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Aisha Tyler Tells Us The Real Problem With Gaming And Diversity

Best known as an actress, comedian and podcaster, Tyler is also a big name in video game circles. An avid gamer herself, she has hosted game developer Ubisoft's press conference at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles — one of the biggest gaming trade shows in the industry — for the past three years.

NPR's Laura Sydell caught up with Tyler at this year's E3 to talk about the continued lack of diversity in the video game landscape, both onscreen and on the development side.

Despite the criticism, Tyler — a black woman — tells Sydell the industry has made great progress over the years. She cites Lara Croft, the lead character of the Tomb Raider franchise, as an example of a strong female lead who has been around for nearly 20 years.

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-Foxtrot708d ago

Does it really matter what character we play as, I mean if they are black or native American or even female then so be it but if they not it doesn't matter long as the game is good.

Take Prey and Prey 2 for example, I would be a little ticked off if the sequel sticks to the old build with that generic looking bounty hunter instead of letting us play as Tommy, the native American from the first game then I would be disappointed because we had a diverse character in the first game and yet we are now getting a generic looking space marine for the sequel. There's no point behind it when the first game with Tommy had "To be Continued", to continue HIS story.

Then you have to think it depends on what the characters are like

If we look at GTAV I like to play more as Trevor, a while male rather then Franklin who is a black male. Is it because I'm "racist"...no, it's because for me Franklin is boring as shit and Trevor is a more developed character as he fits into GTA universe better with his insane, whacky personality. If the character is a different race or gender but is not fun then of course they aren't going to be well received.

Eonjay708d ago

Yes it matters because I know girls who like games who want to see more female characters. They pay the same money as us for content but as females, would like to role play as characters that reflect themselves. This is not irrational. I would like to see more variety period. A different frame of reference will change your perspective very quickly.

Neonridr708d ago

tell that to Bayonetta or Lara Croft..

MrSwankSinatra708d ago

Bayonetta, Tomb Raider, Metroid, Resident Evil, The countless RPG's all have female leads. People act like females aren't being represented at all, which is untrue.

DragonKnight708d ago

"They pay the same money as us for content but as females, would like to role play as characters that reflect themselves."

And you just proved it doesn't matter. They buy the games still. If it really mattered, they wouldn't buy the games to prove a point. But the games are good enough for them to buy and enjoy them regardless of what gender the character is, so once again we see it DOESN'T matter at all.

-Foxtrot708d ago

If these girls are really gamers they won't care who they play as, they'll just enjoy the games as GAMERS.

It's different if it's an RPG like Elder Scrolls, Fable or Mass Effect where gender doesn't come into it, it's a free for all story meaning something like gender is not important to the story...however if developers have crafted a story around a male character then that's just how it is, that's their vision. If you could only be male in Mass Effect would it be a crap game? Of course not, it would be a missing feature you would want for the sequel but it wouldn't ruin the game.

I can't imagine God of War with a female character, we have Heavenly Sword which is similar to God of War but it's not as violent and gory is it. It shows you that gender gives you different personalities. Could you really imagine Nariko ripping peoples heads off.

Even if you had games like Max Payne, Hitman, Duke Nukem or Alan Wake which featured female leads instead of males the games just wouldn't work and wouldn't be the same because it's how they've written the story, some of the things the characters say or do have been written around the game and the characters gender. If you suddenly change the gender you would most likely have to re-write the story and dialogue.

If we look at the recent controversy with Assassins Creed then yeah I would like to see a female lead in a main Assassins Creed game but I wouldn't want them shoved in AC Unity just for the sake of it. My problem with Ubisoft is that they are obviously lying telling people it "would be hard to do" when it wouldn't be. I mean if you team up with friends YOU will always be playing Arno on your screen and Arno is the main Assassin of Unity. I would like to see a female lead if it was well written around the story, like as I've said in the pass a female Assassin in London during WW2 where most of the male population have went off to war.

To be honest you should just enjoy the games for what they, not what gender the main leads are.

It's not like we don't have female leads in games

Bayonetta, Samus Aran, Yuna, Chell, Jade, Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield, Regina, Kameo, Madison Paige, Nariko, Princess Peach, Faith, Nikki (Pandemonium), Sheva Alomar, Heather Mason, Aya Brea, Ellie

I could go on

spartanlemur708d ago

I think the problem is that female gamers are still very much a minority when it comes to console+PC games.

If we want more diversity we need a more diverse playerbase, and the best way to achieve this is to start a campaign to get more women playing console+PC video games!

Women do want to play women and men want to play men (in general), so if we ever get to 50/50, we might finally see a situation where 50% of protagonists are male and female.

Eonjay708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

-Foxtrot
"If these girls are really gamers they..."

Stopped reading there. You do not get to define what makes someone a real gamer. Nor do I or anyone else. Please stop generalizing all gamers into a category and thinking that they have to agree with your point of view to be a gamer. Your arrogance is repulsive.

People have other opinions that differ from your own and this does not make them invalid. I will defend the females who have I have spoken to against your insistence that they should be satisfied. And I am a man, but I respect that they have a right to their opinion.

Every time I see the phrase "real gamer" I want to throw the hell up. Who are you that you get decide?

And at the same time I can respect the fact that you are right about there being female characters. I am saying that people want more. How are you offended by this and why do you feel the need to shout them down and tell them they shouldn't feel this way?

Hatestorm708d ago

"If we want more diversity we need a more diverse playerbase, and the best way to achieve this is to start a campaign to get more women playing console+PC video games!"

Or instead of social engineering you can let people do what they want.

randomass171708d ago

But there ARE games with more female characters. Not every game has to have them, but there are many that do. Hyrule Warriors first three unveiled playable characters that aren't Link are all female and Smash Bros. has a bunch too. Mortal Kombat showcased a new female character and the Tomb Raider reboot is getting a sequel. Those games are out there, you just need to look for them.

-Foxtrot708d ago

@Eonjay

"You do not get to define what makes someone a real gamer"

I'm not...I'm just saying if they really were gamers they wouldn't be bothered about silly things like what gender the main leads are and just enjoy the games...as gamers.

If your more bothered about gender in games then the actual game then I'm sorry your not a gamer, thats my opinion, to me your just someone who wants to make a big deal over nothing and have an excuse to bitch and moan. How can you really be a gamer if you put something like THAT before actual good games

I mean I can easily speak out and complain when I see something I don't like, people know this but I wouldn't be stupid enough to moan on about something like that. I get you want to defend these girls you know but you have to look at it from our point of view...they sound like people who just want to moan for the sake of it.

The problem is those kinds of girls you know make female gamers who like games for what they are, like the rest of us, look bad and I honestly feel for them as they have to be grouped into the same term..."Girl Gamers".

In a way your trying to turn this into something it's not, your latching too much on me trying to define a "real gamer" when I wasn't trying to do that at all, it wasn't my intention...you just seem to be turning the conversation that way because you don't have anything else to counter with.

Neonridr708d ago

Foxtrot is correct in saying that when I play a game and finish it I don't look back and say, man I really wish the main character was a girl, or a guy, or a minority. If the game is fun, then you should be able to look beyond that stuff. Should we now be shoehorning in gameplay or story just to ensure that we are politically correct nowadays?

Should Nintendo make Mario have a sister now and give you the choice to play as her instead of him? It's how the game is written by the people who created the game, so who am I to question their vision?

Eonjay708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

@-Foxtrot

My point is that even if you speak out about things that you don't like, there is nothing wrong with that because you have a right to your own opinion. No matter what. I may not agree with these girls either, but I will always respect their right to speak their minds. It doesn't make them any less of a gamer. These gamers aren't moaning about anything. They simply expressed their opinion. And yes I respect them as gamers and yes I respect their opinions as valid.

But alot of times we "as so called gamers" attack each other for having different opinions so that is par for the course. I think its great that you can give example of female characters, but I want to encourage everyone to try to understand our differing viewpoints before we jump to judgement.

I was disturbed by the fact that you refuse to acknowledge that girls may want to see more female characters. And that wanting this doesn't make them crazy or wrong or invalid. Its their opinion. I never said it was right, I never said it was all girls and I never said you were wrong. I am saying to respect people you think differently.

And sorry about snapping about the real gamer thing but that is one of my triggers. I hate that insinuation on the premise that there is no such thing.

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cleft5708d ago

Aisha Tyler says almost the same thing that you said right here. The article is worth a read, as it shows that Aisha Tyler really does get it and isn't about blaming others for the lack of diversity in the industry or pretending like the industry hasn't made a great many strides.

Gh05t708d ago

Shes blaming education for a lack of diversity. I had to compete pretty hard in college for programs that were HANDED to women in the engineering department. Men had to compete while the women got right in (all in the name of diversity). THAT is why I could care less. If a girl wants to make games there are so many programs to help them that there is no more excuses.

Stop blaming others and start taking responsibility!

Oh and this little number: "I can't go back in time and give myself a mathematics degree, so I'm changing it the way that I know how to change it."

GO BACK TO SCHOOL! holy hell is that such a hard concept. I know many other women older than her in college courses. No shes going to blame the system and be the victim that no one ever TOLD her she could be anything (including a math major). Open a book, newspaper or magazine, you are in AMERICA there are multiple stories of overcoming adversity, all in the face of people who said that they would never be.

Godmars290708d ago

And yet the reason we're talking about this is because Ubisoft made an issue about not being able to provide female skins for characters.

-Foxtrot708d ago

See that's what I find silly, the cause of all this talk about gender and diversity at the moment.

Ubisoft lied out of their teeth on that one.

Why didn't they just have the balls to come out and say

"Look we didn't do female characters in Assassins Creed Unity because it's Arno's story, he's male, that's what have been written. Even when you play with your friends, each one of you guys will play as Arno, while your friends will look like on YOUR screen to playing as a generic Assassin model"

Instead they have to feed us bullshit about it being too hard or that it would take a lot of work. Trying to dodge the question instead of tackling it full on.

Don't see why they didn't get Jade Raymond to speak out a little on this, it would look better coming from her, being female herself.

DragonKnight708d ago

They didn't lie out of their teeth. It is factually accurate that designing female characters is more work than designing male characters in general, but by the time someone actually asked them about female characters, development for AC Unity was nearing completion. It's coming out in a few months. To ask Ubisoft to change a character or add something in this late and have no understanding about deadlines, costs, etc.. is just naive.

And then there's the "well just use a male model and reskin it to look female" B.S.

I mean, Ubisoft were in a no win position no matter what they said.

When you consider the Watch Dogs mechanics they are using in the game for co-op, what they said makes perfect, and legitimate sense.

When you factor in the fact that maybe they would want to use a properly designed female model, it just adds to their original legitimate argument.

If they would have said "yeah, we didn't want to" then they still would have lost.

The only people that would respect them for saying that would be those of us who understanding that gender is unimportant, but they'd be blasted by the fedora wearing, neckbeard pseudo-journalist that infect all of Polygon and the rest of the internet.

They couldn't win no matter what they said. Someone went into the question knowing what they were doing, wanting to start up some B.S. and placing Ubisoft in a no win situation.

randomass171708d ago

I'm no genius, but what about a post launch update? Not even because I think it's essential, but because my personal preference is to play as a female if given the choice in the game (and it would satisfy the people complaining about it).

Either way, DragonKnight is right. Designing female characters and animating them is definitely different from male ones. If you had a female character who used motion capture data from a male actor, it probably won't look right, among other issues.

Godmars290708d ago

@DragonKnight:
And still, there was a AC title on the PSP where the main character was a black female. There was a multiplayer mode where you could choose female characters. Its those examples which make what Ubisoft said nonsense; because they've already done it.

They may very well have to spend more money and effort, may and likely are well into producing the game meaning that such mid revision would cost that much more, but again it is something that they've already done.

Then again it may be something they're holding back for DLC, could add as DLC, which in another lose-lose, makes them come off looking even worse. Saying that they couldn't do it to keep it a surprise, then doing it yet asking for money.

DragonKnight708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

@Godmars: Yeah, you're talking about a handheld title that uses far less resources and requires far less time to develop, which also sold piss poor as well. Plus, Aveline did use that "female who's really just a male reskinned to look female" model so she wasn't properly designed (hell, she even looks like a man until you see her face), which still makes Ubisoft correct when it comes to designing a proper female lead.

Next you're talking about generic multiplayer models which are still just male models reskinned and also do not require the time or resources that would be necessary for a AAA game's main protagonist.

Either way, you're talking about improperly designed, pseudo-female characters that Ubisoft would STILL lose on with a lot of people because it is just a reskinned man with androgynous movements.

And as far as I'm aware, they never designed a female character mid-development.

Ubisoft didn't lie, their reason just was rejected by people who don't know better or don't care. It's unreasonable to demand that they change fundamental aspects of their game just because of what some people want between the legs of a fictional, non-existent, unimportant (in real life) character.

Do you want Ubisoft to do away with the drop in, drop out, multiplayer? Because they'd have to in order to make Arno into Arnette. It's based on Watch Dogs' mechanics which has you seeing yourself as the main protagonist, and everyone else seeing you as a generic Assassin model. You'd never see yourself as the female character unless the main protagonist was changed from Arno to Arnette permanently. Do you have a legitimate reason they should do that and what would be your response to the monumental story changes that would need to occur as a result?

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MeliMel708d ago

Lol...its not Franklins fault they made him boring? But yeah to me it doesnt matter what the character is as long as the game plays good and is entertaining.

Also what the hell is going on that now all of sudden we need diversity in gaming. At one point in time way back in the days, we played games with white looking characters only to find out they were Japanese. Also if you want diversity buy games that give you option of creating your own character. That way you can be Black, Yellow, Blue, etc.. I hate when society plays the race card on everything.

Loadedklip708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

"Does it really matter what character we play as, I mean if they are black or native American or even female then so be it but if they not it doesn't matter long as the game is good. "

It actually does to people in general whether they admit it or not.

Movies with all black or all Asian or all Latino cast do not preform anywhere near as well as movies with all white cast.

That is why even Japanese game makers normally make white leads for their games. They are interested in getting the money from the most money to spend which at the moment happens to be white people ... by appealing visually to them with white leads in their games.

Same goes for comic book, tv shows, cartoons and all other works of fiction.

It sucks that is the way it is but that is the truth.

NiteX708d ago

White Jesus agrees with you.

ShaunCameron707d ago

Agreed. It is the way it is because most of the people who have the money and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege of being entertained by such works happen to be White and largely male. It makes perfect economic sense to cater to them.

3-4-5708d ago

So basically ALL she brings to Video Games is Drama ?

not cool.

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lifesanrpg708d ago

Aisha Tyler did a great job at Ubisoft's E3 press conference. I know she gets a lot of flack, but I do really like her and she's great for gaming

Blacktric708d ago

"and she's great for gaming"

Thanks for the laugh.

Timesplitter14708d ago

"gamers" are one of the most despicable entertainment-related groups I can think of. It seems we're stuck with the "big fat bigoted nerd" label forever unless massive changes are made, and Aisha Tyler is a great example of what we need in order to change the perception people have of gamers

Blacktric708d ago

""gamers" are one of the most despicable entertainment-related groups I can think of."

I was just thinking the same thing about untalented "actresses" whose only big gig was to voice a disposable character in an animated TV show and who are now pursuing a different road to become relevant using third grade logic backed with political correctness when nobody cares about what they think.

Remind me again; what did Aisha Tyler ever do for the industry other than voicing two completely unimportant characters in two games (a random soldier in Halo: Reach and herself in Watch Dogs, according to IMDB) and hosting cringeworthy E3 conferences for Ubisoft for the past two/three years? Is it really this hard to admit that she's just a failed actress who's trying to leech off of the industry to become relevant in some way before she's completely forgotten?

randomass171708d ago

What does her acting have to do with her being a spokesperson for a French video game development company? It seems overly bitter to bring that up as a criticism against her. She's an attractive black woman who talks video games and she's not even that bad at it IMO.

0P-Tigrex708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

Why the hell is the person even relevant?! Oh yeah, she's a "strong" african american woman who plays video games. Gtfoh. If a developer has a vision for a game, and that vision is to make the main character a male, or female white, black, or yellow.. just PLAY the game. Not bashing on Feminists, but this is the video game industry, not a voting booth. They should be playing games instead of nagging about character genders/races. There are RPG's and MMO's for a reason.

cleft5708d ago

If you bothered to read the article you would know that Aisha Tyler says pretty much the same thing that you just stated in a less annoying matter. But instead of reading the article you choose to past judgement based on what you think she would say.

0P-Tigrex708d ago

@Cleft

This woman is obnoxious. I've watched all of her past Ubi conferences and she does nothing but make stupid jokes and attempts to be "hip". My whole point was why is she relevant and talking about a topic we already know the answer for.

dumahim708d ago

@0P-Tigrex

Because someone asked her.

MeliMel708d ago

OP-Tigerx,

I take it shes relevant because she is famous and liked by many. BTW- she gave you no points for those wackass comments.

cleft5708d ago

Like Dumahim said, because someone asked her for a comment on this topic. You don't like her, well that's fine but she does have celebrity status and unlike a lot of celebrities she actually knows what she is talking about. A quick read of the article reveals that fact. She is relevant to the conversation because she has worked hard enough to obtain the status to be relevant. I am just happy that she didn't go off on some stupid tangents. Clearly she gets it or is smart enough to say the right things.

0P-Tigrex708d ago

I wouldn't go that far.. There was an article about her boycotting Destiny... are you f'real?? Yeah. Her opinions should be known to the masses.

randomass171708d ago

'This woman is obnoxious. I've watched all of her past Ubi conferences and she does nothing but make stupid jokes and attempts to be "hip".'

You realize she defended the industry as a whole and talked about how strong and likable female characters ARE present in the games we play, right? And then you move the goal posts after someone corrected you for attacking Tyler. I don't think she's obnoxious at all. I agree some of her jokes aren't that great, but other than that I don't get why people hate on her so much.

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Clown_Syndr0me708d ago

IM suprised that gaming gets so much stick about this...you don't see women protesting that they cant join male sports teams yet they moan about this?

Blacktric708d ago

"you don't see women protesting that they cant join male sports teams yet they moan about this?"

Shh. Stop making sense. Do you really think your typical "internet feminist" wants to be a part of something that requires full devotion and workout for hours every day? They would much rather try to become famous on the internet by spewing sh*t about laughably petty and pointless "problems" and make videos that "analyzes" how sexist modern videogames are while stealing the footage from random let's plays on youtube.

ShaunCameron707d ago

It's all about resentment and envy. Feminism borrowed a lot of its ideas from Karl Marx.

SilentNegotiator708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

They do complain and protest that, but it doesn't fit the mainstream media's agenda to constantly report on that...yet. They're more concerned with keeping up the "dumb man, smart woman" stereotype for now.

DragonKnight708d ago (Edited 708d ago )

Aisha Tyler needs to shut up. I mean in general, not specifically about this. She's loud for no reason, she's not funny, and she isn't an authority on gaming. She's an actress and claims to be a comedian, nothing more.

That said, although I find her to be insufferably annoying, at least she didn't take the typical stance that most people are taking that diversity is practically non-existent and is some mega problem that affects the very core of gaming.

I also find it laughable that the article had to emphasize that she is a black woman. Yeah, duh.

Heisenburger708d ago

#girlwood

Lol Yeah I agree with you. When she's in either comedian mode, or take me serious mode I find her really off putting. I think some people think they are way more interesting than they really are. *knock on wood* ;)

DragonKnight708d ago

I particularly dislike her as the host of Whose Line Is It Anyway. I mean, she finishes introductions by saying "Let's make stuff up."

What?

Whereas Drew Carey, and the original British host, were much more fluid and "real" as the hosts of the show.

randomass171708d ago

Gotta give her credit for actually defending the industry when it comes to female representation. It's not common to see a voice take a more mellow and positive stance on how women are portrayed in video games.

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