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Misogyny, racism and homophobia: where do video games stand?

"I want us as an industry to stop being so scared."

BioWare Montreal's gameplay designer Manveer Heir received a standing ovation for his rousing "Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia: Where Do Video Games Stand?" talk at GDC yesterday.

He challenged the industry to demolish the many stereotypes that exist in video games and accept "a social responsibility to mankind".

"These negative stereotypes affect the identity of individuals in these groups. They affect the way people think and treat others in the real world, and perpetuate the social injustices that occur in these different groups," he said, according to Polygon.

"We should use the ability of our medium to show players the issues first-hand, or give them a unique understanding of the issues and complexities by crafting game mechanics along with narrative components that result in dynamics of play that create meaning for the player in ways that other media isn't capable of."

FemShep, interpreted here by Deviantartist Kaeriah, became a symbolic champion of female lead characters in video games.

He says it's "very cynical" to assume the audience isn't capable of embracing a gay hero or heroine, or "more exclusive women protagonists in games that aren't glorified sex objects and actually have personalities beyond supporting the men in the game", GamesIndustry International's report added.

Realism arguments - ie that women weren't soldiers in medieval times, for example - are "laughable" excuses, he said. Dragons didn't exist either.

'But the audience doesn't respond as well to heroes who aren't white males!' - ie those games sell fewer copies. Hogwash, he argued. Those untypical games simply don't have the investment the typical blockbusters do.

"Let's do all of this because what we are currently doing is absolutely not working"

Manveer Heir

"I want us as an industry to stop being so scared... Let's create a game that changes the core experience for the player... Let's find a way to challenge the majority and the minority perception of how we deal with race, gender, sexual orientation and all other sources of social injustices we have in our world," he said.

"Let's not be scared to ruffle feathers and let's be open and honest about our intentions. Let's push and engage in a new discourse as a result of these dynamics. And let's do all of this because what we are currently doing is absolutely not working.

"But this problem isn't solved with words, it's solved with action," he continued, building to a climax. "It's solved not only with intent but convictions and a little bit of courage. It's solved by fighting, by challenging your team to do something a little deeper and making something that's important to you. It's solved by you here in this room. And that is our ability to change and impact the world. This is the way to push the art form. This is our way to challenge ourselves and others.

"Wherever we stand today as an industry, I am confident that we will stand somewhere far better tomorrow as long as you right here are willing to be an agent of change. I sincerely hope you are ready for that challenge because I sure as hell am!"

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About the Author

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Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.


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