Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games



  • 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.



  • @Haru17 said in Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games:

    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.

    For clarity purposes, when I said 'write what you know', I was referring to this concept you presented - writing that takes chances to avoid stagnation but doesn't take assumptions that are rooted in stereotypes and such. You phrased the idea much better than I did though.



  • @Musou-Tensei I really don't care if you believe me or not but I've played both and if you think they offer deep and engaging gameplay, that is a problem I don't think anybody can help you with.



  • @El-Shmiablo said in Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games:

    @Musou-Tensei I really don't care if you believe me or not but I've played both and if you think they offer deep and engaging gameplay, that is a problem I don't think anybody can help you with.

    Never said that, they are just simple fun that don't take themselves too serious like most AAA and even many indie games do nowadays, I can't help but smile when Neptune complains that as protagonist she didn't had enough screen time or Plutia shows that she doesn't need to be transformed to be scary.



  • I just want to take a moment to thank everyone on this thread for treating the topic with the respect and patience it deserves. It says a lot about this community that a sensitive topic like this doesn't have any troll responses, and even disagreements are handled in a mature manner. It's so hard having conversations like these on the internet. I never do, because I think tone is hard to understand only through written word, and oftentimes what you intend to say just gets misconstrued and misinterpreted. People get angry, and then they just surround themselves with like minded individuals who will bolster their increasingly insular point of views. It says a lot to me about everyone here that that hasn't happened. You're all great.



  • A lot of the issues with inclusivity do stem from game dev being a very white male dominated industry. Things are changing slowly and a lot more developers are sensitive to needing to reach a broader audience. But change as ever is slow and there is an element of back and forth to it.

    As others have said your decision for not buying a game is totally up to you but equally I believe that you are allowed to and should be encouraged to explain the reasons why you are stepping away from a game for inclusivity reasons. Don't demand censorship just give constructive feedback. You'd be surprised how often people take reasoned arguments on board over ALL CAPS death threats :P

    Crucially at the moment though whenever some big blowup happens over something in a game offending an individual or group it is far to quickly blown out of proportion by the two warring camps of "BAN THIS SICK FILTH!" and "SHUT UP YOU HIPPIES! I JUST WANNA PLAY GAMES!" Sadly there is no room for the middle ground of saying, "Yeah this thing is a bit problematic, why not try better next time?" Quickly things reach a level were devs feel stuck in the middle and any response, no matter how measured is met with anger.

    At the end of the day better representation means more people potentially playing games which means more games being made to cater to more people's tastes. Seeing yourself reflected in a game's protagonist is a powerful thing and it is just that straight-white-males like myself have had a monopoly on that for pretty much the whole of gaming. The sand is slowly shifting and I welcome it. If I can even get an ounce of understanding of what life is like for other people in the world than I am all for it. Games have a great power to deliver that in spades and enrich lives because it.

    I just don't get the push back on that. It seems highly counter productive to the growth of the medium.



  • I can't at the moment tell what game has done this right, but in my opinion, These things should come naturally into games, and not forcefully stuffed into them. What I mean by this, is that when developers start to create characters to their games, they need to develop all characters to represent what they are, instead of first making everyone white males, and then swapping them out for stereotypical representations for sake of having more diverse cast of characters. That way, the characters will feel more natural. Of course, the development team needs to either have some diversity on it to get it right, or at least have some friends with different background.

    Because more often than one might think, the problem is not that there are diverse cast of characters, but that they are not represented right. And those who cry that all games should have more diversity, yes, you have a point, but I think if any character is forced into a game just for the sake of having more diversity, it doesn't feel right, and in the end, makes the game worse.



  • I finally beat Inquisition after literally hundreds of hours in the game and I love it. It is probably one of the most inclusive and respectuful games I've ever played.

    Here is an stance on the bikini armor topic
    http://xboxdvr.com/gamer/LordBaztion/video/22030669

    Here is for transgenderism
    http://xboxdvr.com/gamer/LordBaztion/video/22030642

    The whole Dorian story arc is excelent in this regard too.

    Personally I saw a different perspective, as a catholic, I feel that religion in gaming is usually miss-representated, mostly based on the trope of the evil organization profiting of the ignorant masses. However, Inquisition handles the matter of faith and religion in a very comprehensive manner. Unlike most games, it understand the complexity within an organization that tries to be both, human and divine, it understands that politics affects influential organizations and that individual acts does not demerit the purpose of an organization.

    Here is an extract where mother Giselle acknowledges the limitations of the Chantry
    http://xboxdvr.com/gamer/LordBaztion/video/22514864

    Your character in the game have the option to acknowledge himself as prophet and hold the hopes of the people and, if you choose so, you will have to endure events that sometimes contradicts your faith. One of the roles of the games have you having a faith crisis yet the lore is still wide enough to not overuling your faith, even at the very end you are given the choice to stand for your faith. That is a magical experience that no other games I've played have deliver or at least tried.

    I want also to mention the progression in Bioware's writting between Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, how it evolved to be more inclusive in the best way possible.

    In Dragon Age 2 there is a character called Fenris, he is a tervinter slave who escaped his master. His personallity is of a sad man with a tragic past of which he never talks about. At the begining I tought the character was boring and poorly written, then I realised that the character follows the Sasuke (of Naruto) arquetype and its primary aimed towards female audiences, yet the character is still boring and poorly written from my male perspective.

    In Inquisition, this arquetype comes back in the character of Blackwall but is so much better written. Now he has an actual reason to hide his past, that leads you to question his loyalty (with conversation options avaliable in the game) and the character itself feels out of place after its loyalty quest. It is definitelly a much more compeling character, up to the point that I, playing as a female Inquisitor, had him as a romantic interest.



  • I've never refused to buy a game that I would otherwise enjoy because its staff or cast lack diversity. That said, I do put active effort into buying games with diverse casts and supporting development teams with diverse staff. I agree with what's been said about letting the market decide, and I care about giving financial support to people who do stuff I like (when I can afford it) because it's a way of saying "Yes! This! More of this, please!".

    Based on the effect that media has on people, especially young people, I do support better-defined age restrictions. That said, I don't necessarily think that anything should be banned. Even when I talk about a game that I dislike for political reasons, such as what we've heard so far about Mass Effect: Andromeda, it's from the perspective of someone who's interested in what that game reflects in our culture. I grew up in film and cultural studies, and so it's not so much about "if you play this game or like this thing you're a terrible person" and more about "what does the fact that people want to see and experience this tell us about our culture and politics?". Even if you feel like the reason you enjoy something is totally insulated from its cultural implications, cultural forces still drive people to want to have certain experiences or engage with certain media and I think that's worth talking about. And I'll admit that there are some games that have political implications I'm really uncomfortable with that I still have a lot of fun with. I think that if you are aware of the problems with a piece of media and you can be honest with yourself that these things aren't perfect, you can actually have a much healthier relationship with games overall and be less likely to subconsciously pick up the political themes that are already there (whether you want them or not).

    Honestly, there are some games where I think that the world might politically be closer to my version of "good" if they didn't exist. The Call of Duty franchise, along with many other military-themed games and films, receive funding from the US military because they double as propaganda and a recruitment tool. Gamemakers pay fees to weapons companies to be able to feature their products in shooters, putting part of the cost of those games directly into the hands of people who have economic incentives to perpetuate war and arm domestic police forces. As someone who's pretty heavily anti-war, these facts raise legitimate concerns for me. And while I still do think they have a fundamental right to exist, I don't think they have a right to be free from critical thought about and engagement with the reasons why they exist and the effects of their existence. That pretty much summarizes how I feel about any game that I criticize for political reasons.

    That said, there are some games that I think are starting to get it right.

    The Longest Journey was centered in Europe, but its sequels (Dreamfall: The Longest Journey and Dreamfall Chapters) feature characters from Morocco. Their facial features, names, and skin tone are all in line with the way that their home city of Casablanca has been historically in terms of racial diversity, and while the games are set in a cyberpunk future there are elements of the character designs that call back to contemporary Moroccan fashion.

    Life is Strange is another notable addition, as the player character (Max) is technically bisexual in that you can choose a male or female romance option for her. Regardless of your choice, there are other queer characters (Chloe and Rachel). The game does fall victim to a certain negative trope that I'm upset about (check the spoiler), but overall this game handles sexuality in a way that feels very natural and true to the high school age characters.

    The trope I'm referring to is commonly called "bury your gays". At the end of the game, the only way that you get to kiss Chloe and confirm the romantic nature of your relationship (if you chose the Chloe path) is if you sacrifice her to save the town. In the equivalent cutscene where you sacrifice the town to save Chloe, the kiss is cut entirely. The reason this trope exists is because of the way gay and lesbian fiction had to be written in order to be publishable. Essentially, queer characters only get to exist so long as their story ends in tragedy so that it can serve as a moralistic warning that there is no such thing as a happy gay. Even though those publishing standards don't exist anymore, the trope lives on, and contributes heavily to queer kids feeling as though they will never get to be happy in the way their straight counterparts do.

    Despite my hesitations with how it ends, Firewatch handled the evolution of a relationship between a man and a woman in a way that feels good and respectful. I'm not sure how much of this is spoilers, so if you've finished the game check out the spoiler below.

    She doesn't have throwaway sexual humor, she doesn't throw herself at you, and you never even get to see her. The fact that the game developers took the time to develop the relationship as being about two people who came out with a job to do and are eventually driven closer by their commonalities and isolation is one of the healthier attitudes toward relationships I've seen expressed in a game.

    Of all the games you would expect to have inclusive romance options, Saints Row 4 might not be one of them. But surprisingly, whether you pick a male or female character, all of them are happy to go along for a ride. The only person who says anything to indicate his sexuality is Pierce, who will say "I don't normally swing that way, but" regardless of what gender you pick at the start.

    The new gender customization options for The Sims 4 have me pretty excited, as you can set custom settings dictating walk animations, voices, body shapes, fashion selection, and even whether your character can stand to pee. The Sims has never had restrictions on who your Sim could romance, but the first pre-made same sex couple was introduced in The Sims 3, and this patch to The Sims 4 is a really exciting move in the right direction for better trans inclusivity.

    What really makes all of these work is that it follows what @jipostus mentioned: none of these feel as though they were white men who got swapped out to put a ~diversity~ sticker on the finished product. Instead, these characters feel like an accurate and well-done reflection of the diverse world we live in. As the teams behind games get more and more diverse, especially in the writing rooms, we'll start seeing better and better representation like what we've started to see in film and television. And that's a change I'm very excited about.



  • @El-Shmiablo said in Constructive Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Sexualization in Games:

    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.

    are you kidding me dude? Ar Tonelico is one of the best stories in gaming. It has one of the most well developed & unique worlds I've ever seen with its own original languages and songs sung in those languages by some of the most talented artists like Origa and KOKIA. The story is contiguous across multiple games told from multiple viewpoints with multiple branching paths.

    The story is also filled with beautiful ideals like learning to understand and empathize with an opponent instead of simply defeating them. The female characters are well developed with complex sets of motivations, feelings and relationships with other characters.

    Honestly I hope you havent played these games and are just speaking from ignorance because it'd be far more depressing if you played them and all you took away from them was "anime tiddies" and thought there was nothing else.