Video Game Characters Need to Represent More Diversity

Posted by Viola Chen & filed under Diversity, Identity, Technology.

Esther Frid holds "El Atardecer de la Vida," a book she wrote about the stories of seven senior Latin American women living in Canada

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Photo courtesy of gallery.minitokyo.net

When was the last time you played a video game with a human main character who was not a white heterosexual male?

I remember being entertained by the internet meme “The World Needs Mages of All Colours—Gamers Against Racism.” It is a response to the inclusion of black, red and white mages, or wizards, in the video game franchise, Final Fantasy. However, these mages are not actually multiracial complex characters but rather static characters wearing different coloured robes.

In video games, heroes of colour, queer protagonists, and strong female characters are disappointingly rare.

If this trend reflects an over-reliance on a consumer base of white males in their mid-20s, video game producers are missing an opportunity to reach new markets.

The problem is complicated by the fact that recent attempts towards inclusivity in video game design have been met with bigoted negative responses from many gamers.

Consider, for instance, the unfortunate response of many players to video game developer BioWare’s decision to include same-sex relationships for players in the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises.

Gamers may be reluctant to re-think what a video game experience should consist of. This is reflected by the explosive negative online response to BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler’s suggestion of having an option for video gamers to skip the gameplay and allowing players to focus exclusively on the story of the video game, so to appeal to a broader audience, including women.

Video games are about fantasy and learning how to deal with variables, with no real life consequences. Many people turn to video games for the opportunity to encounter new, alternative and fantastical circumstances. I think it would be a good experience for people to see video game characters that reflect their own identity and to also play characters that don’t reflect themselves.

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