E3 Press Conferences Show (Some) Diversity in Gaming (Sort Of)

It’s E3 week! The Electronic Entertainment Expo–or E3 for short–is one of the biggest events on the gaming calendar, with developers and publishers showing their latest and greatest upcoming releases. As a huge gaming nerd, I’ve been following it pretty closely, so I’m going to share my thoughts with you.

Obviously there’s a lot of gaming content, and I’m not going have time to go into all of the games that were announced. That said, there have been a couple of common threads:

  • As games move more to a “games as a service” (rather than single release games), a lot of game titles are trying to reflect that they’ll be around for all posterity, leading to such title names as Halo Unlimited, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Super Meat Boy Forever. Because if anything survives the impending apocalypse, it’ll be video games.
  • So many games are coming to Nintendo Switch! Super Smash Bros., Fortnite Battle Royale, Super Mario Party, Overcooked 2, and Fallout Shelter were announced on that platform, for example, and some of those are playable right now. If there’s one thing to take away from E3 so far, it’s to go buy a Switch. I’m surprised at how many non-Nintendo games got announced as being ported over, but the future of gaming is there for when you want to play on the go.
  • While a lot of the big titles involved shooting things (aliens, zombies, other combatants) in the face, I thought that the offerings from smaller, indie studios offered a bigger range of types of gameplay, such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, We Happy Few, and Unravel Two. I have to say that I am super excited about Unravel Two; it’s so wholesome that it basically brought me to tears when I watched it at the EA conference.

More generally, there has been recent moves to improve diversity and representation in games and the games industry, and I was also looking out for ways that that was demonstrated at E3. While I felt like there was increased representation in the games that were shown, the overwhelming majority of presenters at the conferences were still white men.

So, I rewatched all the press conferences and tracked some data. Here’s a breakdown of the major press conferences, by demographic:

Note: for the purposes of gathering this data, I included Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elijah Wood in the Ubisoft presentation, and did not include the two translators for the Nintendo treehouse presentation (both were men).

Of the 77 presenters, there were a total of zero women of color. Everyone also presented as able-bodied.

What this tells me is that–where the presenters are ostensibly representative of a particular game’s leadership–the leaders of the largest game publishers, gaming consoles, and game titles are still overwhelming white and male. Of course, for each title there are only a very limited number of presenters that have to represent the studio, but those are commonly the studio or project leaders. I also don’t believe that any presenter or company was doing this intentionally or maliciously. But (to quote a recent speaker at a disability and gaming bootcamp), if you do not intentionally, deliberately, proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude. I think that’s what happened here. Despite its recent moves for diversity and inclusion, the people who determine the future and direction in which the industry moves are still homogenous. 

Having said that, the games themselves seemed to show a openness to including players from underrepresented groups, with much clearer steps towards diversity and inclusion. I’m still trying to stick to my resolution to play games that do not have a grizzled white male protagonist (which makes me relieved that I can pick the gender of my character for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed game), and the offerings announced gave me some pretty decent options for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

For female representation, I felt that there were several games that stepped up to the (very low) bar of having a female protagonist. For example, Gears of War 5’s main character is female, and the Tomb Raider franchise continues having a female playable character. Battlefield V recently stirred up a small controversy for merely putting a woman on the cover of a game about World War II. (Spoiler alert: there were numerous women who participated in the war.) Wolfenstein Youngblood offered us not one, but two, female protagonists.

I was excited enough when it was announced that in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that you could finally pick the gender of your assassin and romance anyone in the game, but then The Last of Us 2 one-upped that for even greater LGBT representation:

That said, all of the female characters mentioned here (except for Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey) are white women. Apart from games with character creation (such as Fallout 76, Beyond Good and Evil 2, and Anthem), representation for women of color was maddeningly scarce. I mean, there were more attempts at putting a female skin on previously male characters, such as Super Smash Bros offering a female version of pikachu and Cuphead having a playable female drinking vessel(?), than there were actual playable characters that were actually women of color.

So, I can appreciate that the games industry is trying to be more inclusive and there are going to be baby steps–a LOT of them. But even though this handful of games I’ve mentioned here are trying to broaden representation, the real test of what counts as progress for me will be how these games evolve their communities to make them more accommodating and inclusive. Making people of color and women feel represented will likely get new players into fanbases, but the gaming communities and how they are included will be what makes them stay. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but I want to hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction. I want us to live in a world where people can play what they love without judgement. We deserve as much.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Geek About Town: April

Spring has officially sprung, dear blog readers! And that means flowers popping up, bursts of sun to up those depleted vitamin D levels, and, most importantly, plenty of amazing events coming up! Here’s a look at what’s happening this month. Get ready to mark your calendars for movies, meetups, and talks galore!

Image Description: A gif of Alice from the animated movie “Alice in Wonderland” lying in a field of grass as daisies blow in the breeze above her. Source: Giphy.

 

Saturday, March 31st*: Luncheon with Students from Shanti Bhavan

  • 12:00pm – 3:00pm
  • Bellevue Botanical Garden
    12001 Main Street
  • Join us on March 31st for an inspiring afternoon with students from Shanti Bhavan and Director of Operations, Ajit George. Shanti Bhavan, a school in Southern India, caters exclusively to children from India’s lowest socioeconomic class and is the subject of the recent documentary Daughters of Destiny.

    The event kicks off at 12:00 p.m. with a light lunch. Shree and Visali, Glamour Woman of the Year in 2014, will share their stories and the impact that Shanti Bhavan has had on their lives. Guests are invited to stay for a special screening of Daughters of Destiny, which tells how the unique educational model of Shanti Bhavan equips its students to break out of the cycle of poverty.

    The only educational program of its kind, Shanti Bhavan offers 17 years of rigorous academics, leadership development and professional guidance completely free of charge. The school’s graduates have a 100% university acceptance rate, work at Fortune 500 companies and contribute 20-50% of their salaries to their families and communities – helping end the poverty that has trapped India’s poorest communities for generations.

    This is a free event but donations are welcome. Visit shantibhavanchildren.org to learn more about the school and ways you can get involved.
  • (*Note: okay, so this is obviously not quite April, but WHAT a great event!)

Hanna Hupp
“Rock On!”

Geek About Town: November

It’s craft markets galore this month as we approach the holidays! Check out this month’s Geek About Town for where to find those events plus other geeky and interesting things happening throughout November.

Wednesday, Nov. 1: Bob Burgers Trivia Night

  • 7 p.m. — Central Cinema
  • $8 tickets
  • Get ready for 50 questions about your favorite Belcher gang of misfits, covering seasons 1-5.

Saturday, Nov. 4: Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

  • 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center
  • Free to enter  
  • The 7th annual festival will feature over 270 exhibitor artists. Panel talks include Leela Corman, Emil Ferris, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jesús Cossio, Joe Sacco, Sarah Glidden, and much more. Read more here.

exhibitor artists from around the world including artists from France, Peru, Taiwan, Argentina, Canada, and the UK.

Tuesday, Nov. 7: Gayme Night

  • Starts at 9 p.m. The Unicorn/Narwhal in Capitol Hill
  • 21+
  • Tuesday Gayme Nights are a way to share your geeky gayness with the world. A rotating weekly live gaming extravaganza, hosted by Seattle’s top queens.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Ready Player One: Gaming Highlights for GeekGirlCon ’17

I love games, and I think that one of my favorite places at GeekGirlCon is on the Gaming Floor. It’s a big, open space and lends itself to all sorts of game-related content, be it board games to check out, a walk-up RPG area, console games, and more! Here are some of the cool things that will be happening in games over GeekGirlCon weekend:

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Panel Highlight: Diversity and inclusion in fandoms, RPGs, and beyond

GeekGirlCon attendees at a 2015 panel discussing diversity. (Photo by Sayed Alamy)

We’re living in a time with an incredible volume of movies, television, comics, books, and games. The options seem nearly endless, and while that’s exciting, it can also be disheartening when so much of that content still isn’t diverse and inclusive.

During several panels at GeekGirlCon, we will celebrate diversity in fandoms, constructively criticize the media that we love, and uplift creators making a difference in a discussion about greater representation.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Taking back the video game industry we built

A photo from GeekGirlCon’s gaming floor in 2014. (Photo by Sayed Alamy)

More than 1,000 people recently liked and reblogged a post on tumblr titled, “What happened to the women that built the video game industry?”

The publication Mic posted the article, which explores the early adventure computer game industry in the 80s and 90s. The piece widely credits women as being designers, producers, and directors in the new frontier of hit software development — with games like Sierra Co-founder Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest selling over 400,000 copies and leaders like Electronic Arts’ art department head Nancy L. Fong.

But the article notes that some women designers started to lose interest as the hyper-masculine game culture emerged in the mid-90s.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

A Q&A with RumbleMonkey: How a startup empowers female Hearthstone players

Hearthstone is a popular free-to-play digital strategy card game that builds upon the Warcraft series. (Image credit: Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment)

Described as deceptively simple, but insanely fun fast-paced strategy card game Hearthstone has lived up to that promise for millions of players who turn to their phones and tablets for a Magic: The Gathering-like world.

GeekGirlCon talked to Seattle e-sports startup RumbleMonkey Marketing Director Sammy Witness about how her company works to empower women, femmes, non-binary/gender nonconforming individuals in competitive and casual play of the popular game.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Geek About Town: July

Summer is in full swing with plenty of geeky and interesting events in Seattle. Check out our list below.

Saturday, July 1: Somali Independence Festival

  • Starts at 1 p.m. — Othello Park
  • Free event
  • Join the Somali Community Services of Seattle and celebrate its birth place as well as our cultural heritage. There will be various events and activities including live music, dancing, and a fashion show.

Saturday, July 1: Meow Fest 2

  • Starts at 1 p.m. — Covington Library
  • Free event
  • The library will celebrate the awesomeness of cats with showings of some of its favorite, funny cat videos, as well as with crafts and other fun activities. They’ll have adoptable cats, should you be inspired to give a forever home to what might be the internet’s next biggest star!

Meow on Saturday, July 1.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

How to find a tabletop group in Seattle

A game played at GeekGirlCon’s board game night at Wayward Cafe, held the second and fourth Friday of every month.

Looking to expand your Dungeons and Dragons nights? Moved to Seattle and trying to find a gathering? New to tabletops and looking for direction?

For any reason, finding a tabletop role-playing group is exciting, but it can also be daunting. So, the GeekGirlCon gaming team has narrowed down some safe spaces that you can roll into and try out in the Seattle area.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Geek About Town: June

Summer is here with plenty of geeky and interesting things to do in Seattle this June!

Thursday to Sunday, June 1 to June 11: First day of the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival

  • Schedule, locations, and tickets vary; take a look at the schedule here.
  • Seattle International Film Festival is one of the most highly attended film festivals in the United States. It shows more than 400 films from 80 countries in 25 days.


Thursday, June 1: Ali Noorani: There Goes the Neighborhood

  • Starts at 7 p.m. Elliott Bay Book Company in Capitol Hill
  • Free event
  • Ali Noorani, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum (an advocacy organization promoting the value of immigrants and immigration) will discuss his new book, There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration.

Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

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Thanks to the GeekGirlCon GeekGirlCon Super Sponsors

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