Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games



  • This is a topic I've thought a lot about. I usually see heated conversations on NeoGaf and other major game outlets about this topic. I think a lot of people have strong feelings about the industry and how such things are portrayed and i feel there is a lot of productive arguments yet to be had. However, for this conversation I would like to keep it more specific and positive.

    Its so easy for us to point out and criticize the flaws of things we don't like or agree with in games. I've seen a lot of arguments that speak against certain tropes in games whether it be over sexualization of characters, gender or equal opportunity. Instead of criticizing and arguing (which has its time and place) lets take some time to be constructive on this topic.

    (A) Can you name a game that has handled an aspect of equality, diversity, sexualization and sexuality well, and explain how it did that?

    and or

    (B) What are ideas that you have, that you would like to see more of in games dealing with equality, diversity, sexualization and sexuality? How would you like a character portrayed? What kinds of setting and world building would you prefer to see?

    Love & Respect



  • I like how Tomb Raider '15 doesn't shake the player character's butt in your face all the time, despite having dress up as a central mechanic. The previous game had a lot more exploitative garb and death animation.

    I think all the snow helped Crystal Dynamics with subtlety. Now it simply reads like a great AAA game with a female protagonist, not a cheap flick where the protagonist's design or characterization was dictated by their gender.



  • As an advocate for complete artistic freedom I think it should be completely up to the developers what they want to put in their games and then let the free market decide (I mean the actual consumers, not agenda driven non gamers who can't cope with the fact many people enjoy something they don't like), infact I think no age rating agencies nor governments should have the right to dictate what a game can and can't contain and just give them appopriate age ratings, afaik PEGI works that way (I never heard that PEGI told a dev to censor their game, even when "banned" in germany and AUS like Valykrie Drive, PEGI still gave it a 16+, same for Criminal Girls 2, but even with 18+ rating it would be still widely available), with USK and Australia being the complete opposites.
    The ESRB needs some major changes as well and be more like PEGI, change M from 17+ to 18+, abolish Ao (or else the big 3 need to finally accept it as valid age rating) ,create a new one between T and M (dunno, YA for young adult, the age range between T and M is just too much). Implement laws that makes it illegal to sell M rated content to minors like it is in germany (hey not everything we do is bad, most but not all, infact since we have that law censorship is decreasing and games that would have been either censored or "banned" before this law are now freely available, uncensored most of the time, I mean something like Doom 2016, unthinkable a few years ago, Mortal Kombat 9 was banned back then, MKX, no problem)
    For germany it just has to adapt the european standard PEGI and get rid of the BPJM, and australia... is a lost cause.
    This all of course goes for other entertainment media as well.



  • @CGamor7, an equal world for games comes down to making complete artistic freedom possible. How games are regulated today clearly doesn't work and most of the time games get censored for the wrong reasons.

    @Musou-Tensei said in Creating an Equal World for Games:

    As an advocate for complete artistic freedom I think it should be completely up to the developers what they want to put in their games and then let the free market decide (I mean the actual consumers, not agenda driven non gamers who can't cope with the fact many people enjoy something they don't like), infact I think no age rating agencies nor governments should have the right to dictate what a game can and can't contain and just give them appopriate age ratings, afaik PEGI works that way (I never heard that PEGI told a dev to censor their game, even when "banned" in germany and AUS like Valykrie Drive, PEGI still gave it a 16+, same for Criminal Girls 2, but even with 18+ rating it would be still widely available), with USK and Australia being the complete opposites.
    The ESRB needs some major changes as well and be more like PEGI, change M from 17+ to 18+, abolish Ao (or else the big 3 need to finally accept it as valid age rating) ,create a new one between T and M (dunno, YA for young adult, the age range between T and M is just too much). Implement laws that makes it illegal to sell M rated content to minors like it is in germany (hey not everything we do is bad, most but not all, infact since we have that law censorship is decreasing and games that would have been either censored or "banned" before this law are now freely available, uncensored most of the time, I mean something like Doom 2016, unthinkable a few years ago, Mortal Kombat 9 was banned back then, MKX, no problem)
    For germany it just has to adapt the european standard PEGI and get rid of the BPJM, and australia... is a lost cause.
    This all of course goes for other entertainment media as well.

    @Musou-Tensei, I agree 99% with your opinion, I'm all for complete artistic freedom, and we should let the market decide as much as possible, I hate it when games get censored, BUT there needs to be something for the consumers who know very little about gaming in general what a certain game is all about.

    The question is indeed what that something should be, a rating system, or something else completely. Let me think about this issue a few days and I'll try to come up with a decent suggestion or a good alternative, because today the ratings clearly don't work how they should!



  • @BlazingBahamut Well in today's time where you can find gameplay and reviews of almost every game online it's easier than ever to inform yourself about a game. this + a refined age rating system should be enough, I mean we already have symbols for several different things like sexual content, violence etc with PEGI and on the backsite games have these ESRB descriptions.
    Technically I wouldn't mind a PEGI 21 and acceptance of the Ao rating if that means those games are restricted from being put on store shelves and can only be purchased with showing your ID, kinda like it already is with purchasing indexed games in germany (that's why I put "banned" in quotations, only very few games are are really banned). Problem with that though would be publishers who wouldn't accept that and still censor "their" games to get to an 18+/new M rating.
    Another way would be to give us more options by offering a censored version for the mass market (if necessary) and an uncensored version for the one's who want that, I'm actually surprised it happens so rarely, only console example I can recall out of my head is the german release of Turok Evolution which came in a 16+ and a 18+ version. It happens more often with PC games where you get a censored version on Steam but can get it uncensored on other websites or the dev provides a uncut patch like they did with HuniePop.
    There are many options, only few use them sadly.



  • @BlazingBahamut @Musou-Tensei Hey guys, I agree with both of you. But you completely derailed this thread and took this thread in a whole other direction. Maybe i need to change the title lol. I will take a second and state an opinion i have. Yes i believe art should be dictated by the artist and not the people. Retailers need to stop selling games to minors that are clearly not for them and people should speak with their wallets whether a game is for them or not. However, with all that being said we have heard all these arguments before. There are a lot of people who wish to see certain things more accurately portrayed in games or taken out all together if its needles. Then there are people who argue against all those points. This is not the point of the post. What i was hoping for and it seems it has failed was for people who argue games give false representation to sexualization, sexuality and diversity or promote needles story threads to have an opportunity to discuss the games that do what they feel is a proper representation of such things, or to come up with ideas of things they would like to see more of.

    For example, Watch Dogs 2. Your not a white character!? what the... I think that is an actual positive step for the game industry. But this isn't suppose to be an argument thread. So i hope to hear other allies ideas of what they want to see from games. Because ive heard all the complaints, now i want to see what people can come up with that makes a game better in their opinion.



  • I think the problem lies with forcing characters to fit certain traits as opposed to just having them be a part of the story. Games aren't as egregious as movies and television in this regard; I'm sure we're all familiar with the sassy gay guy trope by now. Certain people will point out that a particular show is progressive because it has a homosexual character but then all of that character's screen time is devoted to pointing out his sexual preference and not fleshing him out as a character. Obviously this issue transcends to other minorities as well, I just figured I'd use it as an example.

    Now on the gaming side of things, I feel I have to mention Gone Home. Yes, it can be a little heavy handed in its messaging but at the core of it, it tells a story about two characters, fleshes out their identities, and they just happen to be two females that love each other. I haven't played Virginia, but apparently (just like Gone Home) it has been under internet criticism for having a black/female protagonist. It's important that these games exist and it's also equally important that they exist with purpose; the games weren't just created to highlight diversity, they had story and meaning outside of that.

    If we want more examples of this in gaming, I'd say we need more writers with different backgrounds in development teams. It is extremely difficult to write an entire character (especially that of a minority) without a deep understanding of the culture around that character. Write what you know, basically.



  • To your first question, Mafia 3 that I'm currently playing does diversity really well. It has great variety of people in different ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. And it even tackles racism head on which I appreciate. Ofcourse games like Witcher and Deus Ex ( love them too) have also touched on racism. But this time it's done to adress actual real life racism, not just augmented people and elves. Mankind Divided had diverse cast in gender and ethnicity too. Witcher 3 did strong and integral to the story female characters in the best way I've ever seen I think. For quite understandable reasons their world lacked people of color though, but they took the criticism to heart and added Ofieri in the first expansion. Though it might had been the plan all along. All of these examples are highlighted by strong writing, just having minorities in your game isn't enough in my opinion. They also need to be characters with their own personas and agendas, not just window dressing.



  • I think Catherine is the best example of sexuality in a video game in the way it portrays things like the complicated emotions that go into a sexual relationship. It even has a trans charcter, that is handled pretty well (from what I remember).

    The Last of Us also did a good job with handling different sexual orientations well.



  • First, I wanted to say I have enjoyed every post in this thread and I feel these type of discussions are important.

    Second, for examples, the best ones I can come up with that have yet to be mentioned are the Mass Effect series and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, but for different reasons. I choose Mass Effect for both diversity and sexual representation because my interpretation is that the cast of characters all have different personalities, ways of thinking, backgrounds, etc. I understand half are aliens, but the fundamental principles are the same. Also, the series takes racism under the guise of Xenophobia with the group Cerberus, but you can draw some parallels. Relationship wise, you as the player must make the effort to have said relationships with the character(s) you want, and each of those characters are different; all have positive traits, all have flaws, and THAT is what makes them great characters.

    Uncharted 4, I've chosen for a very specific instance, and that is the character Nadine Ross. While we may agree or disagree about her contributions to the overall story and game, it is outside of the game I wish to touch on. I remember some of the backlash Naughty Dog received when Laura Bailey was cast to voice her, not for talent, but for not fitting the character's ethnicity. I for one feel Miss Bailey did a phenomenal job with the character, going to show that character representation can be achieved in any form, regardless of the actor hired for the role.

    Both of these tie into my overall point: Diversity, inclusion, sexuality, ALL and so many more take time and the process goes so slow at times you wonder if any progress is being made. With that said, I feel as if as a medium we ARE getting there. There are many stories in gaming yet to be told showing strong characters regardless of the identifying adjectives tabbed to them. Look at Horizon: Zero Dawn: From what I've seen, Aloi is a strong, independent character, and is one of many reasons why I'm excited for the game next year.

    In terms of what I would like to see? Just more examples of what's been said: More things like the Last of Us: Left Behind, Life is Strange, Gone Home, Infamous: Second Son, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III, and many more.

    Love & Respect, not only to you, but for all.



  • I think the "free market" has acted as a censor far more than western governments ever have. There's a lot to unpack here, so settle in.

    Affluence Bias: Game development requires arcane skills only available through specialized higher education, specifically STEM courses. In the US and other western nations, this makes for a lot of white dudes in development. As well as this issue of identity bias in creators, games also suffer from a lack of dedicated writers. That combined with many developers and players ignoring the importance of writing as opposed to gameplay, makes for some rul rul shit stories.

    Complacency — a lack of conflict of struggle — is an unconcious sin suffered only by well-off artists and allowed only by a lack of perception.

    The disproportionate amount of white dev dudes will be solved over time as society's demographics finally equalize (despite a lot of kicking and screaming from the right). In the mean time, however, I think "write what you know" is a terrible moniker that is suffocating the medium. That gets you a million Geralts and Nathan Drakes opining about the struggles of fatherhood — BLECK! I would have writers — or developers tasked with writing game narratives — write outside of their comfort zones, but without assuming too much of others and while being conscientious of their own biases. I think, as long as you have intellectually healthy, well-rounded people writing stories, you can't go wrong.

    Fear of Controversy: From both progressive and conservative perspectives, games that stray too far out of the evergreen "straight white male protagonist goes through the plot of a Bond movie without the sex scene" are vulnerable to criticism and — if people get really irked — full-blown controversy. This gives game makers and marketers an economic incentive to make bland stories as opposed to stepping out on a limb (note: for some, a limb can be as little as having a female protagonist). This should obviously be abolished. People should fucking chill, yes, but the only lasting solution is taking marketing out of the creative process.



  • Eh, I will probably say too much on this because people have taken the subject way out of hand over the last few years and I'm quite tired of it.

    Not everything needs to be "Made for everyone" all the time, and that needs to be OK. That's what I think.

    If I refuse to play a game because it's a little too on the nose with it's fan service (Senran Kagura for example) then that's just on me, but I don't have a right to complain about it existing, nor does anyone else, this is an attitude that needs correcting.

    If you don't like something, don't buy it. It's existence isn't hurting you. It's success isn't hurting you.

    On the subject of "Equality and diversity" I feel about it in movies as I do with games, it needs to be natural and fluid. I don't need genders or races shoved in my face for the sake of it (Using the Ghostbusters reboot as a loose example here), I'm going to play the game or watch the film because the writing is good and the characters are likable, if they happen to be Non-white, female or whatever? Cool, I'm totally for that.

    I just don't agree with games making that topic it's own selling point or changing things based out of fear, because to me that's not a selling point. That's telling me you care more about "Sending a message" than you do making an enjoyable game. Not everyone plays video games with the intent to pick apart every little thing they disagree with or to see their world view justified in an art form, some of us play games TO HAVE FUN.

    I get why people feel this needs to be a thing, I just don't like my entertainment being bombarded by "World issues" all the time, I want to be able to come home at the end of the day and have a place where I don't have to listen to that all the time, I want to enjoy myself, feel like that for the moments of MY OWN LIFE that I'm having a good time, to not feel like I have to be a living vehicle for everyone else's hopes and dreams and validate everything you believe in while I'm spending my money to enrich MY life in this medium.

    For the games that have done it right, yes. I fully agree. Uncharted 4 for example, I liked Nadine Ross (Not so much that laura bailey voiced her but whatever) but I didn't look at her as "Oh cool a strong black woman" I looked at it like "Damn this girl kicks ass!", we don't need to psychoanalyze everything in video games to see if it meets all these self-imposed standards, it's not going to get us anywhere, it's not going to make games better, it's only going to STIFLE creative decisions.

    It might fly with western developers because....well they're here in the west and they're subject to this kind of thing, but nobody outside the US is going to follow this trend, and they shouldn't have to. Other parts of the world aren't as culturally diverse as our country is.

    If they want to make a non-white character, then that should be their CHOICE. Not the rabid internet mob's choice. And if they feel like the "Joe everyman" character is going to be white because they feel it's the easiest character to identify with, then that is also their choice and as by right of their artistic freedom should be respected.

    I can respect people doing things I don't agree with, what happened to everyone else being capable of the same thing? When it comes to this medium, you vote with your wallet. Games should be fun, not political and social talking points or for lack of a better term "Weapons".

    This probably goes far and beyond what this topic intended, for which I apologize. But it's a very strong issue for me right now, and it's not only affecting gaming inside my home but my interactions with people in social gaming venues for things like TCGs, and there was a time in the last 5-10 years where culturally diverse groups of people were able to enjoy these things and now it's quickly becoming a DIVIDING force rather than a source of inclusion because we're too busy labeling everything to just take the time to enjoy things for what they are and be friendly to one another.

    Point is, I'm sure someone here disagrees with me. And that's ok. This is how things should be.



  • @ZyloWolfBane I agree with 99% of your stance but a couple quick things just for personal clarification:

    1.) While I'm COMPLETELY on board with the notion the entertainment we seek should be as insular from world issues as possible, to expect it as such is a little bit too high of a reach, personally. Everything, whether we like it or not, and whether said entertainment is entirely made up of commentary, or one subtle slight statement, overt or implied, has some commentary about an issue, past, present, or potential future. My question is: Could you provide at least one example where a piece of entertainment, be it game, movie, show, music, or otherwise, that has NO such commentary, of any kind, that you enjoy? If so, I SERIOUSLY would love to have that to drown out modern day irritation.

    2.) As I said in an above post, I felt that Laura Bailey voicing Nadine Ross to be a non-issue in every way. Is your slight dislike for her having the role being because you do not like her performance, previous work, or something about the role in particular that isn't up to par? I do not want to make assumptions, and having a better understanding of your example would help me understand your point better.

    Finally, don't apologize for having your thoughts! As such, your very last sentence rings true for me as a foundation in supporting healthy discussion.



  • @ZyloWolfBane
    Great post.



  • @Brannox said in Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games:

    @ZyloWolfBane I agree with 99% of your stance but a couple quick things just for personal clarification:

    1.) While I'm COMPLETELY on board with the notion the entertainment we seek should be as insular from world issues as possible, to expect it as such is a little bit too high of a reach, personally. Everything, whether we like it or not, and whether said entertainment is entirely made up of commentary, or one subtle slight statement, overt or implied, has some commentary about an issue, past, present, or potential future. My question is: Could you provide at least one example where a piece of entertainment, be it game, movie, show, music, or otherwise, that has NO such commentary, of any kind, that you enjoy? If so, I SERIOUSLY would love to have that to drown out modern day irritation.

    2.) As I said in an above post, I felt that Laura Bailey voicing Nadine Ross to be a non-issue in every way. Is your slight dislike for her having the role being because you do not like her performance, previous work, or something about the role in particular that isn't up to par? I do not want to make assumptions, and having a better understanding of your example would help me understand your point better.

    Finally, don't apologize for having your thoughts! As such, your very last sentence rings true for me as a foundation in supporting healthy discussion.

    1. MMOs, Dynasty Warriors (Musou titles), FPS multiplayer, etc. Stuff I can mindlessly drop in and escape.

    2. Just general dislike for her as a voice actress, wasn't too fond of troy baker literally pimping her out for that role. I mean she did fine but she pulled a Halle Berry (X-Men/Storm) halfway through and couldn't remember which accent she was using which was a little off putting.

    There's things she's perfectly fine at like her role as Lust from FMA (Oh, and she's hilarious as Shin-Chan), but her usual high pitched voice she uses for most characters just grates on my ears, and I'd like to see other well known actresses be a little more widely used than her like Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, or colleen clinkenbeard



  • Laura Bailey used to do that cutesy, squeaky anime girl voice, but nowadays she usually adopts a deeper register, occasionally playing up the sultriness for parts like Lust and Serana. She's probably my favorite voice actor, and I love seeing her voice pop up in games and anime (Soul Eater yaaaas), but that doesn't dispel the very real problem with white actors playing nonwhite roles.

    Like the Oscars, it isn't necessarily an acute problem, but rather a larger problem about a lack of nonwhite roles in showbiz.


  • Banned

    Everyone's walls of text do bring up good points.



  • @ZyloWolfBane Thanks for the clarification!



  • I really don't mind sexualization in games, but I dislike it when a game offers nothing BUT sexualization.
    Dogshit like Senran Kagura, Neptunia, Ar Tonelico Qoga, Gal Gun, Mary Skelter, etc, which are nothing more than shallow excuses for basement dwelling weebs to look at some anime tiddies, is what I am not a particularly big fan of.

    With that said, Code of Princess is one of my favorite games on the 3DS.



  • @El-Shmiablo Shows you have never played Senran Kagura nor Neptunia and probably only read about them on Polygon or so.