Systems and diversity

Two articles particularly interesting to me:

Toe Jam & Earl game designer Greg Johnson speaking at GDC about lack of diversity in games.

Ian Bogost writing about how games are better without characters.

I have always felt that games are better as system toy machines. I’m a designer I know people are scared of systems and think of them as not fun and cold. But to me as Ian puts it perfectly:

A game, it turns out, is a lens onto the sublime in the ordinary.

It’s the essence of what is so unique to computer games. But let’s go back to escapism.

For the lack of diversity with characters, let’s just have game engines give you the option to morph your avatar as you like.

It’s something funny: in any story in games, how the character looks like doesn’t matter at all, never did matter because the story is lived by one person, the player. The notion that you need character consistency across players experiences is weird as hell, if not totally stupid. What a brake on what can be possible, it’s a shame.

The only limit is technical: allowing players to shape their avatars means that some stuff can’t be done in some games (memory print). That is quite vague and the Saint Row series showed to the world that you still can do a lot with a custom avatar creation tool.

So technically it’s doable –if you take that into account from the start-. Also characters are such a small part of culture diversity. Black culture is way more than just having black characters.

What is bad with how we handle diversity is the notion that it’s not worth it. Now that’s ridiculous because it couldn’t be further from the truth.

White dudes don’t care so much about avatars, so used to have them mold to them for decades. Everybody else likes having avatars looking like them. It’s not just in games.

On TV Empire just exploded and demonstrated that a massive black and brown crowd exists. And that this crowd leads interest:

I would imagine that an Empire mobile game or adventure game would be widely successful. And yet I don’t see that happen anytime soon. So frustrating. In the meantime as again Ian puts it perfectly:

What if replacing militarized male brutes with everyone’s favorite alternative identity just results in Balkanization rather than inclusion?

I don’t know what to think!

Leave a Reply