The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on July 31, 2011

Hey, that gender diversity in comics topic is still pretty hot right now, isn’t it? Better hop on the train while the hoppin’s good.

In short, hiring writers and artists of diverse gender, race, sexuality, and background is not simply that old affirmative action canard. It’s a about getting a wide variety of styles into the mix that could then appeal to a wide variety of people. Plus, it opens up the hiring prospects quite a bit, so not only are you not just getting white guys to make everything, but you’re also not getting THE SAME white guys to make everything. This isn’t some draconian feel-good rainbow concept; this is intelligent business for anyone in a creative industry, one that doesn’t plan on stagnating any time soon.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like that includes the biggest names in the comics industry right now.

Of course, I also buy into the counterargument that while there are quite a few female talents in comics (and there really are), there might not be as many female talents in comics who want to play in some big corporation’s multimillion dollar sandbox, where there every idea will be absorbed and exploited for profit by others, with the only credit they get being a ‘Created by’ sidebar on Wikipedia. It’s not like creator’s rights at the big comics companies hasn’t been in the news lately. Same goes for the black creators, or the gay creators, and all the others. So there’s that to consider, as well.

It’s one of those things in comics. A lot of people, myself included, would like to see Marvel and DC improve their publishing outfit, and that includes hiring more and better talent. However, we also have to recognize that the work-for-hire scenario they offer is pretty rotten, so unless someone is either (a) absolutely in love with Marvel/DC’s universes and characters and doesn’t care about the downside of working for them, (b) like Warren Ellis and Joe Casey, who take on books for mainstream publishers solely as a self-imposed creative challenge, or (c) really like money (but not a substantial amount of money, albeit probably more than the average independent will get on their own), why should we expect said people to WANT to work for them? There’s a hell of a lot more avenues to get your work out there now, so really, why bother? It’s not like being a Spider-Man writer or artist or inker or colorist will be much of an status upgrade; it’s going from a niche to a slightly larger niche.

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On a related note, here’s another observation culled from an addiction to trolling comment sections.

One of the frequent wrong ideas perpetrated by the masses in the world of fanservice-based fighting games (yes, I’ve seen it used for every. single. one.) is to lay the blame for the lack of diversity in gender/race (not sexual orientation, though. Gamers aren’t demanding proper homosexual representation. What a shock) on the developers of the game. Basically, if the game doesn’t meet some arbitrary quota of female characters, it’s a sausage fest. I mean, it’s clearly just the individual commentators trying to find the game’s character picks guilty of some social injustice so they can justify their whining about whatever characters THEY wanted not getting in, but let’s address another reason why it doesn’t hold up.

You see, the people behind games like Marvel vs Capcom 3, or Super Smash Bros. or Street Fighter x Tekken, are limited in their material. They set out to make a game that uses previously established characters, and like all fighting game developers, try to make the cast as diverse gameplay-wise as possible. Basically, they want to make the game interesting and fun, but can only use other people’s creations. So, that’s what they do: out of those creations, they choose the bunch that would include the greatest variety of gameplay styles, factoring in aesthetics and fanbases as well. This means that, unless they think it fills a particularly important gameplay or aesthetic niche, they will not consider that character’s gender or race or whatever, because that becomes secondary or tertiary when you bring in gameplay and giving the greatest number of different fans what they want. They’re just trying to do what’s best for the game with the material they set out. As some other commentators in the same arenas point out, there is no point in adding a character to these games if it’s just because they’re female.

Besides, the anger is completely misaimed. You want to see more women or black people showing up in these games? Ask the people who make the games these games pull their material from to create more diverse sets of characters. The world would be so much better if more games had a greater variety of protagonists and antagonists, anyway. So not only do the fanservice games get a wider variety of characters to use, but the games themselves would be more interesting. Everybody wins!

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