The Diversity Question

The Diversity Question

"How long is your game?" That used to be the tough one. That used to be the question a video game creator could hardly give an answer to without birthing a scandal.

I see all these questions about diversity in gaming these days, about women in Assassin's Creed or gay marriage in a Nintendo game. Hell, I hear myself asking these questions sometimes and see the game developers and executives to whom I'm talking stiffen up or cast their eyes at the floor. They sense a trick or a trap or, simply, a can't win situation. Whatever they're going to say about whether their game is diverse or not is going to piss someone off.

It's a far more important topic than game-length, though, especially if you're someone who'd like to see more people who look like you or look like the people you see every day in more of the game you play.

But lately I've heard a call for game reporters to just stop asking about diversity, to stop nagging about social issues. I've seen a call for game creators to stop answering, to just shut up, to stop doing more harm with every word they say.

I don't think this is the correct path. Consider this a vote for more asking of the diversity question and more answering, too.

Why?

Because I've seen the cycles of mistakes and misunderstandings broken before. Because I've seen other too-simple questions and other too-flippant answers lead to more sophisticated games. I think we -- the game reporters, the gamers, the game developers -- are in another awkward but essential moment of figuring something important out together.

When the diversity question gets asked, everyone is going to freak out. That's going to keep happening for a bit longer. But I think it's something we're all going to get through -- and get through for the better, the more the asking and the answering continues.

The Diversity Question

The diversity question that keeps getting asked these days can be simplified to "how diverse is your game?"

That question is usually based on an assumption that the more diversity there is in a game the better. That's a pretty good premise, though even that's not an absolute, not if, say, the game really does need to be just about white guys to make a point or not if the game's creators and audience would be better served if, this time, the lead character should only be a woman or a deeply religious person or senior citizen and not giving the player the option to change that.

The diversity question leads to so many more questions: Does it suffice if the supporting cast is diverse? Will it improve the game if the gender or ethnicity or sexuality of the playable lead character can be switched by the player? If the game is diverse, is it diverse in a smart way or is it just rife with stereotypes and tokenism? Does diversity ever serve the player at the expense of the game design? Does it matter?

I believe these are good questions, and I know they can't be answered in one breath. We shouldn't expect them to be.

The Diversity Question

Sometimes, the game creators being asked the diversity question catch on to the complexities of the topic. When my colleague Jason Schreier recently asked Eiji Aonuma, the head of all Zelda game development at Nintendo, about whether he'd ever considered including a playable female character in the series to make the games more inclusive for female gamers, he himself asked another of the implied questions: "Is it that simple -- that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?" (Notably, this September's Aounma-overseen Zelda off-shoot, Hyrule Warriors, appears to have a mostly-female playable cast.)

There's another question that follows the diversity question, the one that developers are having the most trouble answering: "If your game isn't diverse, why not?"

The answers to that question, so far, have been rough. Rare is the assertion of authorial intent, that the game only lets you play as a guy because, damn it, that's what we wanted. Mostly, you're currently seeing a sheepish concession that, ok, the game could have been more diverse if not for a lack of time or money or manpower. Never do game creators publicly say it's because they didn't think players would care or care enough, but you have to wonder if that's part of the maths. And you have to wonder if the responses of late change the maths.

If you're looking for signs of change in how gaming diversity is discussed, look at an otherwise standard list-of-features preview of the Ubisoft game Rainbow Six: Siege, published on Ubisoft's official blog just one day after the reporting about the lack of playable female characters in the newest Assassin's Creed hits its peak. The post is almost entirely about the gameplay features in the multiplayer hostage rescue-or-capture game. It ends, out of nowhere, with one of the game's developers, stating: "Of course, it won't only be female hostages. There will be both male and female hostages. I can't say how many there will be in total, but we will definitely have both."

These are often complex issues, and sometimes the nature of the news will work against them. Headlines, pullquotes and soundbites won't always be entirely helpful in working toward the understanding we all need to gain about if, how and when gaming diversity matters. That's just their nature. I'll always want a longer answer, a more personal one, an honest one. It's never easy. Look at the many ways Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed developers tried to explain the lack of playable women in their games or when the creative director of the new Far Cry tried to brag about how, despite cutting an option to play as a woman, the game's supporting cast is full of women. (As is so often the case, the headline -- "Far Cry 4 Is 'Packed to the Gills' With Women, Says Director" reads worse than the developer sounds in the video the quote is from).

The Diversity Question

What would a good answer to the diversity question look like?

I recently asked the diversity question to the creators of Splatoon, a new all-ages multiplayer game from Nintendo involving characters who shoot globs of paint. They had it pretty easy, since their game lets you play as boy characters or girl characters. "Obviously, since this is meant to be the stand-in for you, we want players to choose the character they want to play as," the game's producer, Hisashi Nogami, told me through a translator. "And that's the reason we had both male and female characters in the game." You can really play as whoever you want, he added: "We don't see any reason for people to have to follow their own gender in this game."

Nogami's company, Nintendo, however, stumbled to answer the diversity question when it came to excluding gay marriage in the comedic relationship-simulation 3DS game Tomodachi Life. This past spring, that omission triggered some gamer complaints and a pair of Nintendo statements, the second a pledge to, in the future, "strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all player."

Longer answers are better, as, generally, are the ones you can get in person, but that's only if people will answer you. Unfortunately, I have to count the explanation behind the omission of gay marriage from Tomodachi Life as the one topic I've ever asked Nintendo's developers about in person that they didn't answer. I tried to find out about it last month during an otherwise-fruitful interview at the Nintendo booth at E3. I put the question to Shigeru Miyamoto and Shinya Takahashi, Nintendo's top two men in charge of game development, but before I could get it translated, a U.S.-based PR representative cut in: "You know, to be honest, all we have to say is the statement we issued a couple of weeks ago." And when Miyamoto asked, in Japanese, for the question to at least be translated for his colleague Takahashi to also understand, I still didn't get an answer -- not even when I pressed one more time. A year earlier, Miyamoto had been game to talking about playing as women in more Nintendo games and had even volunteered the prospect of playing as a gay character. This time, however, we moved on.

During that same week when I was talking to the Nintendo developers, I found myself sitting with Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, a company that has made prominent games starring women, has made games that included gay marriage and games that allow players to pick their gender, ethnicity and sexuality. And, sure, we'd get to that, but I was curious if the company's new cops-and-robbers game, Battlefield Hardline, would include playable women. He said that the game that ships in October would not. "It's primarily a male-driven drama story at this point," he said. "but as I think about the future storyline and the ability to inject episodic-type storylines into that world over time, I see no reason why we wouldn't have female-driven storylines through that.... potentially yeah."

Is that a good answer right there? We'd have to see the finished game and decide for ourselves if it really is fine without playable women. That's key, since our first look at E3 is only part of the process. We've asked questions. We've gotten answers. But we also need to play these games.

Wilson shared this agreeable explanation about the company's creative directives, or lack thereof, on diversity: "As we think about developing a game, our creative leaders have the opportunity to build the games they want to build and build for an audience of gamers they believe will play their games. We are seeing more and more female gamers playing our games -- games that you would traditionally played by males only and games you would think would traditionally played by females only. We're seeing a much, much broader shift around that and their role is to bring great game experiences for the people that play them. As a result of that, they build plans and tools and technology and pipelines and characters and storylines that fulfil that need."

The Diversity Question

The old game-length question stopped perpetually leading to outrage once it had been asked a lot. It only stopped creating blazing headlines once all the true or half-true or false answers had been tried and once we'd all played enough of the games about which it had been asked.

Today, you'll see the occasional game developer get in trouble with releasing too short a game, but the scandal of game length has mostly settled into the steady-pulsed understanding that some games are long, some games are short, some games are good, some games are bad, not always respectively.

We're not quite at the same level of understanding of diversity in games, and I wouldn't expect us to be. The length of a game may involve issues of value and aesthetic quality. Diversity is far more important, and much more complicated. It can affect aesthetics, yes, but it can also affect the people who play games and how we think about the work we've expected to entertain or engage us.

The Diversity Question

I suspect we need to live through a few cycles, see which games really were worth getting outraged about, which excuses were legit and which were not. We need to see which games got an unearned pass because their tokenism passed for diversity and which didn't get the credit they deserved for being diverse in unexpected ways.

We need to see if today's excuses and explanations hold up or fade in the years to come. We need to see who plays and who doesn't. We need to see what hurts games and what makes them more beautiful.

We need the diversity question to keep getting asked, and we need to be listening for complicated answers. I want to see this through, and I suspect we'll all come out the other side understanding games, the people who make them and the people who play them a little better for the effort.


Comments

    I'm all for diversification among our chosen media. Staying silent when asked the question or not asking in the first place just gives the bigots and gaming hate groups more ammunition.

    I look forward to the day my young bloke can play a game and doesn't comment on the fact that the characters aren't all white, buff males or females that are massively endowed.

    What if you made a game with an ethnically diverse cast and made them all act identically? Would that still be racist?

      Act identically how?

        as in the character is so bland that you could put any avatar there and it wouldn't make a difference.

          It would destroy the story. But hey, lets worry so much about racism and sexism that it comes to that point, ok go.

        Like a bunch of white guys wrote a game story with a white guy in mind from a white guy perspective because it's what they know, then they just slapped a brown texture on the model and used a black voice-actor. Because really, aren't we all just the same?

        Which I can imagine is horrible territory to contemplate as a creative, because when you're writing what you don't know, are you going to be accused of video-game blackface? Where are you going to write on the scale of Wayne Brady to Deus Ex: HR's Letitia? How good are you at this? Or does diversity mean, "Well guys, I guess we need to hire some women/black folk for the writing team." Diversity hire ahoy! Or is that not cool, either?

        I can definitely see these as uncomfortable questions to be/being asked behind closed doors in fear of the media's new favourite question.

          I hope they get asked, and answered well.

          Having the conversation is half of the battle.

            This did get me thinking about the precedent we have in the way of civil rights, voting and whatnot.

            And I WAS trying to think of a way to tie it together by noting that surely it's not too much to ask that all manner of people enjoy the trivial and pointless satisfaction of representation in games the same way they enjoy the trivial and pointless satisfaction of representation in parliament (wording because I really just wanted to take a dig at politics), but then I remembered just how diverse our parliament was and that voting is buying, representation is being on the box. And I made myself too sad to bother pulling it all together. We're not that far along in many ways.

              Yeah because representation in games is like being able to vote for your government. So smart, such anaology.

      Yeah i'm confused as to what people even want anymore. For example, you often hear from female critics and players that a woman's role or behaviour in a game should be no different from a man's. They should wear the same armour, have the same behaviour, enjoy the same perks and experience the same weaknesses as a male character. However this must be achieved in the context of representing them in a fully fleshed out, wholly feminine depiction, where the individual human female experience is explored.

      It's like saying "We want in in this boys club, we're no different from you. But you also need to recognise we're different in the ways we specifically want all the time at every opportunity."

      Any male developer (ie. most of the triple A ones) would be scared senseless trying to achieve the herculean task of creating the ideal, common yet unspoken consensus of a perfect female character for these critics. Forgetting the whole split in opinion on chracters like Bayonetta: Is she empowered? Is she not empowered? Who is allowed to say?

      In my opinion, there have been really decent depictions of female characters in videogames in the past decade. The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3 was a really good example of a character who outstripped Snake in almost every way. You were positioned to fear her, to respect her, to recognise her feminine experience as a mother-figure, she was fully fleshed out in ways not even Snake has been before. But because of depictions of characters like Eva (also a competent, independent, and ultimately smarter-than-Snake character but who happens to be sexualised as well), Boss' depiction becomes invalidated somehow?

      The problem is I think a lot of people want to see perfect depictions of women in video-games, rather than the flawed, human and ultimately realistic depictions we do see part of in this medium. I'm not saying there's not room for improvement, but I am saying that every time a woman is depicted as sexually charged, or even completely absent, in games, that doesn't make it an atrocity. It doesn't invalidate characters like Ellie in The Last Of Us.

      Every time there's rapturous applause for characters like "FemShep", who is basically a woman saying a man's lines, game developers realise that they are way safer reskinning a man than putting in any actual effort. Because nobody complaining seems to actually know what it is they want!

      And by "all these people" I mean the measly 18% of players who actually played as a Female Shepard in Mass Effect.

      That point made by Aonuma rings so true: “Is it that simple — that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?”

      Last edited 08/07/14 11:18 am

        "Every time there's rapturous applause for characters like "FemShep", who is basically a woman saying a man's lines, game developers realise that they are way safer reskinning a man than putting in any actual effort. Because nobody complaining seems to actually know what it is they want!"

        exactly, a lot of these people are complaining for the sake of complaining and not because they actually care or know what they want about.

      No. That would be The Sims! ;)

    Was gonna rant, couldn't be bothered in the end. One question though for anyone, would diversity in a game make it better if that wasn't what the developer envisioned in the first place? Does every game need diversity? That's two questions :P

      pretty much this, are you as the developer being "diverse" because it is part of your plan for your work of art or are you doing it because of political correctness? If it is the latter then diversity be damned. Does having a black man as your main character add anything, does being a woman impact the outcome of the story, does a characters sexual orientation have any bearing on their interactions with other characters? Envision a character and make it, don't go "Oh you know what? we haven't had someone with tits in the spotlight for a while, maybe it's time we did that" Do it because you want to, do it because it "adds a sympathetic perspective to the situations she is thrust into" or do it "because she is driven by revenge over her fathers death" or do it "because some other reason than because you feel pressured by society to include it"

      This obviously is less of an issue for games that let you create a character, but if a character is written and acted and interacts with other characters then the developers are telling a story and if you don't like it that's fine, but don't get butthurt.

      Every game doesn't, but it would be nice to see developers fight tropes and cliches, not just in relation to diversity, but in relation to everything. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. It would be nice to see someone other than indies (who do a fantastic job) tackle bigger issues, broader topics and more creative games.

      Also, for big devs to keep falling back on the 'creative visions' thing is a little absurd, considering that these companies focus test to the max, and answer way more to shareholders and board members than creative vision.

        And if they focus test and they don't change, what does it tell you about their audience and how much they care? I daresay that these blockbuster franchises aren't likely to worry about these social justice issues because it's clearly not affecting their bottom line - see WatchDogs, GTA, CoD et al.

          Why would you downvote that? I'm not saying that I like it at all, I'm saying that this is the unfortunate truth from the company's point of view.

            I didn't downvote you man... unless you weren't talking to me :D

            I just got home from work, so reading back through the responses now. I get your point of view. I agree to an extent. I guess I'm just more of a bleeding heart than most - I could sympathize with the devil if I understand his plight :P

          You have to sell to your demographic, for sure.
          Trying to get members of a different demographic may work for some, but it probably isn't going to work for all games.

          The question might sometimes be, why arn't more black people, or woman playing certain games? I bet the answer is not because they can't play as a black person or woman.

          It's racism by being so worried about racism you are wanting to change someones artwork (game) purely for the sake of pandering to your inner worrying white knight about racism.

          Last edited 08/07/14 6:26 pm

    I agree here. I'd be more happy regarding the answers to this question if they didn't sound like self-serving PR claptrap, or half-arsed excuses on the fly.

    Ubisoft's answer about women came down to "because computer says no". I think most people would have accepted it if they owned the reasons - that they had thought about this, had a proper well argued answer and went with it, rather than "boobies take too long to program".

    In short: stop treating us like we're children that a) will swallow whatever BS you throw at us and b) are scared of catching cooties from the opposite sex or c) are worried we will catch the gays. You want a buff white guy from America as your protagonist? Effing own your decision to have a buff white guy from America as your main dude.

    Last edited 08/07/14 10:40 am

      I got the achievement in Fable for having a same sex relationship, I went to the doctors the next day but they said they can't test for 'the gays' but I still worry. I was copulating with my female partner a while ago and after a while I had trouble keeping erect and I hope it's not the onset of the gays.

        You do know if it is the gays, there's no cure, right? Have you prepared for this possible outcome?

          I'm already pretty in touch with my emotions, I have an eye for fashion and I like musical theatre ...

        sorry to be the bearer of bad news... but there's no cure for the gays.
        but there's an ongoing treatment plan to suppress the symptoms.

      That's assuming the response wasn't legit, which having been involved in far less complex projects that exploded anyone's idea of a reasonable deadline, I'm inclined to offer the benefit of the doubt. Any fuckwit artist on a high horse can claim that their part of the process wasn't all that complex, but they're not the ones who have to tie all the threads together, and when a project gets big, that thread-tying gets difficult and time-consuming.

      If they said, 'computer says no', with sincerity it's entirely possible that we might've just been told the truth, but in the current climate it absolutely wouldn't have mattered because people are so godamn desperate to crucify developers for their lack of diversity. So desperate that unless the answer is, "Because we're bigoted scum," NO answer would be accepted as truth. It's becoming one of those, "So how often do you beat your wife?" questions. "DEVELOPER DENIES BEATING WIFE." Great headline. Doesn't allow for the possibility of any truth that doesn't fit the asker's narrative.

      Last edited 08/07/14 1:59 pm

        So you're looking at an industry that has a 90%+ representation of buff white guys and poorly sketched females as protagonists but the issue is that people are so 'godamn (sic) desperate to crucify developers for their lack of diversity'?

        Given how painfully lacking in diversity it is, that alleged and imagined desperation you're talking about is entirely warranted.

        And seriously, Ubisoft with its eleventy million staff working on this week's Assassin's Creed can't program boobies because stuff? They can develop a 'living' version of revolutionary Paris from the smallest piece of ground clutter to loving renditions of famous landmarks but 'GIRL BUMS MOVE DIFFERENTLY'.

        And you offer them the benefit of the doubt?

        No.

          Are you really so out of touch as to realize that the AC franchise is on a tighter deadline than practically any other AAA with its goal of annual releases? Or that the research and stories for the AC entries are plotted out heavily in advance?

          Are you so inexperienced with the realities of project planning that your concept of corporate operation leaves you with no idea how many problems can arise with the more people you add or the greater your scope?

          Are you so out of touch with game development in general to actually BELIEVE idiotic animator claims that to follow through from assigning multi-person teams for art, modelling, texturing, animation, UI, programming, voice-acting, and having QA test everything AGAIN (let alone give time to fix and re-test anything they find) is a weekender job?

          Do you really have no belief that maybe the 'eleventy million' working for Ubisoft actually consist of multiple lean studios all working on different projects in an environment of mass layoffs and studio closures by publishers increasingly being asked by investors what they can do to minimize risk and provide earlier returns?

          And, worse... do you really think the publisher is so focused on diversity and equality that they would elevate it from a 'nice to have' bullet-point above all the others so that when design has to make cuts (and they undoubtedly do) from their 'nice to have' list, that even though it'll cost extra weeks of work (and pay) it'll be spared?

          No.

            Trying to work out if fedora or Ubi fanboy, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

            You seem to have a vast and amazing knowledge of video game programming and project management as you are so experienced and in-touch.

            In which case you should be more than aware that a decision to allow customisation inclusive of, oh, FIFTY PERCENT OF THE HUMAN RACE, is something you do at the BEGINNING of development and as such allows you to allocate the requisite resources.

            Your spurious arguments *might* hold weight if we are talking about 'diversity' that includes every racial subtype down to the smallest detail. But we're not, we're talking about women - and just white women at that.

            And not 'adding women to the game' as the game is already FULL of female character models. It's just one aspect of the game.

            Your arguments actually make it look WORSE for Ubisoft. You're acting as if they actually FORGOT women existed and then OMG, of course they can't add them in later.

            But they didn't. You'd have to be an utter halfwit to imagine at no point in the initial stages did the question of 'what player options will there be for multiplayer' come up in the minds of the many people involved at the project at all levels. Of course it did. Someone with such an amazing knowledge of games design is no doubt aware of this. And the decision was made to save on time and resources by leaving women out, a perfectly understandable business move.

            Of course they figured that with a good PR team, raving fanboys and fedora quivering MRAs to go to bat for them, it wouldn't impact too much on their bottom line.

            A canny business decision and Ubisoft thanks you for your kind assistance.

              I think a big part of the issue is people incorrectly targeting what they're upset at, and as we see in every sensationalist piece of trash ever, accusations of underhanded conspiracy for what should be attributed to apathy or incompetence. You wouldn't believe the tin-foil hat bullshit I've seen leveled at parts of the government which I have first and second-hand evidence was simply bloated or inefficient project management, rather than hands dipping into the till and favour being curried. People go looking for connections where there are none. They obviously can't seem to help it. Your comments are kind of an example of that.

              And that's why when Ubisoft says, "We ran out of time, we had a list of things we wanted, this was on it, but when we did the numbers it didn't make the cut because its cost was dramatically disproportionate compared to our other 'nice to haves'," people want to put it down to misogyny or some agenda to keep gender relations in the stone ages despite numerous dedicated efforts proving exactly the contrary, and then go relying on the layman's expertise to justify their beliefs.

              Is it bad that this apparently really expensive 'nice to have' isn't rated higher? Sure, that's a valid argument. Could it have been planned for better if it had been a higher priority? Quite likely. Would we have lost anything valuable, given that the deadlines have very little wiggle room, so you can only have one or the other? That probably depends on your definition of 'valuable'. Social media sharing options are probably just as if not more costly to implement, but the investors might argue the boost in sales they provide was worth more... let's assume that with millions on the line, they have people looking into this.

              So here's the thing:
              I would rather have a female protagonist than the option to spam twitter/facebook/twitch with my gameplay moments, but I ALSO think the only Commander Shepard is a female one, and apparently that puts me in the 18%.

              That's not on EA. That's not on Bioware. FemmeShep had hands-down better voice-acting, and brought a needed element to the game. But almost fucking no-one chose her. So as bitter a pill to swallow as it is, it's measurably proven that my preference for a female protagonist who would make a game more appealing to me is not appealing to 80% of the target market. And you REALLY expect a responsible company with jobs, futures, of thousands of people on the line, not to mention their obligations to investors to throw responsibility out the window because of a social justice stance that will yield no reward and probably punish them?

              But rather than saying, "Well society is fucked up, you should change!" it's much easier to demand that a company do something noble but self-defeating, because it's so much easier to have one person to point the finger at and blame for society's ills.

                I ALSO think the only Commander Shepard is a female one, and apparently that puts me in the 18%. That's not on EA. That's not on Bioware.

                Actually, I might be wrong there. They're definitely responsible for making broshep the only one on the box art, trailers, and posters. So... does marketing account for 82% of preference?

              Just as an aside, unrelated to the discussion, but how you comport yourself in it:

              It's really annoying to see those reddit basement-dwelling gender warrior terms thrown around, because it indicates very powerfully that you're conversing in a language which is removed from normal discourse and is instead targeted at the toxic niche of the internet with a bigger voice than it deserves, with several terms they've agreed upon mean something completely different to what the rest of us know.

              So when you say shit like 'fedora' or 'MRAs' as short-hand for 'worst examples of humanity ever', I automatically lose respect for anything you might have to say in a context that means anything to anyone who isn't involved in that discourse, and gain a level of perhaps unfair hostility toward you for dragging that toxic shit in here.

              If it helps you empathize, try to think of how much respect you have for the opinions of anyone who uses the word 'feminazi' and maybe you'll get where I'm coming from. It's very difficult to maintain a civil conversation with someone who keeps casually associating you with that shit.

              So if I'm aggressive, that's a big part of why. You're dragging that reddit bullshit in here and expecting everyone to know what you're talking about, like that crap is relevant anywhere outside of the worst places of the internet.

              Running around invoking those ugly slurs and tarring people with the same brush is very much the new Godwin's Law. If you genuinely want to communicate or persuade someone instead of needling them on a soapbox like a diva, you should lay off that shit. It adds NOTHING of value to the conversation.

              Last edited 09/07/14 11:51 am

                Yeah, and this is pretty much the entire problem. People like @burnside coming in guns blazing praying some punk will make their day and bite when they throw out these insults. People who speak from a position of emotion, rather than education.

                Anyone who has ever tried to complete a creative project would know how difficult it is and the many, many compromises that must be made. Your end product is almost never without compromise. Because your plans are always optimistic. And against common opinion, more people working on the project actually makes things harder, not easier. There is a point where many hands make light work, but that is only true to a point, and then it becomes too many cooks in the kitchen.

                And the realities of programming and animating a female model to move in the same level of detail as the protagonist, rather than the female NPCs that merely walk the streets, is on an entirely different level. Although in this circumstance I am a little confused considering that they have had female multiplayer characters in the past that have been fully animated...

                They should have just given the real answer, that being: "Our audience is male and while some are mature adults who would be happy playing as a woman, the sad reality is most are morons who would take issue with it. This game is costing us too much to not have them buying our game over something that we included to please a loud, obnoxious, entitled sliver of the market."

                --

                50% of the species is male, yet I barely ever see any articles that represent me in Cosmopolitan! It's unfair, and they are bigots for not representing me. People tell me that they are just creating content for their actual target demographic, but they are just Cosmo Fanboys.

                Congratulations on stepping off your own self opinionated soapbox a second, it's good to see.

                Now I'm not going to ask you why you felt so stung that you needed to reply with such hysterically verbose purple prose. I'll leave that to your own recognizance.

                But I will point out that you are continually in these threads with posts that regularly normalise the discussion.

                You're most definitely not an A-grade fedora wearer. However, you're a more insidious problem. You're someone with a very high opinion of their own intellect (please, don't) who believes their own reasonable views are very reasonable.

                And that's fine. You're hardly alone and your eloquence lets you carry it off better than most.

                But the funny thing is, you're almost always pushing arguments back towards the status quo with your reason as you seem oblivious to the fact that your perspectives are strongly rooted in the dominant discourse. As a result you collect a shedload of upvotes from the clearly misogynistic members of the community.

                If you are the virtuous individual you consider yourself to be (and we all do), I'd suggest you spend some time looking at some of those upvotes and the people giving them to you.

                And then take on board that while your own point of view is not egregiously opposed to notions of female equality and empowerment, you do regularly slip into viewpoints that reinforce the status quo and therefore get a big fat thumbs up from the vibrating fedoras in the cheap seats.

                I doubt you will do this, and will just create another wordy rant that reads like a high school debating championship.

                But if you do, I guarantee you will feel like a better person when you get to the end of your train of thought.

      Ubisoft said you play as the main character of the story, even in multiplayer. It's part of the campaign you are playing, not some individual set of missions. Would not make sense to randomly change to a different character.

      Last edited 08/07/14 6:29 pm

    The diversity “issue” is a handful of whingers with nothing better to do. It has almost no effect on real world sales and is an overblown beat up, particularly when the brunt of it (I see an Assassins Creed pic headlining this story) is being borne by a series which got very little credit for featuring a poor, black, female as the lead character only 2 releases ago.

    If it’s reasonable to do so players should be given a decent array of options when allowed to choose or customise their characters. Anything that involves more dialogue than the standard one-liners certainly shouldn’t be expected to include every different type of human on the planet, particularly when the story or setting don’t warrant their inclusion. More than ever games allow you to customise your character as you wish, but it shouldn’t be an outright demand in all situations.

    One year ago Nintendo could release an Animal Crossing game with zero dialogue and extremely basic characters, but which didn’t let you play as anything other than a white person and barely anybody gave a sh*t.
    I do sometimes feel bad for developers when they develop a product in line with common expectations and then all of a sudden the gaming community gets whiff of a beat-up and their product becomes a scape goat for whatever the fashionable thing to whinge about at the time is.

      The diversity “issue” is a handful of whingers with nothing better to do.

      You must be a hit at parties.

      FWIW, the reason that AC: Liberation got barely any notice is it was on the Vita, and even so it was praised here on Kotaku for having a black female lead: http://kotaku.com/5957411/im-surprised-by-how-black-assassins-creed-liberation-feels

        Yeah but the praise was futile. The number of ps vita owners does not exceed or come close to the number of majority of other console owners. They should've made that game for the 360 and ps3. Which they did port to pc, so I don't see why they couldn't re release on other consoles? Costs, mods, and other issues I suppose.

          They did port it to PS3.

          They also did "Freedom's Cry," Standalone DLC for ACIV where you played as a black character.

            Yeah, but when dlc comes put, I'm already playing something else, so I really don't care. I'm sure a lot of people fall into the same boat. :D. See what I did there? Sea it? Huh? Anyway.

            Also I do have the pc version of liberation. Only ad I've seen was on steam and uplay. Maybe 1 article on kotaku, ages ago. Compare when the ps vita release was on, it was being talked about like it was the fukishima meltdown. Every day. On pc and other consoles, not so much.

        I’m a lot more fun at parties than hanging out with people who spend their lives looking for things to get upset about.

        You’re right, AC: Liberation DID get some positive media attention but you know what that good will was worth once the games media got whiff of the latest crazy in complaining? Absolutely nothing.
        It shouldn’t matter that it was a Vita game, you think the people leading the charge of the cry-babies aren’t games media? The game isn’t even out yet, EVERYONE who’s paying attention to it now knows full well the game design choices that Ubisoft made with AC: Liberation.

        In a games industry where 99% of the women for the past 40 years have been nothing but sex objects near half of all media attention I’ve seen for the new game from the company that made AC: Liberation has focused on how they made a non-inclusive decision not to include female assassins.

        It’s a craze. It’s the issue of the week, and it’s really unfortunate for the development team who’ve become a scapegoat to grab headlines.

          If you honestly think that people who are looking for more representation in a mainstream media product that's pretty much uniformly monocultural are "cry babies," you're just fucking wrong.

            Perhaps this is why games struggle to be seen as mainstream media sometimes...

            Where have they been for the last forty years!?!

            Seriously? If this has been a major issue for the past 40 years why the hell is it suddenly a major issue now, at a time when games are FAR more inclusive than ever before?

            I think it’s because a developer from a large company with one of the best track-records in the industry of making inclusive software put together a fairly poorly worded (but IMO very reasonable) response to his a question about not including female assassins.
            Its “gottcha” journalism at its worst. Taking a legitimate story and twisting it into the most click/ comment bait story possible. It’s the story of Ubisoft and the grossly non-inclusive nature of the sexist video game industry!

            The very emotive “Ubisoft just said my gender wasn’t worth including” is completely contrary to the standards that we’ve all put up with for as long as most of us have been alive. It’s unfair, it’s irrational and it’s disingenuous.

            I’m not against games being more inclusive, the certainly should be, I’m saying that this whole issue is en-vouge right now because of the Assassins Creed thing and it’s a ridiculous reason to get upset.

              You realise that diversity has been an issue long before this year's E3, right?

                Yeah I do, and there is validity to it.

                But it’s the hot button issue right now because that guy at Ubisoft put together a poorly worded response and the games media saw it as a good chance to beat them up despite a pretty good track record.

                If we’d had this discussion when Duke Nukem Forever had come out that’d be one thing, but when the games media picks up on a response from a company who’ve previously included women in their games, in a franchise that is two games removed from treading what I understand to be new ground and makes THEM to be the spark that ignites the issue…..

                It’s gotcha journalism. It’s just disingenuous. It’s click bait.

                  That's not the case at all. This discussion has been happening for a long time now, it hasn't just started up because of one comment from one developer. The audience for video games is growing larger and more diverse, and the industry needs to move with it.

              For the last forty years they've been making the same complaints, and chipping away at the problem, but that doesn't mean the work is done. Claiming that ooh it's too hard to animate/hard to implement is just so friggin lazy as an excuse, and it makes AAA games frankly boring from a narrative perspective.

              I don't care if it's "en-vogue" because what's been seen again and again in large games publishers has been tone deafness in this kind of thing. The point about representation is certainly a point that deserves to be hammered home again and again and again. And why not strike while the issue is getting some attention, otherwise it'll never change.

              The reports of sexism in the video game industry just. keep. happening, and it's not until people say enough is enough that anything will happen.

              It's a case of being mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,

                It is changing though, albeit slowly.

                The argument that something needs to be done doesn’t mean it’s not disingenuous of the games media to let 40 years of terrible behaviour go and then jump down the throats of a company with a decent record because they worded a response poorly.

                How is claiming “it’s too hard” not a perfectly reasonable excuse? It’s the first go around on a new generation, I’m yet to play a new-gen game that’s as fully featured as I would have expected from the end of the last generation.
                Is it that the Nurnurgring track can be left out of Forza 5 for the first time in 4 games but female voice actors work for free?

                It’s a stupid and emotive argument “My gender is not a “feature”!”. Well…. Yeah, it IS a feature.
                Adding an extra gender into a game that doesn’t require them IS an impost to animate, change the story where necessary, record voice acting ect.

                There were no women in the first Assassins Creed either, and you can bet your ass if they’d had time to put them in they would have spent that time adding more to the actual game which was as barebones as possible. Why? Because very few people actually give a shit.

                I’d rather play a better game as a woman than an worse game where I could choose to be a man. If the story is based around men then it’s based around men.

                Look, everyone is right that more games should tell interesting stories from a female perspective. I’d rather as a woman than play a game like Sniper Elite where the male character is as boring as possible.
                It’s just that getting upset about Assassins Creed now is weird, entitled sensationalism.

      It's called navel-gazing and it's what gaming journalism does the best these days...

      'A game once had a black woman in it once so all you feminazis need to STFU and get with the dudebros'

        You simplified the argument, ignored the key points, called someone a dudebro and you were sarcastic!

        You’ve made the internet a better place. Welcome to the team.

          A misogynist who lacks basic reading comprehension as well? INCROYABLE!

      And there was an outcry on the skin in animal crossing http://kotaku.com/animal-crossing-fans-want-more-than-just-white-skin-col-513899618

      ...brunt of it (I see an Assassins Creed pic headlining this story) is being borne by a series which got very little credit for featuring a poor, black, female as the lead character only 2 releases ago

      It's a pity you didn't play it :p

      Last edited 08/07/14 7:14 pm

    Unlike some articles on this, the author is clear enough to identify the central premise from which a lot of this stems - the assumption that more "diversity" is automatically a good thing, and by extension, less diversity is a bad thing and something that needs to be defended.

    Starting from that premise (as many game journalists currently are), developers are instantly on the defensive when being interviewed, as they are being required to defend the level of "diversity" in their game, - a level which is judged against a standard which is entirely subjective.

    diversity doesn't matter in gaming(personal opinion), they are telling you a story, and if that story also happens to have a white male lead then that's just what the character is gonna look like.

    my favorite quote from this article
    “Is it that simple — that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?”

    I'm more concerned about having a great story and characters than any specifics about their gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

    however any multiplayer focused games like BF or CoD or any of those games where the character actually doesn't matter to the story, because there is one should definitely have a diverse set of characters, purely because why not, its not like you have built up a story around them or anything its just an avatar who is running around, this more looks at ethnicity and gender though not sexuality.

      But they all have white male leads, that's the issue.

        While I don't necessarily agree with the current level of diversity, the number of creatives in the gaming scene that are still white males is extremely large. Despite what Kotaku would have you believe, there is not even close to a large portion of developers that are women etc. Especially in the US at large (which has a massive diversity problem in STEM fields already), it's hard to imagine white guys not writing games from their perspective.

        why does having a white male lead make the character and less engaging or interesting than someone of another race or Gender?

          That's not exactly the point, but since you've brought it up I'll address it anyway. I don't really want to make assumptions, but it's fair to say you're more than likely a white male. Nearly every game made has a lead character who you can relate to on some level. For the rest of the game playing population there are very, very few characters who they could say the same for. It's an issue which shouldn't be ignored for the sake of artistic expression.

            This is where we run into some uncomfortable things we need to know actual truths about (but are too afraid to ask).

            So. Who's the audience, then? Because have you been to any midnight launches lately? Tell me what demographic is overwhelmingly represented in that queue. ...Yeah. Right?

            So. The real question is: is this a catch-22? Is the audience only straight while males because the games are only being made for straight white males? And how do you test that... by taking a risk that maybe you could expand your audience to more women and other ethnicities by featuring them as protagonists?

            Hm. Now the hard part: But if those ethnicities aren't the audience because they're not being represented, what's going to happen to the existing audience? Will you start losing all your straight white males because now THEY feel they aren't being represented? How are you deciding who to not-represent/alienate, now? Or are we going to try and alienate everyone equally as an industry and take turns as to which game gets to be the one that takes the risk and suffers the financial consequences?

            Last edited 08/07/14 2:10 pm

              'HANDS OFF OUR STUFF, BLACKS AND WOMEN. GO GET YOUR OWN RACIALLY OR GENDER STEREOTYPE APPROPRIATE SIMULATORS.'

              Last edited 08/07/14 2:37 pm

              I don't think it's fair to say that the audience at a midnight launch accurately reflects the overall audience. The audience for more diverse games clearly exists. They're practically screaming to be represented. It's the whole reason this conversation is even happening.

              I also don't think that providing more diverse protagonists means alienating another set of people. And it certainly doesn't have to mean a loss in sales. Look at Tomb Raider, which has now sold more than 6.5 million units. For comparison, Deus Ex: Human Revolution sold 2.18 million copies in it's first month, while Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million copies in the same time. Both critically acclaimed, both new entries in popular series. As long as the game is good, people will buy it.

                Right. And if the game is good and has a white male protagonist, people will buy it. As they have been? Although, will it actually be good if people write what they don't know in terms of gender/ethnicity? And who IS the audience exactly, anyway? Do we really know? We can look at the purely circumstantial evidence of the midnight-launch enthusiast-only misrepresentation, the 'hands off our stuff' forum warriors, or the 'do you play games?' 'sure I play candy crush' survey results and try to extrapolate that to wildly different genres with potentially wildly differing audiences...?

                Because it really appears that we don't know shit. We can ASSUME a hell of a lot, and we can (and obviously do) magnify our own perception of our demographic's importance to the medium because that's pretty much how cognitive biases work and the basis behind most strife.

                But the sooner we can PROVE that alienation doesn't actually affect who your audience is, the sooner we can start treating diversity as something that's not going to endanger your sales. We need to know more. Any argument that says, "You're missing out on our money," as some sort of crude incentive is obviously and stupidly self-defeating, because if you take a moment to agree that the unrepresented aren't spending, then you accept that the people who ARE represented and spending will stop spending when they are no longer represented. It's a logic failure that irritates the hell out of me just on its own merits, all 'sides' or virtues aside.

                I don't intend to play devil's advocate for the sake of a boot to the kidneys of the already marginalized, and I don't intend to side with the status quo. This is not telling people who just want to be heard, "Well no, you don't deserve to be because then I might not be pandered to."

                What I really want is some truth, and as I already referred to in my response to Quiz B about the AC 5 issue, I don't think we'll get it if we continually scream that 'no answer is good enough unless it aligns to our preconceptions and our demands are met'. We're not going to get the truth. We're going to get PR bullshit, we're going to get excuses or silence. If we're too afraid that we might not like what we find out, or that people might be offended that we're asking, we're going to continue to lump the mobile-game casuals in with the enthusiasts and call them all 'gamers' and expect them to spend the same amount as each other in the same places.

                We need to know more, we need to ask more (potentially uncomfortable) questions prepared to get answers we don't like (like maybe 'more males buy games') and think about or examine why, instead of preparing for what we instinctively believe will form the perfect utopia based on hope instead of knowledge and watching crestfallen as it all falls apart.

                  Any argument that says, "You're missing out on our money," as some sort of crude incentive is obviously and stupidly self-defeating, because if you take a moment to agree that the unrepresented aren't spending, then you accept that the people who ARE represented and spending will stop spending when they are no longer represented. It's a logic failure that irritates the hell out of me just on its own merits, all 'sides' or virtues aside.

                  That is an excellent point @transientmind.

                  The biggest problem is that these topics are only ever discussed in pre-established echo chambers. Of course the majority of female and male commenters on a website like kotaku will have a strong opinion on this topic. It is a niche audience and community that in no way represents the game-buying public by any stretch. As said above, Tomb Raider has sold 6.5 million units thus far. Do you think Kotaku, or Polygon, or even IGN have 6.5 million members in their commenting community?

                  The people who comment on these articles are the ones who care. It's as simple as that. And just because they are loud, it does not mean they are numerous. This article really highlights the misinformation that gives these sorts of people their false sense of their dollars being just as green as the straight white male demographics "ruining everything for the rest of us".

                  http://venturebeat.com/2013/09/19/gender-inequality/

                  The three biggest genres in retail HD console sales are shooters, action, and sports games. That the audiences for these genres were overwhelmingly male came as no surprise to me, but the gender imbalances were worse than I would have guessed:

                  The HD shooter audience is 78 percent male.
                  The HD action game audience is 80 percent male.
                  The HD sports game audience is 85 percent male.

                  Short of a study on how many women are staying out of core gaming specifically on account of the lack of female characters or sexist depictions of women, there is no economic reason I can think of why developers or publishers of core games ought to care about selling to an audience which might exist more than selling to the audience they know exists.

                  As I said in a comment elsewhere, when Female Shepard only represents 18% of players, female and male, and she's widely regarded as one of the postergirls for girls in gaming, how dire are the rest of the statistics?

              I don't go to midnight launches partly because I was harrassed at one once and I don't want to replicate that experience. Also work clashes :P

      But the thing is they don't "also happen to have a white male lead", someone is still making the choice to have a white male lead. It's not an incidental thing, just as it's not an incidental thing that they all have white male leads.

      I guess it's just that either at no point in the creative cycle is anyone thinking "what if..." or if they are, they must be default with "well, we'll go with the white male lead because it's easy and we don't have to think about it."

      Diversity does matter. People get socialised into believing that they're only good for being the "love interest" or "spunky best friend" or whatever stereotyped representation they get.
      It matters because stories aren't just told by white male leads, they can be equally as powerful from other people. Great stories can be told by many other people.

      Creatively it would be more interesting to have stories told from points of view that are not represented all the time.

        I don't doubt that great stories can be told from these other perspectives, but those aren't the stories being told atm in the majority of games.

          I think what most people pushing for diversity are saying is "why can't these stories be told now?"

      I agree, why not have the option, when it isn't based around a story or character interactions.

      It is, however, an issue in assasins creed, which is a story, even in multiplayer. Your not playing some disjoitned game like the last assasins creed multiplayer games (which did let you play as a woman).

    I think it does matter quite a bit.
    It would be nice to know that you can relate to the character you are playing, to actually be in their shoes and know the trials and tribulations that you yourself as a person could have potentially experienced in your own life through prejudice or privilege (or more accurately, lack of privilege). For those that don't experience it in their lives there is nothing to relate to so won't necessarily get what all the fuss is about, but for those that do....and it happens everyday in our lives if you choose to look for it, then you can appreciate the desire to just feel like you belong or can relate someone, be it a computer generated character or not, to yourself.
    a game like doom...you can't relate to the character so you are already disconnected from their world and experience.
    a game like Zelda (given the recent stories surrounding the main character's gender) is however a character that you want to feel attached to in some way and to relate to them and be in their shoes. The story might be outrageous or outlandish or not even make sense, but the character....that character for the time you are playing is an extension of you, and you need something to hold onto for your own emotional connection.

    The truth is that games are not alone in the diversity issue. All we can do is vote with our wallets and our social media. Praise the shows, movies, books and games that make an effort to go beyond stereotypes. Show them that having a main character who is female/LGBTI/ethnic minority is a good thing and that diversity only makes an artform more rich.

    And I hope journalists keep asking the important questions!

    You can't satisfy everyone. I also don't understand this sense of entitlement the world has. For example:
    " I have freedom of expression as a human and wish to play a video game how I want - how DARE you use your freedom of expression and make your art/product/game the way YOU want!".
    Let's make sure EVERY game has every character choice, from every country, every skin tone, every gender (including trans-gender and the like). Make sure while at it make sure each game has every possible story line to make that specific person feel like they are special.
    Give me a break - this has never crossed my mind.
    When I play Donkey Kong, I don't complain that I can't play as a kangaroo - but I'm Australian, I have a RIGHT to play as a kangaroo.... don't I?

      I think you're pretty close to the issue with such pushes for diversity, if a little heavyhanded in your delivery. I have no problem and applaud people that ask tough questions. But when you have a developer like Larian who got death threats over the amount of midrift visible in their promotional art, they felt basically extorted into doing it - this is NOT OKAY. Also, see the artist in question's response to such a push:
      http://orogion.deviantart.com/journal/Save-the-Boob-plate-380891149

      Vote with your wallet, speak up, but don't you dare think you're more important / are entitled to take your videogame preferences to the point where the developer has to take it on board. They don't.

      Last edited 08/07/14 1:08 pm

      It's not about the choice. Obviously if a game is going to let you create and customise your character, or let you choose from multiple options, then it should give you all the options, not just pretend that females, for example, don't exist. And frankly most of those sort of games do that just fine.

      The bigger problem is the story centered games. There is nothing wrong with creating a game to tell a story about a white male, the issue is that virtually all games do that. It's not that I think I have the right to play Donkey Kong as a kangaroo, it's that I would like it if I didn't have to play every game as a monkey.

      Why can't we have a game to tell a story about a female, or any race/gender/sexuality. Not just let me choose like in mass effect, but actually make the story about this character who is not a white straight male and therefore doesn't look sound or act like one. Don't just make a token game FOR women about fashion or something, but actually make a game ABOUT A woman. Just a realistic character, with an interesting story, who is a woman. I dare say more than just women would be interested in playing it.

      Ultimately I think it comes down to the lack of diversity in the people making the games, that's where the real issue is, and there's not an easy solution, but it needs to be talked about. And if it ever does get solved it will result in more interesting and different games that hopefully anyone would want to play, not because it has a female character, but because it is a good game with an interesting story, that happens to be about a female character.

    Diversity is a value neutral word. A Protestant Ladies Senior Citizen sewing circle is not very diverse. A Protestant Ladies Senior Citizen Sewing Circle + Saddam Hussein is more diverse but that doesn't mean it is better.

    I would value content over diversity any day of the week.

      Good sir, whilst I do not fully agree with you, you get an upvote for putting the mental image of Saddam Hussein quilting while enjoying a natter and a cup of tea in the local hall in my head.

    “Is it that simple — that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?”

    Well. We'll never know, will we, if it doesn't change. All the rhetorical questions in the world can be asked, but if nothing changes then... nothing actually changes.

    I know I've recommend games to my female friends based on the character's diversity (in addition to the story, obviously, I'd never just recommend a game based on "you play [this character]"). The more games with diverse characters and great stories, the more they will be recommended, the more female users will take a chance at the game, the more female gamers there'd be.

      there are a number of great games that have female leads, people dont look at those though, they look at the games with male leads which have always had male leads and ask why there are no female leads

        There are great games with female leads. But they tend not to get promoted or advertised or have as much effort put into them as ones with male leads, and then the argument becomes "we don't make more games with female leads because they don't sell." Well, if you advertised them better and didn't skimp on game quality... Look, it's the same thing that happens with movies with female leads that aren't chick flicks, or even comic books.

        Catwoman, for example, when people argue against having a big two superhero movie lead by a woman. I see your Catwoman and raise you Green Lantern - it was effing terrible, but will that stop superhero movies with male leads being made? Of course not. Has Catwoman stopped female-lead superhero movies? Hmm.

        ANYWAY. I guess people look at the decent, well-written games that are raking in a bomb, AAA titles and whatever and wonder, well, why don't they at least try one of these titles - or something like them, in the case of franchises where the protagonist doesn't remain the same - with a female lead, since for a lot of the games there's no actual reason why the protagonist has to be a white dude (artistic vision! I hear the crowd yelp, but yeah okay whatever guys, there's nothing particularly artistic or creative about rehashing the same thing over and over and over). Indies excel at trying something different, but the big companies are pretty cowardly when it comes to taking a step out of their rakes-in-a-bomb-white-dude-comfort-zone.

          "they tend not to get promoted or advertised or have as much effort put into them as ones with male leads"

          Citation very much needed.

          Also, to play devil's advocate, I'd point to Remember Me as an example as to your last point. And on your last line, I totally agree, but you've got to remember this is 'blockbuster' territory - the exact same thing happens in movies and TV. Lowest common denominator, most dollars, etc.

          Last edited 08/07/14 6:19 pm

            tl;dr version: http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/11/27/1243361/video-games-penny-arcade-report/
            PAR "what's a paragraph break" version: http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/article/games-with-female-heroes-dont-sell-because-publishers-dont-support-them#/entry/signin

            Haha ah yes, Remember Me and it's "nah, we don't want to publish because female character". Good times.

            Oh, of course it's lowest common denominator at work here 100%. I've always found that frustrating for dumbing down TV and movies that could be so much more than it is!

            Last edited 08/07/14 6:39 pm

              Cool, thanks. I wasn't doubting you, it just seemed like a pretty big claim to make unsubstantiated. Those links paint a pretty damning picture.

                Nah, it's cool, I probably should have supplied the links at the time, but I was at work totally not commenting on kotaku.

    It seems simple.... More diverse writers/designers = more diverse games. How can a mostly white-male creative group authentically give voice to another? Would you want them to?

    To all the fedoras in here claiming 'game devs and audience members are predominantly white males therefore it's great 99% of protagonists are white males':

    These protagonists are largely buff, handsome, active, dynamic men of action.

    If your argument about developer/audience representation was actually correct, they should be weedy/obese dudes who need to get more sunshine, learn some grooming tips and develop some social skills.

    And before you start quivering euphorically with a snappy retort to my slipshod stereotyping, spare a thought towards turning that perspective to the issue at hand.

      That strawman argument can only be made if the notion of power is as two dimensional as "things that make other things go smash".

      The "male power fantasy" is exactly that, the definition of power that society has foisted upon men. A man cannot be powerful as a stay at home dad who gets mad ironing combos and earns the love of his children and the respect and appreciation of his 9-5 working wife. He's not allowed to be powerful in expressing his emotion, or talking things through intelligently. No, in most videogames, a man only has as much power as the weapons he wields to display it.

      Nobody's saying that the representation of men is correct in videogames. Anyone who does is a fool. But it is the representation that society deems the most admirable for men in today's western society.

      The kind of power women are expected to display is sexualised, or coddling, or in an intelligence capacity (the Cortanas, or the Anyas, the voice in your ear, explaining, giving you answers). And sexual power is the ultimate form of power in our messed up society.

      It's like the quote in 30 Rock said by Jack Donaghy: "What brought me here tonight? What brings anyone anywhere? Why do men build bridges, why are there jets? I was hoping to have sex tonight."

      Videogames are unfortunately not the products of good writers. Most videogame writers wouldn't even be allowed near the plot of a Transformers film, or The Expendables. As a result, we have these two dimensional characterisations of the real power dynamics that occur in society today. There's no nuance or depth because these writers just aren't good enough for that.

      But the point is this, both women and men should be angry about the state of narrative and characterisation in videogames. But this whole "men get their ideal depiction and we don't, ever" nonsense is blind at best, and hypocritical at worst.

      Who has more power, the homeless, illiterate man who can bench-press a bus? Or the frail, elderly woman with more money, family, and property than she knows what to do with? Pick either one, and your answer will be wrong.

      Last edited 08/07/14 5:07 pm

        You're actually endorsing my point and it's amusing to see you upvoted by two guys who probably don't realise it but pressed the button thinking they were getting one over me.

        My point is exactly the same as yours. Male gender representation is equally flawed and damaging and people whining about OMG NOT THIS DIVERSITY NONSENSE AGAIN do men as few favours as they do women.

        I disagree with your comment about writers however. The issue is not talent - there's just as much talent on show in the games sector. The issue is cultural and it flows from the top of the game company power structure down. We ALL know the tropes. They've been in play for decades. The *recent* attention that seems to have so many white dudes up in arms one way or another is simply a conversation that has been suppressed for a long time, suppressed both because it has been financially desirable to do so and easier than engineering culture shifts.

        It will change, as the marketplace will force it to eventually even if the internal culture refuses to budge first.

        And Kotaku will get clicks from angsty white guys until that happens so it's a win/win at the end of the day.

          Nobody's "getting one over on you". "Angsty white guys"? You really came into this looking for a fight, hey?

          I actually agree though, when I started reading your comment I thought you were writing one thing but actually meant something else. I was half way through writing my response when I re-read it again and worked out we're sort of making a similar point.

          However while your point is more "something needs to be done about this" my point is more "this is way it is, in any medium". There are economic facts that are deemed "not good enough" by armchair or keyboard critics who aren't in a position to sink or swim. Nobody (and by that i mean the market) wants to see realistic depictions of themselves, that's real life. You go into entertainment mediums to escape, not to live unrelentingly in reality.

          People, the majority of people who buy these games (and that is not anyone on Kotaku, Polygon, IGN, etc.) to have fun, they barely complete the story modes of games and don't care for any sort of political agenda or even things that would be cool like more diversity. The reason Call Of Duty is a massive success is because it doesn't try to impress people who give a shit. It's lowest common denominator, it's by the numbers, it's the Hollywood of video games.

          And it is STILL financially desirable to not have this conversation. The problem is that this battle is always fought with emotion, rather than facts. Instead of numbers, people use feelings. When games cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and sell the same, nobody is going to care about your desire to see more people who look like you in their games. The only way they will care is when the money stops pouring in.

          Female hardcore gamers equate to roughly 20% of the HD Action Game audience. That's Assassin's Creed, in case you're wondering. If that number reaches 51%, that's when you'll start seeing them really aiming to please the non-"angsty white guy" demographics.

          Last edited 09/07/14 12:17 pm

            Sardonic hyperbole is indeed 'looking for a fight' but not in the way you think ;)

            And your argument is basically what sustains the status quo. These 'economic facts' are not what you think they are either. If you believe in the nonsense that is market theory then these market forces are malleable. Change the environment and the 'facts' change to suit.

            That's the whole point of this discourse. Once this conversation becomes loud enough to become an issue that impacts negatively on market performance, then the game board shifts to accommodate.

            Keep blunting the conversation by cleaving to the status quo because it suits you and yours, well that's where the problem originates.

      "To all the fedoras in here claiming 'game devs and audience members are predominantly white males therefore it's great 99% of protagonists are white males'"

      Great ad hominem. Shame the point attached is bullshit. Point me to where someone said it's 'great' that 99% of protagonists are white males. Go on, I'll wait. If you pointed me to posters saying that devs are still predominantly white males and most human beings write what they know, then you've failed in your point.

      Last edited 08/07/14 6:15 pm

        It's an implicit endorsement, it's a shame I need to explain that to you. By making the limp argument that creatives are en masse unable to write outside their own direct experience due to lack of skill as opposed to cultural choices you are endorsing it.

        And, much as it pains me, you also tripped yourself with your own point.

        'human beings write what they know'

        So devs are all bulky buff space marines who can run for hours non-stop, recover from bullet wounds in seconds and punch through bricks?

        No.

    I'm curious what the reaction to ubisoft would have been if they'd answered the assassin's creed thing with a straight: We're going for a 3 musketeer vibe, it's about brothers in arms.

      That was basically Rockstar's response to GTA 5's three male protagonists and I gather it did not satisfy.

        Bizarre really, a company that features less women (and a lot less in a positive light) didn't get near the level of backlash that AC has, considering it's a dev with a pretty great track record of diversity. I mean, besides Carolyn Petite's review (which still rated it highly regardless) they pretty much didn't hear anything about it.

      Probably a lot less but with the knee jerks for this issue who knows.
      Although in a way that wouldn't have helps as this was the multi player section so the story and vibe is a lot less relevant

        Actually, the multiplayer is co-op in the new AC. Your not removed from your main story game, your still playing as the same character in the campaign, just with more people. Thats why this time, they are not giving you the option of switching sex's like they did in the multiplayer in the prior games, which was its own disjointed pvp style thing.

        Would involve them having to remake the entire story/campaign. People are just idiots and having a knee jerk reaction without actually reading what ubisoft said.

        Last edited 08/07/14 6:32 pm

    Yeah you're right, I don't think this topic got covered enough in the last 6 articles in the past month. Please go on telling us these points about the same stuff :D

    Ahem: https://twitter.com/MrJoshEarl/status/486457037996298240

      Hilarious. So good. Hope you can feel my sarcasm.

    Sigh. This social justice stuff is all so tricky.

    You can point to any reason for the status quo that you don't like and try to tug on that thread so it unsticks, but every thread is connected to a dozen others, and wherever you pull you're going to get resistance from those, too.

    Some need to be cut, some need to be untangled and set straight, but it's all much more complicated than peoples' emotions can stand to be put on held for to explain or identify... and getting a bird's eye view of it makes it seem damn near insurmountable and far more complicated than is easy to resolve. Worse when people don't want to see the whole picture because it makes their position seem to be in the minority.

    You'll have people deciding: 'whatever, just charge right through and let the pieces sort themselves out after, just as long as I get my way,' conflicting with the people who are trying to rescue the babies being tossed out with the bathwater, and any measure to hold up and analyze the 'why' in order to cut with more precision could be stalling tactics or simple resistance to change. That's not including the folks who actively resist because they're trouble-makers, those who resist because the status quo suits them quite well.

    And even if you argue for change, the ways of doing it conflict.

    People with passion are saying, "This thing needs to change!"
    People without it are examining and asking, "That thing specifically? Or something else? Because there are side-effects to that, and this is tied up to other things that we might not be able to change..."
    People with passion are asking the dispassionate, "Why aren't you more passionate?!"
    People who are unaffected and examining objectively are asking, "Why aren't you more objective?"

    ...

    The end result is seeing a major publisher who has gone out on a limb for diversity several times in the same franchise in close proximity to flagship titles, with Liberation and Freedom's Cry, being held up as the poster child for everything wrong with the industry.
    Which, when hot on the heels of Child of Light, Valiant Hearts, and other non-dudebro titles, seems both unfair and counter-productive if you actually want to encourage change; like screaming at a child who's trying something new when they don't do it perfectly or with consistency.

    It seems that nobody is addressing the (IMO) blindingly obvious here...

    WHY THE F*** DOES ANYBODY EVEN CARE ABOUT THIS??

    I'm completely serious! Who gives two craps about whether a fictional character created in someone else's mind has white, orange, blue or purple skin? It's not your place to tell them their imagination is 'wrong'.

    If we're talking about an open world RL simulation game then yes, the question of how much different 'stuff' is available in said world becomes important, but as a general rule who are you to dictate what comes out of another individuals creativity?

    If you don't like the content in today's games, go get a freakin degree and write your own.

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