Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Still Need More Diversity In Games

So if you have been avoiding all E3 news possible, Ubisoft got the brunt of the blow for lacking female characters in it's video game demonstrations this year. Notably for Assassin's Creed and FarCry, games that have had female avatars in the past for players to choose from. Their reasoning, that it would take too much time to create a female avatar, is pretty lame and met with a lot of "...seriously?" reactions. Metal Gear Solid 5 is utilizing some of the same technology as AssCreed and they're giving us real-time horse poop. All arguments about "lack of time and power" are invalid.

The real issue is that this conversation is redundant when it shouldn't be. We have been drudging up this same conversation over and over again. We have the numbers that prove that nearly half of the game playing audience is female. So why can't we have more women represented as heroines in games?

Changes are being made, slowly but surely. We're seeing more independent developers grabbing foot holds in the business that is dominated by the EA and Ubisoft Titans of the world. When games like Journey and The Walking Dead sweep up developer awards, people begin to pay attention. More non-white male, not straight individuals are getting into the business. They're not as dominate of a force, but they have some ability to make changes. But the system is still so engrained in how things were in the 1980's when everything started. Video Games are still viewed as a stereotypical male domain. Girls are not allowed, and have always been seen as accessories. And it hasn't really improved since then. Women, people of color, different sexual preferences, religion, etc. these features are still not welcomed in games. Developers still feel they are catering to a dominate white, heterosexual male audience.

And should would be surprised? It's the same way in movies, television, books, and theater. We are only just now seeing defined women on the screen. I, for one, am happy to have The Hunger Games be as popular as it is because we FINALLY have a strong female lead who isn't focused on romance. Her concern is staying alive and keeping her mother and sister safe. The romance is completely arbitrary and done as a means of ensuring survival. Spoiler alert, but the "love" aspect of the entire story doesn't fully develop until the very end of the series. Everything up to that point is a ploy for cameras and audiences to ensure survival. Katniss also makes it blatantly clear from the beginning of the first book that she has 0 interest in bearing children. It would be cruel to subject them to the Hunger Games; not even the children of winners are immune. She is perfectly happy living a life without the implied ideal that having a family with kids will make one happy. Surprise, surprise. There are a number of women who couldn't agree more. Myself included. What makes Katniss stand out by comparison to the female video game characters we're use to seeing is that she doesn't fit in to one stereotype. She's not an atypical damsel in distress (you could argue this on a mental level, but that's beyond what a majority of video games will focus on), nor a background ornament for viewing pleasure only. She is a strong, determined, fierce young woman with emotional and physical insecurities just like us.

Why can't we have more of that in video games? Probably because it's still under a male dominated point of view that "this is how it's been done, and it worked, so why change it?"

My fear is that over time, if things do not progress and change, the industry will be stagnant. We won't see the originality that is needed to survive. We'll get multiple copies and repeats of the same product over and over again (I'm looking at you Call of Duty), and cause another game crash like the 1980's. The market will be over saturated by the same products and no one will buy. It's happening now. I can't remember the last time I bought a new, unique game from a store. All I see are rows and rows of the same war simulator, the same FPS, the same RPG. There is so new and unique on the horizon that it's hurting the business. Without change, without embracing female leads, Black leads, Muslim leads, homosexual leads, the industry will falter once more. It's not a question of if but when.

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