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The Sin of Mainstream Videogames

Games & Politics in 2016: The movers behind this year's resurgence of fascism cut their teeth radicalising young men in videogame communities

The following article is part of a series of daily year-end content on GamesIndustry.biz analyzing the most notable news and trends we've observed over the last 12 months

"Keep Politics Out Of My Games" was a snappy rallying cry, but it was never an option. The intertwining of our medium with politics far predates the gruesome hatred of Gamergate or weasel-worded hand-wringing over "identity politics". Since the very earliest years of its existence, the games industry, its creatives and its consumers have been impacted by and involved with the broader movements of political society. From the economic conditions and policies that drive broad consumer trends, to the opening up of new markets like China and Eastern Europe, through to the censorship debates which raged through the 1990s and 2000s, politics has always, always been closely connected to videogames.

What's been somewhat different in recent years is that the influence has started flowing both ways, at least to some degree. The massive growth of videogames' audience has turned them into a mainstream part of culture comparable with, if not yet equivalent to, film and television. Game consumers, especially core game consumers, are connected to communities of shared interest to a far greater degree than movie or TV consumers tend to be, which gives them the capacity to organise and to influence. While publishers and their representative bodies continue the ordinary political lobbying and media relations work that's common to any such industry, their consumers have been slowly feeling out the limits of their own collective power.

Sometimes, the outcomes have been wonderful; videogame consumers acting collectively have backed tremendously worthy charities, supported game creators and one another when hard times struck, and through crowdfunding, have taken the lead in establishing systems of patronage for the work of talented creators. These positive outcomes only make the negative outcomes feel all the more depressing; considering the harassment, the bigotry, the outright dishonesty and the malign stupidity of something like Gamergate, and how grossly large it and its progeny loom over the community landscape of videogames, the positive stories feel like dispatches from a brighter, better future that we might have had if we hadn't screwed it all up.

"Even as the scale of the harassment involved became apparent, and started to gain negative attention from outside the industry, few in positions of authority in the industry spoke out openly against what was happening; many of those who did speak only did so obliquely"

2016 has been a rough year in many ways, especially economically and politically, but what is most notable and most disquieting from our perspective is that it was the year in which tactics field-tested by videogame-related hate groups came to be writ large on the political stage. In a superb piece for The Guardian earlier this month, Matt Lees described Gamergate as "the canary in the coalmine" for the fascist, white supremacist movements that have wracked the United States this year and threaten to engulf several European states in 2017.

That the paths of fascist figureheads such as Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos ran through Gamergate is no coincidence. The strong online communities formed by videogame culture lacked immunity to their tactics. What began by stoking the flames of the "edgelord" trolling groups that have been the disaffected, grotesquely bigoted underbelly of the gaming world for years ballooned into something far more dangerous as the self-appointed leaders of the movement realised that the balkanisation of media consumption left many game consumers willing, even happy, to believe even the most facile and easily disproven lies, as long as they supported their personal biases and narratives.

Every time this year that you read about how political discourse has become "post-truth", about "fake news" flooding the Internet and the worrying degree to which people seem unable to judge the reliability of their sources, remember that it started in our communities, with game consumers. Gamergate didn't invent online mobs, and it certainly didn't invent the resurgence of fascism, but it was the proof of concept for turning those things into tools of a mainstream political campaign. Gamergate took disaffected, bored youths - primarily white, male, straight and harbouring discomfort with social progress and its impact on their personal social standing - and it radicalised them. It fed them a diet of dishonesty, reinforcing the importance and closeness of their community and then lying to them about malicious conspiracies designed to destroy that community.

This is how radicalisation works; it's how it works for Islamic jihadists, it's how it worked for the IRA, it's how it worked in Japan and Germany in the 1930s. Tell men, especially young men, who are so often isolated, that they're part of a big, important community; then tell them their community is under attack. Once it worked for Gamergate, it didn't take a genius to realise that it could work for a far broader group.

It's common to criticise the games industry for not doing more to combat Gamergate, and although there's some revisionism here - a lot of critical voices were raised, right from the outset - it's not entirely unfair. There was some degree of cowardice driving a spiral of silence during the whole sorry affair. Gamergate and its message had very, very few supporters among game creators - indeed, it was notable that the only "industry" supporters the movement could dig up were uniformly embittered and angry men with failed careers they desperately wanted to blame someone else for. Yet even as the scale of the harassment involved became apparent, and started to gain negative attention from outside the industry, few in positions of authority in the industry spoke out openly against what was happening; many of those who did speak only did so obliquely.

In retrospect, though, after all that's happened in 2016, it's harder to blame the industry for Gamergate. The entire American political and media establishment was left slack-jawed and helpless by the self-same tactics; nobody, anywhere, has yet figured out how you combat people who don't care if the things they believe are true, and who view calm, factual rebuttal as an aggressive attack on their identity. That's the outcome of radicalisation; it was never a fight that a stern put-down from a few videogame luminaries was going to win, though it would at least have provided some relief and cover to those most viciously targeted by the mob.

"Game development is risky enough as it is, publishers and creators reasoned, without taking stances on social issues that might be controversial... for years, the industry's mainstream titles have not just avoided social stances, but have entirely failed to keep up with the reality of the world"

What game creators do need to think about is the context they created around those communities, communities which turned out to be so susceptible to fascist radicalisation. It's not very original to poke fun at the people who shouted "get politics out of my games!" before going back to don the virtual boots of a heavily armoured white US soldier shooting wave after wave of nondescript brown people in a dusty, bombed-out Middle Eastern village - but the failure to recognise that a blind acceptance of the status quo is every bit as political as a challenge to the same status quo isn't the only problem here. As games became a bigger, more important and more influential medium year on year, it continued to pump out games like that; games that powerfully reinforced negative stereotypes of non-whites, especially Arabic peoples, that reduced the majority of their female characters to male fantasy objects, and that erased the existence of other minorities almost entirely, or introduced them merely to be the butt of outdated punchlines.

I know why that happened. We all know. Games didn't keep up with the progress of modern America (or Europe, or even Japan). Doing so would be a risk; it might cause a backlash. It might hurt profits. Game development is risky enough as it is, publishers and creators reasoned, without taking stances on social issues that might be controversial. In so thinking, they ended up actually being regressive; for years, the industry's mainstream titles have not just avoided social stances, but have entirely failed to keep up with the reality of the world. Even Hollywood, even comic books, for god's sake, have managed to make incremental, if imperfect, improvements in reflecting the world in its diversity instead of constantly lionising the straight white American male and treating everyone else on the planet as something for him to shoot, screw or laugh at. Meanwhile games continued to turn out experiences that pretended the world hadn't progressed since the 1980s.

Not All Games, of course, but plenty, representing a majority of the industry's sales. Is it any surprise that people uncomfortable with that progress found themselves coalescing around games - around a medium that quietly, by omission rather than commission, told them that their discomfort was okay? Is it any surprise that they were easy to coax to fury, to harassment and to aggression directed at people trying to make that medium more open, more representative?

Nobody, least of all me, is saying that Call of Duty should have replaced its burly marines with a gay choir who sang Sondheim numbers to bring about world peace and that all the Spartans in Halo games should have addressed each other with gender-neutral pronouns (though, you know, why not have one who was addressed that way? Wouldn't that have been interesting?). But the endless waves of games which painted the world in black and white and aimed to accomplish nothing more meaningful than fulfilling the power fantasies of a very specific demographic group did help to normalise regressive views and create a climate that was ripe for abuse. This is not the same as the insistence of censorious types years ago that games like GTA and Manhunt would directly inspire young men to kill; that was never credible or supported, and the industry and the specialist media was right to oppose it whole-heartedly.

The normalisation of people's views through the media environment, on the other hand, is well-documented and understood, and while no game has ever made someone kill (unless we're counting occasional bizarre murders over in-game item thefts, I guess), a steady, relentless diet of games over the past decade has not been the healthiest of media environments for a young mind to mature surrounded by. That's a concern that goes well beyond Gamergate; games reach tens if not hundreds of millions of consumers, after all.

"The games industry needs to take positive steps to make sure that it's never again used as an incubator for hate and fascism; it could start by properly managing its communities, effectively protecting its female and minority employees, and engaging positively with minority groups over issues of representation"

In thinking about how we got here and where we go next, there are two histories which, while extreme by comparison, are thought-provoking. Say the name DW Griffith and most people's instant association is with racism and the Ku Klux Klan; Leni Riefenstahl, similarly, is most easily associated with Nazi propaganda. Yet both were supremely talented and visionary early pioneers of film, considered among the greats of the time - but utterly tarnished, forever, by their involvements with Birth of a Nation (Griffith's white supremacist blockbuster) and Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahl's propaganda film about Adolf Hitler). At crucial, early points in the history of film as a mainstream medium, these prominent and brilliant artists turned the power of film to the service of bigotry, racism and fascism, with which they will forever be associated, their technical and creative accomplishments largely forgotten.

The sin of mainstream videogames, thus far, has been to be overly cautious to the point of being utterly regressive; to stick to what they knew, ignoring the changing world around them, forgetting that their audience, too, had always been a diverse one. None have gone to the kind of extreme that Riefenstahl or Griffith did, by making overt propaganda; most of these games are of the kind that we'll look back on and think "oh god, did we really not know any better", rather than seeing them as tools for the promotion of fascism. Yet; sometimes, they come close. Games like Homefront and Call of Duty have skirted the margins, even by accident - as have several others. It's far from being beyond imagining that some game, some talented creator, even by omission and gutlessness rather than by chest-thumping fascism, is on the way to being our medium's Griffith or Riefenstahl - both of whom, after all, were very commercially successful, and won many awards, even as they supported and promoted a political status quo that we now recognise as utterly horrifying.

Games can do better. They must do better. Games have a power no other medium can match; they can connect us, transport us together to new worlds, let us experience different ways of living and take part in grand events from many perspectives. They can teach us about subjectivity and diversity and perspectives beyond our own. Yet this possibility, when it is fulfilled at all, is almost always left to indie titles that struggle for attention in the shade of blockbusters that rumble along, lobotomised, their defaults set to white male and their voices saying nothing other than "might is right, and different is wrong". The games industry needs to take positive steps to make sure that it's never again used as an incubator for hate and fascism; it could start by properly managing its communities, effectively protecting its female and minority employees, and engaging positively with minority groups over issues of representation. We can't fix the world with videogames; but for a 2017 new year's resolution, I'd settle for trying to make sure we aren't helping to break it.

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Latest comments (23)

Josh Maida Interactive Director, 6ft8 months ago
I'm cautious of wagging the finger at Call of Duty for promoting the lack of empathy that exists in the US (across the spectrum), but I agree the past decade of game development has demonstrated the awesome potential of interactive media.

Since we've huddled around campfires, stories have fed our capacity to understand others. We can't avoid the fact that video games are inheriting a great responsibility. Let's make 'great' mean 'noble'.

Thanks for the post.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Josh Maida on 13th December 2016 5:23pm

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Bjorn Larsson CEO & Executive Producer, Legendo Entertainment8 months ago
Does anyone know of a Euro-centric non-Soviet style propaganda games industry outlet, one with... balls? Oh, would love if it had colour-imagery, getting a little tired of the Stalinist-sepia photos that seem to adorn most of the concrete textblocks being posted here.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bjorn Larsson on 13th December 2016 5:32pm

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James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz8 months ago
@Bjorn Larsson: How about instead of whining you contribute something constructive to the conversation?
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Show all comments (23)
Bjorn Larsson CEO & Executive Producer, Legendo Entertainment8 months ago
That’s pretty much the first thing they teach you at Soviet spy school.
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Elliott Hill Studying Games Software Development, Sheffield Hallam University8 months ago
This article feels like a reiteration of what regressive's have been spewing for ages, labelling those with any sort of right leaning view as "fascist" even though stories about "fake news" being spread by the left are just trying to suppress the views of those they don't agree with. And saying that the gaming community was the testing ground for these sorts of views is nonsense, conflicting political ideals this year became apparent more than ever because of the disillusionment of those with power in what they thought the general populous wanted.
Saying that there's something wrong with the developers using straight white males as protagonists is absurd, if they want to tell a story about characters it shouldn't matter their characteristics. People being treated as equals in the real world doesn't always mean equal representation in media, they are of course described as minorities, proportionate representation to the amount the community represent.
To complain about playing a "white US soldier shooting wave after wave of nondescript brown people in a dusty, bombed-out Middle Eastern village" is also ridiculous. Of course you're talking about the modern day FPS, when you think of the wars that have occurred in the last decade of course you think of the middle-east, settings that feel the most realistic are going to be real settings and scenarios. It's a fact that quite a few wars recently have been in the middle east, facts aren't racist.
Maybe people don't have discomfort for regressive's, maybe we flat out just don't agree with the way that their view of the world is being forced upon us and recent political changes have reflected the outrage felt by those that aren't having their voice heard, but are instead being defaultly labelled as racist and/or fascist, like this article has done!
The gaming industry is a creative one, a creator has a vision for what their creation wants to be, so instead of trying to shoe in your opinions on what games currently don't represent, support the creators so they can make what they want to create.
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Diana Hsu Product Manager, Free-to-Play, Big Fish Games8 months ago
It was entirely unsurprising to see that many of the same people affiliated with Gamergate were those proudly shitposting for Trump and related causes.
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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief8 months ago
Excellent post, Rob. The identification of GamerGate as a useful training ground to practice the techniques used so successfully in 2016, particularly in the US, is helpful.

It reminds us that we must speak out when we see these moments. All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises8 months ago
One good thing about fake news is it destroys the credibility of the people who write it. Everything they've written in the past, and everything they'll write in the future becomes untrustworthy.
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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 8 months ago
@Elliott Hill: "Saying that there's something wrong with the developers using straight white males as protagonists is absurd, if they want to tell a story about characters it shouldn't matter their characteristics." -- says the presumably straight white male?

"People being treated as equals in the real world doesn't always mean equal representation in media, they are of course described as minorities, proportionate representation to the amount the community represent." -- game developers are vastly overrepresented by white men of similar backgrounds, and this greatly influences the protagonists in their games. You don't really think that minorities are proportionately represented in games, do you? Let me google that for you: https://www.google.com/search?num=50&site=&source=hp&q=representation+of+minorities+in+video+games
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Emily Rose Freelance Artist 8 months ago
If you want to pay for it, go for it! Talk is very much cheaper than game development. You talk about risk like game developers aren't real people that lose their jobs if an attempt at innovation doesn't pay off.

Very easy to say what "we must" do, but you need to buy the games that try. If the indie games are struggling to be seen, you should mention some. Give them a platform. I support the genres I want to see more of, I'm just a drop in the ocean but I put my money where my mouth is.

People play games for many reasons, one of which is escapism. That may be one reason why games that cover real life issues don't do so well. What are you suggesting? Force people to play social issues games? Games like This War of Mine and Undertale were great overall, and it's a nice starting point, I'd love to hear which games you've played and enjoyed that cover social issues.

You seem to be blaming people for not spending their small amount of relaxation time after work doing something non-depressing.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 months ago
I blame the popularity of tower defense games for Donald Trump's plan of building a wall. Then again, I blame people being misinformed on an information industry geared towards harvesting clicks by trying to confirm everybody's bias with tailor-made clickbait articles. Naturally, all of this could have been avoided, If you were a black asian transgender person giving flowers to middle eastern men in Call of Duty. Fake news warning though, Bernie Boston's picture has a white male protagonist.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 14th December 2016 9:07am

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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop8 months ago
"if they want to tell a story about characters it shouldn't matter their characteristics."
I mean, this is clearly a ridiculous statement - but if we assume it isn't and every character in every game could be swapped out with a minority without affecting the story at all - why not do that? Why is the default overwhelmingly white dudes?

"facts aren't racist."
25% of the active US military are minorities. Going by facts it's actually unlikely that the lead characters in all these games are white dudes. http://www.statisticbrain.com/demographics-of-active-duty-u-s-military/

"a creator has a vision for what their creation wants to be"
Please tell me more about how auteur theory works in AAA games development, from your position of experience.

"support the creators so they can make what they want to create"
People can make whatever they want, nobody is advocating otherwise (though don't you find it curious that the alt-right didn't take this open arms approach when Paul Feig wanted to create an all-female Ghostbusters, Zoe Quinn wanted to create Depression Quest, etc?). The suggestion though is that people think about why they've made particular choices - is it important for your creation that every character is a white dude, for example?

--

"You seem to be blaming people for not spending their small amount of relaxation time after work doing something non-depressing." You seem to be equating an argument of "hey you could try making something a bit different" with "you should make depressing games."
There are plenty of games (and other media) that have sold well featuring non-white dude main characters, and plenty of white dude stuff that has sold terribly - the argument that we should stick to the status quo or jobs are at risk is utter nonsense.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 months ago
I'm struggling to view this article as being anything other than another dividing of the world into 'us' and 'them' - "we're morally superior and correct, our enemies are immoral and racist, and this terrible thing that happened is mostly because of this particular thing I hate". I far prefer the self-critical analysis by those on the left like John Harris in the Guardian, who tries to figure out why people are so angry without denouncing them as stupid or racist. This *has* to be the way forward.

I think the changes in 'tactical behaviour' by the alt-right /internet-savvy right (which you allude to in the article) are more or less a direct response to shame tactics on the left - they are an evolutionary response in the same way that bacteria will eventually develop immunity to overused antibiotics. We have encouraged the rise of this 'shameless right'. We did it by constantly trying to excise unacceptable opinion from mainstream discussion, and by over-policing the boundaries of acceptable discourse. We called David Cameron right wing scum, and Nigel Farage a racist, and we cheapen these labels immensely by doing so. Look how many times the word fascist is used in this article.

And people are doubling down on this policy of alienating others with encouragement to 'call out' unacceptable behavior (as defined by whom?). It honestly boggles my mind. Have people learned *nothing* from the last few years?

People just love picking a side and going to war, and I very much include progressives in that statement.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 14th December 2016 9:36am

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Alan Blighe Research Associate 8 months ago
Great analysis here Rob - this really speaks to the growing discomfort I and my friends are experiencing with some (not all) games, both new and old. I think any time any of us sends something we've created out into the world we have a responsibility to consider what effect it might have, beyond the effect of filling our pockets (which is of course very important!).
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Shehzaan Abdulla Translator/QA 8 months ago
{Comment deleted. You don't get to say people should be shot and follow it up with "Just kidding! This is a rhetorical device!" You know that's unacceptable here. - Brendan}

Edited 6 times. Last edit by a moderator on 14th December 2016 2:28pm

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Guy Technologies, Plarium8 months ago
It saddens me greatly to witness the sorry state of game journalism at this day and age. How much of misunderstanding there is of the current state of affairs…
Because when you look at the industry, you can quickly see that gamers as a whole appreciate thought provoking and political games. This is why games like Bioshock, Metal Gear, Spec Ops: The Line, Grand Theft Auto, Papers Please and others are being lauded by gamers. The unanimous praise you can see for these games (for example in Steam reviews) surpasses even the critical acclaim some of them get from the media.
The "rallying call", if there was any, was of a consumer movement. Not against "politics" but against "identity politics" – a completely different thing altogether: the call for faux diversity for the sake of moral superiority, virtue signaling and victimhood mercantile.
It is actually the fact that the game industry was so global and multicultural almost from the get go (thanks 1983 crash of the US videogame market!), that the fraudulent calls for "diversity" were so easily identified. When gamers were blamed for some imaginary sad state the industry is in, coupled with the ridiculous media campaign that "gamers are not your audience" – it was easily unmasked.
The fight against "fake news" in 2016? This was the exact fight of 2014. Remember the "actually it's about ethics in game journalism?" jokes of days past? Well… indeed it was. If the game media got it shit together back then, than perhaps it wouldn't be in the sorry state it's in now.
Because the obvious truth to any person working in game development is that gamers are your audience. And gamer opinions matter, especially outside the media clique self-referencing itself and circulating the same narrative again and again, telling spooky stories about the Gamergate boogieman. This is why outside of these circles you start to see Youtubers, and streamers, and "influencers" shaping up the discussion and becoming more important for both the game creators and consumers. Other creators just move on to converse with their audience directly, leaving the old guard of journalistic gatekeepers aside.
At the same time, the educated gamer doing some research on her own, and will likely run into (and within the first results page in Google) websites that completely shatter the Gamergate boogieman narrative. At one point she will start to wonder if repeating stories in the media can even be considered trustworthy when the media itself was at the heart of the criticism.
There will probably be a point where she notices that all those self-referencing stories don't rely on any concrete facts, and that more reputable evidence actually contradict most of them. We have reached it in fact. At the age of connected internet VS fake news, any claim made by a journalist that does not contain direct citation to its source (for example: "The normalisation of people's views through the media environment, on the other hand, is well-documented and understood" or "relentless diet of games over the past decade has not been the healthiest of media environments for a young mind to mature surrounded by. ") is considered bogus at best until proven otherwise.
Was Gamergate the canary in the coalmine? Perhaps only in the way in which it signaled that in the age of information - journalistic reporters are not the gaterkeepers anymore. They are not driving the conversation, and if they will ignore criticism and try to push agenda and shape the news instead of report the news – their audience will simply turn elsewhere. For better and for worse.
Is this perhaps because game journalists are just really bad at their job? Or perhaps they just hate their job? Maybe they just don't understand their job? This kind of suspicion keeps on growing every single time you read yet another game journalist claiming how games like Call of Duty are "tools for the promotion of facism".
Because at that point all you have left to do is to shake your head in discomfort, asking yourself "The plot was not THAT COMPLICATED. How did the message of almost every Call of Duty game in existence fly so high above his head that he interpreted the exact opposite of it?" - This is the point where you actually HOPE journalists simply make assumptions and actually never played any COD single player campaign - playing these games and then reaching this conclusion puts game journalism in an even sadder state of existence.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Guy on 14th December 2016 1:17pm

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Shehzaan Abdulla Translator/QA 8 months ago
@Guy "Spec Ops: The Line"

Thank you. I was grasping for this title in my post above and couldn't remember it for the life of me.
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Elliott Hill Studying Games Software Development, Sheffield Hallam University8 months ago
@Jeremy Glazman: 1. Apparently now because of my race, gender and sexual orientation I'm no longer allowed to have an opinion on the matter?
2. "game developers are vastly overrepresented by white men of similar backgrounds" It sounds like you're saying that the ethnicity and gender of those that create games is a problem, like every other profession you need the skills to work in the industry to then work in it. These are the people who were interested and trained to work in the industry and shouldn't be penalised when looking for a job, if they're the most qualified than they should get the job. If someone else is employed just because they're female or are in a minority group that's surely racism towards white people and sexism towards men!
3. You literally pulled out the smallest of quotes without addressing my overall message, I addressed the overall message of the article and expect you to do the same with my comment.
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Elliott Hill Studying Games Software Development, Sheffield Hallam University8 months ago
@Anthony Gowland: If "every character in every game could be swapped out with a minority without affecting the story at all - why not do that?" - You can't. People of different race have different personality, different up bringing. To say that a character can just have his skin colour changed is pretty insulting to the creators and those that are a part of those minority groups. Race isn't something that should be changed to fit what you want, the creators have a character in mind and mould it the way in which they desire.

"25% of the active US military are minorities" - Good for them, the above pretty much answers this again. I like that the point was talking about fighting in the middle east but decided to make it about something else!

"Please tell me more about how auteur theory works in AAA games development" - Depends in what instance of the industry you're talking about, we have some that are considered as the main visionary on a project but to be honest, I'm struggling to see what point you're trying to get across?
"People can make whatever they want, nobody is advocating otherwise" - This article seems to be making quite a good go at it!

"though don't you find it curious that the alt-right didn't take this open arms approach when Paul Feig wanted to create an all-female Ghostbusters, Zoe Quinn wanted to create Depression Quest, etc?" - When you take an existing IP and just reverse the genders of all the characters of course people will be annoyed, I'm not much of a movie buff but I fairly enjoyed the film myself, I'm not saying otherwise. Though I don't think that the left would be absolutely fine if they reversed the genders on an all female cast! The whole thing with Zoe Quinn seemed to have nothing to do with gender, it mostly had to do with her own actions and not with the content of Depression Quest.

"The suggestion though is that people think about why they've made particular choices - is it important for your creation that every character is a white dude, for example?" - I'm sure every creator will think about what they want from a character, I think that everyone not tied to the project shouldn't be questioning them on their decisions.

What confuses me most is that you want physical diversity, but not a mental diversity. To say all white or male characters can just be changed says a lot to that you don't want games to challenge new ideas, you just want the characters to have a different look which is a very narrow way of looking at the world.
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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 8 months ago
The connection between Gamergate and the global trends that brought us Trump and Brexit is interesting, but to say that one caused the other is maybe reaching a bit.

The most important observation here is how video games are culturally stagnant. There are echoes here of Raph Koster’s talk about influences in video games: http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/11/10/project-horseshoe-influences/

By and large as developers our influence for creating games is almost entirely other games, whereas creators in every other medium draw inspiration from the whole of the world around them. Just compare the last decade of winners of the Academy Awards’ Best Picture vs any Game of the Year lists you can find, and the contrast is staggering. In film you see the range of human experience, while in games you see what? Zombies, war, and D&D?

(I won’t even bring novels into this debate, where the range of genres is so huge that every ‘book of the year’ list is like 100 pages long)
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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 8 months ago
@Guy: Is your point that Gamergate somehow evolved into some sort of actual movement against journalism in general? If you could provide further insight into that I'd love to see it. As far as I can tell, Gamergate started as a lie easily debunked by google (the whole quinspiracy thing, where the supposedly unethical journalist had never even written any reviews about her games in the first place). From there it turned into an online harassment campaign. If you could show me where to find the thoughtful criticism of the state of journalism then please share.
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Brendan Sinclair Senior Editor, GamesIndustry.biz8 months ago
Well this is going nowhere productive, so off go the comments.
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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 8 months ago
@Elliott Hill: "1. Apparently now because of my race, gender and sexual orientation I'm no longer allowed to have an opinion on the matter?"

This is exactly the problem I was alluding to. First you don’t even recognise there could be a problem, because games are made by people like you with characters that are also like you; try to be open to the possibility that you’ve insulated yourself from alternative points of view. Second, just by mentioning that race or gender could be affecting your opinions on the matter you jump to the extreme idea that you are somehow being censored? The world is not this black and white. Also in my response I asked you questions, implying that I was in fact interested in your opinion -- they were not rhetorical, and I am delighted that you took the time to respond.

2. "game developers are vastly overrepresented by white men of similar backgrounds" It sounds like you're saying that the ethnicity and gender of those that create games is a problem

Yes, I do think it’s a problem, but we need to define ‘problem’ here because I don't think we're on the same page. I say it’s a problem because I want the medium of video games to be culturally relevant. I want video games to sit next to books and film and television when it comes to my cultural influence as a creator, and this can’t happen until video games are inclusive of the whole of human experience. When nearly all game developers the world over are white middle-class men who grew up playing video games, I see this as an obstacle to my vision for the potential of video games.

Setting aside your claims of reverse-racism in industry hiring practices for a moment, the bigger issue is that most people have no interest in video games, and so they have no interest in becoming game developers in the first place. The big publishers and marketers made sure of this over the last two decades. What most people see as the ’mainstream’ video game market is in reality incredibly niche — women aren’t even included in that demographic for crying out loud! This is not healthy, nor is it sustainable in the long term.

I'm sorry if you felt I was disregarding your central point, I'll follow up with a more complete response.
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