In order to inspire developers to create games that delight the imagination and seduce the heart, we need to collectively educate, evangelize and promote games for good.
Educate or incentivize developers to take risks to defy the stereotypes. Encourage games that actually show the ramifications of war instead of just the brutality. If female characters are included at all, they have tended to be portrayed in one of two ways: Either as helpless princesses in need of rescue by a male character, or as assertive male personalities in over-sexualized female bodies (e.g., Lara Croft). In either case, violence has been the primary problem-solving mechanism of the majority of video games.
Although we are finally addressing the need to create more diversity in the content for both girls and boys, we still have a deficit of female leadership in companies, even at companies whose primary target is female (such as Zynga). The majority of the content creators, senior leadership, especially in larger companies, is still men.
If we look at the affects these stereotyped characters, we see that boys are growing up disrespecting girls and girls being taught to believe that they have no value. This is so pervasive that girls women regularly report gender-based hate speech and harassment in popular games such as Halo and Gears of War. The portrayal of male characters is also limited to largely stereotypes. The media contributes to this as well but constructing a stereotype of the “gamer” as a young male who only likes to play Shoot-Em-Ups, ignoring the popularity of such games as Flower and Journey with this audience.
We as an industry need to start transcending these stereotypes and broadening our horizons. Video games have been called the “art form of the 21st Century” by a number of prominent media scholars.
Since the economic crash, the rules of the game have changed. Several of the big companies like THQ, Atari, etc have folded leaving a space for an exploding subculture of indie game developers. They are taking the idea of gaming as an art form to the next level. These creative communities are disrupting the traditional gaming culture and we are finally beginning to see a wide range of diverse content created by a wide range of content creators. New platforms and business models are enabling these games to be seen by larger and broader audiences. Leadership by females and people of ethnic diversity, as well as male designers who shirk industry stereotypes, is resulting in games that go beyond the stereotypes. We are seeing more feminine types of game mechanics in addition to the traditional twitch mechanics.
The Indiecade Festival has created a platform that was outside of the “walled garden” of the video game industry. Ironically in the past eight years since its founding, major publishers have come on board, such as Sony and Nintendo, alongside new tech companies such as Oculus Rift, because they see this is a center for innovation. Many IndieCade and other indie games have now been published on mainstream platforms, as well as through PC distribution channels, such as Steam, expanding the exposure that people have to indie games. Ironically, indie games are successfully breaking the video games out of its former niche audience, and expanding the medium into the mainstream.
Let's get behind this subculture in a much bigger way and bring it into the mainstream.