Dear Gaming Writers, the year is 2013 and hopefully many more years with what use to feel like space aged figures will come. There are roughly as I type this, 7.11 billion humans on this planet and a lot of psychotic sheep.
No one person is the same, we all have something unique about us, be it personality or physically. The time has come, and it went by a long while ago to be honest, to start writing gaming characters that represent even a small percentage of the people of the planet, you know, the consumers, the fans of your games, the people that help ensure you take a salary home to pay for the necessities of life.
The trouble with writing about variety
I get that it's not always easy to write about something you have very little knowledge of and I get that it's made even more contrary when you're creating and being responsible for a character that will be fleshed out by designers and available for anyone with a gaming console to see and critique.
Some writers might be worried about delving into new realms, but the problem there is if you're a writer then that's exactly what you should be doing, at least once or twice in your life. If your job and your passion is to imagine, re-imagine and flesh out new worlds and inhabitants for gaming, then you owe it to yourself to take that literary license clause and expand your horizons. Be daring, be bold and be brave.
The worry can also be attributed to the very understandable notion, that you could create a character that in principle is based on a demographic and you get it totally wrong. You write a character for a game, they're a companion for the main protagonist in a sandbox game, heck if you want to shock us, pleasantly, they are the protagonist. But for some reason the finish product has aroused more concern and blasting than it has admiration.
Sometimes this can happen because people are, lets be honest, a bit ignorant. They don't quite get that sensitivities are not only valid, but a big part of the media gears and PR appeasement process for advertising a game and hoping to make a profit.
Then other times this negative reaction to a character can come from a genuine mistake, you thought you understood the demographic you were trying to cater for and you got attacked for the finished product.
So what do you do?
First of all, you do not give up. If you're on twitter or read a bunch of gaming news websites, you'll see that things have changed, peoples opinions are not only being voiced more but that they are given so many avenues with which to express themselves, you cannot escape it. So no unless you never interact with the internet again, you will probably definitely come across criticism, some very damning, some psychotic and some fair, regarding something that was under your care and development. But that's no reason to give in and yes all opinions should be heard and the ones that are laced with a random basement dweller threatening your life should be disposed and ignored, but you don't stop trying to add inclusivity to your creations. You try even harder, you keep going and know that no matter what we do we will never please everybody. But making characters that represent minorities or those that feel left out, isn't and shouldn't be about pleasing people, not even the individuals you're trying to be mindful of. It's about doing the right thing.
Gaming is such a large, important medium now, not just as entertainment but as a multi-million pound business plan.
The difference in creating a gaming character who represents, the so called underdogs of life, disabled people, LGBT folk, those suffering with depression ect and these characters being in a film is quite staggering. You ARE these characters. You control them and you play as them. Depending on the sort of game, you customise them and you decide the choices they make, good, bad, grey or silly within the story of the game.
The great thing about gaming, aside from the fun and social aspect is, you might get the chance to play as someone that exists in this world, not an elf or an Italian plumber (who are um fictional?) but as a real person, who's different and yet the same as you. You get a tiny sampling of what it may be like to be someone else, who has different ailments in life and at the same time you get to travel through space, drive a go-kart that shoots bananas or save the world from neon coloured alien invaders.
It's not always easy, but it is very doable to create gaming characters that are not over muscled, white heterosexual males. This is not the world we live in. I may not be a proponent of games 'having' to be uber realistic in terms of story and graphics, but I am very much in support of games containing human characters who actually represent us all and don't segregate us. People are not all born with the same desires and physically abilities as whoever is in the next cot on the ward.
Games are littered with so many copy and pasted characters, it become boring now, very boring. Where are the decent transgendered, disabled, homosexual and even non-subjectified female gaming icons?
The internet can be a messed up place at times, but it also has many positive uses, such as the ability to research or to get in contact with people to interview so that you can create a respectable representation for a video game. Utilise the tools you are given and be grateful that you are someone who's ideas can be turned into vast, 3D worlds that anyone can interact with. Be grateful most of all to the people who support you, who let you do your job professionally and remember that those people come in all shapes, sizes, orientations and everyone of them deserve, at the very least, a valiant effort to be made to include them.
It's 2013 and we are very much, behind the times when it comes to equality and sometimes all it takes is pulling your finger out and going for it.
Neither I'm a BEAR!