The DEW Lab

On the Dadification of Games

"Once you've sat down and tried to play a game with your daughter and tried to find games where she can play a character that she identifies with, you start to feel bad about not putting that option in your own game"
~ Tim Schafer ~

via Joystiq.

This has become a common refrain from game developers of late. It’s at once encouraging (high-profile developers are beginning to consider viewpoints other than their own) and disheartening (they apparently needed to be related to and feel protective of those who have such perspectives before they became meaningful enough to warrant consideration).

Remarks like Schafer’s also surfaced in the Ray Rice assault. As collated and critiqued by John Oliver on an episode of Last Week Tonight,

“There is this guy, Ray Rice, and he punched his fiancée. For this, back in July, he received a mere two game suspension. More recently video of the assault has turned up and horrified a lot of people. Many in the world of sports were rightly disgusted, although often for unnecessarily specific reasons. Michael Oher, “If my daughter were to get hit like that from another man, I’d have a serious problem with it.” Andrew Whitworth, “Having a daughter, having a wife, you know, I’d agree with their decision.” ESPN2 newscaster, “Take your sister, your mom, your significant-other, if you have a daughter, and just put her face on Janay Rice’s face. Now tell me, would you give the guy a second chance then?”

“Or, or, here’s a crazy idea, you could put away your magic face-switching machine, and just be upset about the incident as it actually happened. Because you should not need to insert a relative into a horrifying situation to make it horrific! For instance: I hate SeaWorld’s treatment of whales on principle alone, not just because my father is an orca!'”

My two cents on all this: empathy is not an innate ability but a skill that requires training. The absence of perspectives in games, and pop-culture in general, atrophies empathy towards those they marginalize and exclude.