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Games must strive beyond race and sex stereotypes, says BioWare dev

"Why should we reject stereotypes? Not only is it lazy, but it's fairly boring"

A packed room of industry professionals on Wednesday heard one well-known BioWare developer implore the industry move beyond racial and sexual stereotypes in games.

Manveer Heir, a gameplay designer at BioWare working on the next Mass Effect, was given a standing ovation at the end of his speech on the need for more representative diversity in games.

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Manveer Heir

"If we want to start making games that tackle race, gender and sexual orientation and everything else in positive ways, instead of falling into stereotypical and problematic ways, then we have to step our collective games up," Heir said, as quoted by GamesIndustry International.

"This, to me, is one of the biggest areas of growth in this industry. It's where I see so much promise."

Heir recognised that games can't promote diversity better overnight. He said the road is long and "we're going to make a lot of missteps along the way".

"But I don't think that means the path is wrong. It just means we need to watch where we're going and try harder," he said.

The vast majority of triple-A games depict the so-called 'pale male' protagonist. Though publishers are thought to do this for commercial reasons as much as artistic ones, Heir believes diversifying content will allure different people.

He also stressed that his talk wasn't concerned with "playing the blame game". Depicting a white male lead doesn't necessarily suggest anything about its creators. Heir said his objective is to get the industry talking about the issue.

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EA's Mass Effect series was praised for depicting gay relationships within the main cast of characters

Heir also rejected the assume commercial necessity of sticking to white make leads.

"I find it very cynical to think that our audience is not smart enough to be able to accept and handle and embrace a gay protagonist or more exclusive women protagonists in games that aren't glorified sex objects and actually have personalities beyond supporting the men in the game. There are plenty of examples of this being accepted in other media," he said.

"Why should we reject stereotypes? Not only is it lazy, but it's fairly boring. We play so many games that use the same stereotypes. I get fed up with the same old story and characters in every game. I know there are others like me, I talk to them all the time.

"For me, these stereotypes are contributing to the creative stagnation in our industry. But I also believe we need to reject stereotypes as a social responsibility to mankind," he added.

"I want us as an industry to stop being so scared. 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," he said, reportedly his voice getting louder as he concluded his speech.

"But this problem isn't solved with words, it's solved with action. 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!"

Further quotes and impressions can be found on GamesIndustry International.

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