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Discussion surrounding diversity in video games continues in an OU classroom

Diversity is a subject widely discussed among video gamers in online forums — and now the conversation continues in an Ohio University classroom.

This semester, OU started offering “Ready Player Two,” under the English department. The course is taught by new faculty member Edmond Chang, an assistant professor of English, and is dedicated to using an intersectional lens to analyze and criticize social culture through literature and video games.

The image of the typical gamer as a white, college-age man is one that is falsely perpetuated, Chang said. Video games have been found to be enjoyed by individuals across the board, regardless of aspects such as race, gender and class. 

“For some reason, we keep advertising and saying that video games are only for adolescent young white men who hang out in their parents’ basement,” Chang said. “But the reality is that’s obviously not true.”

The stereotype has led video game companies to produce games mainly featuring protagonists solely intended for that audience, effectively alienating other gamers.

Video game developers will create video games that reflect their inclinations and as such, the level of diversity will vary in each video game, Daniel Pinto, a sophomore studying psychology, said.

“If you don’t like it, don’t play the game (and) don’t buy it,” Pinto said. “That’s the best way of letting them know.”

All forms of media are constantly evolving, Chang said, but many video games have yet to properly represent “the realities of the way our world is diverse.”

Eli Karkowski has a different viewpoint. Video games such as Horizon Zero Dawn and the latest installment to the Uncharted series, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, were released this year and were well received by video game critics for featuring featuring strong female protagonists, he said.

“Video games have always gave people of every race, every gender a way to be a hero,” Karkowski, a sophomore studying astrophysics, said. “No matter who you are, there’s someone to look up to.”

Representation isn’t usually on the top of Pinto’s priority list when he searches for a new video game to enjoy.

“It doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal to me personally,” Pinto said. “If you feel like you want to be represented in a video game, then you should voice your opinion … but I don’t think it’s something that should be necessary.”

Although, some video games have made progress in terms of inclusivity over the years, Chang said it is important to continue analyzing video games and the messages they send to gamers.

“This isn’t about saying all games are bad, all games are racist or all games are sexist,” Chang said. “There is nuances in the games I played that I really, really love. But I still see and I still am critical about the things that they do that are troubling to me.”

Throughout the media-based courses he has taught over the years, Chang said there is only one simple question that needs to be asked in regard to representation. 

“When you look around in the world, do you see yourself in it? It’s not necessarily you, but do you see people like you that talk and speak and act like you?” Chang said. ‘’If you don’t, there’s something going on and that’s something that needs to be figured out and addressed.”


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