A Slight Followup on “An Open Letter to Riot”

So, a few things happened, and I wanted to bring them up.

First, game journo/critic/maven Patricia Hernandez gave my post a write-up on Kotaku which is humbling/gratifying. While I’m not normally a proponent of ignoring comment threads — I think that sort of sweeps them under the rug as “not real” somehow when I firmly believe they’re badges of the times — I would suggest skipping those if you agreed with me in any way, and rubbing them all over your body if you thought I was wide of the mark.

I did want to share one of the best, most Bingo card-iest of them, though hilariously, I think the last comment is actually spot on, just not for the reason this individual thinks:

Bingo!

Bingo!

The second thing I wanted to call attention to, however, is a blog post that a college friend of mine, Kristin Bezio, posted her own riff on this topic. In particular she discusses my argument that Taric being a powerful, good-at-his-job character was essential to create buy-in, and she agreed, expressing it thusly:

In short, the only way to eliminate the kind of bias and bigotry that generally accompanies the inclusion of gay, minority, and female heroes (player-characters or otherwise) – and the inevitable screaming we hear from the “probably straight white cismale gamer audience” about corrupting their precious male power-fantasy games – is to make them valuable. Basically, we need to see in videogames the same things that we want to see in the real world: if you’re good at your job, then it shouldn’t matter whatelse you are, whether female, gay, lesbian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, atheist, Muslim, or covered in purple and orange tattoos.

I don’t necessarily disagree; in fact I argued for the same principle. But I do want to point out something relevant to both Kristin’s and my stances on the matter, something that came up during the “Moving forward in queer game studies” panel I was part of at the AoIR conference this year: we need to be careful about the rhetoric of “we’re worth market share so you could include us.” We saw this a lot with TV in the late 90s/early 00s: “gays are a good target demo, they are faithful consumers of our material, so we need to include gay themes.” The problem is that the unspoken flip side of this is “once they are no longer an important demo, we will abandon them.” It moves the imperative for inclusivity from a moral or social imperative — “the right thing to do” — to a purely economic one. I don’t necessarily have a problem with economic imperatives, mind you, because they are terribly effective… but not always in the long term.

We need to make sure that we frame this desire for inclusivity along multiple dimensions. Be upfront, use the economics. Say “Hey, you’ve got an LGBTQ audience. Give them some love and they’ll support you in the short term.” But we ALSO need to argue that “Hey, you’re a media creator and like it or not, you have a role in (re)producing culture. Including a wide range of characters and themes in your work is a responsible thing to do, as well as being economically in your benefit.”


5 Comments

  1. Interesting December 19, 2012 9:39 pm  Reply

    You seem to be less clear about your general stance on the subject in this entry. Your “friend’s” post makes for a great case argument and I can’t help but agree and have similar feelings towards Taric’s character. As someone who is a part of the LGBT community, I am happy and actually prefer the way he was implemented into the game. I am beyond happy that he didn’t turn out to be as useless as Karma and even happier (and almost humbled) that an LGBT champ was built so amazingly viable that he has become one of the must-have supports on your team. It seems a lot like he is being treated as a regular, if not above average, person in society, even if his character can be perceived as homosexual. How could I ask for more?

  2. Geoff December 19, 2012 11:26 pm  Reply

    Honestly, they designed Taric to perform just as wells any other champion. He wasn’t always a support champ but the meta changed and so did he. It’s not like Riot tried to ensure he is both gay and viable in team comps; he just happens to be gay and is balanced well. I think that goes to show that sexual orientation doesn’t matter to the gameplay and should matter outside of romantic relationships.

  3. Ins and Outs | Playing at Leadership: Games, Gaming, & Leadership Studies December 20, 2012 11:03 am  Reply

    […] For instance, Todd’s response makes the equally valid point that while there’s no particular need for Taric, as a fictional individual, to be gay, it is important for media producers like Riot to include characters who – if they are, in fact, gay – are not reticent to own their sexuality. Not because people should feel obligated to do the same, but because of another point that Zoya made: “If there was someone like me on British TV, I would have a much easier time explaining my identity to my mother.” It’s important for people of all types to appear in our media as open, accepted, and equally competent as everyone else. […]

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