This semester I am teaching my last class as a postdoc at USC — which is bittersweet, because I absolutely love my students in the Interactive Media and Games Division. Luckily, my department has been wonderful about allowing me to design my own courses, so I get to go out on a great topic, “Video Games, Identity, and Diversity.” Here’s an excerpt from the class description:
There has never been a more important time to talk about diversity in video games. Even as online harassment campaigns threaten to silence those who bring change to the medium, players and games themselves are rapidly becoming more diverse. This is a turning point in the history of games – a moment when people who have long been marginalized are making some of the most amazing games and speaking with some of the most powerful voices. “Diversity” is far more than a buzzword, however. It is a complicated intersection of identity, privilege, personal experience, and social systems. It is not enough to say that games should be diverse; we need to understand what that means and why it matters.
Over the course of the semester, this class will prompt students to think about games in relation to a number of cultural and personal factors, including but not limited to: race, disability, socioeconomic class, language, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality, and body type. Games, games history, game players, game cultures, and the games industry will all be topics of discussion. Even students who do not think of themselves as invested in diversity issues have a lot to gain from engaging with these topics. An awareness of how to make games more inclusive and/or how to rethink harmful stereotypes in games is important for creating socially responsible, commercially successful, and artistically compelling work.
So far the semester is off to a great start. There are definitely days when this class isn’t going to be easy, but I know my students are up for the challenge.