Inclusivity and Values in the Game Community

by Anthony Murray

The game community is working towards creating an environment that is open and respectful to everyone. However, rather than waiting for the fruits of diversity to sprout, we are breaking out the frozen dinners because we’re hungry now. The inclusivity rush has presented us with an interesting problem: where do we draw the line between our values and our inclusivity?

This question gnaws at the minds of game developers, journalists, gamers, and personalities concerned about appearances over understanding. Afraid to formulate an answer, they begin to form circles where inclusivity meets their values. While some circles are friendlier than others, a contradicting perspective could find a person bullied, shamed, and isolated by labels.

Recently Nintendo announced Tomodachi Life, a quirky life simulator parody, for the West. The game was attacked when it was found that it didn’t support same-sex marriage. Rather than digging further into the reasons why this decision was made, some members of the press had very strong opinions about the “beating, bigoted heart of Nintendo.” Despite evidence explaining why gay marriage wasn’t implemented as a feature and could not be changed so close to launch, the offended circles accused Nintendo and those who defended them of bigotry and shamed them. Interestingly enough, the person who wrote the most balanced piece about the situation, taking the time to find the truth over reacting blindly, was a gay married man — a person directly affected by the situation. Are our values about marriage more important than including people that have differing opinions about a company? Or is the line gay marriage in games?

Earlier this year when Bravely Default was announced for the West, we received news that some of the character outfits would be censored. Those that cried censorship were labeled pedophiles and perverts in comments. As far as some were concerned, those against censorship were just trying to find an excuse to justify wanting to see sexualized young women and didn’t matter. Are our values about how a person is represented in a medium more important than including those that may actually care about censorship in games? Or is the line sexualization in games?

Everyone has a line, and we have to admit to ourselves that our inclusivity is shaped by our values. These values drive how we think, act, and pick our social circles. When applied to art, music, writing, and content creation, these values color our content. This is why welcoming people from all walks of life into the industry is important; having a broader palette of perspectives means that we can paint more diverse experiences and look at things from more angles.

Does this mean that circles are bad? Absolutely not. It’s human to surround ourselves with people that we feel safe around. In fact, having small circles can help reduce the noise of having a ton of people share the same space and create an environment for more intimate discussion.

But being complacent in our circles and allowing one perspective to dominate without opposition is unhealthy. We have to understand what makes us uncomfortable, defensive, angry, and the reasons why. We have to accept that while we may not be able to tolerate everything, we can respect a person’s right to have an opinion or create content, and that maybe, just maybe, we prefer and esteem people who think like us and accept us for who we are. Civil conversations, not knee-jerk reactions based on subjective values, are the foundation for creating thriving, sustainable, and inclusive communities.

Does this mean that we have to accept bigots? Well, that depends on your interpretation of the word. A bigot isn’t someone who has a strong opinion you disagree with; a bigot is a person who refuses to consider other people’s opinions to the point of being completely unreasonable. We must understand this difference as a community. If a person isn’t willing to consider the possibility of another opinion, that person is not worth your time. Why would you waste your time trying to reason with someone who doesn’t want to listen?

Inclusivity is making a color wheel out of perspectives, not making everything muddy. Inclusivity is about building bridges between circles without the fear of being treated like you can’t belong. Inclusivity is a seed that needs patience, love, and care to thrive in an industry that’s still struggling with its identity. If our inclusivity is based on the values of people who would rather shame than consider opposing perspectives, how inclusive are we really? And are we letting people draw lines for us?

Anthony “Mister Armory” Murray is a game designer with a fascination for all things game development. His goal is to provide practical pieces of information to aspiring game developers and to lend a helping hand to those that he can as he moves through the industry. Follow him on Twitter (@misterarmory) and check out more of his writing on his personal website.

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