Inclusivity in games

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gekiganwing
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Inclusivity in games

#1 Post by gekiganwing » Tue May 21, 2013 12:23 am

While browsing Indie Games Festival earlier this evening, I found an article called How can I make my games more inclusive? Some of the points made in the article aren't really applicable for VNs. But the following ones are at least worth a mention:

"2. Fewer pinups." The writer calls for indie devs to avoid including attractive characters just to tittilate players. It seems he's encouraging creators to either let characters have interesting consensual relationships, or just give them plausible outfits.

"4. Less Pink and Blue art." The writer is discouraging people from making an overtly masculine or feminine aesthetic. Instead, he wants creators to make "green" art that's unique and able to appeal to many people.

"5. Fewer wholesale stereotypes." The writer admits that a stereotype has some uses. However, he discourages people from using them instead of a more complex character, setting, etc.

"6. More avatar variety." While this might be more applicable for games in which the players can choose or make a main character, it could be stretched to mean that important characters don't need to fit into a small range of ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and more.

"9. Low skill barriers." This would apply to VNs with gameplay. The player shouldn't need to have a lot of genre knowledge or a large number of skills just to get started. Learning how things work should not be needlessly frustrating.

Some potential problems not mentioned in the article:

* It's impossible to appeal to everyone. Even if you have the time and energy to create a huge amount of varied content, you will find that some people don't like your story or gameplay.

* Creating content that specifically appeals to one or two audiences can be a good way to stay focused. And even if you can't sell it to a large number of people, you might have more sales success by selling it to one demographic.

In other words, I don't know if I agree with all the article's points, but it seems worth discussing.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#2 Post by Fairy Godfeather » Tue May 21, 2013 2:47 am

I'm not sure if I agree with all of the points in the article. I definitely don't agree with much of the comments there.

He actually missed out a whole section in his article about ensuring that games were inclusive for those who have disabilities of some sort or other. If a game had voice-overs with no subtitles I can't play it. There are others who have difficulties with certain controls. Colour-Blindness can be another issue that renders games unplayable if there's no colour-blind option. And what of visually impaired gamers?

I've more to say but I'm going to keep it to this for the moment.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#3 Post by SHiNKiROU » Tue May 21, 2013 3:04 am

Let's see how it applies to my projects:
Telemon: Homeworlds:
TM:HW takes place in 22nd century, and I did put thought into culture.
2. Has moe girls and no fanservice. The biggest cup size is C.
4. No flowery decorations, no bloody melee combat. In 22nd century, the average between red and pink has became the new female color. However, males can wear these colors too,
5. Character development or fail. I can't identify my characters with any anime stereotypes: Yuanfang is onee-sama, and that's it.
9. I will opt for the Mass Effect 3 way. In "Narrative" difficulty, battles can be skipped like minigames. The hardest part of combat theory has differential equations, but you don't need to learn it anyways. However, I'm afraid it requires genre knowledge: sci-fi terms are thrown around and it assumes you watched a few episodes of Star Trek.
* Appealing everyone: Very relevant to TM:HW. It's hard sci-fi, but has GxB and GxG. The hard sci-fi part can be swept under the rug (no infodumps = invisible sci fi), and GxB and GxG happen on player choice. For marketing, I may need to create one advertisement for each demographic: moe fans, sci fi fans and otome game players.

Half Earth:
2. I know better about plausible fantasy armors.
4. I'm afraid that the squad is male-dominated, but gender dynamics varies and the violence is LotR-equivalent.
5. It's plot-driven and the characters are shallower than TM:HW characters, so there can be stereotypes, but I shouldn't stereotype my made-up cultures.
6. The main character is a male from a fictional ethnicity and is only customizable in class (primary magic + secondary tech or martial arts), since it is more a JRPG than WRPG.
9. The most advanced parts are the chemistry and physics. Multivariable calculus is involved in the physics of meta-time travel but it can be explained in popular science way. It's only for gaining reputation among nerds rather than locking people out.


I think 2 and 4 apply most when building a world and writing a story.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#4 Post by Blue Lemma » Tue May 21, 2013 9:10 am

How about "make what you want to make so it's fun and not a chore"?

Unless it's commercial, screw what everyone else wants. Everyone else isn't putting in the time, effort, or (possibly) money.

Then you can actually finish your game. A finished game includes way more players than an unfinished chore game where you worried too much about everyone else's perceived wants to care for what you're making yourself.

If it's commercial, though.... The players are key.
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Re: Inclusivity in games

#5 Post by papillon » Tue May 21, 2013 1:30 pm

A lot of what's being discussed there isn't entirely relevant to the VN scene, especially the hobbyist VN scene. There's a big difference between someone setting out to write a romance game which is entirely about specific characters and their relationships (including the sex appeal element) and someone setting out to write a puzzle game where the story and characters are just a little sprinkling on top. There are a LOT of low-plot games that would benefit greatly from taking stock of inclusive suggestions rather than slapping on cheesy stereotypes and limiting their audiences.

Of course, even in story games made for your own purposes, there are probably some elements of the story that are critical to your needs and some that are not. For example, if you want to make a game that's specifically about, say, a really controversial political idea, then it would be stupid to suggest you should change that to get more mainstream appeal. However, making a quick offhanded reference to something very controversial when it's not important to your story may not be the best idea. Upsetting people for no purpose will only distract them from the part of the story you actually care about.

So even with a free game that you're making because it's fun, you might benefit from looking over the 'unimportant' parts of the game and trying to be sure you haven't slapped anything stupid in there.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#6 Post by SundownKid » Tue May 21, 2013 1:37 pm

Sometimes you might want to make your games more EX-clusive, so they will have a greater chance of attracting a particular target audience. The more inclusive a game is, the less popular it has a chance of getting with a particular group. If you start out with a particular group in mind, you will probably have a following of those people and want to make more games like that.

I think a better piece of advice rather than following these commands would be "be a smart writer/developer and make what you want to make". If your stuff is degrading to a particular group or has stereotypical characters, you should know that's not okay. But there's a difference between sex appeal and being degrading to women, for example.

If something is a quality work, it will cross the lines of the intended audience - in most cases, anyway. The problem is that these degrading games are simply low-quality in terms of writing.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#7 Post by o v e n » Wed May 22, 2013 8:44 pm

I like the 'green' metaphor, but then I am a sucker for off-the-path stuff. : D

I guess I should clarify; inclusivity is not at all about creating to appeal to a wide majority - because in that case, by all means go with the hyper-sexualized blue and pink tropes. It's a bit of a contradiction, isn't it, that in order to appeal to a wider array of people, one must not engage in what sells the most? But that's just it - that stuff only sells well in its targeted audience. Gamers have become rather discerning, and the gaming pool has widened to the greater public - and the better way to appeal to this new consumer dynamic is to make character development interesting, rather than perfect.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#8 Post by SHiNKiROU » Thu May 23, 2013 2:43 am

Another way is to create games that focus only on the minority, so that in the big picture, the minority is represented in the gaming world.
Even if you are making a men-only game, the creator should at least try to avoid sexism toward women.
In anime and manga, many of them are marketed to one demographic (shounen, shoujo, seinen, josei), so that all demographics can have something to read. Maybe there is more violence and sex in Hollywood that excludes women.

Again, it's still important to put thoughts into things: develop your characters, and do the research so that stereotypes are avoided (do not assume Africa is one country), less people are offended (gays are not pedohpiles) and experts do not die inside (historical and/or scientific accuracy).

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#9 Post by dramspringfeald » Thu May 23, 2013 3:17 am

As a Point I try to make sure every game I'm working on has Sub titles anyway. Less to help those who are deaf and more because I miss the old Text based gaming.

Look it's not really about "Inclusivity in games" because really, there are FAR too many people with too many disabilities. Even making an effort to cover any of them runs costs up. Instead it's simpler and CHEAPER to include some of the disabilities and explain some in your games if that is your thing.

If you want Multilingual games then either higher people that can speak it or wait for a mod or patch. Your job is simply to make as many of them happy with it without doing too much work. Remember if the FANS want something they will make it.

Like me, I plan on making my game in English, Spanish and Russian (Long story) I do not speak the other two. So I'll ask someone to translate it. It will be VERY Difficult thanks to some of the concepts and I'm poor. I'll probably wait for someone to do it in a mod or pirate group for me then contact them and add it to the setup. If anyone else want it in their language there are plenty of sources out there. (Might release it in porchagese too not sure)

*It'll be in english... and badly too*
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Re: Inclusivity in games

#10 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Thu May 23, 2013 5:01 am

I think of Mass Effect as a good example of most things done right.

They have a choice of a male or female protagonist. It makes little difference to the gameplay or dialogue, but it still allows players to connect a little easier to the character.

Some people prefer the action elements, some prefer the story, and some people want a balance. Mass Effect makes it possible to choose the style to some degree. I'm not sure how drastically it changes the game, but it's nice that they tried to make the game enjoyable for the majority, rather than simply stating "This is a story-based game, so you have to play it this way."

That cliche "You can't please everyone" gets thrown around far too carelessly in the VN world. Sure, it's true, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make a minimum of effort to make your game appealing to some people who may be a little outside your niche, but still have interest in what you create.
Players are not a hurdle, they are your supporters, and you should keep it in mind throughout the dev process. They should be just as much of a part of the dev process as you are.

Personally I like the idea of adjustable difficulty, or even better, self-adapting difficulty. I suspect a lot of problems players may have with VNs are based on flawed pacing and tutorials, rather than the difficulty itself.
When I say "tutorials", I mean the way in which new systems are introduced, rather than just a traditional tutorial.
"We must teach them through the tools with which they are comfortable."
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Re: Inclusivity in games

#11 Post by Blue Lemma » Thu May 23, 2013 6:32 am

SHiNKiROU wrote:Even if you are making a men-only game, the creator should at least try to avoid sexism toward women.
And in that case, toward men as well ;)
We are constantly portrayed as villains, hyper-muscular pigs, and loser geeks (not geeks... loser geeks :P )

You shouldn't be a jerk, but I still maintain make what you want and don't worry about every PC angle and possibility out there @_@ As long as your game has any interesting characters and story, someone will be offended somewhere.
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Re: Inclusivity in games

#12 Post by dramspringfeald » Thu May 23, 2013 6:52 am

Blue Lemma wrote:
SHiNKiROU wrote:Even if you are making a men-only game, the creator should at least try to avoid sexism toward women.
And in that case, toward men as well ;)
We are constantly portrayed as villains, hyper-muscular pigs, and loser geeks (not geeks... loser geeks :P )

You shouldn't be a jerk, but I still maintain make what you want and don't worry about every PC angle and possibility out there @_@ As long as your game has any interesting characters and story, someone will be offended somewhere.

Indeed Try using characters based off people not representations of people from the TV. It'll have more appeal and draw in more players as being original. Why is the character like that instead of This is big muscle guy 6.
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Re: Inclusivity in games

#13 Post by o v e n » Thu May 23, 2013 8:11 am

TrickWithAKnife wrote:I think of Mass Effect as a good example of most things done right.
Bioware does everything right, all the time. And if they ever didn't, well, they're getting better at doing so! (Aveline, the strong female character as well as Isablea the saucy pirate in DA2, for instance. Tropes, yes, but healthy ones that were matured well with their own grounding elements of realism.)

Mass Effect and Dragon Age, in terms of dialogue trees and character development and complex friendmances or rivalmances, is pretty much what inspired me to look into the VN/dating sim engine again and see what could be done. Especially dem dialogue trees. Bioware, thy name is interpersonal character complexity!

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#14 Post by gekiganwing » Fri May 24, 2013 6:31 am

It's easy to sell games with a "blue" (overtly masculine) aesthetic to guys, and games with a "pink" (overtly feminine) aesthetic to girls. But trying to create a "green" (neither/nor) style seems much more difficult. You run the risk of appealing to nobody. If you're gonna sell it, then there has to be an audience.
o v e n wrote:Mass Effect and Dragon Age, in terms of dialogue trees and character development and complex friendmances or rivalmances, is pretty much what inspired me to look into the VN/dating sim engine again and see what could be done. Especially dem dialogue trees. Bioware, thy name is interpersonal character complexity!
I tried console versions of KOTOR and Dragon Age 1, but had trouble understanding the basic game mechanics... and stopped playing each one after an hour or two. Even though I still consider myself a video game fan, my interests have been increasingly leaning toward small press / indie / retro games. I don't know why other fans like today's relatively mainstream, much-lauded, multi-squillion selling games.

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Re: Inclusivity in games

#15 Post by Greeny » Fri May 24, 2013 9:35 am

What if I like blue or pink? What if I want to see something specifically blue or pink? What then?

I mean, it is a valid point. Where do you draw the line?
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