In part two of this series, I want to consider why developers don’t make video games more diverse? Maybe the answer is in the fact that the gaming industry itself isn’t diverse? Here are some statistics from the International Game Developers Association. They surveyed 983 people in the industry and the results might shock you.
- 74% of the respondents are cis males.
- 61% of the respondents are white
- 81% of the respondents are heterosexual
Think back to my first paragraph in my last post. When I asked you to think about what a person who plays video games looks like, did you picture the above? If you did, you’re not exactly wrong. But, as I always say – two wrongs don’t make a right and in this case, it’s no different. In fact, we have actual proof that it’s making things worse. I’d like to point out that these are stats from 2017, so while they’re not that old, there is hope that these numbers have changed. When it comes to why games aren’t more diverse, I think we have an answer. But that’s not the only question we should be asking.
When we look at the impact that it has on people who aren’t heterosexual, cis, white males, it’s horrible. As I said in my last post, the lack of diversity in video games has the same impact as everyday racism. Meaning, a child of color goes to school and gets picked on for something related to his color, or culture and that is everyday racism. This is the same as that child wanting to play a video game, which only has white characters. In both cases, he feels many things, but one of which is that he feels left out of society.
How does it have that impact you ask? It’s just a video game, after all. Maybe it is, but regardless of the entertainment, it should be reflective of the audience it’s trying to serve. Some argue that physical attributes of characters shouldn’t have more weight than how fun the game is, or how well it’s written. Maybe not more, but physical attributes should have the same weight as those other two. Why can’t we have it all? Why can’t there be a great game out there that’s well written AND that has some diverse characters? It seems to me that we’re looking at this all wrong and we’ve set our standards really low.
To digress slightly in order to make a point – how would you go about choosing a romantic partner? Think about your preferences (whatever they might be). Now imagine someone comes along and says that you can only have two of those three characteristics in a partner. What would you say? I would hope you would say that you’re going to keep looking for the person that has the three attributes you want. How is this any different than building a game? Maybe it’s not that simplistic, but why does it have to be complicated? And why do we have to exclude what the characters look like in order to write a good game? I want someone to send us an email and explain to me how a character of color changes the story of the game.
If that doesn’t convince you that we need more diversity in video games, how about this: video games are an empowering tool for young people. They have an emotionally significant influence on people, so when their race isn’t represented, it can have really bad long-term effects like depression, detachment, disengagement and low self-worth. Going back to my original point here, diversity promotes different ideas. When you have a diverse workforce, for example, you can get a wider variety of ideas. Which is why that earlier statistic of 61% of respondents being white is a bit troubling.
I also want it to be known that I’m not blaming the people surveyed as the reason for lack of diversity. I am merely highlighting the facts and making a correlation to diversity. Things need to change, and hopefully, when those statistics are taken again in 2018 or 2019, they’ve changed for the better. In my next post, I want to talk about the stereotypes that plague the video game industry. From gangsters to women being overly sexualized, there is a huge misrepresentation of race, gender, and culture in video games.