Featured Article: “Fear, Anxiety and Hope: What It Means to Be a Minority in Gaming”
Five years after “Gamergate,” little seems to have changed in the gaming industry for minorities, women and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. In this lesson, students read six stories of people trying to change that. Then, they take a critical look at how their own identities are — or are not — represented in games today.
Create a personal identity chart. Write your name in the middle of a piece of paper or document. Then, on branches extending outward, write all the different things that make you who you are.
These can include your physical characteristics, your personality, your hobbies and interests, your background, your role in your family or other relationships, or anything else that you feel defines you. Here’s an example of what it might look like.
Now, circle five items that are most important to your identity.
Today, you’re going to read an article about identity and gaming. Take a look at the five items you circled in your chart. How often do you see these parts of your identity reflected in the video games or other games you play? Are there characters that look and act like you? Do the story lines reflect your own interests and life experiences?
Would you say that your identity is represented in the majority of video games you play — or, if you’re not a gamer, in other kinds of media, like television, movies and music? How does it feel when you see yourself reflected in these spaces? How does it feel when you don’t?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. The authors note that there is a lack of diversity in the gaming industry today. How does that influence the types of mainstream games that are made? What impact does it have on the gaming community?
2. How did “Gamergate” help shape Squinky’s career path?
3. How did making games help Emma Kidwell reconnect to her Japanese identity?
4. In what ways is Joyce Lin’s game, Queering Spacetime, different from other simulation games? Why does she see it as a “queer form of resistance”?
5. What does Julian Cordero dislike about gaming culture and why?
6. Why is Aziza Brown optimistic about the future of gaming? How does she think the industry can change to become more inclusive?
7. Which of these stories stood out to you the most and why?
If you were to create a game that represented who you are, what would it look like?
Like the developers profiled in the article, design a game that reflects one or more aspects of your identity, such as your gender, race, sexuality, favorite hobby or anything else that you included in your identity chart above. Whatever you choose, it should be important to you.
For additional inspiration, you may want to watch the short film “Games You Can’t Win,” which shows how a transgender woman, a man with severe mental illness and the parents of a child with cancer transform their experiences into intensely personal video games.
In designing your game, consider who the main characters would be, what story line the game would follow, what form it would take, how it would be played and anything else you want to take on.
You can design it by creating a series of storyboard sketches of each phase of the game, or simply describe it in writing.
Then, take a moment to reflect on your creation:
How did it feel to create something that reflected your own identity?
How do you think you would feel if there were more games like this in the mainstream?
Do you think there are others who would feel “seen” if they could play your game? Why or why not?