Diversity In Video Games Isn’t Scary, It’s Delicious

There’s been an unexpected new trend emerging in the world of video games in recent years.

No, it isn’t Kickstarter games earning $800 trillion or multi-tier pre-order incentives for trivial garbage. The concept I’m talking about is quite easy to follow. You see, since games have started to branch out into other genres beyond ‘collect everything’, ‘kill everything’ and ‘collect and kill everything’, people from all different walks of life have felt more comfortable putting their hand up to say how they feel when it comes to how they are represented in both games and the games industry at large. Specifically, people who want to see more of themselves in video games. So they can relate more. And thus, have a more memorable and rewarding experience. Because everyone loves games. Yay video games!

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Wrong!

You see, there are people who think this is A VERY BAD THING. In fact, they see this as the end of days. And I’m not talking about that god awful Schwarzenegger film. I’m talking about people who see other people as some kind of threat. A threat to the status quo. A disruption to the normal day-to-day turning of the video game wheel. It’s like that bit in Oliver Twist where Oliver asks Mr Bumble for more gruel. Except Oliver is a woman of colour and Mr Bumble is a white dude with a Dragonball Z avatar.

What possible threat could this first group of people pose? Are they the foreign hordes led by Fu Manchu coming to steal our babies? Should we be spying on them to make sure they’re not sending communiques back to Soviet Russia?

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Thankfully, things aren’t quite so dire. But if you listen to some people tell it, video games are in grave danger simply because of other people. People who are women. Or black. Or transgender. Or disabled. There’s some who even call this a WAR ON GAMES.

Surprisingly, I sometimes see where they’re coming from. When I was 11, I had a fabulous toy machine gun. It was a promotional item from the VHS release of Rambo III and whoa baby, I loved that thing. I loved it so much that nobody was even allowed to touch it. Sounds silly right? You bet your gunpowder-infused bullet wound it was silly. Because I was 11 and my brain made about as much sense as John Rambo fighting for the Taliban. But this is 2015. A time of comet landings and genome mapping. Why would these kind of silly arguments persist after all this time? In an industry with such amazing variety as video games?

Firstly, people are worried video games will change. Just because there’s folks out there who want to see something other than Johnny Buzzcut Genocides 800,000 Soldiers In The Face: The Game, that doesn’t impact the future development of games. Games like Johnny BallPuncher Strangles Everyone With The Declaration Of Independence will always be around to make money. Two people making a pixelart game about their domestic home life isn’t going to change a damn thing.

People who want more diversity don’t want to ruin anything. They want to make interesting games. They want an even playing field. They want to add, not subtract. For example, if you had a cake, maybe a nice cheese cake and then somebody put a chocolate raspberry cake next to it, that doesn’t harm the cheesecake does it? No, it’s just more cake. More cake? That’s just what the doctor ordered. An irresponsible doctor sure, but a doctor nonetheless. Burn in hell, waistline. Exercising is a waste of time anyway. What do those supermodel-looking holier-than-thou bastards at my local pool know about anything? You’re not better than me, Craig! Didn’t I see one of your kids down at Centrelink last week?

Secondly, there’s a small but strong resistance to the concept of equality when it comes to gaming conventions. As such, a belief has emerged that equality and diversity is being FORCED UPON US. Convention panels that discuss mental health issues or women in games or inclusivity or some other ‘pointless crap’. Don’t bring politics or opinions into my video games! I play games to escape!

Escape from what exactly? What kind of nightmarish existence are you running from? Is your life like that hell dimension from Event Horizon? Or perhaps more realistically, is it one where nobody discriminates or questions you for any reason? I’m sorry for interrupting your afternoon of being fed grapes by voluptuous maidens while watching Masterchef. I was just wondering if you would you like to spend five minutes hearing about how white male straight men have had a stranglehold on games for decades? Or would you rather I pop off into the next room to starve to death in a corner?

Thirdly, and is this is a doozy: there’s this idea that all of this is fake. A superficial waste of time perpetrated by people who don’t play or care about games to secretly further their own agendas. And anyone who supports them is only in it to appease some mythical god who judges from the heavens and demands regular blood sacrifices of bigots for their Cauldron of Social Justice.

You know how that sounds? I’ll tell you how that sounds. Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson said some rather wacky things recently about gun control. Between telling the media that mass-shooting victims should have attacked their assailants and that maybe the Holocaust would have gone down differently had the Jews gotten their hands on some Glock 17’s, Carson sounds like he might actually be unhinged from reality. You sound like that. As if you’re so afraid of somebody taking something away from you that you’ll say anything to try to stop it from happening. Even if nothing is actually happening in the first place. But the difference here is this is video games we’re talking about. Not lethal child-murdering weapons.

What kind of life are you leading where you see all this as a problem? Were you raised by grizzly bears? Did you spend the first ten years of your life stealing from picnic blankets and going to the toilet in a creek? And now, by some mind-shattering miracle, you can use a keyboard. You’re incredible! Did you learn to speak by watching episodes of According To Jim through a pub window? Let me get Elon Musk on the phone because we have our first person to travel to Mars right here!

You really think that just because some people might take umbrage with R.Mika’s Hindenburg-sized breasts in Street Fighter V that somehow THE FEMINISTS will take over? Are you worried that Imperator Furiosa will break into your house at three in the morning and cut your throat? What are you so scared of that leads you to claim you’re the victim of being force-fed agendas? Or heroically recommend that “Hey if something offends you, just walk away or ignore it”? Because if people don’t want to be exposed to stereotypes, sexism, racism and ten different types of discrimination, then maybe games aren’t for them? Because nothing is ever going to change in that department, right?

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That’s what you’re defending. The gross, outdated parts of this industry. By acting like a spoilt child who doesn’t like people playing with their toys, you increase this warped view of video games by ten to the power of manchild. What the hell for? Because you want to eternally live inside a hall of mirrors where you only ever see yourself? Are you a Dalek? That must be it. You must have nothing but hate pumping through your mutated veins and the only thing that gives you even the slightest moment of respite is staring at the photo of Davros you’ve got sticky taped above your bed.

If you’re worried about things being ‘taken away’ from video games, take a second out of your day to consider that some of those things might be not all that great in the first place. Sexist advertising. Racist comic relief characters. Lack of relatable stories, themes and goals. Like a butcher carving the fat off the bone, it’s time to not only make things leaner and tastier but also welcome more people to the dinner table. I don’t know how many more food analogies I can use but I’ll tell you this: I don’t want to be around people who only want convention panels to be about The 10 Most Epic Headshots That Made You Go Bruhhh. I don’t want Faith from Mirror’s Edge to be blonde with huge boobs. And I don’t want to be angry at people who feel happier when they see themselves represented in video games. Because that raspberry chocolate cake at the end of table looks pretty good to me.

Whoops, looks like I had one more.

This post originally published on Kotaku Australia on October 21st 2015

2 thoughts on “Diversity In Video Games Isn’t Scary, It’s Delicious

  1. Excellent read. As you’ve stated, it seems like such a simple concept: If we want games to continue to push boundaries, to be exciting and new and (God forbid) ‘art’, then an evolution is essential. Anyone who believes that diversity is a feminist agenda doesn’t understand that there are many people who are bored of being forced to play all their games as Max the Meathead with arms the size of the African continent. Max might always have a place in Gears of War or Call of Duty or whatever else, but any game that recognizes that this stereotypical jughead is the exception rather than the rule is far more likely to get my business.
    Regardless, love your writing.

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