With the uproar of #GamerGate and the vitriol among a minority of both sides of the debate about ethics in games journalism there’s a message that is often being drowned out, or in some cases used against others. No one in their right mind thinks that the game industry should be a white male dominated industry, and the those (not in their right mind) that do are thankfully few and far between. What exists, however, is a huge divide between the the popular opinions of how to increase diversity in games, and among game developers.
One popular opinion is that games companies should conform to a social movement’s demands for change. Just start making more inclusive games, hire more diverse employees, and be bullied into change with words like sexism, racism and misogyny. Some people are convinced that they can change the world by shaming it into submission because change just doesn’t happen fast enough for them. They forget the biggest factor of change in a capitalist society, and that’s the consumer. You can’t just give consumers a message and expect them to pay a viable amount of money for it, it’s just not sustainable.
Gamers are a unique breed of consumer, and games are a completely unique product in that we don’t need them and when it’s a good product we can be extremely loyal. There’s really only one thing we want from a game and that’s a fun experience. We don’t really care if the protagonist is a woman, gay, black, white, male, a little person, or a purple alien that walks on his hands and reproduces with himself, as long as the experience of the game is fun. You give us that and we’ll keep buying your product, and unlike a vacuum cleaner that lasts for years, or a toaster you probably won’t replace, if you give us good games you can keep us on the hook for the next one two months later, and another a couple months after that. Simply put, we just want good games, and good gamers to play them with.
Understanding that mindset is another popular opinion about making change in games and the gaming industry, and that’s just make more games, get more diverse people to make more games, make more games with diverse themes, and let them stand on their own. That’s how this whole thing works. The Fine Young Capitalists understand this and that’s why they have been embraced by many in the #GamerGate crowd, despite that crowd being accused of hating women and minorities. TFYC aren’t out there tearing down other games, accusing people of hate, or trying to shame gamers into making different choices, they are making changes by doing, by putting a positive message out there, and supporting diversity by actually supporting diverse creators. They understand that positive change comes from positive action and a positive message.
They aren’t stopping there. TFYC want to bring more diversity to entertainment media in general. Their second project involves a Sci-fi manga series focused on getting black creators involved in comics and graphic novels. The world they have created for their contest entrants to play in sounds great, a very unique world that I couldn’t do justice in describing. Check out their site, support and share if you like what you see, but at least check it out.
While you’re there don’t forget to check out the game that won their first contest, Afterlife Empire. It looks like a fun game where players take the role of a ghost and create their own haunted house. It reminds me of Sims in a way, but with a unique twist. The game will support modding, and grow as the fan base creates more content. The whole project is the definition of capitalism and the success or failure hinges entirely on people funding it, willing to put down their hard-earned money to support it. They aren’t telling people it’s the social, or morally responsible thing to do they are offering a product and letting you decide for yourself. The founder, Matthew Rappard was gracious enough to take the time to answer a few of our questions about their projects which we are happy to share with you below.
F&B: How does a project start at TFYC? Does a group bring an idea to you or do you all come up with the plan and find people in the industry to help build it?
Matthew: We first determine an area, where minority and under represented. For example for SNless we knew that Black Representation was a issue across all media. We then do a cost analysis to determine the least expensive way to give people in the group support. A Television show would be really expensive to do, as would a film, a video game might not have the amount of character developement we wanted, so we chose a graphic novel as the least expensive but the one where the most character would be developed. We then came up with a proposal and then bounced the idea around people in the community to get their feedback. We work on a 9:1 ratio, meaning if 9 people like it but one person hates it, it’s acceptable to actually do. We retool the production until it reaches that ratio.
F&B: TFYC have had a fairly steady message during the #GamerGate issue; that censorship and harassment are wrong, and diversity will come from helping underrepresented creators put out more content. Are you afraid that message has been diluted or are you seeing more support for your efforts because of #GamerGate?
Matthew: It’s no good speaking to people that already agree with you when you are trying to change people’s mind. Samanth Walsh our sociologicist is actually really impressed with how we’ve engaged with people through #GamerGate. We’ve worked with a group that was associated with an antiwoman message, and worked with them to openly support women (To varying degrees) and had them honestly read and agree with feminist theory. This arguably is more important then spreading our message inside feminist circles. In radical feminism you are trying to change the minds of people, and I think despite the media attention GamerGate has accepted many of our ideals.
F&B: We are just catching the end of the voting round of your video game competition and a winner is chosen. What’s next and how can supporters help get Afterlife Empire to production?
Matthew: Money is great, we will be taking donation for the next 24 hours, but honestly the game supports modding. Community involvement in a game is important for it to have long term viability in the market place. By even adding a single sprite you make the game in some way better. When the game design is more formalized we’ll allow people to add to it. And if they make a large enough mod we’ll sell it as DLC and give the profits to a charity of their choice.
F&B: How was it, working with the finalists who did not ultimately win and is it safe to assume their games might hit other crowd funding initiatives soon?
Matthew: The other finalists were great, they can always particpate in crowdfunding on their own, but there has been some interest from investors in a couple of their idea. The finalist get to keep their art to pitch but as a friendly gesture we will also act as consultant since it is their first project. We can’t promise anything but we find it a positive experience for the finalists.
F&B: Has the response to the SNless project been as good from supporters and entrants alike?
Matthew: SNless needs work, we aren’t getting as many applicants as we’d like. Last time the majority of applicants came in the last 4 days so it’s hard to judge the success. If anyone would like to submit, even past the deadline contact email@example.com
F&B: We love the concept of the world for the SNless series, how did this idea come about, was it created for this project or already out there?
Matthew: We just literally said, here is some money to come up with an idea for a world. Make the world that you always wanted to make but it has to be sci-fi with many black leads. We then provided some minor notes, to make to as inclusive as possible but that was about it. Many different writers actually worked on the project, but it was like story of stone soup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Soup) each person added a very small amount to create a larger setting. Besides the editor everyone involved self identified as Black.
F&B: The SNless entry process will most likely be over by the time we print this, what’s the next project? Any ideas on the horizon?
Matthew: We are keeping the page up for awhile, the press for the video game project makes it difficult for people to see this one. Email support@thefineyoungcapitalists if you missed the deadline and you might be able to slip under the line. Our next project will involve LGBT representation in children’s book. Any member of the LGBT community and adjacent communities will be able to write a short childrens book to be illustrated. The only requirement is that one character be a member of the LGBT community. We’ll take the top 5 best ones and get professional artists to make a cover for the book. The internet chooses the best one, and if there is enough interest we’ll make an Ebook and if there is tons of interest a print run. Profits will go to LGBT groups.