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  • Emily Hoong

A shift in gaming values?

Gaming to me always felt very male, aggressive, and violent. Every time there’s a conversation about gaming I check out – my mind wanders somewhere more interesting. I don’t even think I’m not interested in gaming; I haven’t really played any games after all. It’s the exclusionary factor that automatically makes me think ‘it’s not for me’.

However, I’m seeing the gaming industry being more inclusive in every sense of the word – from race to gender to people of diverse interests. George wrote a piece on Gen Z player values a few months ago and pointed out the opportunity for gaming companies to channel more Universalism amongst other values to attract a new generation of players. Recently I’ve seen companies and individuals incorporating Universalism strongly into their games. If this is kept up, it’s not just going to attract a new generation of players, but also players who have felt excluded in the past or were never interested in gaming.

It's no revelation the entertainment industry feels very white and there are continuous efforts to change on-screen representation. We hear this a lot about movies and TV but recently there’s been an effort to change this in gaming too. The artist and game maker A.M. Darke (he/him and she/her are both used) noticed that Black hairstyles in gaming are very badly represented. Gamers can choose between the many choices of inaccurately textured cornrows, dreads and afros. Frustrated, Darke has created the Afro Hair Library, an open-source database of 3D modelled Black hairstyles. Gaming companies have no excuse about inaccurate Black hair now. Not only does this initiative channel Universalism, but Self-direction too. Darke has called on artists to contribute to the Afro Hair Library, giving people the opportunity to express and showcase their creations.

There’s a lot of noise around Horizon Forbidden West, an action role-playing game that launched earlier this year. The protagonist in the game is Aloy, a female character that is in stark contrast to the male characters that historically feature heavily in games and that I don’t completely resonate with. A quick google of her reveals many of the characteristics I want to see in female characters, not just in gaming but in the media too. She’s not overly sexualised, her pragmatic clothes feels appropriate for the quest she’s on, and she’s strong minded. This is a character I would want to play.

Horizon Forbidden West’s Universalism doesn’t stop at gender representation. The game has partnered up with the Eden project to highlight the devastation that 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Morecambe will be the home of Eden Project North, opening in 2024 with the space featuring nature landscapes from Horizon Forbidden West. This spilling over of the gaming world into real-life landscapes might encourage gamers to be more conscious of the environment if they are not already and may also interest environmentalists in gaming.

Universalism doesn’t just manifest itself in-game. Back in 2018, Microsoft created the Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed for gamers with disabilities. Not only does this enable gamers who have been excluded to take part, it also empowers them – there are no limits to their ability. Check out the impact of the Xbox Adaptive Controller here:

Gaming feels like it’s reaching out to areas that feel a bit more familiar to me, and in time with continuous effort, gaming itself might feel more familiar to me and many more people. Inclusivity requires continuous effort and we see many of our gaming brands we work with wanting to channel more Universalism. This makes me very excited about what’s to come. If you are a gaming brand, how are you incorporating more Universalism into your games?

Speak soon,

Emily (Research Manager, OMTM)

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