Under pressure from gamers, studios switch to more comprehensive video games – TVA Nouvelles

Transgender heroes, Afro haircuts and indigenous peoples: under pressure from gamers, more demanding “representativeness” in characters and plots, and the impetus of a new generation of creators sensitive to these issues, studios are moving towards more inclusive video games.

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The most telling example: the introduction of Lucia in the highly anticipated GTA VI, the first playable female protagonist in Grand Theft Auto history, while the sulphurous franchise has been criticized for decades for its misogynistic and hypersexualized portrayals of women. and caricatures of minorities.

In an industry marked by high-profile cases of harassment (Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, etc.), “we are becoming more and more aware of the need for more “thoughtful” representation of female characters, Ashley Reed, in charge of narration for Apex, tells AFP Legends, published by American studio Electronic Arts.

If there has been a “real questioning” of the major studios since these cases, “the trigger comes mainly from the players,” explains Jennifer Lufau, consultant on inclusion in video games and founder of Afrogameuses, an association that advocates for better representation Black, told AFP Women in the video game industry.

“Because there is a real need for representativeness in the content they consume, especially with the rise of social media,” studios are “realizing that there is diversity among gamers” that goes beyond the “white guy” stereotype, she says adds, citing as an example a “bad buzz” surrounding the game “Animal Crossing.”

Star of Confinement, this game that lets you customize your avatar to your liking from clothing to haircut, was the subject of a petition in late 2020 that brought together more than 50,000 signatures to address the lack of Afro hairstyles in public spaces protest options.

“Sensitivity checker”

“I can’t believe it, but Nintendo listened to us! We have more comprehensive hairstyles! I cried when I found out (…) My avatar now looks like me!” wrote Taniesha Bracken, a young woman from Denver and author of the petition, after the Japanese publisher’s update.

To avoid such mistakes in game design, studios like Ubisoft have been appointing directors of inclusion since February 2021, in particular to promote the recruitment of “talent” from diversity and/or more sensitive people into creative teams.

Like the literary world, they are increasingly turning to specialized consultants, so-called “sensitive readers.”

This young profession, developing mainly in the United States or Great Britain, points out cultural inconsistencies both in scenarios and visual representations, even if they are seen by some as censors.

“My job is actually to explain to them how their suggestions will be perceived and how they can avoid falling into certain traps that lead to the creation of stereotypes,” emphasizes Jennifer Lufau.

State of the art independent studios

Aware that video games are a “powerful” medium for conveying “inclusive and progressive messages,” independent studios continue to be the first to bring these issues into the spotlight, such as the French studio Dontnod, which debuted in 2015 with “Life is Strange The series caused a stir for its believable portrayal of LGBT+ characters.

“We can’t compete with the really big studios on their premises. We have to find our difference and this is how we found it,” explains manager Oskar Guilbert to AFP, who admits to having received around ten rejections before he saw Japanese publisher Square Enix betting on the game.

Native languages ​​and indigenous peoples are also highlighted by the studio, from the game Tell Me Why with the Alaskan Tlingits to Banishers, where the actor who voices one of the main characters took “a few lessons in Scottish Gaelic” to make sure he pronounces (his) few sentences correctly.”

But this trend isn’t always welcome, like the controversy surrounding Starfield, a very popular game that lets you choose your gender and associated pronoun when creating your character.

Enough to provoke the ire of certain players, such as that of HeelvsBabyface, a British YouTuber with 358,000 subscribers who went viral in September for his insult-filled diatribe in which he complained that publisher Bethesda was “ideology” in his Added favorite game.