Examining Inclusivity in Video Games

The video game I chose to analyze is one that I typically play in the little spare time that I have throughout the week, and the is the free-to-play hero first person shooter game Apex Legends. This game was first released on February 4, 2019, and quickly gained acclaim and popularity. Additionally, a study conducted and published by the gaming company Diamond Lobby researched and reviewed 100 games between 2017 and 2021 and as a result, named Apex Legends as the most diverse and inclusive.

This study found that nearly 80% of preset characters (excluding games where character race/gender were customizable) in video games were male, and 54% of main characters were white. Only about 8% of games have a non-white female main character. This is where Apex sets the gold standard as an all-inclusive game; there are currently 23 playable characters with roughly half of the characters being female, 8 male and one non-binary (3 characters are cybernetic and are therefore excluded). Furthermore, half of these characters are non-white, and 6 would be considered members of the LGBT+ community (orientations represented include Bisexual, Pansexual, Lesbian, Non-Binary, Transexual, and Gay). In terms of inclusivity, I cannot think of a single game that comes close to this level of representation. The photo above displays an in-game badge users can display in support of Pride Month. There are also badges for Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, Suicide Prevention, and Breast Cancer.

With regard to inclusion in gameplay, since Apex is a first-person shooter game this is virtually never brought up outside of perhaps catchphrases unique to the individual character. However, the game does include a comic book-esque feature each season that delves into the backstory and interpersonal relationships of the characters. This changes with each new season, sometimes it revolves around a new character being introduced, and others it highlights personal issues and conflicts with the characters as a group. The game does also have specialized features for those with disabilities; this includes colorblind mode (can select different options depending on type of color blindness), subtitles, dimming for those with epilepsy, voice to text conversion, and text to voice conversion. Apex is also available in multiple different languages to make gameplay feel more natural.

Personally, I don’t believe that one’s individual identity will have an impact on game play, other than possibly the comfort of knowing their demographic is represented and immortalized in a videogame. Characters are not designed to favor one class or gender type over another, male characters are not stronger or faster, and the defensive and support type characters are not weaker in combat. This, I think, is where Apex is doing things right. Everyone is represented equally, there strengths and weaknesses are more or less the same, and success or failure in the game all comes down to the strategy and play style of the user. In terms of diversity and inclusion, Apex is at the top of the list, and if there are any weaknesses to improve upon, they lie in the technical aspects of the game, i.e. prevalence of cheating or ensuring that no weapons or features become overpowered to the point of skewing the game’s balance. Updates to the game are constantly being pushed with each additional season based partially upon user requests and the developer’s vision for the game.

Diversity and inclusion in video games is fundamentally essential, since they only serve as a means of entertainment for the consumers. I see no reason why there should be any race, gender, or sexual orientation that has representation in these virtual worlds.

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