Diversity in Games

I was recently approached by a student at our university, who is carrying out research into cultural representations in games. Her questions inspired this post. So here is a quick one!

I believe that video games have come a long way in terms of cultural inclusivity in recent years. Compared to previous decades, games are now more inclusive of diverse cultures due to various factors. Firstly, the globalisation of the gaming industry has led to the development of games that cater to international audiences, thereby increasing the diversity of available games. Secondly, game developers are more aware of the significance of diversity in the industry, creating games that appeal to a broader range of cultures. However, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still work to be done in this area to prevent stereotypes and uninformed design considerations.

This development is generally a positive one since it enables people from all over the world to enjoy games. The trend is reflected in various ways, including the development of games in multiple languages and tailored to different cultural needs, the depiction of different cultures in games, and the representation of diverse casts of characters. One example is the Horizon series, including “Zero Dawn” and “Forbidden West,” which feature characters from diverse backgrounds. Another example is “Hogwarts Legacy,” which allows players to personalise their characters, including a diverse selection of ethnicities or culturally identifiable features, breaking down stereotypes and showing that anyone can be a hero.

Mommy, I’m in Hogwarts! Well, on the way to Hogsmeade.

The constantly evolving and changing nature of a progressive society has a significant impact on the way games are designed and produced. As society’s values and beliefs continue to evolve, game developers are more likely to create games with diverse and inclusive characters, complex and nuanced stories, and interactive and immersive experiences. However, not everyone shares the same progressive values, and certain groups may feel excluded due to cultural and global differences in values and beliefs, particularly in regard to sexual and gender issues.

While there is still more work to be done, the trend towards greater cultural diversity and inclusion in games is promising. Video games have the potential to represent various cultures and people in a meaningful way, but there is a possibility that they can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Some games are quite explicit in their use of stereotypes, such as portraying certain cultures as backward or violent. For instance, games like “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” often feature stereotypical depictions of ethnic groups as criminals or gang members. Other games may use subtler forms of stereotyping. For example, a game may include a character from a particular culture, but only as a background character with no significant role or agency in the game’s narrative. This type of representation can be just as damaging, as it reinforces the notion that people from certain cultures are unimportant.

Game developers must thus be mindful of the potential for stereotypes in their games and aim to create accurate and respectful representations of different cultures. For instance, games like “Never Alone” present unique and authentic cultural experiences that enhance players’ understanding of different cultures. By providing players with a first-hand experience of another culture, this will enable them to explore diverse locations, meet new people, and learn about different customs and traditions. Games like “Assassin’s Creed” series set in different cultures allow players to experience and learn about diverse ways of life.

Video games can be a fun and engaging way to learn about different cultures, using humour, storytelling, and other techniques to make the learning process more enjoyable. This can assist players in retaining the information they learn and promote a more open-minded attitude towards other cultures. Moreover, video games can challenge players’ preconceived notions and stereotypes about other cultures by showcasing that individuals from different cultures have similar hopes, dreams, and fears as themselves. Games like “The Last of Us” series highlight the shared humanity of characters from different cultural backgrounds. The co-creation of games can also be a tool for getting various communities to come together and create games about their cultures. For example, culturally engaged games hackathons can provide a platform for different cultures to come together and collaborate on games.

In conclusion, video games have the potential to promote cultural diversity and inclusivity in a powerful and engaging manner. Game developers must continue to be mindful of stereotypes and strive to create accurate and respectful representations of different cultures. By doing so, video games can help promote greater empathy and understanding between people, leading to a more inclusive and culturally diverse world.

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