Diversity and Gaming Culture

Issues of diversity are a hot button topic in our day and age, both within the church and in broader society.  The growth of the internet and social media has given people of all walks of life a platform on which to voice their opinions and shape the surrounding culture in ways that weren’t imaginable just a few decades ago.  Racial tensions in the U.S. have exploded following multiple controversial police shootings, as well as increased activity from white supremacist groups.  On top of that, concerns surrounding the equality and treatment of women in the workplace have come to the forefront of public consciousness since the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #Metoo movement.

Within Christianity, churches grapple with how to make sure that they are welcoming to as many different people as possible: new ministries spring up to connect with unreached people groups, worship styles are altered to accommodate those with varying music preferences, and congregations debate what roles women can fill in contributing to the life of the church.

And then there’s gaming.  Do questions of diversity play any part in gaming culture?  Do Christians involved in gaming circles have any role to play in this discussion?

The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes”!  Diversity is just as much a hotly debated issue in gaming culture as it is elsewhere.  Many, if not most, video games are made by largely male development teams and aimed at males (both kids and adults).  Yet there is a strong desire for more diversity in gaming, including amongst game developers; according to a recent study by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), 81% of game developers consider diversity in the workplace to be important, and 85% consider diversity within game content to be important as well (both high marks in the four years that the IGDA has been conducting this study).  In addition, 44% perceived inequity towards themselves and 56% perceived inequity towards others based on gender, age, ethnicity, ability, or sexual orientation.[i]

female game developer

This desire for more diversity provides an opportunity for us to step into gaming culture with the Gospel.  As Christians, we believe that all people are made in the image of God, reflecting his glory; Genesis 1:27, at the very beginning of the Bible, declares that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  And at the end of the Bible we are given a picture of the whole church, the body of believers, worshipping God at the end of days:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7:9-10

For Christians who play games and interact with fellow gamers, we should seek to make gaming culture reflect those pictures from the Bible.  All people involved in gaming – men and women from every background –  should feel welcomed and loved by God and his followers.  We want aspiring game creators from all walks of life to be able to share themselves with others through the games they create, so that everyone can be edified and enriched by the knowledge and perspectives they bring to the table.  People should feel that gaming culture is a place where they can challenge other’s assumptions, and be challenged in turn; that here, too, they find a place where “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).

Xbox Booth at E3 2015

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be taking a closer look at diversity in the game industry and in gaming content itself, focusing specifically on how women and how those of different races and ethnicities are treated and represented in gaming culture.  We’ll examine historical trends within the game industry to see how we got to where we are today, we’ll find areas of needed improvement, and we’ll also spot some encouraging ways that diversity is being embraced in gaming.  I hope that this study will prove helpful to those who seek to bring Christ’s love to gamers and to the all the world.

 

 

[i] https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.igda.org/resource/resmgr/2017_DSS_/!IGDA_DSS_2017_SummaryReport.pdf

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