In her Game Developers Conference recap earlier today, Paste’s assistant games editor Maddy Myers discussed Manveer Heir’s GDC talk about diversity. Here are some notes Maddy passed with fellow Paste contributor Samantha Allen during Heir’s lecture.
MADDY: I’m not wild about this talk so far. I feel like he’s really focused on studies and jargon.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. This line about stereotypes being about the efficiency of grouping people together just totally absolves bigots of their imbrication with concrete tangible systems of power. The media effects discourse is a fragile peg to hang your hat on, too. We should represent people because it’s about justice, not because the media supposedly shapes identity.
MADDY: He’s also trying so hard to back up his points with evidence, as though this all isn’t already apparent. It’s almost a citation every other slide. I guess it’s because this stuff is already obvious to me. It’s like how all of GDC is about proving that inclusivity matters for some tangible reason (financial, etc.) These studies are basically just proof that media affects people. How many times do we have to show a variant on that same study? We get it. Why is that the whole argument here?
SAMANTHA: He’s also just generously optimistic about the audience in the way that only a man can afford to be. Like the privilege of people who buy and play games, and the sort of toxic social attitudes that accompany that privilege are real — they’re not just “good people” who happen to have a homophobia problem.
MADDY: Yeah. I also wish he would talk about how we reach audiences that aren’t playing these games and also aren’t seeing themselves represented in games. He’s blanketing all of that as “marketing,” but actually, marketing games like Tomb Raider and Gone Home to men was difficult and possibly not even useful. It’s that old problem of men not being able to identify with women because they’ve never had to, whereas women grow up being used to identifying with male heroes because they’ve always had to.
SAMANTHA: (Heir has just brought up the prospect of playing as a gay character in a game and being in a position where you have to stay closeted.) I kind of don’t want to experience that in a game …
(Meanwhile, Todd Harper tweets that same thing at the same time without seeing our notes. The next day, the two of them would appear on a panel about this very topic.)
MADDY: Me, either. Also, I’m irritated that all of his “strong female character” examples are women doing classically masculine roles, even cross-dressing (his examples are Brienne and Arya from Game of Thrones, and Aveline from Assassin’s Creed).
SAMANTHA: It’s almost like oppression sims are still for straight white men.
MADDY: Like that Gender Swap Oculus Rift game.
SAMANTHA: Because god knows we don’t want to play a game where we simulate being female, queer, etc., in the same fucked-up world we already live in.
MADDY: Fuck that. We already live there.
Hyper Mode is an occasional column by Paste’s assistant games editor Maddy Myers. Her work has also appeared in the Boston Phoenix, Kill Screen and at the Border House. She also blogs at her personal website Metroidpolitan and tweets @samusclone.
Samantha Allen writes about gender, sexuality and videogames. She writes regularly for the feminist gaming blog Border House. Her work has also appeared on Jacobin, Salon, Paste, Kotaku, Kinsey Confidential and in Adult Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CousinDangereux.