All hail Dominique Pamplemousse! A growing movement -- spurred by gatherings like QGCon and GaymerX -- rallies for diversity in video games.
This trope shows up in multi-million dollar games like Gears of War 2, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins, the Grand Theft Auto series, and Dante's Inferno. It is unfortunately entirely too common. "They will often beg men to perform violence on them, even saying thank you with their dying breath," Sarkeesian says in one of her essays. In God of War, the main character's mother thanks you for killing her.
Bonnie Ruberg, one of QGCon's organizers, is a journalist whose articles arguing for better representation of women and queer folks in video games have incited death threats. "People feel really intense about games, and people feel attacked when you say something they love is not okay," she says.
But she has hope that that discussion has elevated in recent years, and is confident that the discussion between academics and game designers at QGCon will be constructive. "The people making these games are very smart people," she said.
Anita Sarkeesian's video series on the "damsel in distress" video game trope.
Robert Yang is a panelist who's flying in from New York for his "Queering Game Development" talk at QGCon. He teaches coding and game design at New York University and Parsons School of Design, where he's seeing more women and people of color taking his classes.
More diversity in game designers means more diversity in mainstream games, he said. In the Walking Dead series, for instance, gamers play as a black man named Lee Everett.
"I think a lot of games would ignore he's black, but Walking Dead confronts that," Yang said. "He's a black man from the south. Other characters in the game narrative are racist and discriminate [against him]." The game lets you choose how to react.
Brice agrees Walking Dead is a sign of progress for mainstream games, but that featuring a person of color as a main character is a "super, super low bar."
Mattie Brice, game critic and designer, is one of the organizers of the Queerness in Gaming Conference. Photo by Amanda Rhoades
The indie titles in QGCon's arcade may raise that bar just a bit. Anna Anthropy's Triad is an allegorical puzzle game about fitting three lovers together in one bed, and Deirdra Kiai's Dominique Pamplemousse is an adventure game featuring a singing gender-ambiguous detective.
Indie games may be light years ahead in offering more inclusive narratives, but Ruberg hopes those who come to QGCon will apply their lessons to mainstream games too — and that the conference will kick the ongoing discussion into high gear.
"For me it's not an assumption, it's just a fact: Sexism and homophobia are all very real things in games, in the games industry and the games community. The question is, what do we do about it?" *
— Fox Van Allen (@foxvanallen) August 3, 2013
QGCON SAN FRANCISCO 2013
Fri/25, 7-9pm; Sat/26, 9am-10pm; Sun/27, 9am-6pm, free (registration requested)
South Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk.
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