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By 7 August 2014 | Categories: news

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Pippa is tired of the stubbly white anti-hero and believes it’s time for diversity.

The topic of diversity in video games has raised its head yet again, this time in a local context. I’m not going to go into great detail, suffice to say that a local writer wrote a review about the lack of diversity (read women, characters of colour) in Sniper Elite 3. Debate erupted on Twitter (and of course in the comments section), and while amusing on some levels, on others it raised a very relevant concern as to the nature of diversity in videogames.

As for the accuracy of this debate, for this column’s purposes it isn’t really relevant. Sure, many games that deal with historical subject matter supposedly try to be as accurate as possible, but let’s be honest, we all know that liberties are taken, for whatever reason. But, since this is first and foremost a game designed to entertain, would it really be an issue to diversify slightly in order to include and attract additional gamer groups?

I suppose the real question is whether or not as an industry we still feel that the norm is the white male? Research shows that in the United States (at least from a gender perspective) this is not in fact the case, however from a journalistic perspective, in my experience at least, there are still no more than a handful of women at any PR event (PR reps excluded here). Does it bother me? Yes, of course it does.

At a recent industry showcase, I physically cringed when the international female PR representative made some comment about “games women enjoy” or “games you can get your girlfriend involved in” (which inevitably are dancing games of the type that are marketed equally at pre-teens). Of course women couldn’t possibly be interested in FPS or racing games. But if this is what the marketing arm of the gaming industry pushes as the standard, is it really any surprise that this is what we, as journalists, accept as the normative viewpoint?

Does it make this right? No, of course not. Any person regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation has as much right as the ‘norm’ of the heterosexual white male, to garner representation in any context. However, sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Is there is a malicious intent to exclude us? I highly doubt it, but for many developers it just doesn’t occur to do so.

A prime example of this is the furore caused over the lack of female assassins in Assassins Creed: Unity. The developers’ excuse was that it was simply too much work to add additional animations and models to the game to include a female character. While this raises obvious and longstanding issues within the industry, we should also be asking, “Where are the Black protagonists? The Asian protagonists? The Muslims? Indians?” You can think that I’m being argumentative, but I’m not the only one who is tired of the uninspired, stubbly, white male anti-hero. We need more. And we all need representation.

Article first appeared in TechSmart 131, August 2014, available to download here

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