And If You Want to Be You, Be You: Identification and Representation, Part II

We are in the midst of the most important and influential movement in video games in a decade, if not ever – movement that is vital to the ongoing cultural relevancy and maturation of our medium – and almost everyone involved in the conversation is, intentionally or otherwise, looking for ways to ignore everyone else. We can do better than this, and we have to, in order to make progress. – Adam Saltsman, “We Have an Empathy Problem”

A little over two months ago, we talked about identification and representation in games. If you haven’t done so, check it out (and the comments!) because we’ll be referencing things from that article this week.

In that article, we talked a bit about identifying “as” and and identifying “with” a character. Both have their places, because identifying “with” a character means identification with internal characteristics (hobbies, personality, backstory, etc.), and identifying “as” refers to more visible traits (hair color, gender, skin color, etc.). Humans naturally find people that fit into one or both of these categories, although many (including the folks in the comments section of Part I) talked about the importance of identifying “with” a game character over identifying “as” a particular group the character belongs to.

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I ended the last article with a question: does all this really matter? If it doesn’t matter your spouse, your best friend’s daughter, me, or you, does it really matter?

Yes.

A Story

My friend The Well-Red Mage and I had a wonderful conversation a while ago about sexism, racism, and the media (because this is what people talk about on Twitter), both defending our own opinions, and both technically falling under “minority” status. He commented that he did not need to feel validated by the media. I disagreed, in relation to myself. But then something happened and I realized that we were using the same words to argue two different points.

About a month ago, The Well-Red Mage wrote a very touching article about fatherhood, playing video games, and selflessness. In addition to his thoughtful comments on fatherhood and an absolutely adorable picture of the littlest Mage to join his family, The Well-Red Mage commented on how fathers are portrayed in the media. He does a superb job outlining how incorrect the depictions of bumbling, foolish dads are, and so I highly encourage you to read his article.

giphy-4

Although he seemed unconcerned for himself and his children (and rightfully so, as I’m sure he’s a great dad), this was a topic that bothered him enough to write about. And so I sat down and wondered why, especially after our conversation.

And then I realized the dichotomy of this issue. There is a societal side, and an individual side.

Idea Exchange

I’ll be honest, I never really thought about fathers in media. I’m not a dad, I’ll never be a dad, and I had a really fantastic dad, so any stupid ideas about fatherhood thrown at me by the media were immediately squashed by my real-life experiences.

But here is a father, confident in his own abilities, commenting on the poor representation of fathers in the media. And he’s right to do so. At a societal level, it matters what media says about our “group.” On some level, it bothers us when our “group” is misrepresented because that’s not what I’m about, gosh darn it!

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And it’s so easy to forget that importance when it’s not your group being misrepresented, just like I did until I read the Mage’s article. That’s why it’s important to keep talking about the representation of minorities (and others) in video games. It’s important to go to those uncomfortable places and get to the heart of the issue so we can fight the problems together.

 

The Sticking Point

As with most hot-button social issues, conflicting research exists on this topic. On the one hand, Bandura’s social learning theory suggests that seeing people similar to us (in real life and in media) is important for learning behaviors, as we imitate others and often imitate people we see as similar to us. This presence can therefore influence a person’s beliefs and behaviors surrounding themselves or a particular “group” of people.

kaiden-and-ashley

However, other research shows that minorities are better able to relate to majority populations than the reverse of this. So, a person of color will more readily identify with a caucasion person than vice versa. Likewise, women find it easier to relate to men than men can relate to women. But this research also subtly hints that perhaps this discrepancy is due to minorities not being exposed to “themselves,” and so have been forced to adapt and make connections to people not like them, unlike people who fall into the “majority.”

This begins to illustrate one of the most important points of this article: the discrepancy between the importance of representation to an individual and the importance of representation to society.

However, whether you consider yourself part of a majority or part of a minority, or both, depending on your situation, we can all agree that randomly sticking a minority into a story, whether a movie, game, or book, is never the right answer. Making an ethnic “skin” available for a character, or plopping a woman into a story so you can say the cast is “diverse” is not going to win the hearts and minds of the minority you are appealing to, and can actually be more problematic (which is outside the scope of this article).

 

2 shepards.jpg
Not in this case, though, because Shepard is always awesome.

But here’s the thing: most gamers don’t particularly care about what their avatar looks like. Sales for Horizon: Zero Dawn didn’t suffer because Aloy is a woman, Samus Aran is still an incredibly popular character, and Lara Croft is still selling games after all these years. So it seems like representation is a non-issue… Except the way representation in games is treated suggests otherwise. But let’s take a step back for a moment.

Video Game Drama

If you’ve been following AmbiGaming for a while, you’ve read a few articles about how games allow us to explore things that we might not otherwise experience in our lives, and let us do so in a safe, non-threatening space. Yet (until very, very recently) it seemed like video games would shy away from involving themselves in more “difficult” social issues like race, gender, sexuality, and the realities of things like war and poverty. But video games have a unique opportunity: their inherent playfulness enables them to address these issues in a way that doesn’t sound like a lecture, yet still send important messages in understandable and palatable ways.

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Like depicting guilt and dealing with inner demons

These proposed changes are not a ploy for greater profits, and changing will not affect sales, as we’ve seen with recent releases.  If video games are to be taken seriously like other media (e.g., books, movies, art), they cannot forever avoid reflecting, in some way, the society in which it exists.

Putting the Pieces Together

There are two sides to this issue: the personal and the social-political. On a personal level, representation isn’t needed for personal validation, as we saw with my friend The Well-Red Mage. He will be a good father regardless of what media portrays. But the fact remains that, on a societal level, we are being bombarded by depictions of horrible dads, and that’s troubling because, as we saw, media influences our view of ourselves and how others view our “group.”

Many minorities will say they don’t “need” media to validate them on a personal level. And perhaps this is true. But these same minorities have also never been represented in media, and so no longer expect it, either. It is apathy has been bred by resignation. I don’t need to play as a homosexual woman in a game to enjoy it, and I have long stopped looking for “myself” in a video game, but it was so nice to see Samantha Traynor – a gay woman who isn’t a stereotype – in a AAA game. That meant that, finally, society saw someone “like me.” For a moment, I wasn’t invisible on a societal level. After all, I exist in the world. Why shouldn’t I be reflected in the media?

Image result for samantha traynor
I mean, I wish I was this smart and good-looking, but you get the point…

So we’ve returned to the idea of media not being needed to validate other people, thus making representation seem like a non-issue. But if so many people think that representation in video games is a non-issue, why aren’t minorities better represented?

This continued lack of representation seems to suggest that representing minorities still is an issue, as alluded to by this article talking about Sony’s fear of supporting minorities as protagonists and this article suggesting that the industry will assign someone to animate a horse defecating before it includes realistic minority representation in games.

So I ask again: if representation is a non-issue, why not include more minorities? It shouldn’t matter, after all.

Image result for willy wonka tell me more

Some may argue that people who support representation in games (like me) should just not play the games without representation. This is like saying to someone that they simply should not watch any of the horror movies that victimize women if that is not what they’d like to see.

This is true, but to a point. I can avoid a movie or two, or not pick up a game I don’t think I’ll like. But it is not the responsibility of each individual to avoid all potentially “offensive” content – it is up to the society to notice who is always being marginalized or excluded, and then take steps to mediate that problem.

Media representation reflects who people are, and also shows them who they might become. It shows what is, and also what is possible. Video games are in a unique position. They give us opportunities to explore and experience worlds and events that we would not be able to otherwise. They can challenge us in a fun way, and that challenge can certainly be in the form of gameplay mechanics, but they can also challenge our morality and face us with difficult social issues. And they can do it in a way that doesn’t reduce gaming’s natural playfulness.

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In case you missed it the first time around

We’ve come a long way, and conversations around games are definitely changing. But it’s only through continuing to talk about these issues that we can begin to imagine a much more inclusive future. And wouldn’t it be nice to see video games leading the charge to true equality?

What do you think? Is minority representation in the media important for a society? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~ Athena

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45 thoughts on “And If You Want to Be You, Be You: Identification and Representation, Part II

  1. Thank you for a very interesting post. I guess the lack of minority representation is just a reflection of the same thing in the liberal democracies. They might be free, but they are not equal. I think society will have to change first, though, then the expression will follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked the post! That’s an interesting point – does society need to change its views on equality first, or does media need to show us what equality looks like and what is *possible*? I’m not sure I have an answer to that, although I tend to look toward artists to show us a future that *could* be.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We can and we should. Art is in many ways another arena for the fight for the future, I think. The same things happens everywhere, some fight for equality, others fight against it. We’re slowly winning, though, although everything is going the wrong way for the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I believe so as well. The hardest parts of history has often led to better, more open societies afterwards, but not always. Internet has a liberating effect, I think, and the ones in power are scared of loosing it. Therefore they need enemies, and they help eachother holding people down by fear of “the others” on both sides. The question is how bad it will get before it gets better. We must not give up;)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. A free exchange of ideas is threatening to anyone in power, and certainly to any would-be dictator (cough cough).

              That’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to have these conversations. At the end of the day, we are all on the same side and want the same things: to live our lives, take care of ourselves and our families, and be treated fairly. I don’t think anyone is going to give up on that! 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  2. It would be weird to put in an evenly distributed variety of skin shades in a mid-african civil war. I mean, of course there’s more Nords in Skyrim than anything else.

    In short, if it breaks immersion, throw away your racial bias

    Like

    1. This is a good point. There are times when an over-representation of one race or another could be warranted. For instance, most players in the NBA are black, so I don’t see a problem with other races (either other minorities or white folks) not being as present in video games specific to basketball. But if there is a situation where gender or race doesn’t matter, or if you are depicting a society, why not have a more diverse (and therefore realistic) cast?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey, thanks very much for the name drop and for linking, and for creating content that encourages conversation! I do appreciate it, my friend. I’m greatly interested in the distinction you make between identifying “with” and identifying “as”. I’ll chime in with the previous commenters from your previous post and say that in my opinion the former is far more significant than the latter, considering it is a character’s human-like characteristics (the ability to feel joy, self-expression, pain, sorrow, anger, hardships, etc.) which makes a character engaging, and not necessarily because they share the same physical qualities like skin color or hair color.

    I may have mentioned this before but this is exactly the opinion I’ve expressed with the upcoming debut of Aquaman via the Justice League film. I’m a huge DC fan so this is the kind of conversation I have often. They cast Jason Momoa, an actor who was born in the same city as me and who is half Hawaiian and half caucasian/native american. I’m that exact mix with a little Portuguese thrown in for good measure. Actually, I look a lot like Momoa, except I’m more handsome (*drum roll*). Anyway, lots of folks asked me if I’m excited that they’re “finally” featuring a Hawaiian superhero. My answer is “no”. I’m excited because this is the first time I get to see any Aquaman on the big screen. I’m excited because Jason Momoa is a buff monster. I’m excited because he seems like a ferocious actor that can redeem Aquaman’s lame reputation. I’m excited for the character, not merely because the actor and I share something neither of us are in control of in the first place: our ethnicity. The assumption that I’d enjoy a character’s portrayal simply because I share the actor’s race smacks of a kind of reverse racism to me, like I think my race is going to propel the actor’s role to impressiveness on the merit of race primarily, and that assumption actually “bothers” me more than does the representation of my group (Hawaiians or fatherhood, for example). But of course I use the term “bother” here to mean annoyance, since there are plenty of good stories with good fathers (are there “enough” maybe?).

    There’s a podcaster I listen to who was asked if he would be excited to be the first Jewish president, when asked about running for election, and he said (and I think he’s spot on): “I would rather people judged me for the content of my character and my policies than for something I have no control over like my ethnicity.” Judging or guessing the contents of someone’s character (fiction or non-fiction) based solely/primarily on their group identity seems like a mistake, one that we’ve seen through American history, which is why I’d go with identifying “with” rather than “as”. As far as minorities possibly identifying with the majority because they haven’t been exposed to themselves, that may be true of America but must be less true of more culturally homogeneous countries and nations that America has appropriated past. In the media of other countries (Israel, Palestine, France, Venezuela, Denmark, China, Japan, New Zealand) I’m positive there’s a great deal more representation in their media for their national/ethnic identities in the majority. To pose the question in reverse of your post: perhaps the expectation and demand for representation is merely a symptom of America’s extensively unique multiculturalism, a demand of multicultural privilege, and not an actual basic human need? I’m fascinated by the assertion that minorities fundamentally need representation even though they say they don’t want it. I haven’t heard that before. Something to think about but I’d say that someone knows what’s best for them, usually, in terms of subjective or controversial matters like this. That comes back to individualism, the backbone of society. It may be important for representation of someone’s group in media because it makes them feel the niceness of representation, but that comes back to an individual’s feelings anyway, where someone in that same group may feel nothing toward the similarity between themselves and the character portrayed.

    This may not be the best word but “superficial” qualities like a person’s skin color are becoming increasingly meaningless, at least to me, in media. In a few decades they may be even more so as intermarriage between races will create a variety of skin tones that are not exemplary of a person’s race (i.e. I have a white mexican friend who’s not actually “white” at all, and I’m continually mistaken for Jewish or Arabic, despite having no blood in me of that kind; and thus in these cases, is my friend “white” because he looks it if you don’t know his heritage, or am I not “white” because I don’t look it even though my dad is blonde-haired? All that to say that deciding what someone’s like based on skin color is becoming increasingly arbitrary). When I think of my favorite characters in fiction, indeed the best-written characters in fiction, they share little “as” qualities with me so much as they share many “with” qualities with me by virtue of being human, and in that light they can be exemplary models for all humans rather than representations for a specific small group. If there’s a great dad in a story, going back to the dad thing, their human qualities are relatable to all, even those who aren’t fathers (such as courage, confidence, consistency, kindness, etc.). I think people should definitely tell the kind of stories they want with the kind of characters they want to see, including race/ethnicity/identity group, but making those characters human first rather than [insert agenda here] first makes for the most engaging and memorable stories. I’m sure you can think of many.

    Whew, this is turning into one of those long-winded posts! Sorry!

    I recently read an article that took down some of these thoughts in a nutshell. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it yourself so I included a link here:
    https://theorangutanlibrarian.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/books-are-about-empathy-not-division/

    I would answer your question: “So we’ve returned to the idea of media not being needed to validate other people, thus making representation seem like a non-issue. But if so many people think that representation in video games is a non-issue, why aren’t minorities better represented?” I think that’s merely because people are telling the kind of stories they want to tell, and that’s changing as more minorities and majorities tell the kind of stories they want to see involving representation (for good or ill). Entertainment is a wide pool, thankfully, and America produces tons of it.

    Gah! Aaaaanywho, after so long a comment I do need to apologize again. These are things I think we’re all continuing to think about. I’m constantly mulling over them anyhow. Keep talking about these subjects. As ever, you are absolutely spot on when you said randomly sticking a minority into a story, whether a movie, game, or book, is never the right answer. Certainly, and I guess I spent a little too much time in my comment expressing that very same thing. Thanks for the read!

    I do want to ask you a question: What would enough equality look like for you? Would it mean an equal amount of quality media representation for all identity groups? Would it mean the same thing as uniformity?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Wow! Thanks for your thoughtful reply! Okay, here we go.

      I absolutely agree that identifying *with* a character will – on a personal level – always trump identifying *as* a character. We are, as humans, naturally interested in other people and often seek to find similarities between us, especially when we’re told “Hey you’re going to live inside this character for a while.”

      But again, you and I are talking two different aspects of this issue, I think. On a personal level, you’re right that it’s just that: personal. Some people may really not care that they aren’t represented in media. But the question remains as to whether that is because they have learned to live without it, or whether it is because it truly doesn’t matter to them. I didn’t *need* Samantha Traynor to exist in order to feel personally validated, but on a *societal* level, someone who’s never met a gay woman before has now seen that not all gay women fit “the stereotype.” That’s a big deal on a societal level. Seeing minorities represented in a non-“stereotyped” way is important *on a societal level.* You know what was also great? She wasn’t white. Now, I’m definitely white, but the world isn’t whitewashed, so I’m glad the Mass Effect world – which supposedly takes place in “our” future – isn’t either.

      To answer your questions, I think right now it’s hard to say. There is such a cry for “representation” that I fear the pendulum will swing too far and we’ll start seeing characters stuffed into stories where they don’t really belong. But my answer (for which I can’t say anyone else may or may not have) is that “enough representation” means we’ve stopped having these conversations. It would mean that another main character like Aloy wouldn’t make headlines for being a woman. It would mean that when BioWare includes LGBT characters it’s not seen as a “politically correct” move, but rather just accepted because people who are LGBT exist in the world. It means seeing our diverse accepted when it’s reflected to us in games.

      I’m on the side of realism over fantasy, in the case of representation. NBA games have predominantly black characters, but the NBA has predominantly black players. But take the TV show “Friends”… I don’t think there’s one black person in that whole show. How did those people live in New York City and only run into white people?

      To answer your question about this being a problem specific to the United States, I think that’s for someone else to really discuss, as my knowledge of minorities in other countries is very limited. But my initial response would be no, because the world is multicultural, so if you’re in Russia playing a game in which you are an Egyptian reporter in the Republic of the Congo, the characters should reflect as accurately as possible what that world is like. If you’re playing a game about Russian tsars, I’m going to say that most (if not all) the characters are going to have pale skin, though.

      The article you referred me to (thanks, by the way!) quotes Atticus Finch. How are we supposed to walk around in someone else’s skin if all those “someone elses” are hidden from us in the media? How else do we experience lives outside of our own existence, except through the window of the media?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw yeah! Comments! Haha! I got busy and had to multitask while writing the previous one, so my apologies if there were things which didn’t make sense. I think at this point you and I understand each other quite well anyway, though. I shared your link via Twitter to help stimulate more conversation. I think to answer the last questions there, from my perspective: the someone elses are everyone in literature/film/entertainment/games because I’m not Cap Nemo, Cap America, or Cap Vegatable. I’m not Jason Momoa though we share the same race and ethnic background. I think we experience lives outside of our own just fine without appealing to representation, though of course the wider the difference between our lives and the lives of a different group’s, the more we experience that difference. But that doesn’t negate that we experience a difference through different characters of all groups, anyway. Mr. Finch did walk around in someone else’s skin in a time with zero media representation for the man he was defending, but he did it because of his individual empathy, compassion, righteousness, and charity, not because media told him to or wore down his prejudice. Learning to be a good person like Finch is exactly the way to experience lives outside of our own existence without the window of media: individual charity. That’s what drove people like Hudson Taylor to China to ease the lives of Chinese and give up his own life in their service. Obviously Finch is fiction but I don’t think we could say no one like him ever existed.

        I know we’ve talked about this before, but the question seems to me to be how can we reach the level of representation and equality that would satisfy every individual? We can’t officially penalize insensitive or non-represention media, can we? That sounds totalitarian and I know from past conversation that you personally don’t advocate that. Neither do we want, both of us, to have ham-fisted attempts at shoehorning in characters that are minorities just to satisfy diversity. That sounds like pandering. So then we have talking about it (which you’re doing well) and expecting creators to create the best possible works they can, reflecting their interests. The more that’s created, the wider the net for representation. That’s my hope for this concept of inclusion but I ultimately don’t think it will make everyone happy on the matter. It seems to me that the trendy pendulum of victimization has swung far enough that the conversation may never be enough. Can it swing so far as to create reverse racism, reverse prejudice: feminists now saying men are worthless, people of color now saying whites are incapable of racism, etc. I don’t disbelieve that those groups have done bad things, and continue to, but the knee-jerk reaction may react too far. Of course, this means moderation, which is maybe what I’d like to add most to the conversation (not this one, but generally speaking).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Moderation definitely is key. I think we are flirting with a very fine line between awareness/advocacy and over-sensitivity/backlash, so that’s definitely something to watch out for, on all sides of the issues. And I vehemently disagree with feminists who say/hint that men are worthless, first of all because *that’s not what feminism is so stop it before you ruin everything* and secondly because that’s utterly ridiculous. Men and women are different and we should celebrate those differences, but our differences don’t make us *unequal.* Ugh. Sorry, my frustrated grunt was not directed at you at all.

          I don’t think any sort of representation should be mandated, but I would hope that, like in (some) books and (some) movies, video games are willing to include minorities in a more “realistic” way.

          While To Kill a Mockingbird is a lesson in acceptance (among other things), I’m not sure why games can’t be used the same way. While Atticus Finch is imaginary, the book itself is real and reflects back to us themes of racism, etc., because it is a piece of media. I think games can be held to that same standard.

          Again I ask, though (not just you, but anyone else reading this conversation), if representation is not a “big deal,” why are most protagonists still white males? Why is our only “view” of heroes seen as white and male? Why *not* or (barring the occasional deviation) *never* anyone else? Why should we simply accept what we’ve been given because it’s “good enough”? Why not ever at least try and see what else is possible?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. There is a fine line and I know you’re on the moderate side of these issues. Otherwise we probably couldn’t be having this conversation! Either of us would’ve just started shouting. I’m very encouraged to read these words. Games should definitely be held to the same standard. Will they produce works of art as good as To Kill a Mockingbird? Time will tell. I hope so but this is why I like literature. We should hold games to a high standard, even though I think they’re fundamentally different than, say, literature.

            If I could attempt to answer your questions in my own way, I’d say this: Representation is a big deal to those to whom it’s a big deal to which isn’t every minority. White males dominate protagonists because that’s the kind of story people either want to tell or are used to telling, happily or not, which again the only way to change that is to pursue the line of thinking we’re pursuing, not mandating or shoehorning.

            I think our “view” of heroes being white and male is easily attributable to the fact that they’re the protagonist group in majority, for the reasons I mentioned. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only heroes. Not at all. Wonder Woman is a character I’m greatly looking forward to seeing on the big screen come June, as just one example. I don’t think you can honestly use the phrase “never anyone else”. Are there people (non-supremacists) really advocating for a whitewashing, “no” characters or protagonists that are non-white? I don’t know that it’s accepting what’s been given so much as it is looking for the good that certainly does exist in the female and minority characters that are already out there and then looking to support and promote creators to create more stories that we want to see. I think a great many people are already trying and seeing what else is possible, so I’m not sure that the exclusive terms like “not” or “never” are fair, do you? Representation of minorities may be in the minority currently but it’s definitely not non-existent. Marvel comics, though to what level their shoehorning has hurt their sales is apparently up for debate. Male dominance may never go away but if it does is female dominance the answer? I don’t think so and I don’t think you do either. Variety seems to be the key and fueling that variety will require moderation that doesn’t alienate certain groups just as representation attempts to reach other groups. I’ll go out on a limb and say that entertainment may simple be to big to fully equalize, so the answer must be to create the kinds of works we want to see, as C.S. Lewis told J.R.R. Tolkien: “…there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to write some ourselves.” The technology and audience is certainly more available now more than ever: indie gaming, self-publishing, blogging, vlogging, kickstarter, all making creating easier.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. You got me. I’m an idealist at heart, so I don’t think any one group should be dominant over another.

              In regards to using words like “not” and “never,” you are right that one should “never say never,” because there are of course examples to the contrary. I’d also say that it’s fairly recently that “never” has finally gone away, so while I was speaking in hyperbole, I think there’s still a lot of people who still feel like “never” is the norm.

              We have all the right tools now to keep pressing forward with this issue, like you said – a more diverse audience, technology, and a willingness to discuss. It’s a complex issue, and one that I’ll be revisiting again, to be sure haha

              Liked by 2 people

              1. In a perfect world, no group should be dominant over the other but that unfortunately doesn’t define this world in this country. The universe, unfortunately, isn’t fair. It explains why our media is the way it is, though, and we’ve got some avenues to go down. Keep revisiting the subject and we’ll push creativity forward. I appreciate the conversation, as always, and I respect you for the tremendous amount of courtesy you always show in our discussions! Thanks for helping to keep this subject up out of the mire of name-calling and slander! 😀

                Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks so much Mage for sending me this- I hope you don’t mind me commenting here, because I find 140 characters not enough space to discuss these sort of things and it’s easier to be misconstrued. Also, I will mostly be talking about books, cos that’s what I know about- hope you don’t mind.
      I’d like to start with the fact that I definitely disagree with you ambi over the fact that it is society’s responsibility to influence representation in media, rather than the individual. This is a fundamental issue that I find with the diverse movement. You posed the question: “if representation is a non-issue, why not include more minorities? It shouldn’t matter, after all”- it was the wrong question to be asking however, because most people aren’t arguing that they don’t want or want less minorities. The issue is often about the freedom of the individual being suppressed by large movements pushing a very specific agenda. Often this is about freedom to consume media that already exists without it being subject to complaint or unfounded accusations of being “racist” or “sexist”. (While I’m not a gamer, I followed some of gamergate and in many many ways it was large scale media outlets attacking individual gamers). Fundamentally, there is often an issue in the way it’s being done: holding creators to ransom, not being happy whatever the outcome, forcing a change that was coming naturally anyway.
      I think there’s a state of balance that can be achieved. I was reading diverse books long before it became a thing and I will continue to do so if the movement goes away- however I do not personally feel as though this movement has had a positive effect on me or the community at large. If anything, it has made me and others hyper aware of race/gender/sexuality and increased negativity. I consider this *very* different to positive messages (in books like To Kill a Mockingbird) or the steady increase of books representing diversity that was already coming into play. I’ve also found I am miss-sold products based on diversity alone- rather than the quality of the book- reviewers will bypass the faults with the book just to sell something that furthers their movement. Or worse, diverse characters will be shoehorned in- which as you said in your piece about not being happy with these kinds of naff characters (often cardboard cutouts to my mind) pleases no one.Media should not get extra points for including diverse characters- it gets points for showing humans realistically- whatever their background.
      I will say, you do have a point about certain groups just giving up on being represented fairly, as (if I’m being honest) I would put myself in that category. However, I’ve seen the argument that the representing a group accurately in media would make them feel like they matter, and it shocks and troubles me, because I don’t think this is a healthy attitude to have *at all*. Is it nice to see yourself represented accurately in media? I don’t doubt it is. But it does not and should not affect a person as deeply as to make them say “it makes me feel like I matter”. That attitude is actually just as divisive as an attitude that subjugates others- because these people are literally subjugating themselves and making themselves subject to the way other people view them. Either that leads to resentment by the self-proclaimed “victim” or will make it easier for them to be victimised by others- neither of which are helpful.
      Ultimately, I think Mage made some great arguments about “with” and “as”- I’m not going to go over it all- but I really think that if we focus on the “with” side of things, rather than the “as” there will be more cohesive characters that incorporate *both* the diversity on the surface and the complexities underneath that we all crave.
      Anyway, I hope you don’t mind this super-long comment or me being very frank (you seem like an open-minded sort)- there is just so much to say on this issue!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for weighing in! You’re always welcome to comment 🙂

        I can understand your concern about society influencing media, as of course “mob rule” doesn’t always mean good things will happen. I think this type of thing is rather cyclical, so maybe saying the world “society” is misrepresenting my idea. I’m thinking of the civil rights movement… the people sparked a movement that resulted in the laws being changed so people of all races (in theory) had the same rights. The people demanded it, and so change occurred. Of course, this wouldn’t have happened without the people in power “vetting” the ideas and deciding how to best implement the roar for change. But, again, society was the catalyst.

        I’m confused as to why validation through seeing people “like you” in media comes across as shocking or concerning. Behavioral theory and behavior development is based on interacting with people you view as “like” yourself. There are studies that show when minorities are showed “empowering” videos of people of their race/gender, they perform better on tests. I guess I see that as supported behavioral science rather than my subjective opinion, so I’m legitimately not sure why that’s concerning. I might not be understanding, though, so please elaborate if you don’t mind!

        Subjectively, though, I’m not sure how else to explain people feeling validated through media. I think I’ve been very clear that on an *individual* level it might not matter, and this seems to be something that you are in agreement with, as well. Other commenters here have mentioned that it’s nice when it happens, but media representation wasn’t integral to their personal story.

        On a societal level it matters, though. As an example, it doesn’t matter for me, one gay woman, that Samantha Traynor exists, but it matters for the “other person” who thinks of a stereotypical lesbian bull dyke when they think of lesbians. It was *nice* to see Traynor because she moved away from stereotypes and was more “realistic” in some aspects. And, to people who haven’t met me or people like me, Traynor was a window into a type of person that they might not have seen. This window might change their attitude toward gay people in general.

        There is room for concentrating on both “with” and “as.” I go back to my Traynor example. She was of Indian/English descent (I suppose, based on in-game conversations), and was gay, which represent two minority groups (“as”). But she was a “real” person with depth and character, not simply there to pay lip service to minorities. That’s what made her a great character (“with”). This results in people (who aren’t of Indian heritage or gay) say to themselves something akin to, “These race and orientation traits don’t matter, because Samantha is a person.” And that’s GREAT because your skin or who you fall in love with isn’t your defining feature! The focus has been taken off of the “as,” but the “as” is still present, still being processed by our brains, and being dismissed. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that our brains don’t make distinctions between experiencing in fiction and in reality, so hopefully this “dismissal” will be eventually generalized into the real world.

        But we need to have good characters that tick minority boxes so people CAN focus on something other than the character’s minority status. It will then become a “non issue” in the media, and then will hopefully become a “non issue” in the real world as well.

        You are welcome to be as blunt as you like, and have as strong opinions as you like! I never mind a good conversation!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for hearing me out- not a lot of people would!

          There is a huge difference between trying to affect change and bring about fairer laws and trying to dictate culture. This is not comparable to the civil rights movement. How is it the same for people to have equal rights and have a character in a book that is like you? I think we have to make a distinction here between real and not real. We are not talking about actual discrimination of people in real life- but how they are portrayed- I would argue it is almost debasing the civil rights movement and all it achieved to compare the two issues.

          I think you misunderstood me here. I am not saying “validation through seeing people “like you” in media comes across as shocking or concerning”- of course not! There’s nothing wrong with saying that you enjoy seeing positive representations or that there would be no positive effects. But rather that there is a negative side to feeling oppressed by NOT seeing yourself. I’m actually arguing from the opposite side that if you *need* it to be validated, then there will be substantial consequences to your own mental wellbeing. I am not talking from a subjective view point either- but rather looking at this from the psychological perspective. There are negative consequences to viewing yourself as a victim- I believe the theory originates from Victor Frankl, who developed a practice called logotherapy, but it is also evident in the teachings of many modern clinical psychologists, such as J B Peterson. Social psychologists, such as Jonathan Haidt are also vocal proponents against this mentality. There is also a notion of “victim empowerment” in psychological theory for people dealing with consequences of trauma. Here is a couple of brief article on the subject:
          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-experience/200909/dont-play-the-victim-game

          To clarify, I mentioned my subjective experience to say that while it’s nice, it’s not the be all and end all.

          I’m far from arguing that it isn’t nice to have diverse characters or that people shouldn’t include them (personally I gravitate to a mixture of diverse and non-diverse books). But actually ironically it’s been proven that unconscious bias training has the opposite to its desired effect (Haidt is really excellent on this point- but there’s also this article https://hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail). You mentioned the backlash against this- I actually worry about the consequences of this non-organic approach (again not arguing against the changes over time), especially when society and opinions were already changing. If you try to force it, the consequences are that you will get the opposite effect. As the article argues and so too does Haidt- people are resistant to being controlled and resent being forced to change their views.

          I think to clarify- I do not argue against diversity in media- rather that the way people are going about this is often entirely wrong. Sometimes the greatest harm can be done with the best intentions. Sometimes that harm can be to produce rubbish content that is merely propaganda rather than art- and sometimes that can be in the backlash that inevitably comes when people are pushed too far to one ideology.

          To finish, I’d just like to bring up something Morgan Freeman’s said that the best way to end racism is to “stop talking about it”. Personally, and I am being subjective now cos I’m talking about my own observations, I’ve seen race relations deteriorate rapidly rather than improve since movements shifted focus from culture improving representations over time to forcing change. And (I thought I was finished but I’m not) this brings me back to what you opened with- there is a huge difference in affecting change for people’s belief systems and practically changing laws- you should not use the same methods for both, because it won’t get you anywhere. Ultimately, this comes back to the power of the individual again- it is authoritarian to force people what to think, rather than the liberating civil rights movement, which moved to allow more freedoms for everyone. And, as I said, this won’t bring success anyway.

          Thanks again for listening!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for responding! Unfortunately, I think I’m more confused that when we started.

            I was using the civil rights movement as an example of how society affects change. Likewise, I think the society asking for more *realistic* representation in the media with similarly affect change.

            As much as I liked Morgan Freeman, I only half-agree with him here. I think to not talk about something is to also ignore the problems. I think the desired end goal is to not *have* to talk about it. I think in the interim, we shouldn’t obsess or force it down people’s throats, but rather put the information out there. “Hey, Samantha’s a minority, but that’s not important because look how cool of a person you think she is.”

            You’re right that seeing yourself as a victim is harmful, so I’m glad you brought that up. I am fairly familiar with the literature on that topic, as well. But I’m not sure I ever said that anyone is feeling *victimized* by not being represented, though.

            I’m not sure if I’m misinterpreting your intentions or not, but I’m definitely not advocating anyone be *forced* to do anything. Forcing people to treat each other with equal civil rights is worthy of laws. Forcing white people to accept black people into their institutions is worth of laws. Representation in media doesn’t need a law and frankly I think that would be a ridiculous thing to ask for.

            You’re right that people resent having to change their viewpoint. It can actually trigger the same “defensive” response as a threat to our physical being. But no matter how threatening I seem (haha), I will never stop questioning the status quo; even though that’s how it’s always been and how it’s always worked, I will always wonder how it could be improved.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Haha ok, well I’ll simplify my points then:
              • There is a significant difference between trying to change culture and change laws
              • Different tactics are needed to change culture and the most effective way is to let it evolve naturally
              • If you try to force people’s perceptions to change, you will achieve the opposite effect.
              In response to what you said just now:
              • I do not think you are trying to force people- but this form of activism and advocacy, in its current forms, is having the aforementioned affects.
              • I was not saying *you* thought people were victimised- but rather that the consequence of advocating for diversity in this way creates victims.
              • Even your argument “having to change their viewpoint” indicates that you think people *have to* change- that in itself will be off-putting to people.
              • Haha I think you’re far from threatening though! It’s just that the “we need change now” mentality is ineffective and unhelpful
              I hope that clarifies things. Just one last thing, I’m dying to ask, and I hope you don’t lose me again, are you a utopian? Thanks again 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That clarifies many things, thank you.

                I think my fundamental disagreement is that the only thing we should be intolerant of is intolerance, which means, yes, I think folks who are intolerant should, in a perfect world, have a different viewpoint. I’m certainly not going to sit them down and slap them silly until they think like I think they should, but I also think that people will happily stay in their comfort zones if they are never asked to entertain viewpoints not their own. People need to be challenged, otherwise they’ll become stagnant. All people, including you and me.

                Otherwise, I agree that advocating for diversity in ham-handed ways can create pockets of resentment and feelings of victimization, which leads to less acceptance and an obliteration of the whole reason we were advocating in the first place.

                And yes, I am definitely an idealist. Don’t worry; while having the same discussion over and over again with different people sometimes leaves me fumbling over who said what to me, when, and what my response was, I have a substantial vocabulary, so you’ll never lose me there 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Haha well I won’t disagree with you about it would be ideal to be intolerant of intolerance- I just have two points to make on it 1) most people don’t know when they’re being intolerant (including people on the left) and 2) most people don’t know when other people are being intolerant either. I think, therefore, it is an area to tread carefully.
                  Oh definitely- I’m not averse to challenge at all- I once held very similar views to you, so believe me, I get it. If I hadn’t left my comfort zone, I wouldn’t be having this discussion now 😉
                  Ah I’m glad.
                  Haha no worries- you never know- I obviously must have been heavy-handed with jargon before for so much to get lost in translation 😉
                  I’m glad you confirmed that as well- because I think it can help us understand each other better. While I can respect idealism, I would really recommend looking into the consequences of utopian ideologies across history (spoiler alert: fascists and communists were both utopians)- the results have not been pretty. The very real danger of this really hammers home the point I’m trying to make about how the best intentions can lead to dire consequences. It’s also the central reason why I’m arguing for moderation. (And don’t worry, before I get misconstrued again, I’m absolutely not suggesting you are either of those things- just trying to illustrate the point)
                  If you would like, I can recommend you resources. Thanks for listening again.

                  Like

                  1. Thanks for the offer! I’m going to politely decline, however. I’ve had this conversation about “idealism” enough to know how it ends, and I am fully on board with the fact that striving for a utopia is foolish, because they cannot exist in reality. Perfection for each person cannot exist in the same place at the same time, as each person has a different idea of what “perfect” is. Many instances of “dystopian” literature revolves around a so-called utopia, as I’m sure you know, but it’s only perfect for the people in charge and the folks who agree with them. We need both realists and idealists. Without idealists, the realists would never get off the ground, and without realists, idealists would fly too close to the sun and destroy what they tried to create. I might be idealistic, but I am not naive, even though other people (not you) have often assumed the latter because of the former. I think we definitely agree that everything in moderation is the way to go!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. haha really? That’s surprising, but okay, I won’t push you.

                      Yes- I am aware (I run a book blog 😉 ). I agree with you- I was talking more about moderating individual views. I hope you understand that I wasn’t trying to be too presumptuous- which is why I asked the question. And given that so often these discussions are only about the surface level issue, I figured I would try to address the fundamentals that lie behind it. But if you’re not happy to have the discussion, I have to respect that and walk away. Thanks for your time anyway. I’m glad we could agree on that!

                      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent posting about a subject that is far from straight forward. From my own standpoint, I would say a number of things. For what it’s worth I’m coming in from this as someone who is openly bi (or pan depending on your definition). I absolutely do think that there needs to be more representation in various forms of media, and I’ll get to my reasons for that, but I don’t agree with people who say that those supporting representation should not play non-representative games. My reasoning is that, where I am in life right now, I don’t necessarily need to see a non-hetero character in a game to relate to characters or storylines. For me, seeing bi characters pop up in any form of media is nice, but it’s not a prerequisite for me buying into something. If I think a game is great, I think it’s great, no matter what the characters are. By the same token, I saw how bisexuality was represented in Game of Thrones and found it thoroughly un-relatable. So yeah, quality is an important issue when it comes to my treks into different forms of media.
    Like I said though, representation is important. I’ve noted before that when I was coming to terms with my preferences, I did not have much in the way of role models. The bi people I knew fit into stereotypes that just weren’t me (or the majority as I later found out), and as a result, I just assumed for a long time that I would come down on one side of the fence or another. It’s easier now, but I know that I won’t be the last to suffer like that, and it applies to any form of minority. Representation should, in my mind, be such that it accurately shows a variety of different people that just happen to be minorities. Having those people there that are getting on with their lives helps others understand themselves, their situations, and what they can aspire to, especially when some aspects of themselves are new. That’s why I try to avoid stereotypes as far as possible in my novels. I want people to read about the weird sci-fi worlds that I create but still find the characters to be more than just a mish-mash of what we’re told different folks are like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s important to understand the difference (as you do) between what is important for *your* wellbeing, and what is important for *society’s* well-being. That phrase you used: “just happen to be minorities.” That’s the key. The characters who are minorities shouldn’t have any particular reason to be a minority, in order for this whole idea to work.

      I’m sorry my response isn’t longer, but I was reading what you wrote and nodding my head through all of it. I (obviously) think that representation is important on a societal level, because while someone might not identify with *every* character of a certain type, there will be that *one* that hits them and is important to them, so it’s not something to be dismissed. I’m glad to see that you are trying to keep your characters realistic! I think there’s definitely space for accurate portrayals of humanity in stories without sacrificing quality!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely! As long as someone finds that one character that resonates with them, it cnat be anything other than good. I think as well that if too big deal is made of character x being a part of minority y, that leaves it all open to people shouting about things being shoved down their throats. When a character simply is one thing or another, it just feels more natural. I liked the lesbian storyline in Wynonna Earp for that reason, it just came off as very real to me.
        Thank you. I think you’re absolutely right regarding accurate portrayals without sacrificing quality. I certainly try to acheive that each time, and I hope that it comes across that way to readers. If it gives even one person something to dientify with though, i’ll be happy.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article! Equality/diversity topics tend to enrage the misogynist mob that STILL lurks in the depths of the internet. That’s why I avoid talking about them: I hate getting attacked for being a female gamer. It’s why I stay away from mainstream gaming sites and also why I stopped playing online games. Toxic people bring out the worst in me, so I avoid them at all costs. It’s great that strong female characters like Aloy, Samus, and Lara Croft are getting the respect they deserve these days. It at least shows how fast the industry is evolving. We have most definitely come a long way!

    I think representation is extremely important. I mean, not EVERY game needs to have a diverse cast, but including characters that connect with different groups is a very good thing. Fictional characters, even though they aren’t real, are capable of changing lives if someone forms a special connection with them. Video games give us an extra special connection since we basically “live out” the lives of the characters. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t found Lightning Farron in FFXIII. She was the first independent female introverted character I’ve ever controlled in a video game. I could almost see myself making the same mistakes as her, and it felt like I was growing with her character throughout the trilogy. I was never looking for “me” in a video game, but I can’t describe how awesome it felt to find “her” during a dark time in my life (I really wish I was as strong and beautiful as Lightning though, haha). Unfortunately, I think some of the mindless haters of the FFXIII trilogy would drop off if a dude or a more traditional JRPG “girly” female character was the protagonist. From my personal experiences, male introverts are usually seen as strong silent types, and female introverts are often seen as cranky bitches.

    I’m so glad you found a strong character like Samantha Traynor that you could relate to on a special level! It makes me very sad to see so much hate for homosexual people, and it really makes my blood boil when I read about inhuman hate crimes against members of the LGBT community. A person has the right to love whoever they want, and to be whoever they are, without fear of being attacked by the planet’s scumbags. I have to give BioWare kudos for appearing to lead the way on the diversity front (I have made it a point to play through more of their games soon, as I keep saying haha). Power to WordPress’s resident Goddess of Wisdom! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m actually really glad I haven’t gotten any hate over this one. AmbiGaming is still too small to make waves on the interwebs, I guess 😉

      It’s certainly raising some interesting conversations, even here! I’m so glad the folks here are able to discuss civilly; it really makes the whole experience much more enjoyable for everyone (writers and readers haha). But yeah… other parts of the web can still fall into cesspool status very quickly, unfortunately…

      You are 100% right that moderation is key. As I mentioned in another comment, I’m not trying to force anyone to do anything, and I’m *definitely* not advocating “token” minority characters, by any stretch of the imagination. Comments here seem to be split regarding how important relating to characters is, which isn’t surprising, as the literature on the topic is rather split, too..

      The industry is absolutely changing! We’re starting to see more representation, and I would love to see that momentum continue. You make a very interesting point about your relationship with Lightning – about finding her at just the right time. I think, across mediums, that can be a very powerful experience, as well. Maybe that’s why some characters that are great go by the wayside: they don’t hit us at the moment we need them. Hm…

      And thank you for your kind words. Although my orientation is about as mundane to me as commenting on my hair color (haha), it was unexpectedly nice to see Samantha pop up in Mass Effect. And I *very much* appreciate your thoughtfulness! It’s nice to be reassured now and again that it’s not the taboo it once was 🙂

      And oh my gosh, yes, play their games!!! Haha And Power to the Best Final Fantasy Heroine Ever! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nah! AmbiGaming is taking over the interwebs at an exponentially awesome rate. I think it’s because the trolls fear the almighty Goddess of Wisdom’s wrath 🙂

        That’s one of the things I love about this WordPress community! Everyone I’ve met here is a decent human being who likes to respectfully discuss things, like mature understanding adults (and not like rabid rage trolls).

        That is an interesting thought – the right character, at the right time. I’m wondering if there were potentially other amazing characters I could have connected with, under different circumstances. Don’t worry! I’m planning to start Dragon Age Origins after I FINALLY finish HZD 🙂 (I’m only sitting at 40% completion after >2 months, haha)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha! “Hell hath no fury like that of a Goddess of Wisdom blatantly insulted.” Thank goodness that wrath doesn’t have to rain down here.

          You’ve got me thinking about characters now, too! And tell me the instant you begin playing Origins! (Well, maybe not the very immediate instant, but you know what I mean). No worries, I’m still trying to get through HZD and MEA at the same time, so I feel you.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellently well-thought-out and well-written piece! I believe there should be diverse representation in media, but for both personal and social-political reasons. To preface this, I come from an Asian background. Between TV and going to a mostly white school, I actually grew up thinking I was white with a tan. I had no reason to believe that Asians existed except for whenever Jackie Chan showed up in something. I wouldn’t say that not seeing Asians in media changed how I grew up, but I firmly believe it would have changed had I seen Asians – someone to look up to or identify myself with without confusion. Even today, I don’t see many Asians in anything. Even Japanese video games tend to star Italian plumbers and elvish heroes.

    One of the reasons why I like the sitcom Fresh off the Boat is it depicts an Asian family just being a sitcom family. Some chide it for its inaccurate portrayal of Eddie Huang’s (whom it’s based on) real life, but I actually like that it feels real and not forced into the common kung fu or even smart Asian stereotype. I appreciate when they do cultural things like Chinese New Year, but I also like it when they’re just showing typical sitcom plots. Seeing an Asian family on TV is inspirational, and I can only imagine what it’s like for younger Asians to see that.

    It also affects society. Society won’t change until it sees diversity normalized. And no, one black friend in a sea of white people isn’t normalized. I want to see media, including video games, appreciate each type of person. I don’t want them to throw Asians into Middle Earth just for diversity, but when appropriate, I want to see opportunities for underrepresented groups to shine. Otherwise, we get things like Scarlet Johannesen playing the main Japanese character in the live-action Ghost in the Shell movie. I’m rambling, so I’ll with this. Lack of representation in media won’t affect anything, but a diverse representation can change everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! “Society won’t change until it sees diversity normalized.” I really like how you put that. What better place to practice normalizing diversity than in a story that “isn’t real”?

      I think we are all in agreement that lack of representation doesn’t actively harm anyone, but that when it’s done *well* and *appropriately* it can have a profound impact on a society, and even on a person. I agree that throwing minorities into a game or show for the sake of being able to say, “Hey! We’re diverse!” is ridiculous, but being realistic about the types of people that exist in the world that has been created isn’t (in my opinion) too much to ask, either.

      You’re not rambling at all! Long comments are always welcome. You summed up your thoughts nicely at the end, there, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve nailed it with individual vs. societal. I can and have identified with people who were neither of my race nor gender, but you are also correct in that women and minorities are better able to do this because we’ve had to. Most of the role models have been young, white men. They’re the default so we’re forced to find something to cling to with that default. This of course backfires when you have young, white men saying they can’t identify with a female or minority character, because they’re never had to. It’s also why they feel entitled to be represented everywhere even though they are represented in most places. It’s because when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like discrimination.

    I commented on the WRM’s father post, too! The idea of the bumbling, childlike father is very important to me as a feminist, because it’s a toxic sort of masculinity that portrays men like that and women as the only nurturers. It says that boys can’t play with dolls and fathers can’t be sensitive, and it’s BS. It goes back to the culturally created idea of what “real men” are and aren’t.

    I 100% believe representation matters. When we see people like ourselves we start to believe that we can do what they’re doing. I’d wanted to do cosplay for years, but I was terrified to put myself out there because a lot of the characters I like are white (or white presenting) and I felt like I would be ridiculed. But then I saw women who looked like me doing it AND cosplaying characters I wanted to try! That made me realize I could do it, and while of course there are people out there who’d say, “Screw it, I don’t need anyone’s approval,” they’re the ones who are the trailblazers for the ones who have trepidation.

    Media representation is important because media is so integral in showing us what’s acceptable and what will be acceptable. I’d say with Mass Effect it’s not so much that you can customize what Shepherd looks like (though that is important), it’s more the fact that the humans you run into are incredibly diverse. Even if you have a white male Shepherd, he’s still interacting with so many different kinds of people, and this takes place in the future so it’s suggesting a great deal. Even though ME isn’t a perfect universe, humanity seems to have resolved its racism and sexism problems. There’s a good reason the phrase “Life mimics art” is so relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “And it’s so easy to forget that importance when it’s not your group being misrepresented, just like I did until I read the Mage’s article. That’s why it’s important to keep talking about the representation of minorities (and others) in video games. It’s important to go to those uncomfortable places and get to the heart of the issue so we can fight the problems together.”

    Well said.

    I myself have a rocky relationship with seeing the need for representation. For a long time, I didn’t see the need for it but as I’ve learned more about people (which is a struggle for me because I am an introvert that has major societal anxiety) I see that my dismissal of representation is because I didn’t need it. As a straight white guy, I’m represented in nearly every respect. Being a father to daughters has also helped as I want them to see that they too, as girls, can be as awesome as the media makes it seem I am. This is why shows like Supergirl, Once Upon a Time, and Scorpion (which features women in key roles), are so important to my kids. And seeing them see characters that represent them doing extraordinary things and how it has helped them, has shown me how important it is for others as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. It’s a complex issue, and one that many people (myself included) wrestle with. I think it’s a real testament to you as a dad to not only believe in your daughters like you do, but to also see how media influences them and to then to advocate for them.

      It’s hard to imagine the effect media or other influences can have on people, especially if it’s so outside of your (anyone’s) experience. I remember learning in one of my college classes that, as a therapist, you should never tell someone they “shouldn’t” feel one way or another, but should instead believe their emotional experience is real and valid (because it is), and THEN figure out what’s causing that reaction. Once you realize that – barring someone with a diagnosis that causes delusions – people are reacting to their real-life experiences, it’s hard to discount what they feel or tell them their reaction is somehow not a valid one.

      That got a little deeper than I expected it to go, but suffice it to say that I really, really appreciate your comment, and I’m glad you’ve been able to see both sides of the issue in your own life!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I would say I don’t particularly care about my personal representation in games, after all, until they make Fabio a main character in a game, I’m not running into any protagonists that look like me anytime soon. But looking back on my work, I did once write a three part series celebrating all the left-handers in video games I could think of, so you know, there’s probably something there.

    Didn’t want to step in the middle of your and the Well-Red Mage’s discussion, but to answer his question on what I would think equality in media is, I’d figure it’s where we’ve hit that point in which we’re finding a variety of demographics represented in the work without anyone paying much thought to them. We’re a long way off from that point, and probably will be as long as creators are still basing their characters off of the lowest common denominator, and ironically, going by that definition, the stronger the discussion is about it, the farther we are from that point. Some discussion can even further reinforce the lines between people, as in the Well-Red Mage’s example where people were expecting him to be a fan of Jason Momoa just on the basis of ancestry.

    In any case, I think one of the central concepts at the heart of the debate about representation that nobody seems to recognize lies in the fact that people just don’t get to really know many other people, so our media is a window into the sides of the world that we don’t get to see. To some extent, the media is how we get to know peoples outside of our comfort zone, so it’s natural to some extent to want the media we consume to better represent who is actually out there. It’s a bit of a flawed premise, because media is never going to accurately reflect the real world and trying to force it closer beyond what the narrative allows leads to a worse work that tends to be more insulting to everyone involved than it would be otherwise.

    I’m kind of a selfish consumer though; I’m not so interested in diversity so that other people can be represented, I’m interested in diversity because it’s a part of making characters unique, and unique characters are more interesting. I really enjoyed that The Last of Us’s Joel was old, because that made him more interesting. I liked that the King of All Cosmos is a total queen, because that made him more interesting. I like that Link is left handed, because that makes him literally like 20 times cooler than any other wimpy little character anyone else is playing as. There’s a reason the mid-30’s brown haired white guy rose to such prominence, and any other character archetype getting as overdone as that or the bald space marine before him, no matter how ‘diverse’ that archetype may be, will lead to the same feelings of ‘let’s just do something different’. Variety in characters leads to variety in story-telling, and part of that may be that they fall into different races/genders/sexual orientations/EEO protected category of choice.

    Except for left-handers. Every character should be left-handed. That would just make for a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree that once we don’t pay attention to the demographics, we’d have reached a good place. But until the point, I think it’s going to be a hard balancing act between advocating and not “fussing” over it.

      Additionally, I personally think stepping into the lives of other people is interesting and fascinating, so *of course* that makes for good storytelling in my mind (when the characters aren’t just shoe-horned in). Media is absolutely a window into the world, and maybe I should have stressed that point a little more – people *seeing* minorities or experiencing their lives in some way is important, but then it spirals back into “why”? For their own personal growth? So they’re not jerks in real life? Because it just makes you a subjectively “better person”?

      I agree with you, though. There are so many stories that can be told when a person starts to look at folks that fall outside of the 30-year-old white guy with brown hair, and that’s worth exploring for its own sake, if nothing else.

      And I’d just like to add that even though I’m right-handed, I was very upset when Link was right-handed in Twilight Princess, even thought I know they switched it because of motion-controls… I thought it was pretty cool that a hero from a “medieval” type game was left handed.

      Liked by 1 person

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