by Julia Stoll
In her book “Rise of the Videogame Zinesters” Anna Anthropy complains about the lack of diversity in the video game industry. The great majority of games are directed towards a well-established target audience of male gamers, creating a feeling of exclusiveness which discourages many creative individuals who don’t identify with this target audience.
Luckily, this exclusiveness doesn’t stop everyone from expressing their ideas with games. A growing number of “hobbyists” develop their own games and distribute them online, often for free. Anthropy points out that “this transformation of games … is not only necessary but inevitable.” As these home-made games become more accessible and more popular, one can hope that mainstream producers will catch on and recognize the potential of diverse audiences.
There is no reason why they shouldn’t catch on. It would not take much for big video game companies to explore the possibilities of these new kinds of games. Many “hobbyists” already make diverse and personal games in their free time. At the same time, companies like Ubisoft already organize game jams to encourage creative thinking within their company, and they cooperate with universities. The next step would be to organize a public game jam, where non-professionals can present their ideas and give professional companies an opportunity to buy them, polish them, and market them. This would allow the companies to use new ideas from individuals outside the industry, and thus to reach a bigger audience.
After new ideas are collected, “smaller games with smaller budgets and smaller audiences” could be supported by big companies at little extra cost. As the big companies slowly gain more diverse audiences, they will find out which types of games are profitable, besides their established genres, and invest in these branches. If they don’t realize the need for more varied games, it is likely that at some point even their established audience will grow tired of the repetitive gameplay and that they will run out of time to develop a new product line.
Diverse games mean bigger audiences and more revenue for the video game companies. But the consumers would benefit from a diversification of the commercial video game supply as well. It would reduce the exclusiveness of the industry and open up a whole new range of possibilities. The quality of new innovative games would be improved and they would become accessible to a bigger audience. If more different groups of the society were represented in the industry, many people would be encouraged to become involved and contribute to an ever-growing industry that fosters creativity and new forms of expression.
There is no reason why the diversity of social minorities should be limited to the “hobbyist” scene. A wider consumer base will ensure that big companies remain profitable for years to come, and a more inclusive industry will provide more opportunities for everyone involved.
Anthropy, A. (2012). The Problem With Videogames. In Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. New York: Seven Stories Press.