This avid gamer, book lover, and father thinks a wider range of characters would make entertainment better, for him, his daughter, and the rest of us.
I spent last week devouring three of Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee novels. It’s been a long time since a series of novels has captivated me like this. They have everything I like in novels: mystery, politics, unrealistic violence, romance, travel, and handguns (swords are also acceptable — handguns and swords would be even better, but surely that would break some law of the universe).
Of course, there are a lot of books that fulfill these criteria; these things hardly make Hamilton’s novels unique. What does make them unique is his protagonist, Ava Lee.
Ava is — as all crime novel protagonists should be — tough, clever, good-looking, worldly, a little cynical, and capable of ruthlessness when pushed to it. She is also an Asian Canadian lesbian. That’s a good thing, for a few different reasons.
Yes, that’s a good thing for women, Asians, and homosexuals who are short on opportunities to see someone like themselves solve mysteries and kick ass. But it’s also a good thing for me, a heterosexual, white, male reader. It’s good because Ava’s Chinese family background (which will seem very strange to most Westerners) opens up options for kinds of plots I’ve never read before. It’s good because Ava’s sexuality puts social dynamics into the novel that I don’t usually get in my books.
I’m trying to make a point here, and it’s a point much bigger than why I like a particular series of books. Diversity in entertainment doesn’t just offer better representation to women and minorities: it makes entertainment more interesting.
This past week, partially in response to the #GamerGate kerfuffle, video game fans on Twitter used the #INeedDiverseGames hashtag to make the case for more diversity in video games. I joined in.
I should say at this point that I love video games. I’ve been playing them for 24 years. I binge-watch “let’s plays” on YouTube the way others do TV shows on Netflix. I can explain point-by-point how Morrowind is superior to Oblivion. I can summon up from memory the response to every swordfight insult in The Secret of Monkey Island. My Team Fortress 2 Demoknight has the Proof-of-Purchase helmet and a Strange Eyelander with thousands of kills.
Non-gamer readers, it’s okay if you don’t know what any of that means. The point is: I love video games. I want them to be good.
I want diverse games, in part because I’m a feminist and in part because I’m the father of a girl who will someday play video games, but also just because I like video games and I think more diversity will make them better.
I’m not asking for a ban on jiggle physics. I’m not calling for video games to be racially balanced like a kids’ show on PBS. I don’t need Kratos and Geralt to become bisexual. I just want more options, for women and minorities, yes, but also for me: I want to be able to get from my games the kind of experience that I got from Hamilton’s novels last week.
But there is a very vocal group of people on the internet right now who, for some reason, have a problem with that.
I don’t want to devote too much print to #GamerGate. I already talk about them too much on Twitter, and many, many, many others have done a better job writing about them than I could. I will say, though, for those of you who don’t hang out on Twitter, that there really is a vocal contingent of internet denizens who not only object to more diversity in games, but who are so afraid of diversity that they feel a need to stop or co-opt even the discussion of it.
I personally encountered trolls who had been lying in wait almost every time I used the hashtag, and efforts to co-opt the hashtag have become so prevalent that the person who started #INeedDiverseGames had to make a Tumblr post to dispel the misconception that it’s a #GamerGate rallying cry. This is the internet right now: if you want to talk about diversity in video games, you must be ready to deal with an angry mob trying to conquer you or shout you down.
(Some of #GamerGate is doing much worse than that, of course — as the links I’ve posted will attest — but that’s not really within the scope of this piece.)
I’m not sure what these people think they’re fighting against. The games they like aren’t going anywhere. As long as people are happy to pay for brooding-white-man-kills-hundreds-and-romances-busty-damsel games, developers are going to keep making them. And no one is trying to stop that, not even me. For all their problematic portrayals and lack of diversity, a lot of them are genuinely good, fun games.
But I want more, not just out of altruistic concern for other demographics than my own, but out of a belief that more variety will make things better for me as a consumer. Heterosexual white guys need diversity, too.
Thanks for reading.
Originally published at sudfemdad.tumblr.com