Is Diversity In Games Political or Apolitical?

Is Diversity In Games Political or Apolitical?

The debate rages on about whether or not games are diverse enough. People like Anita Sarkeesian say that games definitively cater to the male audience, while many of her opponents claim that games are already diverse and she is just cherry picking bad examples. Either way, I think the consensus is that it’s good to have diverse characters in games. I don’t think anyone is arguing that games shouldn’t be made for everyone.

However, some game studios can definitely be said to embrace the idea of diversity more than others, and one of those studios is Gearbox. In a recent panel at PAX South, Gearbox outlined why the studio is so committed to character diversity. In fact, Tales from the Borderlands is one of the first Borderlands games to offer more female playable character choices than male. Amanda Christensen, Gearbox concept artist, had this to say:

“I don’t think it’s just about representing a wide range of people. It’s just good design. We want to create worlds that feel real and authentic, and that means having people of all different body types, gender, sexuality, ethnicity–and it’s way more fun to design people in a huge spectrum than the same, generic bro and hot chick over and over again.”

Gearbox has been framed as politically progressive in the past. But, at the panel, the swore that this isn’t part of some big political movement. “We don’t actually have an agenda–we’re just doing what’s cool,” said Matthew Armstrong, Borderlands creator and franchise director.

Is Diversity In Games Political or Apolitical?

That being said, there have certainly been some elements in Borderlands that do show the game has a progressive side. In Borderlands 2 ’s 4 th DLC pack, a quest lampooned how stupid and useless things like chainmail bikinis are in battle. In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel , there was a quest in which Mr. Torgue exposited how “Friendzoned” was a misogynist term. Perhaps not the character designers, but someone on the Borderlands team certainly has some progressive viewpoints

When thinking about diversity in games, all you have to do is think about how varied characters are, not just in personality, but in gender, sexuality, ethnicity, body type, clothing choice, and so forth. Look at your favorite fighting game. Ask if there are as many females as there are males. Ask if there are as many black people as there are white people. Your game doesn’t have to be free of stereotypes, but at least have an equal amount of stereotypical to non-stereotypical characters. The thought here is that you should cater to everyone who wants to see all types of characters.

Of course, someone is always going to be pissed off as well. People have already complained that there aren’t enough male choices for characters in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel . Other gamers have complained that any attempt to make a game more progressive or diverse is nothing but a “political agenda” for “SJWs.” There is a large movement out there that sincerely doesn’t believe that you can make a concerted effort to improve diversity in games without somehow affecting the purity of games.

But I personally think that Gearbox’s attitude here is very healthy. Outside of politics, causes, or issues, Gearbox simply asks “who wants to see the same characters over and over again?” The same hot chick or cool dudebro becomes kind of boring to look at and certainly boring to design. Writing and designing characters with a variety of ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and personalities adds flavor to your game

What do you think? Do you want to see more diverse characters in games? Do you think diversity is attached to a political agenda? Let us know in the comments.

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