When the window of diversity is opened in Video Games


Melanie Ehrenkranz: What happens when developer X releases their “diversity” report and they don’t meet your or any other social justice or feminists criteria? Do they get a scarlet mark next to their names? Do they get named and shamed? Or boycotted?  Who decides on what the benchmark should be? My second question would be:  Does a diverse development company really correlate with better sales at the end of the day? If so some data to back it up would be really nice.  Here is the issue I have with your comment, does adding more woman, POC or any other sexual orientation add value to the company or game design when it is being pushed or forced onto developers and publishers? I would say no, pushing our medium to make better games won’t happen when you are forcing these companies to tick invisible diversity boxes.

We regularly see headlines that read: “Games need more racial/sexual diversity. When asking why, the answer being:  “Well, because as all right-thinking people agree, more racial/sexual diversity is obviously necessary.”  That to me is not a proper answer. People who believe this should explain their reasoning for believing it. Not just tell us “because” that is not a sound argument, and you cannot expect everyone to fall in line given your reply.  We really need to stop with this victim mindset that suggests we need to encourage more diversity just for the sake of diversity. Nothing good comes of this mindset and I have had first-hand experience. Here in South Africa, we have something called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Basically, it is a racially selective program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid.

The short and the long of it is previously disadvantaged groups including Blacks, Coloreds, Indians, and Chinese are now given preference above all other racial groups. Irrespective of qualifications, time worked in the industry or experience. This has all been thrown aside for the colour of your skin, which now supersedes everything else. You get eight different levels of BEE which you can find here. What it boils down to is you need certain levels of BEE status to do business with international and local companies, if you do not meet that criteria you lose the business or you are refused the contract. If you do not transform fast enough your company is dead in the water, which was the case with the company Light Edge Technologies that I worked for back in 2008. This was nine years ago and this is still happening until this day.

Now, this might be the worst case scenario, but this all started with diversity reports, which then was closely followed by government intervention and then the BEE legislation which in the end even ended up failing the people it was created for. So my question to people like Melanie Ehrenkranz is, maybe the reason why the industry is still dominated by white male men is because the majority of gamers are still white men despite what other people are trying to tell us.  It might not be the gross imbalance people like you want to make it out to be. Both men and woman move towards careers they are interested in, and this is why you find more men are involved in technology and programming while you find more woman in elementary education, nursing, and social work. This is not an inherently bad thing.

This is most definitely not reflective of sexism or limited choices. This is the freedom of choice that is given to us when we go study and enter the job market, to choose what we want to do in life. If a woman, POC or anyone with a different sexual orientation wants to be programmers and game developers more power to them I say!  I will wholeheartedly support them. But don’t think for a moment there is some magical barrier holding them back and this isn’t some sinister closed club only open to white males, as some have alluded to. It just so happens that while males love the video game industry and love to create video games. The game industry never had a problem with diversity when it came to woman, POC and anyone with a different sexual orientation. Despite the false narrative the game press and people like you attempt to perpetuate.

If I was a developer or programmer and I was hired because of my gender, colour or sexual preference and not my skill I would be incredibly furious and view it as an insult and a slap in the face. I would want to be hired purely based on my skill and me being hired just so I can check a virtual box for diversity is sure to create animosity in the workplace.  This ends up creating more racial and sex-based divides and tension as the failure of BEE in South Africa have demonstrated. In a free market, society likes ours, you create what sells and what currently is being sold is selling well. What the industry needs is people with diverse skills and talents, diverse skin colors, and genders without the skills and talents means absolutely nothing in the industry. Let developers create the kind of games that they want to the people they want instead of shaming them into being more diverse for diversities sake.

[Editorial Note:] The article that Melanie Ehrenkranz mentions in her tweet can be found here.

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About larch

I am a cucumber in a fruit bowl.
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3 Responses to When the window of diversity is opened in Video Games

  1. This is definitely a relevant and interesting topic! Thanks for posting about it. I wholeheartedly agree that developers should not be forced to produce one thing or another. However, my stand on the issue is that media representation is important – telling stories from another person’s perspective not only creates a richer pool of experiences to pull from in regards to storytelling, etc., but when a person sees himself/herself/a group they identify with being represented in the media, it not only reflects who they are, but who they *can* become. It shows people outside of that group who might not be exposed to that type of person what that group might *be* like in real life (aka not a stereotype).

    Another thought on this: most of the games I play have white men as protagonists. So, why is it alright for non-white, non-males to be “forced” (for want of a better word) to play as that type of person, but not okay for a white male to be “forced” to play as another type of person? At the end of the day, this will degrade into an argument of whether or not the majority has the right to impose its views on people, yet not even entertain the idea of having an opposing view take center stage, even for a short time.

    I certainly don’t advocate for “forcing” people to do one thing or another. But the more people who feel included and invited to the table, the stronger and more united the community will become. And isn’t that really what we want as a gaming community?

  2. Reblogged this on RACCOON DADDY – Games and Parenting Community and commented:
    Good share, this is a topic!! Diversity is a double-edged subject. As the message of acceptance is a necessity and we should all view everyone as LIVING BREATHING HUMAN BEINGS who are UNIQUE regardless of race, gender or difference.

    Yet the message of intolerance screams that diversity is taking advantage of the system and hindering true fairness.

    It ultimately boils down to this. Government and private industries should police the fairness and equality. But it SHOULD NOT make laws to balance those principles.

    The same premise should be for media and the arts. Companies and artists should express, WHAT THEY THINK AND FEEL!

    Regardless of who or how things are portrayed, in reference to differences.

  3. Good share, this is a topic!! Diversity is a double-edged subject. As the message of acceptance is a necessity and we should all view everyone as LIVING BREATHING HUMAN BEINGS who are UNIQUE regardless of race, gender or difference.

    Yet the message of intolerance screams that diversity is taking advantage of the system and hindering true fairness.

    It ultimately boils down to this. Government and private industries should police the fairness and equality. But it SHOULD NOT make laws to balance those principles.

    The same premise should be for media and the arts. Companies and artists should express, WHAT THEY THINK AND FEEL!

    Regardless of who or how things are portrayed, in reference to differences.

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