Why Diverse Games: “Do Your Research”

Today I’m sharing an interview with a fellow gamer (and Dragon Age lover) Elizabeth. She’s got some great insights! Here she is to introduce herself in her own words:

E: My name is Elizabeth, I’m a white, bisexual woman in my twenties, and the very first gaming device I ever had was Nintendo 64 followed by a Game Cube and a Nintendo 3DS for my 16th birthday. Pokemon Stadium and Quest 64Quest 64 were my first introductions to video games. Considering how horrible a game Quest 64 was, I’m surprised I decided to stick with it! I didn’t purchase an Xbox 360 until the Xbox One had already been released, since I had to buy it for myself on a retail salary. I did, however, recently buy a PS4 and I’m super excited to finally play Sony exclusives.

K: What do you think makes you a ‘gamer’?

E: It really depends on your definition. For me, a gamer is someone who plays many types of video games. Focusing on one genre would be like calling yourself a wine connoisseur but only ever tasting white wine. It’s OK to have a preference, I’ll admit I’m far more into RPG’s than I am first person shooters for example, but gaming is much more than just one game, or one genre. I feel like limiting yourself does a disservice to the variety of games out there.  So, I guess what makes me a gamer is that I enjoy a wide variety of games, from GTA to Journey.

K: What attracts you to video games over other forms of entertainment?

E: I can’t really think of a reason why I prefer games over everything else. Storytelling probably. The storytelling power that games have is entirely unique, and the interactivity keeps me involved and invested long past the point where I stop caring in books or movies. Games also have a unique ability to make me feel like I just blew that building up. I live vicariously through the characters, which is harder to do reading, or watching in a theater.  It feels like I’m a part of the story, rather than just a bystander.

K: What effect do you think inclusive representation can have on storytelling?

I think the simplest answer is that it creates a wider spread of stories. You can only tell the story of a rugged, middle-aged white man surviving the apocalypse so many times before it feels as predictable as a rom-com. Different characters and different backgrounds, bring individuality to the story before it begins because they have a different world view and perspective.

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“You can only tell the story of a rugged… white man surviving the apocalypse so many times…”

K: How do you think inclusivity in games affects you?

E: I feel a little silly, but sometimes I forget that ‘oh ya, that’s probably a viable career option for me.’ Seeing a woman in a role or position of power reminds me that things are changing and I can be whatever I want. Even in the zombie apocalypse.

K: Have you ever refused to play a game because it included a problematic portrayal or lack of representation?

E: Honestly? I don’t know. I hesitated for a long time to play GTA V, because I’d heard bad things about the way women were portrayed. While I understand and agree with the criticism, I’m not going to be putting the game down any time soon. I suppose I would have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

Editors note: I think this is a fair stance Elizabeth, I know it’s one I often adopt. Sometimes the treatment of a group is so reprehensible you can’t ignore it, but often in games it’s a very subtle thing and the most important thing we can do is just be aware of what we’re consuming.

K: Do you generally feel like you are given representation in popular culture?

E: As a white woman, yah, generally. The media still has a ways to go in terms of properly written female characters, but seeing someone who looks like me is quite common. As a bisexual woman? Not so much. I can name three bisexual women off the top of my head, two of them are from the same show and one of them has had both her love interests killed off.

It's validating

K: How about in video games?

In certain circles. Bioware has a ton of Bi characters, and while there are some problems with the portrayals, they’re still characters I can identify with and see myself in. Outside of Bioware, however, I couldn’t name you another bisexual character.

K: How do you feel when you do see accurate representation in a game?

E: The very first time I fell in love with a character in a video game was when I met Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins. He’s the first character I’d ever met who treated his sexuality and sex in general with an attitude similar to mine. It’s a validating feeling, to see yourself in a character, because someone wrote that. Someone knew that people like me exist, and they felt that my story, feelings and thoughts were important enough to be given life, and shared with the rest of the world.

K: What might the next steps for the game industry be in increasing representation?

E: Diversify writing teams. Having more women, PoC and members of the LGBT+ community writing will lead to an automatic rise in diversity.

Next, please, do your research. Take note of the harmful tropes and avoid them. If Bioware could stop making (nearly) every single multi-gender attracted character some sort of societal deviant, that would be fantastic. I want to see representation where bisexual people are the good guys, where we’re not reduced to sex machines, and we’re not the default ‘safe’ sexuality (editors note: sometimes referred to as ‘player sexual). We are important; our identity is unique and special. Bisexuality isn’t a pretty label you can slap on a character and call it representation.

It's validating (2)

K: What games are you playing now or looking forward to the most?

E: I’ve been doing a lot of catch up to be honest. Saints Row 3 and The Last of Us, but the game I’m most looking forward to is The Last Guardian.

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Thanks Elizabeth for answering my questions!

If you would like to get in touch with me for an interview, you can always do so through my contact page, or @kjewellwrites.

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One thought on “Why Diverse Games: “Do Your Research”

  1. Pingback: Take the Pledge: To Do No Harm | kjewellwrites

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