Anna Anthropy, a transgender woman, game developer, and author of Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form, certainly thinks so.
"Games are a monoculture," she told Gay Life. "The people who are traditionally allowed to make them are straight white cis dudes who know nothing about oppression, and as a result, they produce really homogenous games that don't have a lot to say to me. I want to see games actually represent the diversity of the human experience—not just white dudes and guns. That's what the book is about: it's about why more diverse voices in games are important, but it's also a guide to getting started and making games."
While this view is centered on the American and European gaming conglomerates, major Japanese and Korean companies do not offer much in the way of diversity either. Every character is the same: The male protagonist is gaming shorthand for the character most players can relate to. The fragile magic user in a fantasy setting is always female. War stories are more numerous than exploration tales, let alone stories of relationships, of getting up again, of love. Sex and violence sell, and it's the same packaging every time. Different genres may be more blatant than others (for example, the ruckus last year over the busty advertising for Soul Caliber V); but that this is expected and tolerated, is the problem.
Games do not have to rely on the best and flashiest technology, or cutting-edge tools: in fact, this view does more to hurt game developers than help them learn.
"I remember describing the premise to a games journalist and having him ask, ’but won't all the programs in the book be outdated by the time it's out?’ People are so locked into a technology-centric view of games that they can't understand technology isn't the major problem games are facing,” explained Anthropy. “My book sold out at last year's game developers conference, upon release—twice. So I can't help feeling there are people in the games industry who recognize the need for and desire change."
So for any aspiring game developer—whether you are a gay man describing romance in city streets, a student fighting for respect, a polyamorous person writing about trust and communication, a genderfluid mother yearning to be understood, or a girl attempting to make coherent the multitude of thoughts about her transition—learn, and make, and do. Regarding resources, Anthropy recommends Twine, which can be downloaded for free. StoryNexus is a game engine (developed by Failbetter Studios) that allows for interactive stories as well, that anyone can use. If no games out there speak to you, resonate with you, make them.
"You can always make, you can always create," Anna has, and that is how she lives—by creating.
Anna Anthropy, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters
Saturday, September 29, 4pm
Radical Bookfair Pavilion