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Well I think another question that game critics and players haven’t resolved for themselves is how to best represent characters who, in the real world, would be subjects of some type of systematic social oppression—be it sexism, racism, classism, homophobia. A question that came up last week at EA’s “Full Spectrum” conference was whether LGBT characters should just be shown as the most ass-kicking protagonists possible. Or should developers create games that actually speak to the experience of what LGBT subjects go through in their lives. And what did they say? (Laughs) The panelists kind of went back and forth on the issue. But BioWare’s Matt Bromberg was very open when he told me: “It’s hard.” I imagine that if a studio of BioWare’s caliber, or Crystal Dynamics character, made a gay character that wasn’t immediately accepted in the game world that would give rise to its own controversy. There was a blog post—it was referenced in a GameSpot article “Fear of a Woman Warrior”—by a developer who was talking about the fear he had of creating anything outside white male characters [laughs] lest he be accused of racism or sexism. I think there is actually a genuine nervousness amongst developers about straying outside those familiar grounds. That is why we get so many dudebros in suits—or Whitey McStubbly, as I call him—repeated over and over again. That’s the familiar ground. But it’s not an accurate representation of gamers, it’s not even an accurate representation of developers! Developers themselves are much more diverse than the characters. Whenever anybody talks about a need for more female protagonists I say: “There’s a need for more female protagonists, but there’s a need for characters of different ethnicities, ages, sexual orientation, ability, et cetera.” We are very narrow when it comes to our characters. But also you’ve got a situation where female characters do get scrutinized more than male characters do, and in some ways can be seen as holding a banner up for female characters. A lot gets heaped on their shoulders. Lara Croft gets a lot more scrutiny than Nathan Drake does, as a female. Nobody talks about how well Nathan Drake is representing men, or male characters in games.
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