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Racial diversity, authentic characters create enriching gameplay experiences, say indie devs

Having believable characters in video games which are not only racially diverse but an authentic representation, will result in more powerful experiences for players, according to game designers Mattie Brice and Toiya Kristen Finley.

Speaking with Polygon during the IGDA Summit in San Francisco, the duo discussed how racial minorities are currently used in a more stereotypical manner which limits the player's experience. Examples of this included what the two called "magical minorities" who provide "cultural wisdom" or were the "brown terrorist" or black gangster.

Finley said she didn't such feel representations were meant to be offensive, but instead just exist to provide aid to the protagonist instead of featuring their own story.

"When we're going through our lives, our actions and the things we do aren't determined by the fact that we're Asian or Latino or gay — we're just living our lives, and sometimes our identity informs our thoughts," Mattie Brice told Polygon. "So instead of having black people be gangsters or poor, a better way to approach it is by asking questions like how does a minority experience violence in their life?

"This character never has to say, 'I was born in the hood.' Through the way they interact with others, they can show they have an awareness of danger. That's so much more believable. It's so much more realistic.

"Or we could look at queer romance. A lot of people think that to represent a queer relationship in a game you just take a straight relationship and switch out the people involved, but that doesn't work.

"For example, in high school, a queer couple may not have been able to go to prom. They may have a completely different history and set of experiences to a straight couple, and that's going to inform how they handle relationships now."

Both feel minorities shouldn't be "forced" into games, but be more or less like Lee from Telltale's The Walking Dead series: Lee's race and situation in the game played a part in his motives subtlety and in non-stereotypical manner.

"Having these believable characters is going to get people to say, 'That looks interesting,'" Brice said. "I can see people of all demographics enjoying believable characters."

Both developers told Polygon that by creating more believable characters, no matter their race, sexual orientation or background, it will create a broader audience for the medium as well as a better overall experience for all.

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Stephany Nunneley

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Half-blind/half-dyslexic, bad typist, wine enthusiast, humanitarian, intellectual savant, idiot savior, lover of all things nonsensical, animal hoarder and highly sarcastic.

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