Highlights from GDX Edmonton: Inclusion in Games

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Sunday at Game Discovery Exhibition Edmonton, (GDX). It was a mad crazy weekend, followed by an insane week so I’m sitting down now to write some thoughts about the conference.

The first panel I attended was Inclusion in games, moderated by Emma McDonald, the panel included Bioware vets Sarah Hayward and Sarah Beck, programmer Sagal Adam, Designer Bree Emmerson and activist Emily Dutton. All of these amazing women gave fantastic advice.

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Some of the highlights I jotted down:

  • Emily Dutton kept it real, if you don’t have a queer person on your development team — go talk to one. Consultation is key to portraying characters outside your own experience accurately and with respect.
  • If you fall back on stereotypes, representation can be more harmful than good.
  • Tokenism is another harmful type of representation. If your diverse character is a prop to advance the plot, doesn’t have their own motivations — if the plot happens to them — they might be a token inclusion.
  • Sagal — Gamers are diverse, providing diverse representation is a part of providing safe spaces.
  • Character customization allows a connection between player and avatar, including options to make the avatar diverse makes players feel¬† like developers see them. Changing the colour of the avatars skin doesn’t have to change the story.
  • Some of the panelists spoke about playing first person shooters and having a jarring reaction to discover they have man hands or a mans body because they’re immersed in the first person experience.
  • Sarah H: the whitewashing of the industry correlates to games emulating Hollywood’s ‘square jawed masculine’ marketing.
  • Direct more advertising money to the diverse games already out there.

The take away:

Gamers, be hungry, get your desires for diverse games out there and be heard by developers.

(Photos from the GDX website) 

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