Signs of Change
I’ve been banging on the drum of inclusivity and diversity in games culture for nearly a decade on this blog and for over half a decade on Twitter. I have often felt as if I was one of a few who cared about these issues. Worse, I felt at times that it was only women who cared about issues of sexism, or that it was only people who belonged to ethnic and racial minorities who cared about racism, or that only queer folks cared about QUILTBAG issues. The sheer hostility I see hurled at anyone who dares to speak out for equality, anyone who dares to demand more diversity in the games they choose to play, anyone who dares to desire more inclusivity in the gaming communities they want to be a part of, and anyone who dares to demand diversity, inclusivity, and fair treatment at the companies at which they work—all seemed to indicate an appalling lack of empathy and a blind devotion to the status quo of inequality.
In recent years, however, I’ve observed some rather encouraging signs with respect to the discussions about how women and people who belong to other marginalized groups are treated in gaming communities, in and by the games media, and within the games industry. There are more people talking about inclusivity and diversity and these discussions are high profile. For example, mainstream gaming sites like Gamespot and mainstream news sites like Forbes and The New York Times have written about gaming culture’s struggle with sexism and misogyny. There are more people speaking out against the marginalization of women, of queer people, and of racial and ethnic minorities in games culture than specialist websites like The Border House. I’m encouraged that these discussions are becoming more high profile and that more people are becoming aware as a result.
One of the things I never thought I would ever see in a mainstream gaming site, or at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), or by a straight, white, male is a serious discussion of privilege, an attempt to educate other men about it. However, those things actually happened, and it’s amazing! New to GDC this year was the Advocacy Track, a series of sessions devoted to topics about social advocacy, including diversity issues. I see this as a sign that the games industry is finally waking up.
Not everyone is on the same page, and there is still a lot of progress to go on all fronts, particularly with regard to the players themselves who congregate in gaming communities; it’s often these folks who will engage in the most abuse against advocacy for inclusivity, diversity, and equality. For the first time though, I feel that things are actually changing, that minds are being opened, and that the advocacy, the blogging, the speaking out that people have been doing for so many years—that all of this exhausting work is bearing fruit. There is a cultural shift happening in games, and I hope it continues to shift to a better place.
I encourage you to read the articles below for a better understanding of recent discussions in gaming culture about these issues.
- And Then the Game Industry Woke Up – After GDC, Kotaku believes that change is in the air in the games industry.
- An Industry Divided – Gamespot observes that the industry is speaking out about being more inclusive, but that work needs to continue so that material changes can happen.
- Misogyny, Sexism, and Why RPS Isn’t Shutting Up - Rock, Paper, Shotgun won’t back down from speaking out against sexism and misogyny, racism, or homophobia in games, in the games industry, and in the games journalism industry.
- What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? - A community manager at Crystal Dynamics speaks out against the culture of harassment and misogyny directed towards women by gaming journalists and by fellow games industry professionals.
- Dragon Age III’s Gaider on the Impracticality of Sexism – A writer at BioWare talks about how unrealistic sexism is when writing games and about privilege.
- If Video Games Are Going to Grow Up, Then The Bullying Needs to Stop - A famous game designer speaks out against online harassment against women.
- Game Changer – Why gaming culture allows abuse and how we can stop it.