31/31 Day 21: Why Diversity in Video Games Matters - Saturday Morning Replay Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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31/31 Day 21: Why Diversity in Video Games Matters

        Hello everyone, and welcome to day 21 of my 31/31! As someone who is the son of an immigrant to this country, diversity and fair representation is something that is near and dear to my heart. However, this blog is not a lecture about diversity, rather my argument as to why I believe that it can be an important aspect of videogames, and videogame culture as a whole. Now, the largest misconception that people have when it comes to diversity is that it is something that has to be forced; it has to be meticulously balanced. However, I don’t think that this is the case at all. I’ll get around to explaining why later in the blog. Another misconception that people have when it comes to diversity is that it only pertains to race. While that might be the most common context used in regards to the word, it can extend to much more than that. Most notably, it can pertain to an inclusion of the “other” in things like thoughts, religion, gender, age, ability, and many other things. 
               
                                                   Why Diversity is good in games:
-A chance to learn: The first thing that I can think of when I think of diversity is the ability to learn something new. When the games we play feature a unique perspective, we get a chance to expand our horizons, and learn something new that we might not of otherwise. I remember playing Age of Empires when I was little, and learning about who Joan of Arc was just from that game. 
                                                   
-Fair Representation: This benefit of gaming diversity does fall under the more sociopolitical side of things, but is an important one nonetheless. As a minority and a gamer, it is tough to rarely see a hero in a game look like you as a gamer. While I harbor no resentment towards races that do get featured, it is just a bit frustrating to see other friends get their likenesses recreated in a game while you are sidelined into either making your character a lot lighter or darker skinned than you are in real life. Even in a game like Pokémon, the announced ability to change skin color in X and Y is a huge deal, and is actually one of the new features that I am looking forward to the most. One of my good friends is the daughter of immigrants from Nigeria, and she is an avid Pokémon trainer. However, she once told me about how it’s difficult to fully invested in a game when she sees such a jarring contrast whenever she sees her trainer card.
                     
-Relateability: This piggybacks off of the last topic, and delves further into basic logistics of making a game have a wide fan base. It’s no secret that gamers want to be able to relate to their character many times, especially when that character is the hero. This is actually one of the issues I have with the game series, “Uncharted”. While I love the series and its gameplay, and I praise Naughty Dog for writing convincing characters, I just can’t fully embrace Nathan Drake as a character. I think that the buzz around him as a “Dude Raider” was fairly justified, and it’s something that I haven’t been able to fully forget or get over. At least in this series, Naughty Dog did an amazing job making him likeable and relateable through his dialogue, but when a character’s looks are immediately a questionable point for a large majority of your gamers, then you have an area that can be fixed.
                                         
-Dispelling Stereotypes: This is the part of diversity that is most near and dear to my heart. It’s no secret that Arab’s and other Middle Eastern ethnicities have a horrible reputation when it comes to their video game characters. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blogs on the subject of Muslim stereotypes in gaming. Now, the tipping point of what got me to write the blog actually started off of an article I read online. The article was talking about a small indie developer that was going to try to make a video game based off of a recently created Arab super hero. While the article was a great read, the comments below it were just vicious. The comments flung out insults, and racial stereotypes left and right. The character’s super power was to control the weather and to have an expertise at mechanical objects, but that somehow got twisted into him being a terrorist for using his expertise to make bombs. I was only 11 when I read that article, but I still remember it to this day. I hurt inside to see that, and my hopes is that if enough gamers are experienced to another culture through gaming, then maybe another 11 year old can be avoided from having to see their culture insulted like that.
                                                    
                                                        (We can do better than this.)
-Unique stories: This one comes from purely an entertainment standpoint. I’m a sucker for learning things and for traveling. Because of that, I’m always fond of games that can take another culture or location and make it into something that can relateable for a vast majority of gamers. If a game can make me experience what it’s like to be a Maori warrior, or even a sheep herder in the Tibetan plateau, then I think that would be really cool. I know that a lot of young gamers gain inspiration from the video games they play, so my hope is that our games can encourage some gamers to go out and experience another culture in this diverse world of ours.
                                 
-Games that are tailored to a diverse fanbase: Now, this point dives back into the idea of having diversity represent more than just race or religion. Gamers are a diverse fan base, with many interests, backgrounds, and needs. One Game Informer member consistently brings great blogs talking about how games can be more accessible to those with physical disabilities. I think that if the people who develop our games come from different backgrounds and abilities, they will take their unique skillset and implement their knowledge through the games we play. 
             
                                                             So What Do We Do About It?
-Awareness: This is the very first thing that comes to mind. If you are ever going to help something happen, you first have to be aware of what the issue might be. In this circumstance, being aware of a lack of racial diversity, or of religious stereotypes, or of games that are not physically accessible to a lot of people, can really help in making game producers aware of the potential follies of the games they made, and can help us get better games that are beloved by an even larger fanbase. 
      
-Responsiveness: The next step after being aware of an issue is responding to it. While this may seem obvious, there are too many instances where reaction only comes out of anger and as a reaction to a polarizing catalyst. Fortunately though, this is one of the easiest things to do when it comes to promoting positive development in our video games. Any and all actions that you take to promoting a welcoming environment for all gamers can help make developers aware of our differences as gamers.
                                 
                                                      (Every second counts.)
-Understanding: The last aspect is also one of the most crucial aspects in the whole process. Not only that, but it’s the one that is often forgotten the most. Understanding is critical for any sort of change to happen. I applaud gamers and game developers for already making the progress they have made so far when it comes to making a wider base of game characters in videogames, but it’s that confidence in that change that makes me optimistic that even more can come about from that. If we can show that as a group, we accept the flaws that one another have in the gaming community, then I believe that we won’t see so many troublesome incidents over Xbox Live, or over the comments section of an article, or even in a game’s public perception. For example, I read an article on Game Informer about a year ago, and this was before I had my account here. The article talked about an Arab group that wanted an aspect of Battlefield 3 to be patched since it contained a portion of the Quran that they felt was featured inappropriately in the game. The developer of the game went out of their way and patched the issue in the next round of DLC that they released. In the comments section below, I saw a whole bunch of hate comments towards the Arab group for being overly sensitive on the issue. Now, you might be thinking that I would be shocked to see such a thing, or that I immediately would side with the Arab group on this one. However, I agreed with the general consensus of the group that this seemed a bit over the top. I think that while having a politically correct game is important, it’s also important that we don’t shove that aspect into people’s faces and that we can have fun playing games that might contain some flaws. I remember one comment in particular talking about that, and about how both sides were right and wrong in this instance. The people who responded to them realized the truth in that, and I felt happy that both sides came away with a greater understanding of the issue. 
                                              
        To summarize, diversity is something that merely means to have many different types of something. That something can be gender, race, religion, or ability. Now, it’s something that is a bit of a controversial topic among gamers, and understandably so given how abrasive proponents of diversity can be in their quest sometimes. However, if we accept our collective flaws and differences as a gaming community, my hope is that future games will feature a wider range of games that people can enjoy. 
 
        That’s all for today’s blog! What are your thoughts on diversity in video games? How do you propose we go about this topic? As always, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer it as soon as I can. Thanks for reading!

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