It’s pretty undeniable that, not unlike other fan genres, there is a glaring lack of characters in color in video games. The state of the characters of color that actually do make it into a video game is the same as it is in sci-fi and comics (though comics are doing decidedly better on this) – stereotyped, marginal, or token.
The argument’s been made before that gamers are a diverse crowd and therefore games should reflect the people playing them. Though legitimate, this is not that argument.
Gamers of color aren’t gonna pass up the new Assassin’s Creed just because the main character’s a white guy. Just like gamers of all shades didn’t balk at Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for it’s Black female lead. In fact, busting the myth that games with female leads don’t sell, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberationsold incredibly well.
But then again Assassin’s Creedhas a well established fanbase. For newer games, daring to break the white male mold can actually unleash the ire of the fanlosers among our nerdy ranks, those who can’t imagine a female-led game that isn’t about cooking and cleaning (no seriously, people said that). Even when developers are ballsy enough to lead a game with a character of color or a woman…
With E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in full force as of yesterday, everyone’s talking about what they hope to see from the major studios – more games, new sequels, lower prices. And more than once hopes have been dashed and the disappointments decried on Twitter.
Here at Geek Outsider, we had hopes of our own…
Diversity has never been a strong suit of video games, neither in the games themselves nor in the studios behind them. But it’s 2013 and progress has been made in independent studios and games, and even at some major studios. For example, Crystal Dynamics had a strong female creative team behind it’s more feminist reboot of the female-led game Tomb Raiderthis year, and Capcom and Dontnod Entertainment just recently put out RememberMewhich features a mixed-ethnicity female as the game’s protagonist.
So one might see why we have reason to hope for at least a little diversity on the stage or at least on screen at this year’s E3.
Those high hopes have not been totallycompletely dashed…
While the game presenters and protagonists have been mostly the standard white male face that we associate with the industry, there has been at least one gem in the mix… DICE Studio‘s Mirror’sEdge2, with its ass-kicking ethnic woman lead:
And then Bioware went and got our hopes up by showing Dragon Age 1‘s Morrigan at the end of their Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer, making us wonder if we might get a chance to play the new game as the goddess herself!
Happily, one thing we haven’t seen a lot of at this year, even in the male-dominated games, is half-naked weepy women needing saving or being trophies. Huzzah! Progress-ish!
This smidgen of gender & ethnic diversity is great… but a pretty poor showing. One look at the diversity of the E3 feeds that have taken over Twitter will show just how diverse the gaming audience is today. And the argument that female-led or minority-led games don’t sell has been proven wrong a couple times this year alone. It’s high time the world of gaming got more diverse in every way. That means behind the scenes too…
So, though we’ll likely find ourselves disappointed, here’s hoping the next three days of geeky gamer news out of E3 will be more inclusive/representative/diverse/awesome…
And more importantly here’s to all the indie developers and orgs out there working to bring a little color and equality to the gaming industry!
When you first walk in, The Good Life looks like every other downtown bar in Boston on a Tuesday night — suit-and-tie types sipping gin and tonics at polished fine-wood high tables. But follow the LCD glow emanating from the bar’s basement, and things are gonna get geeky.
I’m not talking PhDs snortling about Kafka geeky. I’m not talking trivia night geeky… I’m talking table top tournament geeky, old school console geeky. I’m talking BYO controller geeky!
It’s Game Over – the weekly game night at The Good Life.
Would-be challengers huddle around a long central table, fingering the dollars in their pockets, waiting to join in the Magic: The Gathering tournament, while a few feet away a ragtag Rockband group of no-hit-wonders belt the high-pitched part of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
In a dark booth across from the bar, a Nintendo 64 flashes GoldenEye 007 game play. Across from that an enraged gamer cries a desperate “gah!!” as Mario flies past Koopa Troopa on his tricked out go-kart. From the far corner a beepy rendition of the Aladdin soundtrack has pulled in a decently-sized audience around the resident Sega Genesis to watch Abu and Aladdin jump their way through town (seriously, I forget how magnetic that game is! Just try to tear your eyes away from the gameplay). Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Kart, GoldenEye 007, NBA Jam…
Yup. The Good Life has restored the 90’s to its rightful glory – the dark basement of an otherwise bougie downtown bar.
Add to that booze and some seriously addictive fries and sliders… ya, I’d say that’s pretty good livin’.
I can’t speak to the bar on any other night, or even the upstairs part of the bar on Tuesdays for that matter, but their game night is pretty epic.
Armed with a Munchkin Zombies deck and a recent paycheck so I can shell out $10 bucks a pop for their cheapest Bourbon, I’ve only ever had a great geeky time. Drinking and gaming? How can you go wrong?
Even in an era where somehow geek got cool and everyone hearts nerds, it’s great to have a place where you can geek out as hard as you want, shout awkward obscenities at NBA Jam, or furiously debate the finer details of a Class card without getting that “okay, this got too real” side-eye we’re all familiar with. It feels almost clandestine.
When you finally manage to pull yourself away from the console, clear up your tab, and readjust to the natural light, you feel like a super nerd agent emerging from your secret underground nerdquarters, back into the normal bar scene that’s been unfolding upstairs all this time. You might even give a secret nod to the bouncer on your way out and look away before he throws a wtf? face your way.
Unlike many of the Tuesday regulars, I don’t work in an industry where I run into a lot of gamers or comic book readers, so a refuge like game night is a necessary relief where I can shamelessly unleash the geek.
Because even though geek is cool these days, we all still get that “whoa. too much” look when we get way too into it and reveal just how deep the geeky runs. And if you’re like me, you get that surprise face even in a crowd of the geekiest geeks. The other Black girl who shows up some Tuesdays knows exactly what I mean. They never suspect us. Eventually I’ll hunt down some browner geek havens, But in the meantime…
I’ve slowly accumulated a ring of nerd havens since I moved to Boston a few years ago, and I figure maybe there are some Beantown noobs out there who could use a starter map:
Comicaziin Davis Square hosts weekly game nights, a comic book club, a sci-fi reading club, Magic tournaments, a monthly Drink and Draw, and even a monthly comedy night!
MIT Game Labhosts some headier gaming events, including talks and conferences on game development, educational gaming, etc., and weekly talks on game development every Friday .
Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square has a basement full of games, expansions, and gamers gaming. Literally every night of the week they host a variety of tabletop gaming events, including Magic, D&D, Yu-Gi-Oh, and an open board game night.
The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square hosts signings with comics artists every now and then, but what’s more enjoyable is that the staff here is crazy knowledgeable and friendly and will talk to you for hours about the minutiae of 80’s comics history until you get your geekery fill.
JP Comics & Gamesin Jamaica Plain has weekly D&D and Magic tournaments, plus a occasional comics forums.
The Garment Districtin Kendall Square has all your cosplay needs! (okay, so you’ll probably have to hunt around and get to sewing for the details, but this is a great places to start)
And in case you were living under a rock… Boston Comic Conis coming up next weekend – April 20!