Monday, August 4, 2014

Mattie Brice on Identity, Representation and Game Design

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Mattie Brice (who first came ot my attention when writing about the excellent "Depression Quest" by Zoe Quinn) has a great personal essay up about what she's been studying and considering about game design and identity entitled "Passing Through: Another Take On Identity In Activism & Design". An excerpt:
This past year, I've sat down with a lot of creators about representation in games. One of the first questions out of their mouth is “How do you depict minorities well in games?” Maybe it’s because this is usually over dinner, knife and fork in hand, that I want to reply with “Human?” Thinking of my grandmother who doesn't have a clearly identifiable race by American standards trying to explain herself to an official. ‘Human’ is loaded though; dominant identities are conflated with universal traits of humanity while minoritized people must be loud about their diverging qualities. Usually, I would fall back on trying to tap what is really human, and in turn, interrogate and separate what we assume is default about humanity and is really dominant culture... 
I've started to think of my grandmother’s story a little differently lately. I feel like there’s a more active, personal dynamic with identity than what we currently conceive. Contemporary activism has a strong slant towards self-identification, particularly within established minoritized groups. This makes sense; a person is who they say they are, and that needs to be respected. What does that say about my grandmother, who didn't have an answer for her race until she lived in America? Would she be outside today’s activism if she didn't explicitly label herself?
It's a thoughtful and engaging read, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to read the entire essay.

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