Global Chat: Why player representation in games matters

    
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Multi-digit division.

The recent flap over Escape from Tarkov’s public pronouncement of “no icky girls” (my paraphrase) as playable characters in its game elicited more than one strong response from the MMO community. Among them, Belghast over at Tales from the Aggronaut made an impassioned plea for diverse player representation in games.

“If I had my druthers pretty much every game experience would feature some sort of an option that allows you to tailor to at least the right gender if not being able to do full cosmetic customization,” he wrote. “For me and many other players that I know, cosmetic options are pretty much the most important system in a game.”

Read on for more MMO blog essays, including a look at Star Trek Online’s 10th anniversary, balancing MMO play, weird EverQuest II crafting strategies, and more!

Contains Moderate Peril: Star Trek Online ten years on

“Cryptic are still remastering older content and although I must admit they’re doing it well, the pace is somewhat slow. Several iconic missions are still conspicuously absent and the game has had so many overhauls and restructurings, the narrative content is somewhat fragmented and difficult to follow due to plot holes caused by absent material. STO still has an issue with a lot of story and game systems being buried in more esoteric portions of the user interface. And then there is the game economy; the bane of many an MMO. Inflation for high end items and ships is rife.”

Dating Sims on the Holodeck: Yes, lore does excuse design decisions

“Getting mad about the gender locking, for this particular reason, is silly. Obviously the devs had a certain sort of character in mind. It’s a really ancient way of designing a RPG, especially for a MMO, but it’s still valid. In the very, very early days of PnP RPG’s, the characters were pretty static. The Wizard, The Knight, The Thief, etc. Even the first modules for DnD were designed with this in mind. Obviously, this design went away pretty quick (because both character and story customization are more fun, and are quite viable in pnp format), but, again, it’s still a valid design choice.”

The Ancient Gaming Noob: Leveling up your EQII crafting without actually crafting

“The kicker is, and this wraps us back around to the title of the post, at no time during my advancement through 20 levels of trade skills did I actually need to craft anything that was related to either profession. I have a max level armorer and woodworker.  Not once were the skills for either needed. That makes some sense. These quests are for ALL professions and, as such, when you do craft… and you actually do craft some things now and then… you end up using a set of independent reaction skills with icons borrowed from other skills in order to make required items.”

I'm on a dinosaur.

Misdirections: Bored and surprised in World of Warcraft

“I do not remember ever before having been bored with WoW. Never. I have always found things to absorb my interest, even during the long periods prior to new expansions. That I seem not to be able to do so now is interesting, and I am not sure if it says more about me or about the game. I think, though, that it is mostly a function of the current state of the game.”

Fibrojedi: SWTOR: Onslaught expansion review

“Patch 6.0 which brought about SWTOR’s Onslaught expansion, marked a major turn of events. It sparked something players had asked for — a return to Empire vs Republic. But it is not so black-and-white given your Loyalist/Saboteur choices. I love the storywriting and the fact that three different threads are left open at the end of the main scenario. The planets once again show SWTOR back to creating imaginative and rich worlds (though please BioWare bring in weather on Onderon!). If SWTOR could just make life less stressful when playing healers on their solo content that would be appreciated!”

Mailvatar: What I’m looking forward to in 2020

“One thing’s for sure though: Amazon definitely has the resources to let [New World] dev team get this right. I highly doubt they’ll release a sub-par product just to get it out the door. In fact they’ve already proven that they’ll rather shut a project down than do that. If they in fact do pull off something great I think it’ll be a boon to the whole industry. ActiBlizz and EA desperately need another big player to light a fire under their butts, and we all need a sign that western publishers are actually capable of more than rehashing the same old ideas over and over.”

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Jim Bergevin Jr

Where Belghast’s argument falls short is that he mentions Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted – specific character locked games, and doesn’t have much of a problem with that. We can also add in the Witcher, Duke Nukem, Tomb Raider, and many others of a similar vein. Yet he goes on to say that Fallen Order is a problem, simply because it has somewhat of a customization option. I find that line of reasoning, quite frankly, to be bullshit. There is nothing wrong with Fallen Order being gender locked any more than any of those other games. There’s also no reason why we couldn’t at least have the choice of an Allan, Natalie Drake, Witcherette, Daisy Nukem, or Larry Croft, if “inclusivity” and “representation” are so damn important to a game’s design. Lore be damned because it’s just made up any way, right?

I’m all for having as many options in an RPG type of game for character customization. In games that have an in depth system, I end up spending hours just creating my character. I play characters of all shapes, sizes, races, and genders, because like many other people, these characters are not an extension of myself, but a character in a story that I get to control. Many of my characters do and “say” things in a game that I would not dream of doing or saying if this was an extension of myself (such as a completely dark-sided Sith in SWTOR). However, while it may be somewhat off-putting, I have no problem with developers who decide to gender lock races, classes, or character creation as a whole. It’s their damn game and they have every right to decide how they want to design that game. If it’s a fun game, I will play it and like it. If it isn’t fun, then I won’t. Simple as that. The Tarkov devs may be trying to beat around the bush with their BS excuses, but I don’t care one whit what their reasoning is for not having playable female characters. That’s their choice and more power to them if they create a good game that ends up making them money. The game isn’t exactly my cup of tea, regardless, but I am certainly not going to jump on the manufactured outrage boat because it’s the trendy thing to do nowadays.

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Alexus Yanova

Yeap, yeap, yeap! Diversity is cool but it should never be forced – a creator should have a choice of which character gender or race he wants to use. Otherwise we will get to the ridiculous point where developer or an artist will have to spend months to “represent” every living race on the planet. And imagine what will happen when we will finally discover 100’s of alien species and all of them will start complaining that they are not “equally represented” in latest game or movie! ;-P

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Sarah Cushaway

Why it matters: Because not all of us are a straight white guy and we’d like to play something other than a straight white guy. Pretty simple.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I would agree with that. Like I said above, more choices is (almost) never a bad thing. But I also agree that the choice is purely up to the creator. Whether someone is making a movie, writing a book, or making a game, their creative decisions for the world they create are theirs alone, and there is nothing wrong with those decisions.

There is also nothing wrong with appealing to the straight white male …. but oh, I forgot, us straight white males need to be absolutely ashamed of our gender and race and need to be flogging ourselves on a daily basis for enjoying anything that is designed to appeal to us, and berating anyone who thinks they need to design something for us because at the heart of it, we are nothing but a bunch of sexist, homophobic bigots, and how dare we think otherwise.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

not all of us are a straight white guy

I am not a straight white guy. However, I greatly enjoyed games like Witcher while playing as Geralt just as I enjoyed playing Horizon Zero Dawn as Alloy (I can show proof of ownership of both of those games), because to me, just like to majority of people who enjoy playing games, things like gameplay, music, graphics and other aspects matter more than silly, irrelevant things like character gender. This fact (that gender of character is irrelevant to majority of game players) is proven by the fact that Escape from Tarkov is one of the most popular games on Twitch right now. Much more than, say, games like Battlefield 5 or PUBG or even WoW (all of which give more choices of character gender and races).

Now, considering this fact I stated, supported by numerical data that is available for anyone to see, what is the rational reason for developer to spend time and money on adding more gender choices and races for playable characters? Just because it matters to YOU and very few other people who might or might not buy this game? This is serious question to all selfish people who never think or care about people like developers and decisions they have to make or their preferences (the amount of time developers are willing to spend on developing games and features and/or amount of money they are willing to gamble on without guaranteed returns) and only care about their own preferences.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Picking ‘facts’ that fit your argument does not make it true.
League of Legends has over 3 times the amount of viewers on Twitch and has a ton of representation.

I’m not really weighing in on this debate for several reasons, but this is a blatant logical fallacy

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Bruno Brito

I am not a straight white guy. However, I greatly enjoyed games like Witcher while playing as Geralt just as I enjoyed playing Horizon Zero Dawn as Alloy

Playing a given character is way different than a potential open canvas that only allow you certain options.

The problem isn’t playing Batman, or Geralt, or Samus. The problem comes when you wanna play a powerful savage shaman, yet the shaman class of the game only allows you to be a old white fuck, or something like that.

Or being able to play games that will keep themselves afloat through customization but you won’t be able to roll a female character because “LoRe”

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Alexus Yanova

we’d like to play something other than a straight white guy

Oh honey… Let’s say I want to play Tarkov as 2B from Nier:Automata. Do you think it is trivial to create her body model and outfit in Unity? Have you personally ever tried using Unity or other tools to do so? Sure the devs can ask players to pay money for that, but what if, say, only a dozen of players were willing to pay for it and devs actually paid much more to 3D modelers and artists to create this? What if someone else wants to play as a cute anime fox girl like Senko? Or as a specific real life race, let’s say a Yakut (they have unique facial features) and wear a traditional clothes while doing so? Or as a religious person like Sikh, wearing a long facial hair and Dastaar on the head?

Do you honestly believe that developer should add all of their representations into game even if it will take developer many more months and several $100’s of 1000’s more? Where does the developer should stop when listening to all the people who want their race, religion and fantasy personas to be represented by in-game characters?

hurbster
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hurbster

I’d rather have a go at the Tarkov Devs for all the YouTube channels they went after.

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Dick Dodgin'

They should implement women into Tarkov because quite frankly I just enjoy shooting realistic depictions of women.

It’s good fun – to exclude that from the game frankly pretty sexist as well so there’s that too, but I really only care about blowing women’s brains out and hearing them scream.

Thankfully, the progressives at EA and Dice have my back on this and included women in Battlefront/Battlefield and there’s some good fun to be had blowing women away in that.

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styopa

If the tongue in cheek comment above made you the slightest bit uncomfortable, you’ve discovered what’s call iirc the Guybrush Threepwood problem.

Very well played, DD.

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3dom

> Escape from Tarkov

The whole wheelchair simulator genre (FPS) is relevant to undemanding folks who agree to pass on actually exciting movement modes like Warframe’s parkour or Anthem’s flight and convenient corner hugging (to see the action without exposing your hitbox).
It’s absolutely logical for the devs to cut off other features for an auditory like this, players should be grateful the characters are animated at all.

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3dom

> FPS games require skill

FPS controls are close to wheelchair “controls” – even people with disabilities can do that. Also pushing buttons isn’t a skill, everyone has it unless in coma.

> it has nothing exciting

(Lack of ) excitement is your inner state, but depression is curable.

> Anthem is just another stupid Battle Royale

Anthem is a great PvE game, without any PvP. Apparently you didn’t even see it.

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Toy Clown

The person who wrote this…

“Getting mad about the gender locking, for this particular reason, is silly. Obviously the devs had a certain sort of character in mind. It’s a really ancient way of designing a RPG, especially for a MMO, but it’s still valid. In the very, very early days of PnP RPG’s, the characters were pretty static. The Wizard, The Knight, The Thief, etc. Even the first modules for DnD were designed with this in mind. Obviously, this design went away pretty quick (because both character and story customization are more fun, and are quite viable in pnp format), but, again, it’s still a valid design choice.”

… wasn’t around 20-30 years ago from the perspective of a woman when the vast majority of players /were/ male, or at least considered male. I knew many women at that time that portrayed males because the internet was a dangerous place to admit you were a woman in RL.

Saying it’s a valid design choice isn’t taking into consideration that females now take up at least 40% of MMO space and depending on the game, can take up to 50% with climbing numbers. Sounds more like the development team didn’t have, or want to spend, the funds on creating “diversity”, thus its easier to say “it’s still a valid design choice.”

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Nathan Aldana

lets also not forget one of those locked choices in original D&D was

“The Elf”

because if you werent human you were only allowed one role

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Your last sentence is what it actually is – a developer might simply not want to spend more time and money on adding certain race or gender combination. Which is a valid reason and not “wrong” in any way. The “lore” (or tradition), however, is always a BS excuse since nobody essentially cares about it and you can always change it, especially in fantasy or science fiction.

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h4

The statistic of females taking up 40-50% of mmo space is completely irrelevant. It only matters if you want to imply that women have a strong preference to play female characters, which is a sexist assumption to make. In today’s society, people are free to enjoy products regardless of gender–not clinging to dated ideas that girls are only allowed to play with Barbie and boys are only allowed to play with Batman. Extend this same logic to gamespace.

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rosieposie

The amount of female gamers who love and enjoy the Witcher series boosts your argument.

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h4

The double standard commentators are using in Escape from Tarkov is laughable. Let us break down and reverse the logic here. Consider Scarlet Blade, a now dead mmo featuring nearly naked female-only characters. Did this mean male players were excluded from the game? Obviously not–the game was marketed at male players. There would have been no point in adding male characters to Scarlet Blade. However, there was no outrage over this issue. Instead, it was some people being uncomfortable with the sexualized character designs. Seeing how the logic fails to hold up in reverse, we have to ponder the reasonableness of the outrage over Escape from Tarkov.

Listing the different situations:

  • Female characters only, marketed to males = no one cares
  • Female characters only, marketed to females = no one cares
  • Male characters only, marketed to males = sudden outrage!

Let me make an another appeal to logic here. Many of us are able to separate game violence from real world violence. We are able to separate game races (elf, troll, alien, whatever) from real races. We are able to separate negative game behavior (drug use, torture, slavery, environmental exploitation, betrayal, manipulation, genocide) from real behavior. All of it comes down to, because games are fictional like books or movies. Why then the sudden difficulty with doing the same separation when it comes to avatar gender? It is typical manufactured outrage–shallow, ignorant, ultimately no different from the people who get outraged over games being responsible for school shootings.

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Nathan Aldana

Scarlet Blade excited for the same reason Escape from tarkov does

To market largely to white males , as a fantasy directed at white males

So your argument comes off as a completely and probably intentionally so, clueless waste of words

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h4

Think again about what you just said. So Tarkov and Scarlet Blade are both marketed towards males. Tarkov has only male characters, Scarlet Blade has only female characters. Why then, is all male characters an issue, but all female characters acceptable? It is a double standard.

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Bruno Brito

If you’re using Scarlet Blade as a example of “acceptable”…

Dude, no.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

I agree that the complaints about Tarkov are the prime example of “manufactured outrage”, by people who do not even play it or who do not enjoy this kind of gameplay. If they would play it, they would realize the fact that you do not even have the time to notice who your opponent is until you shoot the opponent and loot that person or see post-game status report and that this is not the type of game where you can sit on each other’s laps or lie down next to each other at inn bed or your housing bed and do eRP for few hours ;-) Even if your teammate would have a female face and body type – you would not notice the gender of your teammate most of the time due to heavy gear and masks and helmets you get access to, if anyone does not believe me – go watch some streamers who play in groups and who are already wearing a bunch of protective gear.

I don’t believe this game is marketed towards specific gender of players, though – the developers just did not want to spend more time and money on developing different gender models and adjusting all items to different body shape (if they would have reused male bodies – people would complain about that). Which is pretty valid reason, especially for a small team. You are still allowed to enjoy this game regardless of your race or gender.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

I have replied in Escape from Tarkov thread and I will repeat here again. Having different genders and races is desirable in games but absolutely not necessary and should be always up to developer, whose decision is not “wrong” if the consequences are acceptable to them.

Fact is, Escape from Tarkov is already pretty popular game. Would it be more popular with more character options with more gender/race? Sure. But they chose not to do it. Obviously not for a lore purposes (let’s get real – any lore in any game can be adjusted to fit any gender or any new race) but because they just don’t want to spend more time and money on adding it (it is a fact that it takes more time to re-design the character and all armor/gear to fit it even if it is a simple gender redesign, how long it takes is irrelevant to this fact).

And they are not alone – take a look at FFXIV, where Viera and Hrothgar are gender-locked (again, “lore” excuse does not work in video games and also does not apply here, no matter what developer might say) and more than this – some headgear still does not fit currently playable female Viera and male Hrothgar models, this is for one and only reason: it takes extra money and time to properly add something like male Viera and to properly fit some items to even existing female Vieras and Square Enix simply did not want to spend extra time or money on that, at least at the time female Vieras and male Hrothgar were added. Was I slightly disappointed about it? Yes, but it is not really a big deal, I can still enjoy story with my current character and it is still useful for me for all social interactions.

So yea, just to summarize it: some companies just do not want to spend more money and time on creating new characters with new gender and fitting all the gear to them. Will it cause the companies to lose some sales? Sure. However, if the company considers this as an acceptable loss – this is not a big deal and certainly not a good reason to be artificially outraged about this (like some blogs and people try to be) ;-)
I would much rather see companies focus more on things that really matter – a gameplay and amount of activities which can accommodate every player’s style and which can allow players to generate their own content which would keep in-game population high even between the expansions. If the gameplay becomes boring very quickly or not acceptable to you at the very beginning (for example you do not like forced PvP even in NPC-controlled areas) – you will quit the game, no matter if it will allow you to choose every gender and billions of races ;-)

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h4

We look like alts since we both posted about the fake outrage at around the same time!

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Kickstarter Donor
Rees Racer

Meant to be displayed together, but the ~1500 years of time-travel and location for the sculptors was deemed too difficult and/or expensive.

*Please note this comment and image are both a criticism of the present state of game design…and acceptance of artistic freedom (if that’s what it is).

david and venus.jpg
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Minimalistway

I enjoyed reading EQII crafting article, thank you.

I know nothing about crafting in EQII, my experience with it was short, Queen’s Colony and City of Qeynos both provided a lot of materials to gather, i leveled crafting and i remember the sheer number of things to craft, more than 900 for a low level character, i was impressed by that, also i remember the mini-game for crafting, but the first Zone after Qeynos made me quit, it was bare and full of gnolls, i didn’t find much to gather or to craft.

Still, my short time with EQII crafting is way better than anything in WoW.