Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This Independence Day, take a moment to remember what we're really celebrating...

at 3:31 PM
with a few of gaming's most relatable native American leads.

hm I could keep going with this but the two second Google search I just did so thoroughly soured me on the subject of race (as usual) that my enthusiasm is deader than the indigenous peoples of North America. I dunno. Serious time for a second: my single (though improbably verbose) thought on minority* representation in media is that generally the number of minority creators is proportional to the number of (worthwhile) minority portrayals. In this case, if there are natives out there making games, they're probably utilizing interesting native characters. Japanese men, on the other hand, are writing about... whatever it is that Japanese men write about. Bear with me for a second because I realize there's some middle ground - but do you even want a bunch of 30-year-old middle-class white men at Bethesda trying to write "genuine" stories about growing up as a destitute full-blood lesbian on the rez? "Yes" is apparently the answer, because despite the widespread knowledge that the game industry is largely composed of white and Asian men, under-representation of women and racial minorities is a persistent complaint (I think mostly among people who don't actually touch games). So we get shoehorned characters that end up being written just as poorly as one would expect. The only people who can be held accountable for failing to bring forth compelling minority characters are minority writers. Who largely don't exist. 

So we have what I can only understand as an entitlement scenario, where the end product is being held to a uniformity standard determined by a (theoretical) audience and found wanting. Which is, sigh, not how an artistic medium works. It's like claiming there's something wrong with Impressionism because they never painted enough comedy cats. Yes, it's true, the historical body of work is 'incomplete' in that sense, and therefore may not appeal to everyone. Then again, there's no reason it needs to appeal to everyone. Just like there's no reason everyone needs to like video games. It isn't a shortcoming of the medium, it's a misalignment between expectation and reality. And if someone does want to love games but feels like they're being held back by a lack of relatable characters... doesn't that make it their duty to go out and create some decent portrayals in line with their thinking? Or at the very least aren't they deprived of the right to complain? It's not like there's some invisible market force stopping them from grabbing a game engine and distributing their work on one of the myriad indie platforms available.
Punk was largely stereotyped as "angry white boy" music, but that didn't stop Bad Brains
None of this is meant to excuse bland stereotyping and historical rationalization of atrocity, which is a different conversation altogether. That shit is just bad writing, and the fact that 95% of game writers suck at writing shows up far more flagrantly in other places. Usually the entire story. But when it comes to the landscape of the contemporary marketplace, there's no room for complaint about unbalanced or unfair representation. The process of creating and distributing a game has now been so far simplified (at least to equivalency with learning to write/play/record music) that there's no excuse to believe you aren't getting what you "deserve" - if it doesn't exist, it's your job to create it.

*note: I realize women are not a minority, but I didn't feel like typing "female/minority" a thousand times, so use your brain to discern that they are included in the commentary

No comments:

Post a Comment