In a Large 12 months for Video games, These Gamers Are Shifting the Tradition

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In a Big Year for Games, These Players Are Shifting the Culture

No wonder 2020 was a monumental year for the video game industry. While other businesses have seen sales shrink and stores closed, gambling companies have benefited from these many months when millions of people have spent more time at home.

Some of these people have always been gamblers, but the year has also attracted a new group of gamblers. Streaming platforms like Twitch, previously reserved only for competitive players and fans, have become chess grandmasters and politicians who put campaign stops. Sellers on Amazon and other online marketplaces began listing the Nintendo Switch, released in 2017, at high-priced prices in the first few months of the pandemic, to meet an unexpected surge in interest. And now the demand for the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft has made buying them next to impossible (unless you want to pay a premium).

The year also saw several blockbuster titles and surprise hits. Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a virtual social hub. Cyberpunk 2077, long hyped as the game of the decade, arrived with bugs and less flash than expected; Many players have since asked for refunds from their manufacturer, CD Projekt Red. Meanwhile, PlayStation The Last of Us Part II, which focuses on queer women (including the game’s main character, Ellie) and a transgender character, broke sales records for Sony, selling over four million copies in the first three days.

However, less attention is paid to the profits that individuals – gamers, designers, voice actors, and activists, including many women – have made in the gaming world.

Emilia Schatz, designer at Studio Naughty Dog, was one of the main characters in creating the world of The Last of Us Part II. In all of her work, she seeks to expand the minds and empathy of the players.

“Among the narrative media, games stand out for their ability to immerse audiences in the protagonist’s identity and the problems of the world in which they live,” she said.

“For players who appear as protagonists with a different gender, skin tone or perspective than themselves, there is a real opportunity for empathy and understanding when that portrayal is authentic and human,” she continued.

In The Last of Us, Part II, Ms. Schatz said it was important to her to portray queer and transgender people in roles that are often occupied by male cisgender characters, although she anticipated criticism. “As a trans person, I built armor myself based on how I know that some people can treat people like me,” she said. “I don’t expect anything else for the characters I bring to life.”

The Last of Us Part II has also been lauded by many in the disabled gamer community for its extensive range of accessibility options designed to make the game more accessible for gamers with impaired vision, deaf or hard of hearing, and mobility issues.

The more games take steps to welcome disabled gamers, and the more adaptive controllers allow people to play games regardless of their disability, the more people are making room for themselves in gaming culture.

Nyree Stevens, a paraplegic gamer and member of the Quad Gods, a team of paraplegic players, said that even complex games like Fortnite that require quick, intricate inputs to switch between features like build and shoot while moving and on Enemies aim, these are accessible to them thanks to a special controller.

“My gear is called the QuadStick, which I use orally as I have no function in my arms and have different parts that you either have to slurp to move or pump to do something,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting because I never thought I could play a game with my mouth.”

However, for now, most gamers assume that the other avatars they encounter in games like Fortnite are being played by non-disabled people. “I know certain people who, while playing, would never believe that a person with a disability is behind the character who wins,” said Ms. Stevens.

Even more than blockbusters, indie games have tried to remove inequalities in gaming. Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, a game designer based in London, A Woman Goes to a Private Industry Party based on her experiences with networking in the game industry. She made the title during one of Gaming’s #MeToo waves to draw attention to the fact that sexism is a systemic problem in the industry that can’t be solved by evicting some high profile abusers.

“It’s everyday misogyny that hurts the most,” said Ms. Carbo-Mascarell. “Every sexist remark or uncomfortable comment cuts like a tiny daily newspaper cut until we finally leave the industry hurt and sore. I wanted to show that with my game. “

Players are also leading the organized work effort within the industry, especially as studios are increasingly being screened for the practice of crunch – longer stretches of mandatory overtime as the games near release.

Sarah Elmaleh took part in a nearly 300-day strike among voice actors in the video game industry as the SAG-AFTRA union pushed for better compensation and better working conditions. “I think both sides came out with a shared desire for a more harmonious and open way to progress,” she said.

Last May, more than 150 Riot Games employees went on strike to protest the studio’s use of compulsory arbitration. Some employees argued it was a sexist corporate culture. “It feels like attitudes and interest in unions have changed dramatically after the actors’ strike and continued coverage by game journalists,” Ms. Elmaleh said.

Others influence gaming culture by simply putting themselves out in public as players and competitors. Kishonna Gray, author of Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming, has examined how women, especially black women, use platforms like Twitch and the challenges they face in doing so.

“Many women say they need to wear insightful clothing in order to maximize their followers. Some say they need to change their content, but the guys don’t see their contributions to the game as valuable, ”she said. “On the other hand, many women are realizing the autonomy and power they have to control their own content.”

However, she noted that “streaming platforms still privilege white men”. And even women who do not live stream with a view to political change often find that their presence in this cultural space takes on a political dimension, whether they want it or not.

“While black women may not be involved in activism,” Ms. Gray said, “some of them say that the existence of their bodies in spaces not designed for them automatically turns them into activists because their presence changes the space. “

Benita Novshadian has been involved in competitive gaming for over 15 years. “The women’s esports scene is currently the biggest it has ever been,” she said.

Ms. Novshadian said the opportunities for women to participate in the games of their choice, the 1999 shooter Counter-Strike and its 2012 iteration, Global Offensive, have increased since she started playing.

“We used to have one tournament a year that all women enjoyed,” she said. “Now there are roughly four to six tournaments a year that women can play in, with much larger prize pools.” She also credits Riot Games with running all-women tournaments with large prize pools for new competitive shooter Valorant.

With support for female competitors like this one from some of the greatest power players in esports, Ms. Novshadian hopes for a future where her gender is largely viewed as random. “Over the years I’ve learned that I don’t want to just be one of the greatest female esports athletes,” she said. “I want to be a great competitor, regardless of gender.”

Anita Sarkeesian and Carolyn Petit are the co-hosts of Feminist Frequency Radio.