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Gian-Reto

Could the push for diversity lead to unwanted results?

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Okay, I'll start with the disclaimer first: Please, PLEASE refrain from derailing the thread, trolling attempts or starting flame wars. This is NOT meant as a troll bait, or anything like that. I would like a honest discussion of the subject matter as I am truly interested in other peoples thoughts on the matter. Please don't get this thread killed like many others before.

Thank you.

 

I guess I am not the only one who got wind of this new controversy surrounding CoD:WW2... that in the multiplayer part, you can end up on the german side even if your character is black.

Now, don't get me wrong, the whole thing is completly blown out of proportion by people with an agenda for controversies sake. After all, multiplayer never is the most historical accurate part of any game, Call of Duty never was known for ANY kind of historical accuray. And lets be honest, this is an industry full of corporate scumbags making the shots, so this is a rather mild controversy compared to what else they might come up with *cough*releasing unfinished games*cough*.

 

But it got me thinking: BECAUSE its often guys who know nothing about games and history, just about how to print money who make the shots in this industry, BECAUSE gameplay often trumps story or historical accuray, BECAUSE history itself has for a long time not been the kind of utopia that some people think games should now promote... could it be that the call for diversity in games, which IMO is a righteous call (because games have been and still are sometimes a pretty undiverse environment), leads to unwanted, and maybe even harmful results?

I mean, if you want to show an utopia, if you want to allow for diversity in player characters and storys, you can always do that in a fantasy setting. To be more precise, a black woman as a Wehrmacht soldier (lets be precise here, because the derogatory n4zi term the german soldiers get rolled together under is disrespectful to the wehrmacht soldiers that died trying to end the regime) is perfectly fine in an alternate reality setting... hell, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the upcoming Wolfenstein games would feature such a character (maybe it already did, didn't complete the first reboot after getting grossed out by the QTEvent-Fest at the start).

Now, these games can clearly get away with it because they don't claim to depict reality thus they can do whatever they want with the realistic elements they use as base (but still could get called out for the result which might still be inapropriate).

 

But when you call your game "based on reality", you might want to put historical accuray before some agenda you try to push with your story. More often than diversity, that agenda is nationalistic propaganda, and we have WAY more of these games since like... the dawn of time. Especially war games. This is also something I think is inappropriate. Because all of this serves one purpose, intended or not: warping the image kids and young adults have of history. Because as much as WW2-history was drilled into our heads when I was in school... is it still today? And that history we got drilled into us was maybe not completly wrong... but the amount of things left out was just staggering. I blame my teachers subconscious agenda for this as much as anything.

So if even the official history you learnt in a country with a pretty good school system 20 years ago was not really good enough to give the full picture... how bad will information on WW2 be learned 20 years from now? What about all the kids that sleep in history lessons because "history is boring" (I was always finished with the book before the semester was half over. I loved history books)?

Now, if most youngsters will never learn the true history behind an event like WW2... and then play stupid "historical" games like CoD. And then get confronted with a historical fact. Will they be able to tell fact from fiction? Or will they believe the nonsense these games fed them?

 

Now, this problem is nothing new, and these new push for diversity is not the cause of it. But could it be that the more people start to ask for things that the game developers think they need to cater for (not pissing off the nationalists in a big market, thus leave out the juicy bits of history that paint that nation in a bad light, not pissing off the advocates of diversity, thus adding ethnicities and genders that do not fit the historical setting, not pissing of the religious groups, thus leaving out the juicy bit painting that religion in a bad light, or cut down on swearing, not pissing off the prudes and violence-haters, thus cutting out sex scenes and gimping violence to comical level), the more a "historical" game becomes a weird alternate dimension fantasy story loosely based on real events?

 

Now, I might blow this out of proportion too. What I have problems with though is that weird chimeras like the new COD:WW2 Multiplayer mode gets made when you could add in diversity in a way more "historical" fashion. It would fit the setting, it would please the history buffs, and it wouldn't be that much additional work in the end. There have been black people fighting in WW2. They were grouped together in their own units. But as far as I recall my history, they had a great track record, and would rightly deserve their time in the spotlight, just like all the other brave souls that fought in WW2. There have been female soldiers fighting in WW2, mainly in the Red Army. AFAIK in russia they are a symbol of national pride to this day. Worth creating a game featuring a female red army soldier as protagonist any day of the week. Then there is the fact that without the help of millions of female workers that replaced the men in the factories, WW2 would have come to a grinding halt midway (not the worst outcome if you ask me... question is who would have had the upper hand by then). Maybe put these unsung heroines of the homefront in the spotlight for once?

You could create a historical game that promotes REAL diversity by picking a story that oftentimes got brushed under the rug at the time, and show what women, black or asian people DID do in WW2. They all have a story deserving to be told. And I am sure most players would be grateful for getting a different take on an already done to death conflict. If Battlefield 1 showed one thing, its how little is needed to completly transform the way people perceive a story campaign, and that MOST people like the different expierience (talking about the first level here, not the unhistorical garbage that follows of course).

 

But no, we have devs that take your bog standart multiplayer, skin it with a WW2 Theme and call it a day. And then wonder when their plan blows up in their face because the history buffs don't like it (and join the ranks of the anti-diversity crowd).

 

What are your thoughts on this?

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I'm a proponent for diversity in games where it makes sense to add it. I find it really funny when devs start to force diversity into a game for the sake of diversity even though it doesn't make sense to add it in. I agree that this isn't really a big deal as far as controversies go (with the black Wehrmacht soldier. Imo it may even be laziness tbh), but rather than creating an inclusive feeling, it starts to feed into a reactionary narrative instead. The push for diversity in this case could lead to opposite results.

I really wish that they'd bring out the World War 2 stories of things like the Tuskegee Airmen, or the China front, or the Indian divisions, the Russian women, etc. if they wanted to add diversity. It actually serves to highlight the actual history.

It's another thing when Star Wars decides to put diversity because, as you stated, it's fantasy, not reality. It's much easier to have a ton of different people in that movie without really breaking the history. 

The other thing is that we're seeing way too many reactionaries these days whose sole purpose is basically to react to anything and everything, causing more controversy than there normally would be. 

Diversity is important, but when reality/history is being broken/rewritten, it causes more problems these days.

My 2 cents at least.

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32 minutes ago, deltaKshatriya said:

It's another thing when Star Wars decides to put diversity because, as you stated, it's fantasy, not reality. It's much easier to have a ton of different people in that movie without really breaking the history. 

Thing is, most people don't even noticed that in Episode two, both Jango and Boba Fett have been portrayed by actors of maori descent. Which is a good thing to me. Good diversity should not be rubbed into anyones face, because then it stops being diversity and starts being pandering... to someone (most probably not the people this "diversity" should be addressing).

Good diversity is when you watch the movie and root for the badass bad guy you liked so much as a kid. You see his face for the first time and think "Yeah, looks badass" (then you realize its his father in the story, but whatever, right? Bobba is a clone anyway)... and only when watching it again you notice "oh, looks like an actor of non-caucasian origin... didn't catch that the first time".

That is how you integrate diversity in your movie or game. You just do it, without fanfare or excuse.

 

The only reason I was a little miffed about the black storm trooper in the newest episode was because I was assuming the storm troopers still are all clones of Jango, which had been played by an actor of maori descent. But then, I guess all kind of lore explanations could be found for that. At least it wasn't a bogstandart caucasian guy, which would be Disney walking even more all over the established Start Wars lore than they do anyway.

 

Anyway. Science Fiction is a FANTASTIC setting for going all out on diversity. When you have a civilization that somehow is able to make all kind of alien races living together work, you can bet that racial differences in the human species will no longer be a source for xenophobia.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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27 minutes ago, Gian-Reto said:

The only reason I was a little miffed about the black storm trooper in the newest episode was because I was assuming the storm troopers still are all clones of Jango, which had been played by an actor of maori descent. But then, I guess all kind of lore explanations could be found for that. At least it wasn't a bogstandart caucasian guy, which would be Disney walking even more all over the established Start Wars lore than they do anyway.

I actually didn't think the black stormtrooper was too big a deal, since, as you said, the lore does state that the Empire stopped using clones after the rebellion on Kamino and started recruiting, etc.

27 minutes ago, Gian-Reto said:

Anyway. Science Fiction is a FANTASTIC setting for going all out on diversity. When you have a civilization that somehow is able to make all kind of alien races living together work, you can bet that racial differences in the human species will no longer be a source for xenophobia.

Well, even without aliens, check out shows like The Expanse (based on the same novel series), where the 'racial' tensions are more about whether humans come from Mars, Earth, or the Belt. It's interesting, since there's a really diverse cast of characters on all sides, with mixed racial backgrounds, etc. It's a show, Imo, where diversity has really been inserted well. 

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It's been several years since I keep up with Hollywood movies, and this is one of the reasons why I stopped watching new movies.

In Hollywood last few years, there's been a surge of movies and TV series featuring female heroines.  Some of them are quite fitting, but some others are forced diversity.  Ghostbusters is one of them.  TBH, I don't like how they rebranded Ghostbusters, although I am very okay with Hunger Games.  You don't just swap a man for a woman and expects everything fits the same. Women can be heroines in their own stories.  I stopped watching Star Wars Force Awakens halfway.  I stopped watching XXX Return of Xander Cage 15 mins into the movie.  Put yourself on the director's seat when watching these movies, and assume every shot, every frame, and every angle is intentional; they'd become shitty movies with shitty stories.

People push their agendas through movies and games, though much less on games.  Blizzard games tend to be better at this, maybe because their dev teams are diverse to begin with.  Maybe that's what game developers should do before attempting to insert diversity in their games. If you happen to have an all-white team members, for example, don't include some random Black/Asian/Indian symbolisms and call it diversity.

I find reality to be much more interesting than man-made stories of Hollywood and video games.  Real people with real stories.  They are many untold stories from all civilizations, much more than Hollywood can and want to cover.

Edited by alnite

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3 hours ago, alnite said:

I stopped watching Star Wars Force Awakens halfway.  I stopped watching XXX Return of Xander Cage 15 mins into the movie.

Genuinely curious as to why? I haven't seen XXX, but while I didn't like the Force Awakens as much (lots of reasons for that, probably warrants another thread, but suffice it to say, I preferred Rogue One over the Force Awakens).

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12 hours ago, deltaKshatriya said:

Genuinely curious as to why? I haven't seen XXX, but while I didn't like the Force Awakens as much (lots of reasons for that, probably warrants another thread, but suffice it to say, I preferred Rogue One over the Force Awakens).

 

Well, The biggest reason was because I was watching these movies for free (in hotel room and in-flight movies) :D.  If I had paid, I would have forced myself to sit through them.

 

SPOILERS ALERT
 

Spoiler

 

For Star Wars, it was the story and the dialogue.  I can get past the black stormtrooper and female Jedi, but some of the dialogues like between Kylo Ren and Han Solo didn't carry any weight at all.  I eventually lost all my interest.

For XXX, it was the blatant display of super-hero coolness.  Maybe just my preference that has changed, but all characters in that first 15 minutes show flawless executions in all fights and actions, and and still have enough ego to give that I'm-so-badass look.  Logan was a much better movie.

 

 

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20 hours ago, Gian-Reto said:

But when you call your game "based on reality", you might want to put historical accuray before some agenda you try to push with your story. More often than diversity, that agenda is nationalistic propaganda, and we have WAY more of these games since like... the dawn of time. Especially war games. This is also something I think is inappropriate.

I tend to agree.

It all depends on the context.

I love when games allow you to choose things like race and gender.  Even better when they have effects on gameplay, for example, Dragon Age did this well.  Start as a human male and you get some good social traits. Start as a human female and you get some slightly different social traits, a little boost to charisma but a penalty for being in command. Start as an elf (seen as a downcast race in the series) and you get a serious drop to many social items, with slight variations for male and female. Qunari get a big boost for some things as they are a military race, but a big penalty in other areas as they are seen as gruff and coarse.  The choice of role like a mage, warrior, or rogue make more differences in how the player is treated by NPCs and social variables within the story line.

Characters in the game were a good mix of races, gender, and skin colors that varied depending on your location across the game's countries. It made for a compelling fictional world.

 

However, a WW2 war game striving for accuracy ought be predominantly white males, with a few other skin tones mixed in. Women will be citizens or non-combatants.  Anything else would not be accurate.

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4 hours ago, alnite said:

 

Well, The biggest reason was because I was watching these movies for free (in hotel room and in-flight movies) :D.  If I had paid, I would have forced myself to sit through them.

 

SPOILERS ALERT
 

  Hide contents

 

For Star Wars, it was the story and the dialogue.  I can get past the black stormtrooper and female Jedi, but some of the dialogues like between Kylo Ren and Han Solo didn't carry any weight at all.  I eventually lost all my interest.

For XXX, it was the blatant display of super-hero coolness.  Maybe just my preference that has changed, but all characters in that first 15 minutes show flawless executions in all fights and actions, and and still have enough ego to give that I'm-so-badass look.  Logan was a much better movie.

 

 

Well, I hated the force awakens... but that had nothing to do with the black storm trooper or the female wannabe jedi. Both of which are explainable now that I get that missing information from @deltaKshatriya that storm troopers are recruited by now. Didn't know that. Guess my Star-Wars-Fu is weak.

There are tons of female Jedis already present in the Star Wars universe... maybe not in the original trilogy, but even there there is no reason given why they shouldn't exist.

 

Force Awakens was a very, very poor attempt at creating a reboot-ish cashgrab from Disney. Its basically the original trilogy rolled into one new movie, and everything upped a notch. There are almost zero new ideas or interesting twists. And the amount of back references is way too high and poorly done, instead of becoming a fond throwback to the old movies its a focus test group created mass market crap clearly done by the numbers by people with little respect for star wars.

 

To me, the reason why this movie sucks has nothing to do with the push for diversity which had been started in the Star Wars Universe way, way earlier. It was actually already there in the first trilogy, given the aliens are treated pretty much the same to the humans (which do happen to be primarly white caucasian men besides leia, but aliens fill the role of other ethnicities in these movies).

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8 hours ago, frob said:

I tend to agree.

It all depends on the context.

I love when games allow you to choose things like race and gender.  Even better when they have effects on gameplay, for example, Dragon Age did this well.  Start as a human male and you get some good social traits. Start as a human female and you get some slightly different social traits, a little boost to charisma but a penalty for being in command. Start as an elf (seen as a downcast race in the series) and you get a serious drop to many social items, with slight variations for male and female. Qunari get a big boost for some things as they are a military race, but a big penalty in other areas as they are seen as gruff and coarse.  The choice of role like a mage, warrior, or rogue make more differences in how the player is treated by NPCs and social variables within the story line.

Characters in the game were a good mix of races, gender, and skin colors that varied depending on your location across the game's countries. It made for a compelling fictional world.

 

However, a WW2 war game striving for accuracy ought be predominantly white males, with a few other skin tones mixed in. Women will be citizens or non-combatants.  Anything else would not be accurate.

 

Sorry about the double post, seems copying quotes into existing posts no longer works in the new forum. Well, back to multiquotes I guess.

 

I think the thing here is that Dragon Age is a Fantasy Setting which is telling a story from a society with multiple races living alongside each other.

Also, this game seems to take the opportunity to use that to highlight the problem of raceism by giving some races a bad image... which is a great allegory for real world raceism without pointing fingers. The problem with the black german soldier in COD:WW2 is not only that is is not a fantasy setting, using real world ethnicities and events, but also that it does so without ANY reference to the real world problems present at that times... or even the ones present today.

Given a black soldier fighting alongside white soldiers was even unthinkable in the US army at the time, this is a gross misrepresentation of the real world issues black people faced at the time... like... everywhere.

 

Of course, most of it is down to simple lazyness and not really because of an intended agenda. You have that character creation tool that lets you create any ethnicity and gender you like... you have those german uniforms that can be retargeted to both male and female avatars of any ethnicity or gender... you bang the two things together and call it a day. Jobs a good one.

This is BS if you ask me. Its design by the numbers. Its releasing a yearly CoD clone in a new skin. Did I expect better from the CoD franchise which by now is more like FIFA and less like a true game sequel? No, of course not. Its still heartbreaking when you see how much money is invested into making a game shine. Maybe even polish the core gameplay. Maybe EVEN a good story for the campaign (something CoD once was good at). And then they get sloppy at the anciliary gameplay systems like multiplayer avatar creation, or gamemodes.

To think how much better games could be if the AAA Studios still knew how to take a calculated risk... how great would the BF1 campaign would have been if DICE concentrated on creating the full campaign the way the first level was done, cut down on some of the more unhistorical crap they pulled (WW1 space marines, rocket launchers on WW1 planes), and instead given the player the ability to play through the FULL WW1 timeline with all the important conflicts covered, and all the various factions visited at least once? If the game played more like a documentary, with players really getting to play with all the different weapons because they couldn't just use the 1919 prototypes in the 1914 parts of the campaign... if players had to use true WW1 strategies to for example take down Zeppelins... which meant getting up close and personal with a plane so the crappy machine guns actually hit the proverbial barn door, or in dire situation even crash the plane into the zeppelin (which, thanks to the player not controlling one guy, but the inevitable death of the character being a planned part of the expierience, could be a winning strategy here).

 

Now, I cannot say that the COD:WW2 Multiplayer is just as much wasted opportunity as this is not place where a heavely directed expierience is expected, so less that could have been done with it. But simply going the extra length to add different options per faction to the character creator would have been nice. MAybe invest some brain power into how to handle random team generation instead of the bogstandart "terrorists/counterterrorist" solution unchanged since CS.

On the american side, make sure the black soldiers get a different uniform than the caucasian ones. They might still end up fighting in the same skirmish (hence why they both fight in the same multiplayer match makes sense), but it should be at least clear that black soldiers did not serve alongside white ones in the same units in WW2. This ain't the 60's and 'nam.

On the german side, maybe look into a history book. Germany had african colonies, so while I am not 100% sure, they could have used african auxiliary troops like most other colonial power with colonies in africa did. Why not give them uniforms of those auxiliaries and make it clear what the origin of these black soldiers are and how the relationship with wehrmacht troops were at the time (which might be surprisingly good given the germans also worked closely together with many slavish nations no matter what the propaganda said about people of slavish origin... ). Might even teach some people some important historical facts about lesser known combatants in WW2.

As to women in WW2 uniforms... erhh. Okay, we might dig up some exceptions, generally I still have to ask: why? As long as we are not talking soviet red army, female soldiers must have been a very rare sight. But is this now REALLY such a huge problem to female players interested in shooters playing COD:WW2?

 

Again, maybe I am expecting too much from a CoD game given how this series has sunken almost to the lows of the FIFA games. Still sad to see all those dollars exclusively going to polish a turdy base when you could save on a little bit glitz to add a lot of substance.

 

EDIT:

Just seen this video pop up on Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/300318/Video_Smashing_stereotypes_to_write_better_richer_games.php

 

Besides the things already discussed something that stood out to me was how he wanted to fix the last of us. As so many, he has a problem with Ellie being the NPC most of the time, and Joel mostly the players avatar.

He proposes to make Ellie the main playable character...

 

But if we are really honest, while that might lead to an extremly cool game... it would deserve to be a different game. Ellie is a young girl. Joel, as far as I understand the story (not played through yet) an older and more expierienced guy when it comes to fighting.

As long as we do not make this a total fantasy story, it will usually be the more expierienced Joel who will have to do the heavy lifting, most of the fighting, and so on.

Making Ellie the lead and Joel the NPC would drastically change how the player has to play the game. Instead of being a tough as nails fighter tasked with looking over a more fragile and less able character, the player would have to use all the resources he could get to survive as a character, including the tough as nails NPC he had as a protector.

This could lead to very interesting dynamics, and quite unique game mechanics... but it probably would be a huge departure from the adeventure games players are used to.

 

And it seems that this guy does not understand what Ellie or Joel stand for. These two happen to be male and female in this combination (male adult, female young teenager) because the gender does strengthen the contrast the duo should present. Some might call this sexist, but these ideas about what are male and what are female attributes go all the way back (yin and yang and all) and are deeply embedded in our mind.

In a way the same thing "Dredd" went for when placing the female Juddge Anderson next to Dredd. And it works brilliant in that movie. In the end Anderson is just as Badass as Dredd... but in a completly different way. This is also a character duo where the contrast was important... and that contrast was increased by making one of them female (I know Anderson comes from the comic original, but given the movies Story was not directly taken from the comic, they could have come up with a different character or just have Dredd go all one man army). Anderson as a character was meant to be as relatable as possible compared to the robot-like and often inhuman Dredd. The fact she wears no helmet while dredd never takes it off helps with that just as much, still, the gender matter IMO.

On the Flipside, Alien(s) would have been very different movies if the main character wouldn't have been female. Ripley is awesome BECAUSE she is a woman. Because she seems quite believable as a woman, both when she fights fiercly for the live of a child that isn't her own, and when she is totally grossed out because she has an alien queen larvae in her womb.

 

Now I think you CAN reverse those roles, don't get me wrong. You can have a badass warrior chick save the young boy. But its a different story, and needs different characters. You cannot just skin Joel as Ellie and the other way around and expect people to go all "yeah, makes sense". That game most probably wouldn't have won as many fans and awards for the inconsistent story alone.

And this is where I think guys like him go wrong. They view Characters as tokens you can just slot into a story and call it a day. IMO if that is true and works, its time to throw away that story and start from scratch. A characters attributes should matter to a story, the character should BE the story. You could ask for the game industry to write more stories around characters of different ethnicities, or female characters, or non straight characters. But they should get their own stories, not just be slotted into the place of default white dude.

 

If we are honest, default white dude often would also deserver more and better stories.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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