From its imaginative roots in tabletop gaming until the present day, games and the people behind them have built fantastical worlds full of wonder and magic. Those worlds often reflect the political realities and attitudes found in the real world. The history of game development has been weighted with certain perspectives that have shaped the medium, sometimes in problematic ways. Those issues are worthy of critique so that games can continue to improve and tell stories that include everyone.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tanya DePass, the founder and director of I Need Diverse Games. She was gracious enough to give me an hour of her time to pick her brain on diversity, feminism, and how to avoid alienating marginalized people in tabletop gaming. It's a really fantastic conversation, so I hope you all enjoy hearing all of it!
The final words of I Need Diverse Games' mission statement does a great job establishing why the organization fights to elevate the perspectives of people marginalized on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, disability, and more:
We view diversity as a way to enrich the video game experience, not a quota to be filled, or a tool to avoid criticism. Diversity is essential not just to reflect the variety of our community, but also to push the limits of immersion, to present audiences with a perspective that they have never experienced before, and ultimately, to foster empathy for others.
I Need Diverse Games is a non-profit that works to elevate the work of marginalized people in the game industry. That work often involves providing honest criticism from voices that aren't often given space on other platforms. They sponsor marginalized scholars to attend the Game Developers Conference every year. The organization also provides speakers for convention panels on diversity issues or additional assistance for those who would normally be unable to attend conventions like GaymerX, OrcaCon, or HavenCon.
A huge thank you to Tanya for taking time out of her swamped schedule to talk with me. You should all give her a follow and support her work on Twitter: @cypheroftyr
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!