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Moving Forward On Race In Games: Manveer Heir Speaks
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Moving Forward On Race In Games: Manveer Heir Speaks

August 5, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

I agree with that from the perspective from the traditional large-scale big team industry, but it does seem to be changing in smaller teams, which are having increased success. There's thatgamecompany's Kellee Santiago, and there are more people of color and people of various gender and sexual orientation making a lot of waves in the indie community. You've got Anna Anthropy, who's trans and a game designer.

And as that becomes more of a viable space. I think maybe it will be where the innovation is. But getting these perspectives actually into games that do have authorial control, which is possible in the indie space, could help make the industry on the whole have a wider breadth of content.

MH: I totally agree. I'm a huge fan of the indie space. I was fortunate enough to be a judge on the IGF this year, and I got to check out all these really awesome games. To me, the leaders of the indie space are leading the industry, not just the indie space. Because they're guiding what the mainstream space is going to go to in a few years, many times.

You're seeing concepts taken from the indie space. Yeah, sometimes they're altered or, for lack of a better term, even dumbed down to fit a wider audience. That's naturally going to happen when you move up in the zeros at the end of that budget, but at the same time, I think that's really cool because, if the publishers are wary -- and I get why they're wary.

Most publishers are losing money, or they're not making a ton usually. If you're wary, but you can point to something else that took all the risk for you basically, and they've been successful, that's empowering for the team who are interested in the idea. And then maybe the publisher isn't going to be wary to take more of an opportunity or a chance on it. So, I really hope that more indies are going to keep doing that. They definitely are. I just want to see more of it.

It seems like innovation can filter up if the right champion is there to be like, "Look at this, and look at that. We can make this work." Hopefully that's what we'll see.

In your opinion, should we be taking small steps toward a better representation of race and gender or orientation? Or could one game sort of break it out and do it all?

MH: I think both are possible. I think that taking small steps is more likely given the risk-averseness, especially in the triple-A space. Nintendo just announced a new console at E3. Sony and Microsoft will, too. As developers, we have to worry about new hardware... Our budgets are probably going to go up again, right. Our budgets just keep growing at an insane rate every time we get new hardware, because of the fidelity rate. And because of that, I think we're going to become more and more risk-averse.

You can see most major publishers doubled down on that on video games, and make less video games, trying to make that small amount much higher quality, versus making 20 and hoping that two hit. So, I don't think you're going to see that change. I hope it happens. Maybe there will be somebody in the independent space that will sign a deal with a major publisher, but they fund a lot of it on their own, or something, to get it done.

I can hope, but I'm not holding my breath. So, yeah, I think any progress is good progress, even if I'm talking to you in 20 years about similar things. I hope that in 20 years I personally would have been able to do something on my own by then, to at least help advance things, but who knows where the world will go in the future.

Prototype 2

For people that do want to write, and write characters that are not the same race as them into games and things like that, would you have any advice for taking criticism? A while ago, Erin Robinson did a cool indie game (Puzzle Bots), and she got criticized for being sexist by a feminist writer based only on the trailer -- it was disappointing for her.

MH: I think first you have to realize that there's always going to be someone who speaks up against it. Especially when you're kind of forging your ground. There's always going to be someone who is offended.

As a society, my personal opinion is we're too worried about offending other people. I think if what you're doing is coming from a good part -- it's not coming from a place of hatred, like you don't actually hate a culture or bring them down, and you're just trying to represent them the best you can -- I think just go for it.

Secondly, I think just research, you know? If there's a dialect, if it's a Southern character, or there's a certain way they talk and there's a dialect, figure out how those people talk, to capture the essence of wherever they're from. That goes for race, religion, sexual orientation, any of those things. You just have to understand where people come from.

And also peer review. If you have peers around you that are also well-versed at writing... I hope there's a group of them just like there is in the design community. I can ask people in the design community questions, and they'll give me their thoughts. I hope the writing community has the same thing, where they can throw ideas by one another and get some feedback, and that, I think, will strengthen them as a group.

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