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Open letter to Anita Sarkeesian

An open letter to Anita Sarkeesian

Jay Bedeau, Blogger

March 10, 2013

3 Min Read

Dear Anita Sarkeesian,

Thank you for really addressing the elephant in the room, as an egalitarian and person of colour, the topic of equality in games is dear to me and so, I would like to bring up the following points for you to consider in this open letter.

The industry needed your wake up call, it still does not fully acknowledge that it sits upon a self-imposed duality of art and design. When it is ridiculed by the longer-established arts it pleads that games are an artform, when its ethics are called into question it defends itself by saying it is not accountable to society.

I feel that we need to acknowledge what has become a playground for the old boys club and that subconsciously or intended political and economic interests can usurp creativity around the design table. I am certain you have heard the argument that 'sex sells' more times than you can count, I urge you to retort: "clearly then, evil Russians sell, jive-talking brauny blacks sell, British villains speaking queen's English sell, etc."

I would add that the primary thing is create great games and while in the creation of said game, ask yourself these questions: 'Why must my character by male? , 'why must they look like this?' and ultimately, 'am I putting as much artistic merit into the characters within my story as I am with the visual details?'. You may your initial answers to these questions will likely be uncomfortable but incredibly revealing about social conditioning and that these too often govern our artistic choices. 

I feel a willingness to credit those who break the mould and stand up for fairer depictions of characters should be awarded. At present Anita, the problem is two-fold, many do not see the problem but more worryingly those who do, see no reason to change. Ms Sarkeesian, we must, find a means to reward and admonish. A badge to be pinned, something that will give the developer a trophy of equality, something of a threshold for 21st Century equality in storytelling. Perhaps even, a Sarkeesian award?

Ignorance and clichés often go hand in hand, so, my perspective is that, taking a good long look at characters, knowing tropes and discriminatory plot devices and the desire to break the mould should be as equally important for a modern development team as the fine-tuning of the game engine. An "artistic QA".

To be blunt, I think we'll get there, 21st Century storytelling will evolve as the younger designers and execs in the industry acknowledge the mistakes of their predecessors. Society will align itself with equality as women rightfully claim more decision-making positions.  

The catalyst for change may well be an increase in number of informed women in the games industry able to design characters and tell stories from a non male-centric perspective. I use the term 'informed women' because women are not immune to social conditioning and soak up tropes just as men do. However, with more female teachers, designers and executives creating great games the industry will no doubt enter a chrysalis period from which better representation shall emerge.

Once more I thank you for your drive and brave efforts to lead this industry into a period of greater understanding, cohesive equality, and artistic denouement.

Warm regards,

Jay Bedeau

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