Friday, March 3, 2017

Culture: #VideoGamesoWhite?

Tony Thornton was initially skeptical of a game which gives players a first-person view of an African American boy growing up on the city’s South Side — an experience he’d lived, but one the developer proposing the project had not.

“I thought it was pretty gutsy for a young white guy from suburbia to be writing a game about a young black kid from the quote-unquote inner city,” Thornton said.
That young white guy would be Michael Block, co-founder of Culture Shock Games, another Chicago native who wanted to make a game about his city but knew he needed help to tell its story. Once he and Thornton met, however, they hit it off and started to shape the game and build on interviews Block had already conducted with young people growing up on the South Side.
“We Are Chicago” is emblematic of a type of game gaining traction on the independent scene — titles that strive to offer players a window into other people's lives and to encourage empathy. Microsoft has named Culture Shock Games one of three recipients of its award honoring inclusive, independent games at this year's Independent Games Festival.

The other recipients are “I, Hope,” a game that follows the footsteps of a girl fighting cancer, and “A Hero’s Call,” a game created by blind developers for both blind and sighted gamers.
Culture critics have repeatedly called on the gaming industry to depict more racial, gender and other types of diversity in their games. The industry itself is also having these discussions; at the annual Game Developers Conference over the past week, there have been several talks on improving accessibility and diversity in games.

In a 2015 Nielsen survey, most gamers said they had little problem with representation in games, but about one-fifth of gamers across racial lines said they felt strongly that video games underrepresent some races. That number climbed to 50 percent when looking just at Asian American gamers. In the same survey, 65 percent of LGBT gamers said they felt sexual orientation was not well represented in games.

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