Why does representation in video games matter? The obvious answer is that it's important for our digital worlds to reflect and represent the same diverse cultures and beliefs present in our everyday lives.
But as much as that's the truth, it's an answer that only scratches the surface. According to Prey lead designer Ricardo Bare, when it came to making the sci-fi shooter they wanted to create characters that felt real, each with their own unique perspective on the world.
Honing in on Sarah Elazar, the chief of security aboard Prey's infected space station, Bare said the decision to make her an Ethiopian Jew was borne out of a desire to learn about someone different to himself, and give players the chance to do the same.
Not only did it ensure Prey didn't feature a roster of cookie-cutter NPCs, it also gave players someone real to connect with. A virtual counterpart with their own personal views, history, and beliefs.
"As a game developer and a writer, it's just interesting to learn about people that aren't like myself and do the best that I can to put those kinds of people in the game. As a gamer, I'm interested to go to places that I've never been and interact with people that I might not normally interact with," says Bare.
"Sure, it probably only matters for people who notice those things. And there's a surface level read on things where you're just like, 'okay she's a security chief who's asking me to mow down aliens. Got it. I'm just blazing through the game and having fun with the mechanics.'
"But then, if you're the kind of player who really likes to investigate those things then it may actually inform the choices you make. Because a lot of the times in the game we present the player with some choices around what to do about these characters that you meet. So I think learning about them absolutely informs the choice you make. Especially if as designers we do a good enough job of humanizing them."
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