The Color Game

Videogame insiders discuss a lack of diversity in the industry-and what to do about it. Last week in Las Vegas, I led a panel at...


Videogame insiders discuss a lack of diversity in the industry-and what to do about it.Last week in Las Vegas, I led a panel at the DICE Summit. DICE is basically the videogame equivalent of the Oscars, and I'd attended last year as a journalist, but this year I was fortunate enough to take on a different role. I was there to chair a panel about a very, very sexy topic: How today's videogames fail to reflect diversity.The response to the discussion-which is embedded below-has been mixed. Videogamers do not like being preached to, especially when the sermon is on a touchy subject like race. Some felt the issue was "so last year" because of the firestorm surrounding depictions of Africans in the zombie shooter Resident Evil 5 (pictured). Critics lined up on both sides of the game, arguing on one side that spear-chucking zombie Africans being shot at by white people is problematic; others thought the games had transcended the issue.Of course, that doesn't mean the issue has disappeared. Panelist Dmitri Williams, a professor at University of Southern California, cited research he's done that is basically a census of videogame characters. Predictably, he found that whites are ubiquitous, while African-Americans and Hispanics are woefully underrepresented.I personally think race is still a big issue in videogames, and that continuing a discussion about it is the only way to catalyze change. The case for diversity is strong one, both creatively and from a business perspective. One of videogames' continued failings is a chronic inability to write good stories. This is clearly not a requirement for a good game, but for big-budget games attempting to emulate the feel of blockbuster movies, the industry has a long way to go to create believable characters and meaningful plots.That's what makes the absence of diversity so curious. If one were to look at American history even in this century, there are plenty of episodes and characters that could make for great storytelling-while also reflecting our country's diversity. Where is the Civil Rights movement or the recent urban dissolution of Detroit? Left 4 Dead 2, which we covered here last year, did an excellent job letting the gothic South create some frightening gameplay. Couldn't the same be done with a single mother trying to make it on the South Side of Chicago?Interestingly, for all of the criticism lobbed at Rockstar Games, creator of the Grand Theft Auto series, the studio has done an excellent job building characters that reflect geographic specificity and diversity. From the streets of Los Angeles to Spanish Harlem, they've created a cast of memorable characters that at least deviate from the standard space marine template. Of course, the problem is that they're all criminals. When the only people of color with visibility are toting a gun, something is awry-but that's not a Rockstar Games problem; it's industry wide.The business case for diversity should be the most obvious. As the success of black urban literature (which spawned the Oscar-nominated Precious) and comedians like George Lopez demonstrate, there is a large minority audience looking for content that shares their stories. Williams suggested as much when looking at the disparity between the Hispanic population at large and the one found in games. Surely some money-minded executive will figure out that Tyler Perry is a wealthy man because he made films for people who were not being served by mainstream Hollywood.Of course, fixing the problem will take a long-term effort. Navid Khonsari, founder of iNK Stories and formerly of Rockstar, recommended building external bridges to bring in people who can write believable ethnic characters. He reached out to people in South Central L.A. when working on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to bring them into the narrative process. Manveer Heir, lead designer at Raven Software, says the problem is at the core make-up of the studios. There simply are not enough minorities and women making games. (Of course, a lack of diversity shouldn't prevent existing developers from tapping experiences alien from their own. Look no further than David Simon, who created The Wire, for proof.)\n\n\n\n\n

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less