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Posts with tag diversity

How to include diversity without making it your focus

Yesterday, Polygon published this editorial, which reacted to Rob Pardo (Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard) and his speech at MIT's media lab. The talk was about gameplay and fun in design vs. narrative, and in it Mr. Pardo mentioned that Blizzard is not a narrative focused company, and that they focused first and foremost on epic entertainment rather than diversity.

First up, let me say this - I agree with Rob Pardo that Blizzard should be focusing on epic entertainment experiences, and I have no difficulty with their desire to position themselves as a developer who focuses on gameplay and fun over narrative. And I think it's laudable that Rob himself seems to understand that this can sometimes backfire, as he said in the speech.

No, my objection is a purely pragmatic one -- I believe it's actually easier to be diverse in how you populate your game world than to not be, and that the lack of diversity ultimately damages that fun gameplay for a sizable chunk of your player base. To use just one example, we know that women make up almost half of people playing these games. Including characters that are women in positions of prominence (as just one example) invests women more fully in your game experience. It benefits you, because it enlists them as allies towards the ultimate goal of creating those fun, epic experiences - and the respect the article mentions? It cements that respect. If you want to have a reputation, it helps to enlist the players, to make them do the work.

Especially if your focus is on fun, rather than narrative, this is a decision that costs you nothing and reaps you rewards. The same fervor that can turn to ire and negative media attention can be made your ally - the inclusion of prominent characters that say that women (for example) are welcome and valued enlists women as participants. You can't have fun gameplay without players, and those players will do the work of promoting and proselytizing your work.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor

WoW is the new "third place"

This is interesting -- a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (just up the road from me here in Chicago) says that World of Warcraft is an emerging new "third place." That is, it's a place in between your work and home where you make friends and otherwise interact with new people. Starbucks has even used the term in their actual marketing (to try to make their coffee shops a hangout more than just a place that you stop by and grab a cuppa joe), and WoW isn't even the first videogame to fit the critera -- Sony advertised the Playstation 2 as a "third place" in Europe.

But even though Blizzard has never actually marketed the game as a "third place," it almost fits the definition most. Sure, it's not actually a different place -- most people do play at home, I'd imagine -- but in terms of having a different crowd of people that you interact with outside your home or work, that is often exactly what WoW is for us. As Professor Constance Steinkuehler (who has a pretty wild website for a college professor) says, "most people go for the game and stay for the people."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Azerothians vs. Earthlings: Oh the Humanity!


Newcomers to Azeroth are met with a choice as to which race they should choose. Undoubtedly, the most immediately recognizable and familiar choice is that of the humans. But are the humans of Azeroth really just Azerothian versions of us Earthlings, or are they better understood as a distinct species of their own?

The most obvious difference at first glance is that in Azeroth, all men are blocky and all women are curvy. Aside from various facial traits, hair and skin color, humans don't vary from this standard mold. Even in advanced age, Azerothian women's breasts do not sag, nor do men's muscles lose their beefy bulkiness. Some Earthlings have disparagingly compared Azerothian men to gorillas for their tree-trunk arms and their "smashed-with-a-shovel" faces, but others point out that Azerothian humans have been hardened through great suffering. Wars with orcs, demons and undead have reduced their population from millions to mere hundreds of thousands, and so the weak humans of Azeroth have possibly been weeded out. So, while many Earthling humans may enjoy the comforts of working at a desk all day, then coming home to play at a desk too (i.e. via computer game), Azerothians, even old ones, have to keep themselves fit to fight off the various enemies encroaching on their lands, such as murloc flesheaters and forsaken undead. While this may explain the over-muscled arms of Azerothian males, it leaves the question of youthfully curved elderly women quite unanswered.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Humor

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