Games are a great indicator of social change. What we see, especially from AAA studios, is often a representation of how society perceives things in the wider world. We have seen quite a lot of change over the years, often for good.
However, recently I was reminded that what many folks consider normal can be considered erasure for others.
The circumstance in question revolved around the inclusion of a non-binary character in a game and the use of they/them pronouns. To one person, this was “uncalled for”. They felt that using the singular pronoun had gone too far and to use it in a game was to strip out all personality from the character, leaving them a “genderless alien”. To that individual that’s what normal is: hes and shes are the only options, and anything else lacks character, personality, and substance.
Their normal is my erasure. It strips out everything I am as an aporagender (gender that is not man or woman) human being. It makes me the “alien” despite me having a firm stance on what my gender is.
In the end, the part that strikes me deepest in this situation is that the representation they want to see removed is a form of positive representation that many have fought to have in games for the queer community. We have fought for this so we can see ourselves in games without being considered something “alien”.
Of course this isn’t the first time folks have pushed for the removal of diversity in games. Harebrained Schemes was hit hard for including pronoun choice in Battletech, and Battlefront was attacked for including women in warzones. Each time the outcry is exactly the same: “this isn’t normal”. Maybe this means that “normal” needs to change.
So how can we change “normal” to mean inclusive?
Simple. We need to encourage diversity. Encourage people to make games that feature characters and elements that aren’t what we see in every game out there, but are inclusive and supportive instead. Positive representation, and the discussions that follow, help to change the status quo into something better. It gives voices to the voiceless and a face to the faceless.
If something isn’t what you’re used to seeing, don’t fight it; ask questions about it. Ask what it means, how it affects people, how you can help make it more accepted. Don’t reject it out of hand without considering that your pushback might hurt someone.
Most importantly, we need to stand up against those who make demands that the world should never change to include those who have been neglected. If they shout, “This isn’t normal,” we need to say right back, “Yes this is, you just don’t realise it yet.”
We need to be the positive force in this world. We need to be the ones saying “normal includes everyone, not just me”. Normal is what we make it.