#Triggered. A fun little hashtag to use. People, at least in my circle of online contacts, love to use it as a bit of sarcasm when the time calls for it. But it is fundamentally something that has a pretty deep, hotly debated topic underneath.
Inclusiveness, relatability and depth in gaming.
Gaming is, for some, a hobby and for others it’s a way of life. Regardless of how serious you take it, it is in my view, an industry that caters for almost everyone. There are those that do not agree to this however and believe the industry to be exceptionally biased. When you look at the history of gaming it’s not hard to see why though. Protagonists had always been white, gruff and full of bad attitudes. As the gaming industry matured however, this started to change. RPG’s allow you to customise your character pretty much any way you please. Some games allow you to play as a female lead, or even play as something that isn’t even human.
Yet, when you go on to the internet and browse to your favorite gaming or social media site you are bound to see an argument around whether games should be more inclusive or not.
People have preferences, each and every single one of us enjoy our lives in our own unique way. I enjoy my whiskey on the rocks. You? You might like it with a mixer (Heathen!). The point is, each of us is different in our own special, messed up way. The exact same is true for anyone in the habit of playing games as a hobby or even a eSport. Just this morning I found myself part of a Twitter back and forth that had more and more people climb on board to give their views. You can go read some of it here if you want.
Now, it’s difficult to say that any one person is absolutely correct or completely incorrect in any of their views because of the fact the each person is differant. But I believe one needs to take a step back and look at it from a larger perspective. Gaming at its core is to be fun. That’s the long and short of it. Again what is considered “FUN” differs from person to person. I enjoy story driven, single player games far more than any online shooter and I pretty much don’t care what or who the protagonist is. As long as they are well thought out I’m all good at playing as a white male or a black female or a glowing alien life form. I really couldn’t care. I’m there for the story. I need to see what happens to the person in the game because I’m fairly empathetic in my day to day life.
So I don’t relate to the character. I relate to emotions invoked in the game. Other people however are not like that. Part of the Twitter argument this morning was that it sucked that Geralt couldn’t be related to. This left me scratching my head. Geralt was not created to be related to (Although I am sure certain people can). The game was created as a story to be told about a very specific person.
Yet, others feel like they are missing out on “Game Of The Year” because they can not relate because the character is pretty much defined already as a very specific kind of person.
In my mind I can’t see why this should even be a point of argument. It was adapted from a series of books and so had no choice but to be what it was. The only difference is that instead of reading a book, you were interacting with the story as the main protagonist. This is why I enjoyed it. My empathy towards people transferred well in to the game dynamics because of the hard choices one had to make and the effects it had on the character. Instead of relating I could feel myself feel sad for the characters in the story (Oh man I must sound like a crazy person to anyone reading this who isn’t in to gaming).
Does this this mean others who can’t enjoy a specific game because they can’t relate aren’t allowed to voice it? Absolutely not. It sounds a bit like double standards when just a paragraph back I said “In my mind I can’t see why this should even be a point of argument” and I am not blind to that. It really doesn’t seem possible to support both trains of thought there. However in my view it’s quite acceptable to side with both thoughts there. I’m able to feel bad for others who can’t enjoy a game when I’ve enjoyed it so thoroughly knowing that the character perhaps took on the old “Gruff White Male” protagonist. Heck, when I see people complain about these things I sometimes feel down right guilty for enjoying something and finding no fault that the character is extremely stereotypical. Even if me playing the game had nothing to do with who or what the characters were.
That all being said, there are games that I simply cannot empathise with in any way. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy other forms or genres of games, I mean I LOVE the Elder Scrolls games even though there is absolutely no empathy to be had. The characters are as well rounded as a square block of cement. Duller too. But I enjoy them because there is no need for me to worry about being included as a demographic because quite frankly the characters are empty shells for me to pour myself in to. And just as I am able to play other genres of games, there are also story driven games that I simply cannot play because there is nothing there for me, even though in theory there should be. Like Call of Juarez or Call of Duty (Sorry folks this includes the modern Warfare titles that so many people stated had amazing story elements. I don’t get it)
So why mention these? Well because it’s important for the whole argument I am trying to make. Just as it’s understandable that there are some who feel they’ve missed out on a game because of it being un-relateable, there are those games I feel I’ve “missed out on” as I can’t empathise with the characters, even if the story is apparently good.
The point is this – You, as a gamer, are going to see titles people rave about that you do not enjoy. Sometimes you simply just won’t get it and sometimes you’ll feel slighted because you feel that perhaps they could have had more inclusive characters. And that’s OK. But it’s also OK for games to not always be perfectly aimed at everyone. Games like Doom take the very basic core of the argument of inclusiveness and throws it out the window. But it does that simply so that it can be a game focused on fast and furious shoot ’em up mechanics. Nothing else. That is the core focus of the game and it does that well. You don’t need to be able to relate to enjoy it (Or hate it if shoot ’em ups is not your thing).
Just the same as The Witcher isn’t for everyone either. Some love it, some hate it and others feel that it needs to do more to include them. The fact is not all games will hit that magic mark. Not all games can be Mass Effect in the way that literally any character can slot in to the story and be a believable character. Geralt has to be a man. Lara Croft must be a female. Nathan Drake has to be the guy wishing he could be the awesome that Lara Croft is. Sorry Uncharted fans. I couldn’t help but take the cheap shot there 😉
If you don’t like a game, I can guarantee you there are other games you will enjoy. Just like every glove does not fit every hand, neither does every game fit every person’s personality. It’s the very nature of art and entertainment. Some prefer stories, some prefer beautiful settings, some love mindless fun and others enjoy deep, social commentary based gameplay. We are all different.
So the next time you want to hit out at a developer for not making a game that’s all inclusive, just stop and consider if there are games out there that do cater for you. If there are, and they are good, then consider just letting it go. If there isn’t well then by all means raise the red flag. Raise the point that there is a lack in the gaming industry for X, Y or Z players.
For those of you that noticed I put quotation marks around “Game Of the Year” and “Missed Out On” in my article above. This was intentional because “Game of the Year” and “Missed out on” are vastly different from person to person. Just because a game is labeled as Game of the Year doesn’t mean it is Game of the year for me. Just as “Missed out on” will differ from person to person and cannot be set with a defined value simply because a majority of people agree.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have something in this hobby that is gaming that matches your personality type. But not every single game can match that expectation or need. Sometimes we need to look at a game and accept what it is: Not For Me.Moving On.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I would like to get back to playing Ori and the Blind Forest. I can’t relate to the character (Whatever it is. Animated leaf? Seriously someone tell me) but I sure as heck can empathise with loss, despair and ultimately fighting for hope.