RACE AND GENDER IN GAMES

Posts

Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
author=Jeroen_Sol
Well, I do think legitimately representing marginalized groups (or even any groups that are not white cis males) well, and having relatable protagonists who deal with issues specific to their groups could make for some kick-ass games. And if they're written well, I sincerely believe that can also raise awareness.

I mean, the only way I am disadvantaged is that I am very very short. (157 cm. The average male height in my country is 184.8 cm, the average female height is 168.7 cm) I am still a white cis heterosexual male who is mentally wired to be able to study maths and physics, both fields that basically guarantee jobs within a year of finishing the master's course, so I can definitely accept that I am more privileged than many. But without understanding how much that privilege actually accounts for, I still feel like I don't understand my own privilege enough. Having a game show that to me would be awesome.


I personally believe this is a good attitude. Be open to examining privilege and make an effort to listen and understand when others try to talk about their experiences. That's all anyone should expect.

Being open-minded is awesome!
that's basically the root of it, yeah. understanding that your experiences colour how you see the world, that other people have their own circumstances shaping things for them, and having enough respect for them to listen.

as for the topic of representation, I also feel it's important to emphasize that the relative non-existence of marginalized groups in fiction is something that needs to be addressed on its own, but is also partly a symptom of how little support marginalized authors and devs often find in these fields. please consider supporting actual people of those backgrounds as well, because we're still dealing with an industry where any middle-aged white guy can be called a 'visionary' for doing virtually anything, while other groups have to put in a great deal more work for less recognition.
slash
APATHY IS FOR COWARDS
4008
I agree with mawk here - it's something we can approach from multiple angles. We can work on better and more fully-fleshed representation from people who are already writing, composing, creating, but as well we can expand the voices of people and groups who have been historically neglected. I definitely think that (like most things) improving representation in games & media requires looking at every factor involved - consumers, corporations, creators, etc.
I agree that erasure of minorities in fiction is a serious problem, and it'd be great if more writers addressed it. But it's kind of disingenuous to say "just swap some genitals/skin tones/whatever and you're good," because it's a lot more complicated than that. It's actually really difficult to completely avoid negative stereotypes. As an example, consider the following scenarios with two characters:

- A is violent towards B.
- A is more proactive than B.
- B is kidnapped and then rescued by A.
- A is smarter and more rational than B.

These are all fine if A and B are both men or both women, but they become problematic if A is a man and B is a woman, because now you're reinforcing negative stereotypes about women. So if you're writing a story with both men and women, and you care about not perpetuating bad cultural ideas about women, there is suddenly a long list of things you cannot do. Same goes for race. If you have a character who gets killed off early in the story, it's problematic if they're the only minority. Or if you have a character who's a thuggish and uneducated drug dealer, you better be very careful about what race you make them. Many things that are fine in the context of a story reinforce bad ideas when viewed in a broader cultural context, and it's important to keep that in mind as you write. Having gone through this experience myself many times, I can see how it's tempting for people to just write white men all the time. White male characters are judged as individuals, but a minority character will always be viewed as a member of their group, and anything they do reflects on other people like them.

As for protagonists, there are some surprising pitfalls when writing about minority groups you don't personally belong to. Specifically, when those groups face difficulties and discrimination, you have the option of either glossing over them or trying to address them, and neither option is great. It's bad to pretend that serious issues don't exist, but it's also extremely hard to write about, say, racism faced by African Americans when you're white and have zero firsthand experience with it. I've been wrestling with this issue lately because the protagonist of the story I'm working on right now is gay (not that you'd know from the first installment), and I'm really not qualified to tackle the issues of gay people. I'll probably end up just not addressing them at all, but I suspect a lot of people will be unhappy with me for that decision.

In conclusion: representing minorities is important, and people should definitely do it, but it's disingenuous to reduce the problem to "just include more women/PoC/LGBT in your work and everything will be great."
I think it helps to just do it, get criticism on what you can do better, then try and get it right the next time. I'm not sure anyone would claim the problem is solved by putting minorities in, but it can help toward the solution a lot when you take feedback into consideration.

InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4368
I'm in no way a good writer, and as such couldn't realistically write for a woman character, especially in the genre I predominately develop in. Besides being a caring optimist to the pessimistic lead male.
But I'm also a white male, which is why I generally stick to what I really know without going out of my bounds(again, not really a great writer for long term stories)

Though, in one of my games where you choose the character you play, it can be argued the female character is the strongest game wise. And I really didn't do it intentionally, I know I wanted a female character because in a post apocalypse I imagine at least one strong female prevailing ahead of the rest. (an engineer)
Then I go the opposite direction and the rest of the girls are basically whores or slaves. Only because I'm pretty sure in a fucked up world men would be enslaving women left and right.
I didn't set out in mind that she's going to be one of the more powerful character choices because I designed the classes first then applied gender.
And not to meet some status quo, but because it felt right.
I'm fairly certain if all the characters were male people wouldn't even really notice because you're kinda mindlessly killing zombies and monsters.

In conclusion: representing minorities is important, and people should definitely do it, but it's disingenuous to reduce the problem to "just include more women/PoC/LGBT in your work and everything will be great."

I like this, because I don't want people to feel that it's a requirement and then totally botch the characters and not really help anything, but possibly hurt.
I actually think female characters aren't too bad. On a superficial level, you can write a woman in exactly the same way as a man and be fine 95% of the time. You do need to be careful about stereotypes, but a lot of times people won't really notice. I guess my opinion is that thinking deeply about representation and things like that is important when you're very serious about writing, but even if you're not, you should still give it a shot. I think it's better to make an effort and screw it up than to not try in the first place. I don't mean to discourage people from trying it, just point out that it can be complicated in unexpected ways.

My process is to figure out the characters I need in the story from a high level, then pick gender and race, then go back and make sure I'm not reinforcing bad stereotypes. All characters work basically the same way regardless of skin color or genitals; it's just important to be aware of the cultural context you're writing in and make sure you don't unintentionally say bad things.
Just write people. For a while ignore their other bits. It doesn't take much to add a black lesbian NPC who lives with her girlfriend who is Asian - you don't have to delve into their hidden lives and inspect every piece of their existence. That they exist is more than enough as long as you don't go ugggggh with them (as in OMG HOT LESBIAN LADIES LET'S USE THEM FOR FANSERVICE AND HAVE A SCENE WHERE THE PLAYER PEEPS ON THEM MAKING OUT IN THE HOT TUB WHILE NAKED!!!!)

Have a guy that is trans and just treat him as a regular guy - because he is. He's just a regular guy with a few different issues to deal with. Everyone has their own burdens and troubles, after all. If you can identify with someone whose mother just died when your mother is still alive and kicking, you can identify with someone who has been picked on for feeling lost in their own skin. We've all been teens who felt that feeling of 'ugh, this sucks, I suck, I'm not me who am I? what even am I?' even if it was different, there's enough crossover to get a decent enough idea. :/

If you have a simple dungeon crawler where characters are just a fill-in for the player, why not add a visual of someone who is black or plump or not the a-typical rugged white male and/or sexy scantily-clad white Laura Craft?

It does not take much.
I have a suspicion that most of the barriers lies in people's heads. I often see straight people saying they don't know how to write a homosexual, but I can not recall having heard the opposite. Heck, I even notice men claiming they can't write women so well far more frequently than I see the opposite happening.

If you're a man and writing a male character, how often do you think "he should do/be that because he's a man"? Chance is, seldom, if ever. That's how often you should think "she should do/be that because she's a woman" when writing a female character. The same applies to ethnicity and sexual orientation.

You also absolutely do not have to address discrimination. That mentality will help nobody. If writing a homosexual character means you have to address discrimination homosexuals faces, this in turn means that any time you don't intend to address that issue, you don't want to write a homosexual character. All you're doing by feeling compelled to address discrimination is to attach luggage to some types of characters and consequently making them harder to write.
Semantic distinctions I feel are important: it's easy to include whatever in your stuff. Being inclusive is writing where you literally just swap pronouns or color someone's skin differently. It's minimal effort, but is more likely to feel weird or come across as hollow depending on the work in question.

Representation involves thinking about what those experiences mean, either in the context of a real or fictional world, and is actually pretty hard to do well. I still think it's not the impossible task I've seen ppl make it out to be, and there's still some p straightforward steps you can follow, but it's hard and sometimes uncomfortable or unpleasant. If someone doesn't bother with it, at this point w/e and that's their business, but I'll care a lot less about what they're doing.
author=Perihelion
I agree that erasure of minorities in fiction is a serious problem, and it'd be great if more writers addressed it. But it's kind of disingenuous to say "just swap some genitals/skin tones/whatever and you're good," because it's a lot more complicated than that. It's actually really difficult to completely avoid negative stereotypes. As an example, consider the following scenarios with two characters:

- A is violent towards B.
- A is more proactive than B.
- B is kidnapped and then rescued by A.
- A is smarter and more rational than B.

These are all fine if A and B are both men or both women, but they become problematic if A is a man and B is a woman, because now you're reinforcing negative stereotypes about women. So if you're writing a story with both men and women, and you care about not perpetuating bad cultural ideas about women, there is suddenly a long list of things you cannot do. Same goes for race. If you have a character who gets killed off early in the story, it's problematic if they're the only minority. Or if you have a character who's a thuggish and uneducated drug dealer, you better be very careful about what race you make them. Many things that are fine in the context of a story reinforce bad ideas when viewed in a broader cultural context, and it's important to keep that in mind as you write. Having gone through this experience myself many times, I can see how it's tempting for people to just write white men all the time. White male characters are judged as individuals, but a minority character will always be viewed as a member of their group, and anything they do reflects on other people like them.

As for protagonists, there are some surprising pitfalls when writing about minority groups you don't personally belong to. Specifically, when those groups face difficulties and discrimination, you have the option of either glossing over them or trying to address them, and neither option is great. It's bad to pretend that serious issues don't exist, but it's also extremely hard to write about, say, racism faced by African Americans when you're white and have zero firsthand experience with it. I've been wrestling with this issue lately because the protagonist of the story I'm working on right now is gay (not that you'd know from the first installment), and I'm really not qualified to tackle the issues of gay people. I'll probably end up just not addressing them at all, but I suspect a lot of people will be unhappy with me for that decision.

In conclusion: representing minorities is important, and people should definitely do it, but it's disingenuous to reduce the problem to "just include more women/PoC/LGBT in your work and everything will be great."


Definitely agree with this, and I never thought about it so succinctly myself, although as a minority, I have stopped to think about the above!
There's nothing that says you can't have a man beating a woman - but it's how you treat it that matters.

If it's to show how terrible a character is, then it's fine.
If it's to show backstory of a character and why they are how they are, then it's fine.
If it's in a story where men and women are equal and the beating is for a good reason (story-wise), then it's fine.

Have a male soldier beat a female captive to show how cruel that regime is (or that particular character). Have a male beat a woman in self defence. Have a male beat a woman in a way that makes sense to the story (taking a page out of the Walking Dead game where a father beat his daughter to save her from being beaten worse by the man holding them captive as an example). Have a male beat a woman because she was trying to kill him/someone he loved/to show he isn't perfect and lost control (and the reason why his wife left him - it's a negative trait).

It is how you show it and how the people in your game react to it that matters, not the act itself. If you have a rape incident and then treat it as though it was a positive thing for the one raped ('she liked it') gtfo, but if you use that same scene to show why the main character no longer trusts men, and helps to build that character or society or story, then it's fine as long as your game is not condoning that kind of behaviour as right and good. You still have to handle it carefully (and for God's sake, do at least some bare minimum of research) but you can add it.

You can have murder and hate and racism and sex and all that stuff, but it is how you present it, and the characters who do those actions, to the audience that matters - and that message will either see you flamed to hell and back or accepted as a good piece of fiction.

For two examples:
The Hawkman vs Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer

One handles the dark subjects quite well. The other is a pile of steaming faeces.
Right. My point wasn't that you can't include those things but rather that making one of the characters involved a minority recontextualizes them. A lot of the people in this thread seem to be implying that you can just arbitrarily make white male characters female or minority or both and leave everything else exactly the same, but I wanted to caution people to think carefully when you do it. Once you have a minority character, you have to consider whether you're representing them in a positive way and what kind of message you're sending.

When I brought up a man hitting a woman, that wasn't a great example. Let's instead say you have a cast of male protagonists, and you want to include a woman, so you gender-flip one of the men. Unfortunately it's the man who is the most passive and emotional in the party. What are you saying about women if this is the only major female character? There's nothing wrong with writing a passive, emotional woman per se, but you don't want her to be representative of all the women in the story, right?
That women can be weak and timid and emotional and passive too? Because rewriting every woman to be 'strong' and 'powerful' and emotionless is stupid. Which is why you write a character first.

If you're writing people and not genders, then there's going to be more to that character than 'weak and timid and passive and emotional'. There's going to be reason for that person to be that way, and other aspects of their character that shine through.

She's weak, okay, but she's also brave. She ran into a fire and saved her little brother from certain death when they were kids. She still has some of the burns on her arms, but the reason she did that was because she is also emotional. It's a strength she uses to get her way - because she's passive, yes, but she isn't stupid. She knows that by giving people what they want, they will want to give back - it's a part of human psychology to give back when given, and she uses this to judge the people around her. Are they worth getting to know? Should she just melt into the background and be forgotten eventually, or use her bravery to force the first step? There's nothing about being passive that says you can't initiate contact with someone, that you can't have power over them in some way, shape or form, that you can't use them or find a way to make them owe you. She uses her emotions to gain empathy and be liked by them, to get them to give what she wants. She conveys with her every action what she desires and people let her have it because they feel sorry for this quiet, passive, timid girl who can't do it for herself. She's passive, but she gets what she wants. She's weak, but the things she can't do get done for her. She's emotional, but she's also very calculating.

She's as strong a woman as the one who carries a sword and shouts battle oaths. Geez.

But hey, if you're so worried about that, then pick a different character to genderflip. Women come in all shapes and sizes and types - and that's the same of every race, every sexuality, every gender, etc.

Granted, if the only female characters you have in the game are Rosa (FF4) then you have an issue, but I'm sure you're not just writing every male character to be a Rosa, now, are you? So your gender-flipping should be fine... unless they are, in which case, you have a lot more problems with writing characters in general. Maybe you should be thinking of doing more practice or making a puzzle game or something instead?
That women can be weak and timid and emotional and passive too? Because rewriting every woman to be 'strong' and 'powerful' and emotionless is stupid. Which is why you write a character first.
Well, sure. The problem isn't that female characters can't be weak and timid and emotional; the problem is that if the only female characters in your story are weak and timid and emotional, then you're kind of representing women in general that way. A character can be well written and still support a negative stereotype. That doesn't mean you should never do it, but you should do it because you made a conscious decision to, not because you flipped a coin. In the simple example where you picked a character at random to make female and all other factors are equal, yeah, you should probably either pick someone else or add a second one to balance the meek one out.

Please don't get me wrong; I'm not saying people should scrub everything that could possibly be interpreted as a negative stereotype from their work, because you'll end up with a dull and insipid story if you go too far down that path. I definitely don't think all female characters have to be strong and powerful and emotionless, for example. I'm just saying that if you decide to make the only female character weak and timid, then you should consider whether your reason for doing so outweighs the fact that you're supporting a stereotype.

Here's another example. Say your only bisexual character is promiscuous. Even if it's handled with care and sensitivity inside your story, and even if the character is great and the promiscuity is completely justified it's treated as a positive thing, it's reinforcing a wider cultural idea that bisexuals sleep around a lot. Does that mean you have to change it? Well, not necessarily. But I think it definitely does mean that you should seriously think about why you made the character that way. Even if you decide to leave it in, it'll be more nuanced for the consideration.

But hey, if you're so worried about that, then pick a different character to genderflip. Women come in all shapes and sizes and types - and that's the same of every race, every sexuality, every gender, etc.

Granted, if the only female characters you have in the game are Rosa (FF4) then you have an issue, but I'm sure you're not just writing every male character to be a Rosa, now, are you? So your gender-flipping should be fine... unless they are, in which case, you have a lot more problems with writing characters in general. Maybe you should be thinking of doing more practice or making a puzzle game or something instead?
Er, is this directed at me personally? For the record, my example was hypothetical. I have no problem writing female characters. I'm a woman, and most of my protagonists are female, and my stories usually have a 50/50 gender split. I also have no problem writing minorities, and I'm not trying to provide people with an excuse not to do likewise. All I'm saying is that it's good to be aware of the cultural context you're writing in so you can avoid unfortunate implications.
If I ever write a character of a marginalized group I'm not part of (autistic here, but I'd rather not discuss this in detail here) and I worry that this character is a bad stereotype, I'd most likely ask a person of that group for opinions.

Personally, I feel more comfortable writing women as well, to the point that I have twenty-one female named characters and no males so far in my current project.
author=Perihelion
Please don't get me wrong; I'm not saying people should scrub everything that could possibly be interpreted as a negative stereotype from their work, because you'll end up with a dull and insipid story if you go too far down that path. I definitely don't think all female characters have to be strong and powerful and emotionless, for example. I'm just saying that if you decide to make the only female character weak and timid, then you should consider whether your reason for doing so outweighs the fact that you're supporting a stereotype.

If you make the only female character weak and timid, there's a good chance that the idea of women being weak and timid sits somewhere in the back of your mind. This goes double if you have already written a lot of male characters and none of them are weak and timid. This of course doesn't contradict what you said, it's yet another reason why you should double check whatever you're writing and consider carefully if it's a good idea.

That said, a simple "does any of my characters represent a common stereotype?" check should cover you in the vast majority of cases.
No, it wasn't aimed at you, Peri, but a general 'you', based on the example.

Also, I know a few permiscuous bi-sexuals. Hell, if I was a bit fitter and more confident in myself, I would be one. XP

Just because something is a stereotype doesn't mean that people who fit it don't exist - it's a stereotype for a reason. That's not to say that everyone of that persuasion fits the stereotype, but there are people that do and putting a big red X over any character that has aspects of said stereotype is just as bad as only ever using characters that fit it.

I've got promiscuous bi-sexuals in some of my games, and I've got ones who aren't. It's a matter of mixing it up and not just using one type of character for every character of that type - which includes not getting rid of a character just because they happen to hit those stereotypes. Granted, if you only ever write the same character for that typing, then you have an issue, but I see nothing wrong with a game that has, say, three bi-sexual characters, one that is quite stereotypical and two who aren't, or a mix of stereotypes over a range of three characters, with other additions (promiscuous bi-sexual who just cannot get beyond first base because they're too obnoxious, or a bi-sexual who is into orgies but has a loving relationship with their accepting partner of choice, or one who sleeps with everyone they can because they're a nymphomaniac, but is incredibly private about their personal life and has been in love with the same person since childhood or one who is torn between a man and woman and explores both sides of the fence before ending up in a romantic threesome (we need more of this shit, btw - monogamy ain't the only relationships that exist :/ ))

The details are what matter most, not the general overview.
I think it's fine to have characters with stereotypical qualities if you have other characters balancing them out, but it's not always easy to have, say, multiple bisexual characters in stories with a small cast. Again, the problem is when the only representative of a group adheres to a stereotype. I think you have a lot more leeway to play with stereotypes when you're not making an implicit statement about an entire group through one character.
UPRC
Exciting, but ultimately pointless.
6157
Sometimes I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when trying to incorporate non-heterosexual characters in my games. In the first Blackmoon Prophecy, Siegfried was gay. I remember one guy who refused to touch the game after that because he felt that I ruined the character of Siegfried. That really irritated me because it seemed pretty narrow minded and it was frustrating to have someone not want to play my game anymore because they learned that a character they previously thought was a badass was in fact a gay dude. I don't understand how it made Siegfried "less" of a character. I really wanted to go against the whole stereotype that male fighters are tough macho men, and it wasn't even a big deal in the game. I don't think anyone who didn't go out of their way would even learn about him being gay since Siegfried keeps to himself.

Ami was also bisexual in Blackmoon Prophecy, but it was only implied during one short scene in the game when she's reunited briefly with her mentor. I don't even know if anyone who played the game would even remember that this fact about Ami.

In Blackmoon Prophecy II, I don't really have much diversity going and it wasn't even intentional. All characters who are playable at least once are visibly WHITE humans, and I would say that they're all heterosexual as well. I guess that I'm not really doing anything with the characters in Blackmoon Prophecy II because I'd be worried about it seeming kind of tacky. Kind of like, "oh, he/she is gay just for the sake of being gay." A few NPCs are black or have darker skin, one major recurring character being the most noteworthy.

Looking at the gender divide, I have three female characters and eight male characters. There's a secret character as well, who is female (I just said yesterday on my game page that I wouldn't give any hints about my super secret character's identity, oops!). So that totals four gals and eight guys. I usually always try to make my casts about 60% male and 40% female, so I'm definitely on track there.

I'd love to tackle a female main character in whatever my next game is. Whenever I've written for female characters outside of game making in the past, I've always been told that I'm quite good at writing a realistic female character. I definitely want to channel that into an RPG at some point, because it's pretty fun to write for the opposite gender. It's difficult to explain why, but I feel as if I put more effort into female characters, and I feel as if I get much more invested in them than my male characters.