Your Princess is Definitely in this Castle

Exploring diversity in gaming and among gamers through The Nerd Castle

A few examples of Latinx video game characters published in an article about Hispanic characters in video games. From left to right: King from Tekken, Isabela Keys from Dead Rising, Dominic Santiago from Gears of War, Rico Velasquez from Killzone. Illustration by: Anna-Michelle Lavandier

The community that I hope to serve through this project is the video game community, specifically those who play games frequently enough to consider themselves gamers. While there are many kinds of subcommunities classified by genre, game series, platform or specific games, there are overarching issues that span all of these divisions that affect all gamers. Diversity is not a new topic for the gaming community, but attempts at discussing it have not always gone well (as gamers have witnessed in what became known as Gamergate 2014).

Here are a few facts to illustrate the community’s size and diversity.

1. 65% of LGBT members don’t feel all sexual orientations have ample representation among video game characters. (Source: Nielsen)

2. 49% of US adults report playing video games on a computer, television, game console or mobile device. (Source: Pew Research Center)

3. 52% of Hispanics agree with the statement that people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves, compared with 39% of blacks and 37% of whites. (Source: Pew Research Center)

4. 86% of boys who identify as gamers want more females playing their games. (Source: ADL)

5. 52% of males and 48% of females play video games. (Source: 2014 ESA Sales, Demographic, Usage Data)

The issues raised by these numbers alone are not ones that are frequently discussed among members of the community. I hope that my project will spark conversation within the community about these and other issues surrounding gaming and diversity without fear of negative feedback (or backlash). The idea is that this blog is by gamers and for gamers.

Nowadays, anyone can be a gamer, but not everyone who plays games identifies as a “gamer.” After conducting a few interviews, I came to realize that it was because some people feel marginalized and excluded, or have had others use tactics to push them away (“gatekeeping” or trash talk like, “You’re only a real gamer if…”).

Madeline Falacci, librarian at the NYU Game Center and student at NYU, chose not to call herself a gamer despite her passion for gaming.

“I would have used it before, but it’s kind of been politicized and used a lot for marketing,” Falacci said. “There’s so much more now that comes with the term ‘gamer.’ I just err on the side of not using it for now.”

Gaming has become a huge industry when it comes to entertainment, but it is still fairly young compared to medicine, film and others that have been well established for many years. If you trace the history of video games as we know it to The Brown Box, a console prototype created by Ralph Baer (who is also considered “The Father of Video Games”) in 1967, the video game industry is just shy of 50 years old.

If you include Edward U. Condon’s display in the 1940 World’s Fair, according to the Museum of Play, the industry would be about 76 years old. So it is expected that there will be some growing pains that will come to define the community surrounding this industry. Part of that growth will come from debate, awareness and, unfortunately, controversy.

While plenty of controversy has already arisen (the violence in video games discussion that led to the creation of the ESRB rating system, the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association in 2011 and GamerGate 2014, for example), healthy discussion is rare.

Kristen Rosario, associate editor of Zelda Informer, expressed concern about the current state of discussion through news to the gaming community.

“ It has gotten to a point in the gaming community where we have to defend what we believe in,” Rosario said. “There are normal news channels and websites that talk about video games like they know them, but always feel like they’re not talking from experience. We need more people out there to not only help protect our very way of life, but to talk with the knowledge they gained throughout the years of being a gamer. To inform the rest of the non-gaming community not to automatically assume what they’re talking about is true.”

I have been part of the gaming community since I was nine years old. I was influenced by my eldest brother to get involved in video games, which is how we used to spend time together. At a young age, I related video games with social interaction and shared that with my younger brother when he was five years old. I have been shamed for being a gamer, mostly by my family. I came to discover that this was not a new phenomenon and began making friends with others who, like me, used gaming as social interaction and a means to escape from some of the pressures of life. While I also got involved with anime, manga, board games, card games and other aspects generally associated with nerdery, I remain actively involved in the gaming community.

I hope to talk about some of these diversity-related issues and what they can mean for the future/survival of the community on my blog called The Nerd Castle. Whether it’s through articles, photography, audio or video, I want to highlight how diverse this community already is while offering some insight into what can be done to increase this within the community. I would also like to engage the gaming community via social media platforms to host/facilitate the conversation about this topic.

Feel free to check out The Nerd Castle or find it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and soon on Twitch.tv.

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