JE Sawyer, lead gameplay designer and project director of Fallout New Vegas, recently commented on his personal blog regarding how to write characters hailing from marginalized groups in video games. In this post, he notes four major points:
- “Represent marginalized groups when sensible.” The rationale is pretty straightforward: diversification allows for richer, more interesting media and allows the content to explore new areas it otherwise might not explore.
- Remember that you are writing for specific groups of people. “It’s a little dehumanizing to reduce them to demographics, but still, we aren’t writing for everyone. It’s our job to be the arbiter of propriety among them.”
- “Write good characters.” Another fairly straightforward point; Sawyer speaks to the idea that it’s important to pay mind to the character you are writing, especially when it comes to marginalized groups. For example, Arcade Gannon–a character in Fallout New Vegas–only has a handful of lines that refer to his sexuality. In spite of the minimal number of lines refering to his sexuality, it was his sexuality that caused people writing about him to heavily scrutinize his character. Likewise, other characters hailing from marginalized groups will be heavily scrutinized because of their background–thus, it’s important to make sure they are well written.
- “Understand and accept that we cannot write the Perfect X to meet all fan expectations of X.” The gist of it being, do what you can to the best of your ability. Do not sweat not getting it fully right because, frankly, it’s impossible to. At the very least, you can attempt to “broaden the margins of the marginalized.”
All of this sounds progressive, though I can’t help but wonder if something isn’t compromised in writing for specific demographics.