't do as well as Call of Duty BECAUSE of a female/colored/LGBTQ+ protagonist." By that logic, several games that received less-than-stellar reviews only received such low scores because they had a white dude as a protagonist. Look at Tomb Raider, for another example. That was the highest grossing game of the year in the UK until GTA V came out. That's "not selling?"
    Last edited 9 months ago
  • 1
    Ace_4091 9 months ago
    This is a good article, but I would caution against "tone arguments" because it isn't a case of people attacking "privileged gamers", it's people reacting to others who constantly make gaming unsafe for them. Most people are weary of having to be "informative" when they are just asking to exist and be taken seriously. Usually people who absolutely cannot enjoy a game that doesn't follow the same "straight white macho male" formula know what they're doing and why they feel that way, and "informing them" is just an exercise in futility and repetitive arguments, because they get off on having some "last bastion" of privilege they can keep from the rest of us. If they were really interested in making video games an inclusive industry they wouldn't feel the need to constantly make racist mods, sexist add ons and entitled letters complaining about marginalized people having any part in their favorite hobby. This behavior isn't accidental, and they know they're being catered to by the industry so they don't feel the need to stop. If they had more developers and big name companies telling them to get over themselves and their privilege they wouldn't be so bold about it.

    There's a difference between someone who is used to being over-represented and doesn't quite grasp the situation and someone who gleefully tries to play gate keeper to who does and doesn't "deserve" to be represented in video games. I think that we make the mistake of defending the latter under the assumption that its okay to be like the former.
  • 20
    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Thanks for the comment. It looks like you made the account to comment, so thanks, if that's true. I brought up a tone argument because your tone WILL be brought up by those who oppose and/or dismiss diversity in games. It's unfortunate that people need to be calm and collected in order to be taken seriously or even listened to, but the fact remains that yelling and calling somebody names (that they probably don't fully understand) creates a somewhat hostile environment where nobody learns anything. If somebody can find some excuse for not listening to you, they will. I'm simply trying to suggest that gamers eliminate as many excuses as possible. Chances are, if the racist, homophobic, sexist gamer got that far in my article, they probably became at least somewhat self-aware, though I admittedly should add something about how to listen and not create a hostile environment (I will, I just need to run it by people I trust who know the social commentary aspect better than I).

    I can only speak from personal experience for what helped me notice just how messed up things were. In my less-informed (and less-proud) years, yelling at me did nothing and ALWAYS prevented conversation or learning. Nobody likes to be insulted, no matter how right or wrong they are, and passion can often be confused with hatred. I suppose I was simply stating what is more likely to work, at least on me.

    Of course, there's always the chance that somebody will never listen, which is why I spend so much time suggesting that gamers take their fight towards developers and publishers. You're more likely to be able to get a point across to a game dev than some jerk on Reddit who casually makes racist jokes on a regular basis while working on their creepily detailed armor mod in Skyrim.
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    Coatedpolecat 9 months ago
    Featured Correspondent
    I think the article is well written and what a great job.

    I do think you're completely focusing on the vocal minority. As I've been apart of numerous communities and played tons of games that exclude no one in any way shape or form. Aside from Ryan's examples, Brothers ATOTS is another to add.

    I also must agree. w all the great games that are available that transcend this tired "white guy" approach to the article. Over the last couple years we've seen a major shift in these things. Mass Effect being a prime example of AAA dev listening.

    Also, wouldn't it be who of you to focus on the positives of games to go find and make public some of the games that already do encourage the change you speak of, Instead of just talking about change. IMO this type of article perpetuates the problem to some degree.
    Just staing a problem everyone's aware of with no viable solution, hasn't seemed to help. Maybe interview someone you feel is underrepresented in this industry.

    Again, great read man, keep up the great work.
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    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    I focused on the vocal minority because, honestly, they get stuff done, sadly. They're the whiny people who scare publishers into not changing--the ones who tell people to shut up and stop talking about a non-issue. They're the ones complaining on Reddit about how girls are taking their games, or whatever, and they're the ones who are convinced it's THEIR industry and theirs only.

    I focused on several positive games, but it feels like lying for me to focus on just a few positive games in sea of objectification. Yeah, Tomb Raider 2013 and Mass Effect 3 do a lot of things right, but the most popular games, like GTA V and Call of Duty simply aren't doing enough, if anything. It's like saying "alright, racism is done" because the United States has a black president. Racism is... slightly less awful than it used to be, but it's not saying much. Same thing with discrimination in games. It's better, sure, but if you look at the bigger picture, it's really not that substantial.

    And I think the part where I say "talk to developers and publishers" is the solution you're looking for. A lot of people are aware of the problem, but publishers are convinced there's no money to be had in these games and the vocal minority of gamers just don't care because it doesn't affect them (hence the section about privilege). If more gamers actually talk to publishers and developers, and if more gamers who actually care about diversity are in the industry, the industry has more of a chance of growing up and progressing, rather than being the butt of jokes by Joel McHale laughing about being in your parents' basement.
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    Unepitaphed 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    I agreed 100% with you Brian. Not only does the industry need to change, but the mind set of gamers need to change as well. Otherwise we're just going to get the same half-assed "Call of Duty: Meat Head White Guy GO GO AMERICA" game. Gamers need to grow up and learn to be accepting and open minded, and the industry needs to learn how to take chances. We already have a "safety mode" Hollywood with remakes, books-to-movies and comics-to-movies. We dont need an industry filled with "Cliche Military Shooter 75" and "Safe Reboot of Classic Game #9,687"

    I've been thinking about the industry as of lately and why no one is taking chances. (aside from a few indie devs and publishers) and It seems this is one of the many problems. As long as the sheep flock towards "It says Call of Duty so I'll buy it" game. There is not going to be a bright and diverse future for the gaming industry.
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    Ryan Kerns 9 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    I'd say there's more than a few indie devs out there... this year alone we saw Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, and Papers, Please... when people complain about a lack of innovation or creativity, they are totally turning a blind eye to the real advancements in design and games that are actually redefining "game". Next year looks like we're going to get even more amazing games... you'll just never see a superbowl ad for them or anything.

    I spent many years trying to get people around me into fighting games with no luck. The most common excuse I've heard is "I work a 9-5 job already, I don't want to come home and play a difficult game that feels like a second job". The average person these days just wants a mindless shooter that takes their mind off of things for an hour or so. The same goes towards movies with complicated plots that require a lot of engagement from the viewer.

    You can't really fault people for just wanting to relax, and there will always be options for those of us looking for something a bit more sophisticated.
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    Justanotherloser 9 months ago
    Lmao, at one of the comments though. ' LG is represented'. A few games doesn't mean representation. That's the same thing as saying ' there's one black guy out the 25 other white guys here, People of color are represented!!' Sigh.
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    Ryan Kerns 9 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    Don't worry... Ultimate Gay Fighter will fix everything :D http://youtu.be/WtxVh1D0E1g
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    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    I read about that a week or two ago, and decided to just not touch it. It. The most articulate way I could react was, "Um..."
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    Quietbang_4159 9 months ago
    I think something I would like to point out is that it's relatively easy for the author, as a straight white man, to say that people who object to problematic video games need to educate, rather than just call out. Many of us have tried to educate, only to be rebuffed by an onslaught of violent, homophobic, racist vitriol. Marginalised gamers have every right to be angry, when this is what we face. It's very difficult to be dispassionate about a subject that directly effects you and your family; the attitudes behind problematic video games and gamers who defend them are harmful. They're part of the oppressive structures built into our society; it can be very hard to confront someone calmly when they are vehemently defending their right to dehumanise you.
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    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    I can only speak from my personal experience, but just a few years ago, I was not nearly as well-informed as I am now. Having things explained to me was far more effective than being literally yelled at. I suppose there comes a point where a person is a lost cause if discourse doesn't work. Yelling-matches hardly ever result in anything more than both sides being angry and tired, but I suppose they could work in some rare cases.
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    Adym_3373 9 months ago
    I enjoyed the ironic ad for Tales of Solaris in this article.
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    Brian Skahan 9 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    For several of the videos I linked to, it showed the Battlefield 4 Axe ads.
  • 2
    Elloawendy 9 months ago
    Great article! Very well written!
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    Corey Kirk aka xTHEFIZZx 9 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    Good read. I would even take it a step further and argue that the BTQ+ groups have it even worse as next to nothing is made for them. LG people have games where their group is represented. When have we ever had a Trans Protagonist? Answer: Never. Anyway, I don't want to get on a soap box but I agree with your article. Good work! :)