A recurring trend within media is an aggressive push for representation. In media, representation is the way aspects of society, such as; gender, age, ethnicity, and more are shown to audiences. Therefore, one could assume that the media’s push for representation coupled with the calls from individuals from select groups is a positive occurrence.
However, this is far from the case, as to how the pursuit is eventually implemented often proves problematic. Though, its negative impact goes unacknowledged by both the media and “champions for representation.” Thus, it is necessary to discuss the issue with the above case of representation, especially within the context of video games.
In-Game Representation Matters
The above heading is a common argument heard in defense of representation in gaming. It is often argued that media representation matters as individuals live in a society, whereby factors, such as; gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on the influence their so-called lived experiences and the issues that affect them.
Although this is highly debatable and easily disproved, people nevertheless in their abundant gullibility believe this and support the pro-representation side of the “representation wars.”
The aforementioned group holds three arguments, with all of them applying to any form of entertainment.
First, they believe that if game developers produce video games that only represent particular roles in their products. This leads to certain stories being told from the perspective of majority groups, thus they argue that minorities or underprivileged groups are often depicted in narrow or stereotypical manners.
Second, video games, as a form of entertainment, is not a form of harmless escapism; it is a way to tell history, facts, stories, and shape opinion. Finally, it is somehow argued that stories and characters supposedly become more relatable to minorities and underprivileged groups if they see individuals, such as themselves (fictional or otherwise) within video games.
The above is quite humorous for several reasons, chief among them being the inconsistency seen within these arguments when game developers succumb to the efforts of “champions for representation.” First, one can easily see how minorities and underprivileged groups, for the most part, accept narrow or stereotypical portrayals of themselves within video games.
Though, this is being modest since developers merely have to add some color to or label a character to achieve “representation” within their games and satisfy those that called for it. Second, the multi-faceted functionality of video games often takes contradictory stances when its agenda is “representation,” for example, BattleField V.
The developers promised a game that emphasized the historical accuracy of World War II, however, players were met with an abundance of historical inaccuracy in the form of a female protagonist and her rag-tag bunch. Finally, superficiality fails to produce any type of relatability since it lacks the depth and complexity necessary to achieve this.
An overall result is a form of bad representation, one that people readily accept since its suggestive of “diversity.” However, it fails to provide any substance or meaningfulness to characters that promote “representation” agendas by having forced diversity within video games.
It Matters Quite Little
The priority in media whether its film, television, literature, or video games is to craft well-written characters, not prioritizing ones relatable only by the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, and whatever else. Furthermore, characters achieve relatability through their actions, their personality, and who they are as characters.
Video games often have protagonists that come across to the shallow and the petty as “straight white males” and nothing more. However, this is far from the case, as players find playing as them enjoyable said enjoyment transitions into relatability due to the character developing as the game progresses:
- Kratos was a bloodthirsty warrior that butchered his family yet he sought redemption for his actions. However, the gods of Olympus denied him this and betrayed him, thus Kratos pursued revenge yet manages to free ancient Greece from corrupted gods.
There is no inherent issue with appreciating diversity or representation. This is due to the appreciation resulting from a good, or at the very least, decent character broadening the potential of in-game worlds and impact of narratives.
Thus, when it comes to video games or any other entertainment medium for that fact, what needs prioritization is the quality of craft. This has do be done since this determines the entirety of a product’s quality. Furthermore, representation is a tertiary maybe even secondary concern because there are occasions whereby it has little to no significance because it is flat out nonexistent.
The Elephant in the Room
The issue with representation is the elephant in the room that often goes unaddressed. This is problematic because its presence is so blatant, obvious, and unnatural to the point that one tends to question themselves:
Why are these characters the way they are?
What’s the point of these characters without identity politics?
If one were to disregard the gender, race, and orientation of these characters, what are they?
Media representation does not matter in the context of video games or the grander scheme of things. Additionally, if one feels inspired by a character who is representative of their race, gender, or whatever else then good for them. However, these elements do not define a character rather their actions, personality, and other related aspects do.
Moreover, if people let their immutable characteristics define their personage and expect the same in entertainment mediums, then they have some issues to work out.
In conclusion, the representation issue in gaming is insignificant, given how it fails to have any bearing on the quality of content and players’ reaction to said content along with their engagement with gaming. Furthermore, demands for representation need not continue as it is not asking for anything meaningful rather it is an attempt to satisfy the shallowness and pettiness of those who call for it. Additionally, if individuals want video games that push “representation” agendas then they best take it upon themselves to produce content that does so.
Agree or disagree?
Let us know below in the comment section.