Gaming and the Election 4: “Who are we shooting at?”

So. Obama won. The Republicans got routed. But what does that mean?

Okay. It means a lot. It means an awful lot. Since my wheelhouse is supposed to be “the intersection of politics and gaming”, though, it might be a good idea for me to take a stab at what it means for gamingSo I’ve put together a short series speculating on how the Democratic triumph (which, honestly, is what it was) is going to change and/or be reflected in the future course of gaming.

This time, a short one on America’s new multicultural face.

#4: We’re shooting at Who, exactly?

The other big identity-related thing that’s come out of this election is that “minority groups” aren’t minority players anymore. They’re a key part of the Democratic coalition and, again, they aren’t going anywhere at all. Hispanic Americans, Black Americans, Asian-Americans, and the whole GBLTQ rainbow are going to play a big, big part. They might even play a bigger part than “straight” white males. They’re the ones who consistently vote Republican, after all.

So the same question that applies to women applies to minorities: is it really a smart idea to have your games flamboyantly cater to white guys? To have the same old lily-white protagonists fighting off waves and waves of [Brown/Black/Asian/insert-outside-group-here] badguys who have all the character development of your typical Xenomorph? To take all your minority characters and turn them into caricatures? To take alien and fantastic characters and have them somehow act like ethnic caricatures?

Excuse my french, but FUCK no. And not because it’s a bad idea or immoral or lazy, though it usually is all of those things. It’s because you’re trying to sell games to the same multicultural, multiethnic America that just handed the Dems this monster victory. The lesson is sitting RIGHT there, RIGHT in front of you. For the love of all that’s Holy, learn from it before you and yours become another economic casualty.

In some ways, this is a more immediate lesson than the one about gender. There’s a lot of arguments out there about whether or not women and girls will want to play “boy games” (though, as you saw, I don’t think that’s the point). There’s absolutely no question that males are going to want to play them, though. It’s not a possible audience, it’s an obvious and already-interested audience. There’s no reason whatsoever to keep your protagonists as all-american straight white dudes. There’s literally no downside to being more pluralistic.

It’s also useful from a creative point of view.  People who see themselves reflected in the games they want to play are going to get more invested in the medium.   That makes it far, far more likely that they’ll go into the business themselves. The biggest barrier for game-makers is ensuring that they aren’t insensitive to groups not represented on their teams. Get rid of the lack, and you get rid of the barrier.  More representation, more interest, more talent, more representation, and so on and so forth.

It’s a virtuous cycle. Hallelujah.

(That’s that for identity issues. So tomorrow (or possibly Monday), we get to the economy stuff. Strap in.)

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