Diversity in Gaming: Art & Design that Reflects Reality by@prrepmir

Diversity in Gaming: Art & Design that Reflects Reality

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Room 8 Studio

Games CO-DEVELOPMENT/AAA ART PRODUCTION Biggest & one of oldest studios in Ukraine, works w/5 of top 10 game publishers.

The popularity of online, PC and gaming apps skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic, as it was one of the few “safe” entertainment activities while socially distancing and quarantining.

The result was more people playing games across the globe – and a greater focus on game diversity. As more publishing companies are embracing diversity and inclusion, they are asking art and design partners to create realistic avatar “skins,” environments and options that allow a realistic experience for all players.

Game publishers want to ensure diversity as they recognize this increases their potential audience. This diversity includes racial, cultural, gender, people in wheelchairs, those deaf or hard of hearing, and the blind. It’s important that gamers’ experience reflects their reality. When they feel included and represented, they’re proud, and it also improves their user experience.

How Game Art & Design Addresses Diversity

The diversity focus by art and design teams starts with game developing partners seeking to create a new game, and then finding a vendor to help with the game creation. The diversity can also be updated or added after a game is already launched through remastering.

There is one rule for game artists: They must immerse themselves in the culture or subculture that is reflected in the game, before they begin ideation.

Back4Blood, a game developed by Turtle Rock Studios, is a great example of diversity. The characters are from different age groups, genders, skin tones, and ethnicities. Another great example is Magic Spellslingers, by Wizards of the Coast. The diversity is reflected in their official game description – "an explosive strategic card battler packed with heroes as unique as you.”

Game artists and designers who take a deep dive into the culture of every character, and can use historical reconstructions found in library archives, will be able to create more realistic diverse characters and environments. Whenever possible, artistic teams should also talk with members of specific ethnic groups -- people who can advise about cultural references and local nuances.

Game developers also need to be direct in their diversity guidance for projects, providing clear character sets and specific diversity goals. The art team’s task is to then research and explore the culture and heritage for these avatars and scenarios. The game developer reviews art storyboards, and creates final characters and environments.

Together with game developers, artists make an informed decision at every point in the project. One thing game artists often ask is whether it’s appropriate to use a specific color palette or pattern for avatars. One color can carry the opposite message in different cultures.

Diversity in Gaming Also Means Disabled Gamers Are Represented

Diversity can include games designed for blind players, which require specific interfaces. It’s about developing games in color-blind mode, and vibrating pieces of hardware that immerse players. It’s also about features like various sound effects and adaptation of sound and touch response.

Players who are blind, sight-impaired, deaf or hard of hearing must be able to experience the same level of access, quality and fun game-playing experiences as everyone.

There are many ways that games can be designed for those hard of hearing or deaf. Like games for the blind or sight-impaired, games for the deaf and hard of hearing can be designed for use with adaptive controllers, feature enhanced subtitles, and non-auditory cues (i.e., controller vibrations).

Additionally, Communication Access Real-time Translation is helping bridge the gap for audiences who rely on text to enjoy games. Other options like voice chat, captions and tinnitus-friendly features are ways game publishers can create more inclusivity.

A Fake It ‘Til You Make It Approach Won’t Work With Game Diversity

It’s very important that game artists, designers and publishers ensure that inclusivity is genuine, reflects reality and is not perceived as “fake” or just checking off the “diversity” box to say it was done.

Artists and designers always should research and speak to focus groups. This also helps eliminate any possible stereotypical images.

When they learn a game is being released in a particular market, artists better understand the specifics of their diversity task. These details help all game, design and publishing team members ensure two-way cooperation and knowledge sharing. The game art industry is then in sync with the global trend of diversity and inclusion.

The Diversity Focus In Game Art & Design Will Continue In 2022

The gaming market is developing rapidly. There are many trends, and it’s often difficult to predict buying behavior. One thing is certain, however: Thanks to high-speed internet and mobile devices, there will be more players around the globe, and everyone's diversity must be accounted for.

So, we can expect more diverse characters. Every person should be represented within games, and be able to recognize themselves. It adds to the entertainment value and enables players to feel good and proud to be featured in their game’s world.

Game developers and publishers can also ensure their game packaging conveys diversity and inclusion – with diverse art, labeling and explanations of features that allow deaf or hard of hearing players to easily see if a game is accessible.

Game artists, developers and publishers who ensure their offerings are inclusive to all audiences, whatever their skin tone or gender, and those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind or visually impaired, can capitalize on a huge market – and more importantly, be good corporate citizens.

- By Maikl Babenko, Brand Manager, Room 8 Studio

Babenko has 9 years of experience in graphic design, a career that has allowed him to hone his talents specifically in branding, content creation, concepts for interactive installations, and industrial design.


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