And Then The Video Game Industry Woke Up

And Then The Video Game Industry Woke Up

The 2013 Game Developers Conference is over. The chatter of the show floor has faded, the bathroom lines have evaporated, and the various stacked hangovers have worn off. The week still feels like something of a blur, but squint your eyes just so, filter out the noise and the music and the glowing laptop monitors, and a theme starts to take shape: Change is in the air. Change for the better.

If I had to boil the theme of the week down to one pithy phrase, I suppose I’d choose “We can do this better.” If I was given the opportunity to add a second phrase, it’d be “We can have our cake and eat it too.”

Much like the industry to which it caters, GDC is a place where high-minded artistic ideals collide with cold, calculated business-sense. 23,000 developers attended the conference this year, each one looking for opportunities to make new, better things, and find new, better-paying work. Indie developers congregate at dive-bars and house parties to share inspiration and demonstrate their latest crazy ideas. At the same time, suit-clad moneymen meet in back-rooms and schmooze at the W Hotel bar to ink contracts and secure million-dollar deals.

With each passing GDC, the indie presence has become more and more pronounced, but this year felt like something of a tipping point. Moreover, it’s beginning to feel as though the mainstream “AAA” developers and publishers have woken up to the many brilliant things that indie games have to offer. “We’re not so different, you and I.”

I attended my first conference in 2010 and, upon leaving, I remember remarking as to how it felt as though there were two GDCs: The optimistic, artistic indie GDC and the conservative, money-minded corporate GDC. Game designer Jesse Schell may have summed up the divide most pithily upon his departure at the end of last week:

That distinction remains in effect four years later, even while it’s feeling like the indies have taken over a bigger-than-ever chunk of the mainstream. Independent and progressive developers are indeed always optimistic at GDC, and as an optimistic, indie-minded sort, I tend to favour their viewpoint. But this year, I was surprised to find a solid core of pragmatism at the heart of a lot of the wide-eyed optimism. “We can do better, we can be more inclusive, we can be less violent and more interesting, and we can make more money as a result.”

On Monday night, I attended a grand indie gathering at the video-game website IGN‘s offices near to the Moscone centre, where GDC itself is held. Dozens of independent developers had brought their PCs, dev consoles and iPads to show off the latest builds of their games. The energy in the room was remarkable: Boisterous, enthusiastic, and a little bit drunk.

That same night, there was another indie showcase going on, this one hosted by Sony. I couldn’t attend both events, but during an earlier demo session in Sony’s space I saw an event space kitted out with demo stations for an array of PS3 and Vita indie games. It seems evident that Sony, a billion-dollar technology company, would very much like you to know that Hotline Miami plays great on the Vita. This feels noteworthy.

The sense among the indie developers that I spoke with was that Sony has invested in them in a tangible, financial way. (See also: Sony’s well-timed announcement of a partnership with Unity that will allow the indie-friendly development tools to work seamlessly with all of their platforms.) Both Nintendo and Microsoft had a more low-key presence at the conference, with Nintendo revealing a web framework to help developers make apps for the Wii U and Microsoft staying almost entirely out of view, likely because they have yet to publicly announce their own next-generation console. Sony certainly won the largest amount of mindshare among independent developers, and appear to be gambling that they can have their interesting, creative indie games and make money with them, too. Have their indie cake and eat it too, if you like.

Inclusivity, gender inclusivity in particular, was also a running theme at this year’s GDC, far more so than in previous years. That’s fitting, given that the industry has seen so much discussion of the topic over the past year or so. Early in the week at the narrative summit, Halo: Reach writer Tom Abernathy gave a talk arguing that more and more players are tired of not seeing themselves reflected in their games, and that increasing diversity wasn’t just worthwhile from a moral perspective, it was good business sense. It was a familiar refrain, but still a valuable one: Sure, it may be widely held that games with female protagonists make less money, but does that line of thinking even make sense?

Another video game writer, BioWare’s David Gaider, addressed that line of thinking directly. In the middle of his talk titled “Sex in Games”, the Dragon Age and Baldur’s Gate writer put up six slides of video games with female protagonists featured on the cover, games like Beyond Good & Evil, No One Lives Forever and the new Tomb Raider.

“Is conventional industry wisdom correct?” Gaider asked, referring to the idea that games with women on the cover don’t sell. “There’s been a lot of discussion about female protagonists, especially putting them on the box.

“This is not a large number of titles,” he said, gesturing to the six games on the slide. “This is over how many years? Are we supposed to accept the opposite, that a game that has a male protagonist and sells well sells well because it had a male protagonist? What about the ones with male protagonists that don’t sell well? Are those for other reasons?

“What would be the bar at which the industry would change its mind about a female protagonist? Do we need a title to sell 10 million copies? Is that the bar, at which suddenly they’re marketable? Are we requiring the female protagonist to work harder and sell more in order to prove herself? What kind of bullshit is that?”

That kind of aggressive, blunt language popped up elsewhere during the week as well. One of the most passionate and well-received sessions of the entire conference was the #1ReasonToBe panel, which brought together six women from the games industry to follow up on the devastating #1ReasonWhy twitter campaign.

Brenda Romero, an influential developer who has worked on everything from Jagged Alliance to Dungeons and Dragons, sounded off in no uncertain terms about her disdain for E3’s booth babes, noting how uncomfortable she felt while walking the show floor at an event dedicated to the industry she helped create. “Why do I feel this way?” she asked, heatedly. “I founded this fucking industry, you motherfuckers!” Romero’s comments drew an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd, male and female alike.

The next day, Romero was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Women in Gaming organisation hours after forcefully speaking out against an IGDA party that featured scantily clad dancers. Romero publicly resigned her position in the IGDA, prompting a panicked non-apology from the organisation. While the three events were technically unrelated, it was difficult not to take them together as a sign of the times.

Even more riled-up language dotted the popular annual “rants” panel, which features several game developers giving fiery five-minute talks about whatever’s pissing them off at the moment. Midway through the panel, indie game developer and author of “Rise of the video game Zinesters” Anna Anthropy gave an impassioned reading of Cara Ellison’s poem “Romero’s Wives,” a listing of the many injustices women face in the video game industry.

Had to be Margaret Robertson not wearing skirts and not wearing heels
Had to be Jenn Frank explaining equality is compassionate to all
Had to be a handful of female main characters in a triple A sea
Had to be trying to write like a man when ‘man’ isn’t a standard
The games industry is a young man in love with his libido
I have a libido

The title is a reference to how Brenda Romero, an influential and talented game developer, is often viewed solely as the wife of Doom co-creator John Romero. Anthropy’s reading was upsetting, controversial and intense — exactly the sort of thing that the GDC rants are supposed to be — and like Romero’s own talk the day before, it drew many members of the audience to their feet.

At the same panel, researcher and Redshirt developer Mitu Khandaker made some pointed observations about racial inclusivity in games, and reminded the crowd that all of the talk about gender inclusivity applies to race, too. “For [some] people,” Khandaker said, “the notion of wanting to see more nonwhite characters in games is somehow politicizing things. Or worse, my most hated of phrases, that you’re just being ‘politically correct.’ Politically correct! As if just treating people who are different from you as fucking human beings is exerting some sort of special effort because you’re not being genuine, or because you’re some holier-than-thou type. Fuck. That.” Immediate, resounding applause. Khandaker continued: “If you think that minority representation in games is pushing some kind of agenda or you’re just being politically correct, you’re already living an agenda every day. It’s already fucking political. It’s always been political, and the only reason we don’t realise it is that it’s been so political for so fucking long.”

In an unlikely rant-panel highlight, Spy Party developer Chris Hecker gave a brilliant, pointed “rant” in which he didn’t say a single word, but rather let the often hilarious disconnect between many AAA developers’ high-minded talk and their lowbrow, ultra-violent products speak for itself:

Anna Marsh, game designer and owner of Lady Shotgun, gave an engaging talk about game development’s infamous “crunch time,” and how important it will be to change course for the better. In her words, “You don’t have to work 18-hour days, sleep under the desk and shit in the corner to make games.” Marsh argued that with proper pre-production, game developers could live more balanced lives, and, crucially, the result of this would be better games. It’s not healthy, she argued, for creators to live, eat, breathe and sleep games, not only for basic lifestyle reasons, but because it leads to creative stagnation. A more diverse lifestyle and reduced crunch won’t just make game developers’ lives better, it’ll lead to more interesting, varied games.

Several noted game-makers took the stage at various points in the week to encourage their peers to step away from the mindless violence and thin storytelling that still define many big-budget games. BioWare designer Manveer Heir gave an introspective microtalk in which he suggested that developers put more of themselves into their games and embrace their own vulnerability. He cited Papo & Yo as a challenging but beautiful game that forced him to come to terms with his troubled relationship with his brother. “What’s important isn’t that that the experiences are autobiographical,” Heir said, “but rather they represent something personal, because those experiences are likely to capture a universal truth.”

Earlier in the week, Spec Ops writer Walt Williams gave a terrific talk about reconciling video games’ extreme violence with game writers’ desires to tell better stories. (Read my more thorough writeup of his talk here.) “To be honest,” Williams said, “…we’re an industry full of very intelligent, often aggressive people, and we know that the blanket use of violence is wrong. It’s getting harder and harder for us to play these games and to look at them critically and say, ‘This is OK. This makes sense.’ Especially as we get older, especially as we play more of them. I will admit personally, I would like to see less violent games out there, not because I think that they’re bad or wrong, but because I think that creatively, they’re too easy. I think we’re better than that.”

Each year at GDC, there are two awards ceremonies back-to-back on Wednesday night. First, the Independent Games Festival honours indie games, while the Game Developers’ Choice awards are typically reserved for the big-budget games. The divide between the two ceremonies has long been emblematic of the differences between indie and big-budget games, but the winners this year blurred the lines between the two ceremonies until they were almost indistinguishable.

Small independent studio Thatgamecompany’s Journey took the lion’s share of “big budget” GDC awards, while the even smaller, kickstarted game FTL dominated the IGF awards. Other awards went to The Walking Dead, The Room, Little Inferno and Kentucky Route Zero. Some of those were GDC awards, others IGF awards. Most surprising of all, Richard Hofmeier’s startling, depressing and ultimately illuminating life-simulator Cart Life won both the IGF’s “Nuovo Award” for innovation and the Seamus McNally grand prize.

When I spoke with Hofmeier backstage after his win, he expressed genuine shock at his victory. “I feel stupid saying it now,” he said, “I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but I want to be honest: I didn’t know any of this existed. I thought I was like, the first person to think of a self-portrait in the form of a game. And so now that I’ve become acquainted with these other games, they’re so good! So I’m really feeling the fraud stuff, the impostor stuff. I thought it was really audacious, I thought I was the first person to think of it, in the time since, I can see all of these beautiful, incredibly well-crafted games.”

I asked which games in particular had impressed him. “Well, Dys4ia is a good example, Cactus has tons of games that could be so-described. A lot of more interesting ones that are happening now are kind of in the realm of interactive fiction, really, women making games.”

The next day, in an effort to pay it forward, Hofmeier spraypainted over his IGF booth on the show floor and set up a demo for Porpentine’s interactive fiction game Howling Dogs. It was a surprising and generous move that effectively encapsulated the energy surrounding the entire conference.

The week ended, as it usually does, with the annual two-hour Experimental Gameplay Workshop, where game designers got up in front of a jam-packed hall to give mini-presentations about their most out-there, experimental ideas. We saw demos and explanations of recent buzzy games like Starseed Pilgrim and Jason Rohrer’s The Castle Doctrine, while Emily Short gave a demonstration of her AI-driven interactive fiction system Versu and Marc 10 Bosch demonstrated his difficult-to-conceptualize four-dimensional puzzle game Miegakure.

The EGW is always a lovely, optimistic way to end the week (though its length and post-lunch timeslot can lead to some serious napping). This year it felt more exciting and galvanizing than ever. Almost every demonstration had an “applause moment” — the developer would successfully execute an advanced move in the game, prompting enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. “It works! It really works!” It was, at times, like watching the best version of a game-design circus act. For all the game industry’s talk of change, it’s nice to see that developers have the crazy ideas to bring that change about, particularly after so many panelists and speakers indicated an overarching eagerness to experiment and take more risks.

For all the good feels and positive vibes, any individual’s GDC experience is going to be self-selecting. It’s a massive conference, and I was only able to attend a handful of talks and see a sliver of what was on display. Naturally, I chose the things I was most interested in, though even then I wasn’t able to catch all of the progressive, thoughtful talks and panels. But for every talk about gender inclusivity and innovative design, there was another called “Build to Grow: Develop Your App with Monetization in Mind” or “Mobile Game Metrics and Your Market Strategy.”

So, yeah, it’s not all about making games a socially progressive artform. The week when game developers dream the biggest still has to compete with the other 51. But this year, it didn’t feel entirely like a dream. It felt like some people — many people, even — have woken up.

Pictures: GDC’s official flickr photostream, Jim Crawford


  • Oh wow, the industry really is a complete joke now. On one side we’ve got the suits watering down everything for mass consumption, and putting DRM, pre-order bonuses, retailer exclusive content and DLC into every game, and on the other side we’ve got these leftist political activists crying about white male privilege and trying to turn video games into an extension of Women’s Studies.

    There really is no hope anymore. We can now only count on Japanese and (some) independent developers.

    “Early in the week at the narrative summit, Halo: Reach writer Tom Abernathy gave a talk arguing that more and more players are tired of not seeing themselves reflected in their games, and that increasing diversity wasn’t just worthwhile from a moral perspective, it was good business sense.”

    Yes, because any white man always reflects me, because we’re all the same. We all have the same cultural, moral and philosophical beliefs, regardless of time or place. Us white men, huh?

        • You need to change your “name” if you are a real person. Calling yourself StarChildKiller makes me wan’t to vomit.

          • yeah? well how the hell do you pronounce hyperthx?? huh??? HUH????

            don’t see what relevance it has to my point but whatever….feel free to you know…actually have a point

          • ‘Star-Killer’ was the name George Lucas had for Revenge of the Jedi, before he realised that a Jedi does not take revenge, and changed the name to ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘SkyWalker.’

            So you are obviously a Sith. (Are you serious!?)

            ‘Hyper’ is greater than ‘Ultra,’ and is the only character that manages to escape Dysotopia.

    • I actually kind of agree with you. The industry seems to be obsessed with the idea of broadening appeal of the individual IP’s, when I wonder if they really should be trying to instead make a broader range of IP’s that meet the needs of a wider range of market segments.

      • agree? its bullshit like that that really destroys all good discussion

        “oh poor me! I feel victimized because people pointed out there is disparity in the industry”

        more diversity is good for everyone..

        • Yeah – I don’t see myself as a victim obviously. I do agree that this post-modernist feminism stuff is detrimental to the companies – at the rate they’re going they broaden the appeal until it appeals to no one.

          • *facepalm* dear god……

            I think your confusing “watering down to the masses” with “having more varity in themes and stoys”

            how can you tell me the current “COD or bust” trend we have in gaming is preferable to an industry that has you know…variety?

          • I’m having a lot of trouble explaining myself, suffice to say I don’t think the debate is being framed the right way. I’d like to see AAA gaming move into new spaces like rom-coms and non-violent dramas. The sort of genres with actual mass appeal to women (going from cinema patronage). Putting a few female protagonists in games that are basically the same old violent macho bullshit isn’t going to do much (and frankly, although the new Tomb Raider touches on this issue, its still basically male focus-tested gore).

          • …no

            your pretty much creating a “gender ghetto” there…who says women only like non violent drama and rom coms? why can;t I play as a female in an action game?

            veriety is good but don’t think that things have to end up like the mainstream movie industry

            the medium has alot of goriwng up to do but I can’t see why we can;t have more comander shepards and Lara crofts

          • No one in this thread cares about the meaning of the words, they just all want to pretend to be upset about something that barely effects them. Same is true for 99% of these people who think yelling about womens rights in video games is an actual important topic. They don’t actually care, they just want attention.

        • No, I think hysterical over-reaction destroys all good discussion. Like characterising someone with an opposing point of view as trying to shut down debate.

          As does dealing in absolutes, like “more diversity is good for everyone”. Plenty of examples where more diversity was a bad thing.

          • like what?

            this isnt just a gender issue…..I mean even the gameplay is being watered down

          • Increased diversity was not a friend to many former Yugoslavians, for example.

            And no, it isn’t just a gender issue. But that doesn’t make (a) gender not an issue; and (b) that all the issues are of equal importance and require equal voice.

        • Yes because when writers create a story and the publishers turn around and say “we like it, but make the main character a Caucasian woman, her best friend an African Midget and the love interest an Asian lesbian” – then we start running into problems.

          Why does every game need to meet this undefined ‘equality quota’? It’s practically like saying every car must have a representative of every ethnicity as a passenger to be roadworthy.

          What I’m trying to convey is that when these characters are added into plots, it should feel like a natural integration, not just because some douchebag suit wanted to tick a diversity box.

          • oh for fucks sake…no one gets it do they?


            just look at remember me, they said “no, you can’t have a female” you talk about this so called hyperthetical where the evil feminists are forcing a quota on creators…you know what? ITS ALREADY HERE but its white haired everyman instead

        • The GDC was nothing but complaints about victimization. How is that not bullshit? And how is it not diversity if a white man complains about victimization? It’s an activity almost completely dominated by women and non-whites, you know.

    • when a publisher says “no…you can;t have a woman in your game” THAT right there is a problem

      a big effing problem I might say

      • How is that in any way, shape or form a problem? The character creators came up with an idea for a character and it just so happened that he was male. Might as well be mad at someone for the gender they were born with. OH WAIT, people actually do get mad at that now.

        • The problem is the publisher is dictating the developers — the authors — on what their characters are. “The character creators came up with the idea for a character and it just so happened she was female” and now you’re saying it’s not a problem for the publisher to say “no, you can’t do that”?

          • That’s publishers passing on the game, not making the developer change a characters sex. Publishers can pass on any game they like for whatever reason they like (Not saying it’s a good one)

            It’s not like they already had a publisher and then came up with the idea only to have the publisher turn around and say “change that”

            They had the idea first, took it to publishers and they simply didn’t like it. Not the same thing at all.

          • Well when they pass on the game simply because it has a female protagonist and is too far along in development to change to a male one… The implication is if they’d got hold of it earlier in development they’d have signed it up and then forced the change. It’s near enough to the same thing.

          • its not secret you will struggle ot get aproval if your game doesnt tick certain boxes

          • Games are that cheap and easy to make, are they? Developers need publishers because they give them money to pay the bills. Most games take years to develop, that’s a lot of money that needs to come from somewhere. That’s why developers have to give into publisher demands.

          • No one said it was cheap or easy… This is what makes great indie developers so special and that the successful ones can potentially make a lot of money.

          • What I want to know is – are they saying you can’t have a female protagonist because games with female protagonists don’t sell well generally, or you can’t make this type of game with a female protagonist because it doesn’t test well with the target market segment.

          • its a chicken and egg scenario

            the few games with female protagonists that did exist didnt hit the critical/comcercial sweet spot untill tomb raider…thats what helps develop trends

        • the upcomming game..remember me, they had to struggle to get a female main charachter

          thats a fucking problem

          • Why is it a “fucking problem”?

            Publishers can do what they like and invest in what they want. There is nothing forcing them to publish every idea that comes through their doors. If they did, they’d be out of business. Because that’s all this is, business.

          • its a symptom of the same problem

            lack of risk taking in everything..gameplay, storys, everything watering it all down…all because of the cost…this issue with female charachters is a by product of that

          • Going after the symptom is waste of time, energy and resources. All this bickering and yelling at the skies for MAH EQUALITY isn’t going to do a damn thing when the bottom line is, and always will be, $$$. It’s really all marketing at the moment, anyway. Look at Bioware. The only reason they include same sex relationships and what not is because they want to ride the hype train and cash in on it.

          • how do you know that?….regardless of the intentions its a step in the right direction

            just like showing that female/other types of charachters actually can sell is a step in the right directions

          • ‘Romero was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Women in Gaming organisation.’

            Here is the root of the problem.
            Where are the specific Lifetime achievement awards for Men in Gaming?
            I would like a ‘White Male Lifetime achievement award’ introduced in the name of equality.

            Women already get everything handed to them on a silver platter. Cry – equal rights but then won’t compete on equal playing fields and create ‘special/easy’ to win awards by excluding most of the competition. The true sexists are the women in the games industry for expecting special treatment.

      • What? The a big effing problem is that people are more willing to complain then put there money where there mouth is and take the risk.

        If you or whoever thinks there is a big market for female characters in games then fine. No one is stopping you from doing it. You would make lots of money in the process if that was the case.

        Personally, I don’t care who the lead character is, as long as the story is interesting and meets my interests (which is a wide spectrum).

        • oh right….I’ll just get my AAA studio/publishing thing together…no worries

          the problem is gender aside games as an artform are being strangled because of the “COD or nothing” mentality

          other mediums, especialy comics are waaaaaaaaaay ahead of games

          • I’m not in the games buisness, its just another handwave people put out to pretend that there isnt any issue

    • All developers need to do is include in depth character editors – for games that do not require a specific character.

      Even better; real-time digital face-mapping using Kinect/PlayStationEye. Don’t even bother telling me it cannot be done.

      • It’s not merely about visuals. Don’t you think that there should also be a diversity of philosophies, outlooks, or understandings in games so that when you play you are exposed to new ideas? One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to promote diverse depictions of people, including their gender, race, background, and goals.

        • That seems unnecessary when every educational institution in America, along with the media, is already pushing leftism, feminism and liberalism. But, I guess video games gotta do the same thing too. We won’t have real diversity until everyone thinks and acts alike.

    • Sounds to me, battlecattle, like you’re tired of not seeing yourself reflected in the games you play. Who would have thought?

      More seriously, to say that political activists should keep their filthy hands off your games because… (you say so? You didn’t actually give a reason for it being wrong >_>) …sorta leads me to infer that you glossed over this part of the article.

      “For [some] people,” Khandaker said, “the notion of wanting to see more nonwhite characters in games is somehow politicizing things. Or worse, my most hated of phrases, that you’re just being ‘politically correct.’ Politically correct! As if just treating people who are different from you as fucking human beings is exerting some sort of special effort because you’re not being genuine, or because you’re some holier-than-thou type. Fuck. That.”

      • Having characters of different races is all fine and well, but they, like many other things, are merely used as a sort of trojan horse. The endgame of these people is to turn video games into nothing but über-PC political indoctrination and circle-jerking.

  • Edit: apparently I forgot to hit ‘reply’ to @battlecattle up there, so this should be there. My bad.

    Don’t try and derail discussion by crying “well not all male characters totally reflect me!”. That’s not a counter at all, that’s just whining about people trying to change the status quo.

    None of this is an attack against white male gamers. It’s prodding developers in the chest, and asking “hey, because ‘that’s how we’ve always done things’ and ‘this way makes the most money probably’ isn’t good enough anymore.”. It’s not just about feminism, or racism, it’s about what’s good for the future of the industry. You outright ignored the latter half of that sentence stating “increasing diversity wasn’t just worthwhile from a moral perspective, it was good business sense”.

    But here I am, responding to a troll. Great article, Kirk. I’m really glad that this is where GDC has come to, after a few years of rockiness.

    • Don’t try and derail discussion by crying “well not all male characters totally reflect me!”. That’s not a counter at all, that’s just whining about people trying to change the status quo.
      It is a counter to the idea that all white men are the same, and that you can never identify with anyone who isn’t the same race and sex as you, which is a problem that every self-proclaimed tolerant and inclusive person has (there are significant quantities of irony involved). I don’t automatically identify with a character that shares my approximate skin color and genitalia, and I don’t automatically fail to identify with a character that doesn’t. I don’t even have any particular interest in playing characters that resemble me, which is why I almost never do it when I play an RPG or something.

      None of this is an attack against white male gamers.
      That’s precisely what it is.

      You outright ignored the latter half of that sentence stating “increasing diversity wasn’t just worthwhile from a moral perspective, it was good business sense”.
      It doesn’t matter. These guys will say anything they think will help advance their agenda.

      But here I am, responding to a troll.
      If you actually knew what a troll was, you either wouldn’t be responding at all, or you would realize that I wasn’t trolling. You see, trolling is not defined as “text on the Internet that contradicts my beliefs.”

  • There can be diversity without limiting current content.

    If I want to have a dudebro FPS, with scantily clad women in it and cussing out the wazoo, why the fuck can’t I? That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other games. The film industry has managed it pretty well so far.

    Yet again, the aim of inclusivity ends up criminalising the other half, until it’s not inclusivity at all that we’re after – it’s flat out reversal of norms.

    • I’m so tired of arguing this

      “There can be diversity without limiting current content” <-WHO IS SAYING WE NEED TO LIMIT WHATS MADE?



      oh right…no one

      what you described there is the situation we are in now…we are limited

      • Your cognitive dissonance is disturbing. I suggest you read some of the people who are involved in this issue before you say that is not what’s being suggested.

          • I don’t think you know what a strawman argument is. Also – see thom below for one of many examples.

          • Strawmaning as in

            “thease people want to take away our games and/or rescrit what games developers can/can’t make!”

          • youre the one who said

            “There can be diversity without limiting current content”

            the implication being that the big scary women wanted to take away games like DOA, COD or lollipop chainsaw

          • That’s not a strawman argument. A strawman argument would be:

            “You are all defending elements of the current process of game publishing and gaming community, and so are responsible for the continuing denigration of women and minorities in society”

      • Yeah – people are definitely saying that games like Dead or Alive shouldn’t exist. I’m of the opinion that if people want to buy it, it should.

        • I can sympathise with the perception of Dead or Alive (et al) as a problem. However, removing that title from the shelf isn’t a good solution. It might be -a- solution, but a much, MUCH better one is to just put up good examples of females in games as protagonists, rather than to censor the poor ones.

      • Instead of making their own games, activists are demanding existing developers and publishers to alter their games.

  • I’m 99% sure that they are interested in diversifying IP’s in terms of range on offer and that it is currently happening. It takes time to develop new, fresh IP that will sell.

    So they brought back Tomb Raider, addressed the massive boob issues and it sold well with good reviews. More will come in time. It is slightly incorrect I believe to say no one is putting money to their mouth, releases as a whole are slowing down because of the console generation turnover.

  • The industry needs to focus less on pleasing everyone at the same time and more on making good games. Like Bioshock Infinite.

  • I don’t get this whole push for diversity of characters, and just whining and complaining if the character is not diverse enough. I’m happy for a games protagonist to be female, or black, or even an albino female jew from mars. No problems. But when a story writers decides ‘Hey, I think the person who fits into this story is a middle aged white badass with rippling muscles and no care for anyone but himself’ then that’s what they’ve decided will fit.

    When people write books about the average white male, do we all rise up and start complaining that books need to be more diverse? No? Then why do we do it with games. Games are just an interactive story, nothing more. Wish there’d be less focus on characters not being ‘diverse’ and more focus on the real issue at hand; Games being churned out as fast as possible, with as little as possible, for as much as possible. Corporate greed is what’s ruining games, not the fact that it’s not appealing to all audiences.

    As a side question to fellow commentors; If female gamers are on the rise, and women want to see more games engineered for a female audience, why don’t girls start their own indie companies? If you can’t beat em, and you can’t join em, start your own? I mean why not? Making a game is becoming more and more accessable by the day!

    • but thats not that case is it?

      RARELY the “everyman” is an aritistic choice (except for spec ops the line)

      if anything its alreayd happening but the other way around

    • also books dont need to be divrse because they dont have the same issues, they are already diverse unliek games

      • Fail to see how it’s ‘An artistic choice’. You can have an “Everywoman” just as you can have an “Everyman”.

        How are they already diverse? A vast majority of my reading, which was all during my school years, generally revolved around a male protagonist. I’m not saying I didn’t read stories with female protagonists, but the majority were male. As is the same with games, a vast majority are about male protagonists, but that doesn’t mean to say that there are no games about female protagonists.

        The root of the gender problem lying in corporate greed, well I can;t really comment on it. I’m sure it doen’t help, but is it really the root cause? I can’t say.

        Also, I don’t know why you needed three seperate comments?
        There’s an edit button up the top left if you need to add any further information to your original comment 🙂

        • there are more books with female protagonists then there are games…and the major publishers wont reject your book because it has a female characher on the grounds that they want to apeal to the “COD bros” as much as possible

          it is the root cause because “less risk taking=less creativity/variety” just look at what happned to dead space 3

          • But where does moral and political concerns end and commercial ones begin?

            It’s perfectly valid for a publisher to turn down a game idea for whatever reasons they wish – having a female protagonist is just one example. If they do the math, and their projections estimate that they won’t make money off of it, then they can refuse it. I’ve never heard of a publisher saying ‘We’ll fund this game, if you make x,y and z changes to core narrative and design, ie make it a white dudebro fps’. It’s usually “yes, we like the vision”, or “no, it doesn’t make commercial sense/doesn’t gel with us”.

            Are you saying publishers should be forced to make bad business decisions to appease people?

          • I’m saying they shoukld make better games and stop trying to make everything a watered down COD wannabe, weather or not its bas buisness depends…chicken and the egg and also the whole industry has problems…when tomb raider sells really well yet is STILL not considered enough (financially) theres problems

            in regards to books YOU don;t have any actual evidence…just anecdotal…so you know pot kettle black

            the biggest sellers (while awful) have female protagonists (50 shades, twilight)

          • That’s not how fact assertion works – you made the claim, I didn’t. You have the onus of proof.

            Once again, you don’t provide a good reason why publishers should be changing their focus, considering that is the reason they are there. This is a developmental problem. Maybe, yes, publishers could/should be more open minded. Do they need to? Probably not, considering they are primarily commercially focussed. There’s no chicken and egg situation, it’s pure and simple economics. The second you start trying to curtail the free market by telling publishers what they have to fund, you’re making the industry something much worse than it is at the moment.

          • better games, also not saturating the market with the same tried formula

            the chicken and egg scenario is that do games with female protagonits sell less? the problem in the first place is no publisher wants to take a chance, and the second problem is alot of the games this gen that had female protagonists were flawed

            following trends actually doesnt garuntee good sales..EA threw all the crap they could at dead space 3 and it didn’t land them the 5mill (unreasonable) figure they wanted

            the problem is thease days its eater sink or swin..

          • Also, your comment about female protagonists in books as compared to games has no factual weight unless you actually back it up. Just because there are more books than videogames does not necessarily make the ratio better. I’m not disagreeing, just that you shouldn’t make unfounded assertions.

          • I don’t know what facts you want me to provide? I said that from the books I have read, the majority were male protagonist oriented. I never made any claim that of all the books written in history that it was biased one way or the other. If you looked at ‘every videogame ever’ there probably wouldn’t be much of a bias as I have seen a tonne of indie games with female protagonists.

            Really if we want to stop all of this bias bullshit and equality in video games, then we should just go back to games like pong, where no one is being shot, there are no characters, there’s nothing for people to criticise and nothing for people to be angry about.

  • Nice article, Kirk, however …

    You know, I read the accusations that the games industry has ossified, and needs to be shaken up and turned on its head, and that it’s all homogenised content for the white male. The latest GDC seems to be no exception.

    But at what point did that happen? When was the industry ever pretty much the same as it was 5 years before?

    In 2008, the industry was on the brink of collapse, no one was buying games or consoles, and there was no such thing as Kickstarter. Vivendi/Activision merged with Blizzard – there were many layoffs and cancelled games.

    In 2003, Sony was slugging it out with Microsoft, a completely new player, whose Xbox Live feature was completely changing the way gamers consumed games. Square merged with Enix. Activision bought Neversoft and Infinity Ward. More layoffs and cancelled games.

    In 1998, Sega launched Dreamcast, in a failed attempt to recapture the space it had ceded to Nintendo, as Nintendo battled Sony’s entry into the market with the console Sony made for Nintendo, and Nintendo rejected. Blizzard was bought by Havas. Rockstar was formed. Developers were being pilfered to help defeat the Y2K.

    This is an industry where something constant is an exception, and change and diversity is the norm. Conservatism – in as much as it exists at all – is actually the minority. Even something like the never-ending sequels issue (i.e. the top 10 best selling games last years were all sequels) – this year, Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite are hardly bastions of conservatism, both being re-invented over multiple iterations.

    Yes, gaming still has a long way to go – but nowhere near as far as society as a whole. Gamers and the gaming community are highly progressive and liberal, for the most part, yet get accused of gross misogyny and bigotry. I’m growing mighty tired of the majority of gamers and developers being characterised as white, male conservatives by those who are pushing an agenda of slef-promotion via politicalisation. Yes, these issues exist for us and need to be overcome, but no, it is not the defining feature of our community.

  • Funnily enough, I’m yet to actually meet a girl gamer who’s said to me, gee I wish they would fix up the diversity in gaming. I don’t know if this is because girls in general are avoiding games altogether because of the lack of diversity, or because girl gamers simply don’t care and will play anyway. I think there’s always room for new things and that publishers should try mixing things up. I don’t think there’s a gender/sexuality/race issue here. I think there’s just an overall issue of industry stagnation.

    Where are the unique crazy titles like Theme Hospital and Syndicate (the original real games that were unique and fun and outgoing not this BS remake/FPS junk I’m looking at you new Syndicate game [rubbish title]). There are very few games that capture my attention for more than 30 minutes anymore.

    I’m praying that Star Citizen overcomes this and I can get into it for months on end. EA is a shell of its former self. They used to promote the creation of fantastic works. They funded Wing Commander: Privateer, Privateer 2 (which was courageous but flawed Cyberpunk in space!!!), Wing Commander 3 (a real edgy FMV title/investment for the time) Crusader, Syndicate, and many other Origin Systems and Bullfrog titles. It’s a real shame that with the end of the 1990s innovation in game types has stagnated.

    Just look at home many tower defence games there are. There should be 5 titles max, there’s like 5000 from bandwagon jumpers grabbing onto the fad. Gaming needs more innovation in the mid to blockbuster genres. At this point I’d be happy to play a janitor game because it would at least be new and interesting. Sequels to mainstay titles are fine, but do we really need 10+ series about world war two or modern warfare that just cover the main battles/issues. For all the lofty talk of World War 2 games I’m yet to see one where you actually liberate a concentration camp and see the horrors within. Or bomb the crap out of Dresden and commit allied war crimes. That would at least bring some artistic merit to that genre. Instead it’s always some easy moral view of someone being killed in a situation that will make the player angry but doesn’t actually push them to anything serious. I’m yet to see a real moral choice in any of the Modern Warfare/Battlefield games. At least for it’s flaws Wing Commander had you make real decisions to help or hinder people, and those choices played out later in the game. Gaming has definately lost something in the last decade and until it’s regained, the magic of gaming, and the profits that come with it will continue to elude developers.

    • OOh, this guy… Star Citizen… I’m actually considering buying a PC to play a game The Industry should have made ages ago…. Maybe a diversity of business models is the key to the gaming industries success (Indies, Mainstream, kickstarter & open source gaming etc etc)

  • I seem read the comments with more interest than the articles sometimes, cos there is more violence and drama – but thats a bad thing apparently, I should be forced to read woman issue articles and learn how to knit or something.

    What I took away from the article is that there is a forum to discuss the gaming industry – Nice.
    They discuss issues & ideals, but then they leave and have to make a living.
    Its good that all these issues are brought forward, but I’m not playing a game that includes PC elements for the sake of appeasing people other than game players.

    Woman protagonists? Hell yeah, and when they are well written (Buffy, anything else joss wedon does) and part of a game and not tacked on for political reasons, I will have no problem playing with them!

    I’m white, male, but not ‘Merican – Oh no – I can’t use my imagination to overcome this hurdle, i will have to wait for them to make a Milsim about a fat middle aged aussie – who do I have to rant to to get this to happen

  • Brenda Romero, an influential developer who has worked on everything from Jagged Alliance to Dungeons and Dragons, sounded off in no uncertain terms about her disdain for E3′s booth babes, noting how uncomfortable she felt while walking the show floor at an event dedicated to the industry she helped create. “Why do I feel this way?” she asked, heatedly. “I founded this fucking industry, you motherfuckers!”

    She founded the gaming industry? Really? Bold claim given “gaming” is several thousand years old. Even the video gaming industry began in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Interesting. To my mind, that means she would have been a child when she “founded this fucking industry”. Undoubtedly she made an impact, but at the same time, I’ve made an impact at my workplace (a bank); I wouldn’t say “I founded the fucking banking industry.” and if I did, I doubt I would get a standing ovation from anyone.

    Now, let’s turn to the point at hand – equality. As a white male, I enjoyed playing Coach in L4D2. I also enjoyed playing Lee from The Walking Dead. I also enjoyed playing Samus from Metroid Prime. But guess what, I also enjoyed male-Shepard in Mass Effect… and female-Shepard… and black-Shepard, and white-Shepard. Holy shit – fuck white males are insensitive!

    One last point in regards to booth-babes:
    Men like to see them, and women are still choosing to do the job. It makes good business sense to keep them around – they draw the eyes of *most* consumers.

    Yours truly,
    An equalist.

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