I wanted to take a look at how intersectionality could apply to something that isn’t as widely critiqued as other forms of media, video games. The video mentions that there’s been a very recent increase in the realization of sexism in mainstream video games, however even with this progress being made there is little to look at other marginalized groups and their representation, or lack thereof, in video games.
One of the major ideas they discuss in the panel is the disparity between smaller “indie” games and bigger “mainstream” games. Beyond the lack of accessibility of major consoles to people with disabilities or of lower classes, those mainstream game companies tend to approach diversity with a very cookie cutter, or they use the term “pecking order”, approach. They create the option for women, then the option for sexuality, and then the option for race. It’s rarely approached as an intersection. They mention that it often feels as though they are replacing one set of catering with another. Even if they make the effort to add a cis male white gay character and plop them into all of their games it only fixes (if even) one small section. An approach using the underlying basis of intersectionality would work better in truly being diverse. Indie games tend to have a more intersection approach, and less of step by step checkboxes. The panel mention it as “a blurry mess of qualities together” that isn’t part of this agenda of marking off various marginalized groups.
An audience member asked how can a developer and writer in a position of privilege aim to tell these diverse stories if they themselves do not have the experience. This initially reminded of when we watched and discussed the panel regarding the film Tangerine and how a cis white straight male creating a film mostly about trans women of color. In the youtube video, the response to the audience question was to first look at your own story of “what is it like to be a person of privilege that is wrestling with these things and to think about these things”. Even when you encounter privilege, try to consider all sides. It was also suggested to in some sense curate the stories of the people you are trying to represent. That is, go out and find someone who has that story and get them to be a consultant in creating the character in your game. This appears to be the approach Sean Baker took with Tangerine. Let the person who has had the experience tell the story and accept all of what they tell you. From a video game perspective, you can then go on to build your gameplay and art around this story still working closely with the person. The “grassroots approach”, finding the real root of the problem or getting the stories of people truly in the struggle, is something that can apply to making progress with many issues in the world.
If games can take the “intersectional angle” they might be able to bring to light the struggles of a diverse group of people in a more personal way. Tokenization can always be a risk, but if in creating your personal project that tells your story and you make it clear it is not all encompassing to the groups that you may identify as part of then it is worth creating and telling that story. With the creation of autobiographical games, the shear numbers can aim to break that tokenization. As the video says, “You are the expert of you” and it’s time to start creating and put in your piece.