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Reader Comments (51)

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:18PM Victor Stillwater said

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Well said.

I had a question though, but I think it's rather off-tangent and somewhat crass, so I apologize if my wording is horrible.

Is it possible that high fantasy or technofantasy is the mental playing ground for a particular subset of human beings, specifically "white male" subset, while other flights of fancy (such as being a race car driver or a sports legend) can be found in other games where the "white male" notion here is underrepresented?

I think one thing missing is the statistics for what kind of subset of people play what types of games. Sure there's inclusion that needs be done, and I find that important myself seeing as I'm Asian (and Guild Wars was an awesome reference here), but maybe there's a particular significant demographic that prefers other games to MMOs?

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:20PM Victor Stillwater said

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Sigh.... I don't know if I made sense in my last message, though I know it has been answered somewhat in the actual write-up. Apologies as I'm not really focused at the moment. Can't sleep. :(

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:45PM (Unverified) said

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@Victor Stillwater
I understood what you were saying Victor. The last time I tried to play Madden(or just about any EA sports game) I felt like an outsider. There is certainly an element of marketing involved.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 3:29PM Lolzor69 said

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In my 7 years of online gaming I have come to know a half-dozen (I wanted to say handful bought thought that would be a bad way to start off the post) openly gay gamers. Gaymers. Although this is an awfully small sample size...and in a way a true reflection of this article's point...there are some commonalities with them.

Being a nerd. Specifically being a gamer nerd defined them more than their sexuality. There were stories that being picked on and/or segregated for being a nerd was more predominant than being gay. They would feel more of a real life disconnect because of their hobby than their sexual "preference." Being in game...with gaming friends...was comforting.

I can't recall a single conversation where any gay individual ever felt they were "under-represented" inside the game...both as npc's and players. They simply existed in the game as a person...undefined. In a way it was comforting for them.

Calling things "gay" and people "faggots" is rampant in gaming culture. I never saw this offend any of my gay friends. In fact, I saw them laugh it off better than anyone else.

While I agree that games should reflect what we, as humans, understand as our world or worlds....I don't see there being any pressing issue for game developers and publishers to make a point to define every character's role in society.

It's awfully nice for people to simply...be people.

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:52PM Irem said

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@Lolzor69
What may have been the case for your gay friends isn't the case for everyone.

I'm as gay as a morning in spring and, yeah, I'd like to see some gay characters in MMOs. They don't have to, as Eliot mentioned, have to run around yelling, "HAVE I MENTIONED I AM HOMOSEXUAL TODAY?" or even have it be a major part of their character. It's just nice to see characters not default to straight. Plenty of NPCs have spouses or heterosexual lovers, so it's not really something that needs to be pointed at in blinking lights to be effective.

"People being people" is a great thought in theory, but too often it leads to people being, well, straight white males, especially when fictional creations are involved. Characters are not going to spring up in all different tones and cultural backgrounds and orientations and just hang around waiting for us to get to know them; a writer has to define them. Most often, the writer defines them as a straight white male. And that's a choice a writer has to actively make, just as they would to make the character gay, or black, or female--it's just that the choice is invisible there, because they're defaulting to a certain kind of character, one that they're familiar and comfortable with. It would be great if we lived in a world where people really could just be people, but we don't, and until we do, the only way to stop certain groups from being treated as completely invisible in media is to define them as actually existing.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 4:02PM Alchematrix said

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@Lolzor69 Yes and no; I mean, on one hand, I do see the appeal of logging in and just "being a person", rather than (in my case) a female player. On the other hand, I think it would be nice to see more diversity in games without broadcasting it. For example-- there are quests here and there in WoW in which you help someone find their spouse, or take something to their spouse, etcetera. Just change that up slightly to where you're running an errand from Male NPC #1 who wants you to bring this Box of Goods to his husband who's on a trip to the next town over.

Now, one way in which "just be people" isn't necessarily going to happen is on RP realms (again, I speak of WoW because it's my main game). Why? Because there are always people who have their own idea of what society the setting/cultures are based on, and their own perception of what that society believes in regard to matters like homosexuality, or gender equality, etcetera. In the matter of homosexuality especially, Blizzard is mum in regard to how it's viewed in Azeroth/etc.

There was a forum thread recently about this, with some people thinking that Azeroth would be completely intolerant as they believe it's medieval (a very human-centric attitude, that disregards the tech that exists in-game). Others mused on how they felt different cultures would view it, and there were different opinions. I myself have my own opinion, and no one is specifically right though some certainly seem to believe they Know Everything, despite having no actual evidence from game Lore to support their position, only RL-based assumptions.

Say you have Gay Player A, whose character is a gay male orc warrior; he plays his character as facing no discrimination because whatever his private life, he displays the orcish values of strength and honor, and does his part for the Horde. He doesn't "proclaim his gayness" as some might say, but he does enjoy a good meal at the tavern with his romantic partner. But then they're confronted by Player B, who insists up and down that orcs would hate gay people no matter what (because they believe the society is stereotypically testosterone-driven) and makes their sexuality much more of an issue than they themselves are; it may start bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to RL attitudes, and at least partly diminishes the notion of "just being people."
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Posted: May 10th 2011 4:31PM Vagrant Zero said

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@Irem The problem with "more gay characters" is that most developers are straight and thus when they make gay characters they come off as caricatures instead of people.

See Anders of Dragon Age 2.

I refuse to ever roll a male character again in that game because of that putz.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 5:01PM Borick said

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@Lolzor69 Nice point. If you don't feel misrepresented yourself, and are instead servcing as an advocate of others, wouldn't your sensitivity training remind you that you can't instantiate the pain of another for their behalf?

If I have to stop and think about the categories of gay people I've known in my life, and to categorize them in some file marked 'The Gays' takes too much from what defined the individual.

I'm sure we could generate lots of sympathetic derivation of the caracature, though. How about a meterosexual makeover skin, or while you're at it, why can't MMOs have more blackface characters?
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Posted: May 10th 2011 5:31PM ShivanSwordsman said

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@Vagrant Zero

Technically, he's Bisexual. He can be paired up with any Hawke you want. Comparing him to Isabella would be a better way to view him. Both seem like caricatures of a human being rather than actual people (DA: Awakening's Anders not withstanding). In fact, Isabella was different in DA:O. More cunning, less breasts in your face "Hey, can we sleep together?" type of gal.

If anything, DA:O did gay men very well, even if Zevran was bisexual. Zevran was a bit of a flirt and a flamer, but he had reason to be. even then, when you warmed up to him and chose him, he came off as genuinely more loving than, say, Morrigan (a female lead, MAJOR character). I also loved Zevran because he wasn't blinded by absolute greed (Morrigan) or light loving zealotism (Leilani). His style of life was cynical without Morrigan's bile, and utilized common sense.

Then DA 2 came and he spent the entire cameo time bragging about how awesome he and the Crows were. Face it, DA2 was dumbed down for the majority of people they wanted the money of. Though, it does show us what the majority of gamers want, so I suppose it could indeed be a benchmark for this sort of thing.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 8:10PM Gryphmon said

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@Lolzor69

I can guarantee that no one enjoys being someone else's cuss word. The fact of the matter is that MMO"s are run largely by peer pressure. If your friends were to speak up, it would shatter the illusion that they belonged to something. So in most cases we choose not to say anything and not be branded as too sensitive or not a team player. Just because someone chooses to laugh off ignorant hateful and stupid comments, it doesn't mean that they don't hurt at some level.

Frankly, the chat channels in WoW are why I wouldn't let my children play the game. In game chat its always faggot this and nigger that. I wouldn't want my kids thinking that its an acceptable way to communicate. But with the lack of visible sanctions on that kind of bigoted behaviour, that's what they would perceive.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 10:30PM Irem said

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@Vagrant Zero
That's a scenario where I would rather see them try than just pretend gay people don't exist. If they get it wrong, they'll be told how to do it differently, and hopefully they'll learn.

I thought the maleHawke/Fenris romance was done very well. And like I said above, it really doesn't need to be made a huge deal of. When I played WoW, a bunch of us decided that the male NPCs Asric and Jadaar were a couple, or Koltira and Thassarian, just because it was nice to pretend we'd gotten some representation. In either case all Blizzard would have to do is add one throwaway line somewhere referencing a deeper relationship, and ta-da, there's your gay characters.
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Posted: May 11th 2011 9:08AM fallwind said

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@Gryphmon my husband and I had a good policy on people using "gay" in a derogatory way... we let the offender know that we find that offencive and such things tended to make us "forget" to heal them later. It tends to smarten people up that there are real people who play the game.

we had many DPS get the boot (even a few tanks), but were never once asked to leave ourselves.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 3:33PM godot9 said

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Hi Victor,
As to your questions:
1) No. There are more Asians playing MMOs and online games than "white males". Thus, it is a false assumption "that high fantasy or technofantasy is the mental playing ground for ... "white male[s]".

2) The assumption that certain ethnicities prefer to play fantasy/sf/driving/etc games is not necessarily valid for males. There IS a significant differences between genders which is why non-combat oriented games such as Farmville has such a huge following with females also.

Hope that answers some of your questions,
-Godot

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:41PM Victor Stillwater said

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@godot9 Thanks Godot. I was afraid I was getting really offensive, so I'm glad for the respectful answer with additional information. :)
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Posted: May 10th 2011 4:03PM Irem said

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@godot9
"There IS a significant differences between genders which is why non-combat oriented games such as Farmville has such a huge following with females also."

This is arguable. There isn't much crossover between female gamers who play MMOs and traditional singleplayer games and women who play Farmville but nothing else--they're mostly different groups. We would probably see a more accurate picture of female gamers' interest in combat-oriented games if the companies that made those games made some real attempts to market to us, but even games geared toward a gender-neutral audience are often marketed directly to men.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 3:36PM Practical said

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I agree with all of this. I think this is one of those things developers do on an unconscious level:

"A bunch of straight white men work on a game with a story involving a lot of other straight white men, and as a result, the game finds a robust audience of straight white men. As a result, the followup game is also made to appeal to straight white men, and the straight white boys who group up to make their own games assume that it's just the norm."

I think that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Kudos to those developers (such as ArenaNet) who cater to greater diversity.

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:37PM godot9 said

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BTW,
Kudos to EQ1 for Erudites, the smartest race of non-white humanoids on the planet, both for daring to include them and for going against stereotype.

-Godot

Posted: May 10th 2011 5:23PM Borick said

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@godot9 Erudites were a self-deprecating caracature, and outside of comic appreciation I see it as no less offensive than a blackface actor.

Black geniuses with big funny foreheads, with a defensive and racist stance? It worked, but I wouldn't think to use Erudites as a shining example of sensitive integration.
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Posted: May 10th 2011 3:46PM CitizenH said

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I've noticed City of Heroes has an unusually large number of non-male and non-straight gamers. More so than WoW.

I chalk it up to the game allowing for many different kinds of characters in a modern setting and, at the risk of being offensive, the costume creator that people spend hours in playing with their look.

Posted: May 10th 2011 3:55PM Irem said

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Thank you for another great article, Eliot.

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