WisCon 34 Panel: Increasing Diversity in Games & Gaming


Panel Description: In some ways, the gaming industry is the last glass ceiling of geekdom; in spite of its increasing diversity, gaming culture has largely assumed white, male, able–bodied, and heterosexual biases. Gaming communities like XBox Live, MMORPGs, D&D groups, and even retail stores can be noninclusive or even hostile environments to women, people of color, gay people, or the disabled. There are exceptions: Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins was highly lauded by GayGamer.net for its inclusion of same–sex romantic relationships, and won AbleGamer.com’s Most Accessible Game of 2009. This panel will discuss how games can get it right (and why they often don’t). We’ll also explore ways to make the gaming community more accessible, and brainstorm strategies for surviving hostile encounters in the gaming world.

Panelists: Chris Hill (moderator), Jacquelyn Gill, Anastasia Salter, Robyn Fleming, Nonie Rider

Robyn says she started role playing at age 6, when her brother’s friends needed someone to play a paladin, and none of them could do the lawful good thing. She also learned to type at age 12 in order to MUD. She is also one of the founders of Cerise, an online gaming magazine for women.

An audience member quotes a game developer explaining the priorities: “If we made a female character, we wouldn’t be able to have crumbling walls.”

Chris asks the panelists how important it is to them to have representation in video games. Anastasia says that the white men in video games don’t actually look like real people, so realistic representation doesn’t really exist for anyone. Robyn points out that there are some games that allow you to customize your character extensively (e.g. Mass Effect, although you can’t make your character fat).

Nonie is happy that RPGs these days don’t seem to essentialize goodness or evilness by race (because everyone likes playing orc shamans or drow priestesses).

What has gotten better and what still needs to be improved? Everyone agrees that there is better representation of women in general, and racial stereotyping has decreased. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Elizabeth stands up in the audience and describes her experience of playing Dragon Age: Origins. It seemed so good, and was getting everything right! And then they totally blew it at the end with the vilely misogynistic and fat-phobic depiction of the broodmothers. And the expansion is even worse. Argh!

Robyn says that Kotaku claimed credit for the creation of Cerise. Paraphrased quote from Kotaku guy: “The editor of Kotaku has a penis, and they [the creators of Cerise] hated that, so they had to make their own magazine.” Lies, damned lies!

About the author

Janice Dawley

Outdoorsy TV addict, artistic computer geek, loner who loves people.

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