AnyKey’s Good Luck Have Fun Pledge

 

This past week AnyKey, an advocacy group that promotes diversity and inclusion in gaming, relaunched their Good Luck Have Fun Pledge. I had the pleasure of representing the organization at TwitchCon 2019 in San Diego this past weekend.

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I met a lot of engaged gamers and streamers and was really moved by all of the positive responses we received regarding the pledge and the work AnyKey does. For those who have not heard or taken the pledge, it is pretty simple. The GLHF pledge  asks individuals to:

  1. Be a good sport whether I win or lose

  2. Know that people online are real people and my words have real impact

  3. Set a positive example with my behavior

  4. Speak up against discrimination, hate speech, harassment, and abuse

  5. Show integrity by honoring the rules, my opponents, and my teammates

  6. Stop, listen, and reassess if I’m told that my words or actions are harmful

  7. Respect others, even if their sincere opinions are different from my own

The GLHF pledge is a part of a larger initiative to curb toxicity in gaming spaces, with a big emphasis being placed on esports and streaming.  If you’re a twitch member you can also earn yourself a twitch global community badge icon, which your followers can then click and take the pledge for themselves.

AnyKey is hoping to have 1 million gamers take the pledge by 2020 and so far they’re nearing 300,000 at the time of this post. It’s a simple way of showing you’re not willing to stand for toxic behavior online. You can also support the cause by using the tag #glhfpledge on twitter and following AnyKey.

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Follow me on Twitter @Socialvideogame

 

 

BBC’s The Women Challenging Sexism in E-Sports

A quick one to share today:

Apart of their 100 Women of 2016 series, a series of videos and articles about influential women in varying industries, the BBC has put together a video and accompanying piece about women in the world of competitive gaming.

Stephanie Harvey and Julia Kiran, two of the most prominent female gamers in the world of competitive gaming, speak out about the challenges they have had to overcome and the hurdles that still exist in the gaming industry.  Issues of pay gap between males and females and consistent harassment plague the industry, so it’s great to see issues brought up.

Voice Actors Are Striking: Why You Should Care

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For the last couple of weeks SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents many voice actors in the video games industry, have been picketing and striking outside of major video game developers and tomorrow, Nov.17th, they plan to picket Insomniac Games in Burbank. Many of the biggest voice actors in the industry have come out in support of the strike, including Sarah Palmer and Roger Craig Smith.

Essentially the union is fighting for more protection and wages for their actors, citing that many video game developers/publishers do not adequately pay or support their actors. Additionally, the union is fighting for voice actors to receive residual payments for their works that go-on to have long life spans.With game’s rapidly expanding to become more and more immersive experiences, voice actors play a huge part in creating these worlds and it’s only natural that actors need to be compensated and treated fairly with this growing trend.

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SAG-AFTRA released these statements:

“This group of video game employers knowingly feeds off other industries that pay these same performers fairly to make a living. This represents a ‘freeloader model of compensation’ that we believe cannot and should not continue.

“In this industry, which frequently uses performers and understands the intermittent and unpredictable nature of this type of work, fair compensation includes secondary payments when games hit a certain level of success with consumers, not simply higher upfront wages. Secondary compensation is what allows professional performers to feed their families in between jobs.

“No matter what these companies are peddling in their press releases, this negotiation is not only about upfront compensation. It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry. These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games — which are the only games this dispute is about – drive that profit.

“We have proposed a fair payment structure that enables the sustainability of a professional performer community. These employers have unreasonably refused that. The time has come to end the freeloader model of compensation and that is why our members are united behind this cause.”

Gamespot has a great article that goes into a considerable more deal than I can, but I think it’s important to note why labor movements are important in both society and the gaming industry. Fair and equitable relations within jobs have long histories of fighting for rights, and we often overlook just how important labor fights are to our history. We tend to forget this history because we live in a time in which unions aren’t as prevalent because of the privatization of many industries and years of smear campaigns against them, but unions still very much help and work in many industries and they make substantive change for many people.

So go support SAG-AFTRA, urge your favorite developers to support and work with them, and next time you boot up your favorite game take a moment to think  about the people performing the voices of the characters.

You can support the cause by tweeting #PerformanceMatters

 

Capcom Investing In Benefits To Keep Female Employees

Really Quick one today:

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Japanese game developers have traditionally been slow towards creating more diverse work staffs, which makes Capcom’s announcement that they’ll be investing in medical benefits to encourage employees with children to stay with the company. In their annual report, which has lots of information about Capcom and where they see the industry headed, the veteran gaming made the commitment to keeping working mothers.

Capcom is engaged in improving the employment environment for women, promoting projects in which both women and men participate, and the proactive hiring of non-Japanese employees…In particular, with respect to improving the employment environment for women, we have introduced systems that promote utilization of paid leave before and after childbirth, childcare leave, and shortened working hours. In fiscal 2016, we promoted the establishment of children facilities within the company

It’s a small step, but an important one for a company that historically has had a lot of issues with gender representation. Capcom’s current workforce is made up of about 20% women, so hopefully this step towards retaining their currently female population will increase those numbers in future year.

You may be asking: “Hey, why should I care about female employees at Japanese gaming company getting benefits?”. Well, person who hates talking about benefits for Japanese women, the more video game companies invest in programs to diversify their work force the more we’ll get a diverse range of ideas and perspective in our games. Had Capcom had more female employees on their staff, maybe they wouldn’t have received such backlash for their depiction of  female characters in Street Fighter V….Just maybe.

 

Vice’s “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games”

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Vice News posted an article by Khai Trung Le entitled “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games” that discusses the the lack or representation and misrepresentation of Asians in video games. It’s an interesting subject that often doesn’t get brought up in the community all that often. Before we discuss the article, here are some important tidbits from the article:

The issue of representation is perhaps more difficult to confront because Asians have always occupied a significant presence in games history, culture, and production, creating the assumption of a non-issue. China, Japan, and South Korea are strong markets for video games with their own idiosyncrasies, studios and market influence, and are certainly as responsible for propagating these tropes as Western developers and publishers. Nor do Asian men experience the same career barriers within the tech sector and generally are not currently under the extremities of harassment and hate felt by others: not under threat of deportation or assumptions of terrorist sympathies, nor under fear of trigger-happy law enforcement. Fortunately, there has been no organized social-media movement against Asians—although some of the coarser language certainly focused on ethnicity—but rather a continuous disregard.

Nevertheless, 49 percent of Asian American respondents to a 2015 Nielsen survey “strongly disagreed” with the statement of “all races have ample representation/inclusion in video game characters.” This is more than twice as high as Hispanic and African American respondents, and similarly more than twice as high than women that “strongly disagreed” with the same statement toward gender.

I think the reason representation in video games doesn’t often get brought up in regards to Asian communities is that there is a misconception that Asian characters are being well represented in video games, primarily due to Japanese characters having a good deal of representation in the medium. There in lies the issue; the terms Asian is such a broad term referring to such a vast number of cultures and people that one population within the umbrella term receiving representation in no way should trivialize other groups’ lack of representation. One Asian community does not represent all Asian communities, and nor should representation be looked at as a form of checking of groups.

The article is pretty articulate in regards to the problems of representation in gaming, but it should be noted that the article’s focus seems to be arguing more so for representation of Asian Americans within gaming, rather than Asian communities outside of the United States. Perhaps this division goes without saying, but the article doesn’t make the distinction which will perhaps lead viewers to extend his viewpoint to more communities than just Asian Americans. Regardless, representation within the Asian American community in general is a subject matter that extends to many forms of media and gaming is no different. As the author puts forward, we’re seeing some positive portrayals in recent games but a significant portion of Asian Americans feel that video games are underrepresenting or misrepresenting their communities. With more emerging game development communities forming in Asian countries like China and S.Korea, hopefully we’ll begin to see other Asian communities better represented within gaming as a whole. Similarly, American developers need to be more conscious of representing the entire American population within their game, which needs to include the various Asian American communities that call the United States home. More diverse characters with more diverse backgrounds mean for more interesting games.

A Threat Against Sarkeesian Should Be Seen as A Threat To The Entire Gaming Community

This week Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speech at Utah College after the school received a threat of a mass shooting if Sarkeesian was allowed to speak. The school decided to go ahead with the speech after consulting law enforcement officials, but Sarkeesian decided to cancel the speech after learning that students with a valid concealed arms permit would be allowed to openly carry concealed weapons during the presentation, as is allowed by law.

Let’s glance over the fact that the school had to legally allow people with weapons to attend the speech after threats claimed that the proposed shooting would be the “deadliest school shooting in American history” because open carry laws are  horrendously backwards and ridiculous. The treatment that Sarkeesian is receiving is the issue I wish to focus on in this post.  Of course the person making these threats against Sarkeesian doesn’t represent the gaming community nor those who disagree with Sarkeesian’s videos and opinions, but it does represent an greater issue in the community as a whole.  Sarkeesian, whose videos have focused on reoccurring themes in video games that dehumanize and trivialize women, is an academic, proponent, and a member of the video game community. Threats, violence, and dismissal are no ways to respond to those with opinions and perspectives that we don’t share. The amount of backlash and vile given from people in the gaming community towards Sarkeesian and other video game academics who seek to challenge the norm has been absolutely unsettling and unwarranted.  Death threats aside, we as a gaming community should not stand for name calling, dismissals of opinions without proper argument, or anything of the sort. We need to show to the community and the world that these types of threats and acts are NOT OKAY. A great portion of the world still sees the gaming community as one that is  uneducated, and childish; we need to show them that we are not.. We need to stand up for those who are attacked, regardless of if we agree with their perspective or not. An attack on Sarkeesian should be seen as an attack on the gaming community. If free speech and the conversing on differing ideas and perspectives can’t be allowed in our community then we all suffer. The gaming community needs to come together on this issue or face losing the blossoming diversity we have cultivated in recent years.

Sarkeesian’s Website

Polygon’s “No Skin Thick Enough:The daily harassment of women in the game industry”

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Today Polygon posted this piece on their site. It’s an piece about the myths and realities of harassment against women in the video game industry by Brianna Wu. It features the real life experiences of several women in the gaming industry that have faced harassment and threats from gamers and consumers. I’m not going to try and make any witty comments on this one, you should just read the article. Warning: There is some pretty graphic language in the piece.

These are some pretty harrowing experiences that are laid out in this piece. Being a public figure, especially a female public figure, in the gaming industry is still one that carries a lot of hurdles and hardships. The gaming community is slowing shifting and becoming more and more accepting, but we still have a long way ahead of us. We got some real dicks still out there, and we probably always will, but it is how we as a community respond to these types of actions that make us the community we are. Gamers have to hold up those who are being oppressed in our community, and until we do we’re all failing as a community.

 

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

It’s been a fun week of demos, conferences, and mostly announcements for First Person Shooters. Between announcing games in which people shoot each others’ heads off, Ubisoft announced the newest entry into their Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game is the first game in the franchise to offer co-op play, allowing up to 4 players at once. That’s all fine and dandy, but fans are disappointed with Ubisoft for something besides them announcing another AC game; fans are upset that the game will feature no playable female characters. Alright, you may be saying “Hey, dingbat. Lots of games don’t feature female characters”, but it’s pretty silly when other games in the franchise have featured playable female characters. With 4 main protagonists in the game, surely they could have put one in.

So what’s Ubisoft gotta say about this lack of gender choices?

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets…Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”

DOING THINGS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN IS HARD. I get it, it’s true that having to animate, design, and whatever else a female character would add production time to the game, but really? For a company like Ubisoft, who has been releasing an Assassin’s Creed game almost annually, to play the workload card is a little absurd. How about spacing the games out a little more to add this one customization in? The company went on to explain that designing a female character is increasingly difficult because they  don’t have a”female reader for the character” at their disposal, nor do they have “all the animations in place.” A spokemen went on to explain that designing a female character is different from a male one, because they look, act, and walk different. After he said that, the world smallest violin was played for him.

It’s not only fans reacting to the statements of Ubisoft either, as other game developers have added their voice to the subject matter.

Jonathan Cooper of Naught Dog calling  them out for being both lazy and…incorrect? This one  from Tim Borrelli from 5thcell is in response to female characters looking and acting different.

One last one from industry types (I forget who they are with)

All in all, fans and developers aren’t happy with Ubisofts response and laziness on the matter. Come on Ubi, you’re not an independent developer struggling here; the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a huge one and we expect more out of they. They should probably use some of that Babyz and Dogz money to fix this fiasco, but we probably won’t see that happen. Who knows how this will change future Assassin’s Creed games or ever the upcoming Unity.

BLOG NEWS!

For those who subscribe or check in regularly, you may notice the domain has lost the “wordpress” and is not just a .com! Exciting times people. We are now a registered domain! Will the blogs level of terribleness lessen? PROBBBBABBBLLLLYYYY NOOTTTTTTT

 

 

Update: Nintendo Reaffirms Stance on Same-Sex Relationships in Tomodachi Life

 

Last year Nintendo responded to a glitch found in their popular Japanese 3ds Title “Tomodachi Collection” that allowed players to enter into same-sex relationships with a patch. We discussed the issue a bit on here and it was admittedly a strange case, as the glitch enabled occurrences such as male Miis becoming pregnant and only allowing for same-sex male relationships.  After the patch was released the response to Nintendo’s action seemed to die down, however the argument has since resurfaced upon Nintendo announcing the game (Tomodachi Life) for North America and Europe. Since then an online petition and miiverse community movement called “Miiquality” have been created to move Nintendo to allow for same-sex relationships in the NA/EU versions of the game. Community members have taken to Miiverse, twitter, facebook and most social media outlets to let Nintendo know of their desires. This week, a representative of Nintendo responded with this statement:

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life…The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation ….We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”

TLDR: “We’re not trying to be progressive here”.  Unfortunately this is just another strike in Nintendo’s list of things they’re behind the times on.  This could have been a momentous move for Nintendo to show that they are progressive, but instead they chose to show that they are behind the times once again. With other family oriented companies like Disney making strides in representing the LBGT community, it’s unfortunate that Nintendo isn’t following suit. Even from a financial standpoint, the publicity and buzz Nintendo could have created by responding to requests positively could have extremely helped sales of the upcoming. Instead, they’ve only served to anger and disappoint a growing population of their community. They’ve handled this situation like they’ve handled to Wii U  (HAHAHAHAH GET IT. BADLY)

It’s a bizarre world in Tomodachi Life

Then again…Maybe a bizarre, strange experience like Tomodachi life isn’t the best place for Nintendo to make such a stance….or any statement. Regardless, Nintendo needs to step into the modern day.

UPDATE EVEN MORE!!

 Nintendo has released an official apology regarding the subject:

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

Meh. Seems reasonable enough. To be fair, the original patch that Nintendo released for the Japanese version wasn’t removing the ability to have same sex relationships, it was a patch released to fix a glitch that occurred when players brought over a Mii from another 3ds that inadvertently marks those miis as the wrong gender. They were REALLY trying to not take a stance either way. Perhaps this movement may see the fruits of its labor in future installments of the game.

Wired – Nintendo’s New Key To Creativity: More Women

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Wired has a new article this weekend about Nintendo’s new strategy for creativity in their development process: adding more women to their development teams.

The article notes the success of Animal Crossing New Leaf, which has been  an all around success for Nintendo. It’s a great game for doing mundane tasks and filling the empty void in your life with fake furniture and appeasing talking animals. More remarkably:

Since its release in 2013, New Leaf has sold 7.38 million copies worldwide, and is credited by Nintendo with helping the handheld 3DS system reach 42.74 million units sold. It also boasts another striking statistic: Nearly half of the Animal Crossing: New Leaf game development team was female. And according to Eguchi and Kyogoku, the two are far from unrelated. Indeed, they believe that the diversity of their team was crucial to their game’s success.

However the bigger story is that they intend to further this success with applying the same belief to future games, which means we may see more female development staff on future Nintendo games.

I won’t go too much farther than that, as you should go read the article, but it is an important step in making Nintendo a more diverse company. If Nintendo, who has been slow to adapt to change in many parts, can begin to diversify, then perhaps we’ll begin to see it throughout the industry. And that, my friends, will be a great thing.

For More Reading:

Is Nintendo Being More Gender Inclusive?