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Editorial

I’ve Had Enough of 90’s Gaming Nostalgia

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Maybe it’s because I’ve played so many games, but I really just don’t get this love affair so many in the gaming press/community and, to a lesser extent, actual developers have with 90’s video games. To me, modern gaming has so much more to offer than could have ever been dreamed of 30 years ago. Yeah, games are easier now–that’s a byproduct of 3D game design–but you also don’t need a cheat code to get past the third level anymore, either. You also don’t need to have a notebook full of save codes to reenter every time you start a game. Oh, and things are actually recognizable on the screen.

As a relatively older gamer, I’ve pretty much witnessed the entirety of video game history. As a kid I had an Atari 2600 (when it was new) along with a number of early PCs and other computer/living room console crossover systems that no one even remembers anymore. In my Southern California middle school’s computer lab, all my classmates and I did was trade Apple and early PC games. Since then I’ve owned every home video game console released in the United States, and as an adult, I’ve been in the consumer electronics and video games industry for nearly 20 years. That means, over my life, I’ve literally played thousands of video games.

Besides priding myself as a pragmatist, the fact that I’ve played such a large number of games is probably why I don’t, at all, get gaming nostalgia. There’s never been one particular game that I’ve spent a whole year playing. As a matter of fact, I’ve always had a diversity of gaming options, and utilized it. Sure, I have some cherished gaming memories of the time I spent playing The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and even the earliest Madden games. The thing is though, I was always looking forward to the next one, the one with better graphics, new mechanics, something even more than the one I was playing had.

The closest I can come to understanding this gaming nostalgia movement, is probably with music. I would say about 90 percent of my music collection is made up of eighties alternative. From early punk rock, like The Damned, The Germs, and 45 Grave, to shoegazers like, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Jesus and Mary Chain, post-punk like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division, along with more upbeat stuff like The Violent Femmes, and The Pixies. I own a lot of CDs. Even with music though, as much as I love those songs, I long for more modern versions of them or new bands to take what they did and improve upon it. As a matter of fact, I even think The Cure’s Mixed Up album has the best versions of their early songs, like The Forest.

Mighty No. 9

Maybe it’s just change. Some people don’t react to it very well, and I guess that’s amplified by “growing up.” There are new responsibilities, new challenges, and it’s a tough world out there. I suppose that if you spent a lot of time as a kid playing a certain type of game, getting good at it, falling back to those memories might be somewhat comforting. That’s essentially what Twenty One Pilots’ Stressed Out is all about, right? Sadly, that’s life, and mommy issues aside, the rest of us want better video games.

Truthfully, nostalgia never really lives up to your memories anyway. The Mighty No. 9 and Duke Nukem Forever, are perfect examples of that. They were both exactly what everyone said they wanted, but ultimately failed to live up to the expectations of our memories.  Sadly, the new Shenmue game is likely to end up the same way, if it even actually gets made. I loved the original Shenmue, but considering what Shenmue was, originally, what can Yu Suzuki even do at this point, with a limited budget, that games like Fable 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, Yakuza 5, or any number of games haven’t already done in the 15 years since Shenmue II was released?

All I can say is, “Let it go.” Seriously, we all have cherished memories, but it doesn’t do any good to keep trying to live in them. The video game industry has done amazing things in the last 30 years. The quality of presentation is finally at a level that rivals television and movies, and even the narratives are slowly evolving to a comparable level. As gamers, we should all be championing the growth of the industry we love, and supporting its evolution. I loved Colossal Cave Adventure as a kid, but will probably never play another text adventure game in my life, and that’s okay. New games like Life is Strange, and Witcher 3 are almost everything a ten year-old me imagined video games could be.

After all of that, I will admit, I’m slightly intrigued, by Nintendo’s new NES Classic Edition, but I know I won’t ever actually play it. Maybe I’ll get it for my kids though.

Are you in the “make a candle out of it…” and “…only sell one.” camp?  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@Official_OnlySP) and Facebook where you can also sound off your opinions.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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E3 2019

Gender and Race Representation at E3 2019

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E3 2019 Diversity (Deathloop, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order)

Despite making up around half of the gaming population, women remain underrepresented in video games. More Hispanic and Black people refer to themselves as “gamers” than white people, yet minorities remain a rarity in modern titles. E3, which recently came to a close for another year, is gaming’s largest annual event, demonstrating the interests of the industry. Therefore, the statistics from E3 are a fairly accurate representation of the industry as a whole. OnlySP has broken down five of the main conferences from E3 2019 to see how each publisher represents women and people of colour in the games showcased, as well as their presenters.

Some of the shows from the event—the PC Gaming Show, Kinda Funny Games Showcase, EA Play, and the Devolver Digital Big Fancy Press Conference—have been excluded. Previously released games receiving updates or trailers at the event, such as Fallout 76 or Final Fantasy XIV Online, were also excluded from the statistics.

Each conference is broken down into seven categories for gender:

  • Male: where the game features only a male protagonist (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
  • Female: where the game features only a female protagonist (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
  • Player Choice: where the game allows a fully customisable character (The Outer Worlds)
  • Both: where the game allows the player to control both a male and female character, but not customise their preference (Marvel’s Avengers)
  • Ambiguous: where the protagonist’s gender is unclear (Ori and the Will of the Wisps)
  • None: where the game does not feature a gendered character, including racing games (Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  • Unknown: where the game’s protagonist is yet to be revealed (Elden Ring)

The last five categories are repeated for race within games; protagonists whose race is evident are identified as such.

Microsoft

E3 Chart - Microsoft 2

Microsoft kicked off the main press conferences this year with far more games than the conferences to follow. Out of a total of 29 applicable games, almost a third featured only male protagonists. Thankfully, female representation is not totally out of the question—with 24% of Microsoft’s games allowing full character customisation and 10% featuring both male and female protagonists—but only three games with a sole female protagonist is a disappointing statistic.

Unfortunately, representation among the presenters at Microsoft’s conference does not inspire much hope either, with two of nine being women (one of whom appeared alongside a man). This is sadly representative of the company as a whole, with women making up only 26.6 percent of Microsoft’s employees.

In terms of race representation within its games, Microsoft is not achieving great results. While nine of the games showcased featured Caucasian protagonists, only one had an African-American lead. Thankfully, at least, Microsoft is still allowing the player to decide the race of their character in 21% of its games. Microsoft’s presenters were also mostly white—mostly American, with two Brits, one Canadian, and an Australian—with only one African-American presenter.

While Microsoft’s representation at E3 is better than most of the conferences that followed, it still has a long way to go.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Microsoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Microsoft’s conference.

Bethesda

E3 Chart - Bethesda 2

Bethesda’s conference was short on new titles this year, with only six upcoming games showcased, but it had the strongest showing in terms of character representation. Only one of the six titles—Doom Eternal—featured a single male protagonist, and, that aside, the game is shaping up to be something special.

Both of the upcoming Wolfenstein games—Youngblood and Cyberpilot—feature female protagonists, and while two female-centric games is not a hugely impressive statistic, as an overall indicator it is quite impressive when compared to Bethesda’s other games. Two of the six games—Commander Keen and Deathloop—allow the player to select between a pre-determined male or female character; and in the case of Deathloop, both characters are African-American, so Bethesda’s representation expands beyond gender. However, only one title with a confirmed non-white character is not a very impressive statistic.

The same praise cannot be applied to the presenters of Bethesda’s conference, either; only two of the 17 presenters were female—one of whom has become a bit of an icon following the show. Of the 17 presenters, more than half were American, with only two Japanese presenters, two French, one Swedish, and one Puerto Rican–American. Considering Bethesda’s support of women and minorities in the past, seeing such little representation among its staff is a disappointing statistic.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Bethesda

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Bethesda’s conference.

Ubisoft

E3 Chart - Ubisoft 2

In regard to giving the player choice, Ubisoft easily beats the competition, with three of its eight new titles featuring full character customisation and two allowing the player to select between a male and female character. Diversity of representation, however, ends there; Ubisoft did not showcase a single female-led video game during its E3 showcase this year. Of the three games allowing character customisation, two—Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions—are multiplayer games; and of the two allowing both male and female, one is Watch Dogs Legion, which lets players choose between dozens of characters in their operation. Whether or not such a concept will lead to positive representation is yet to be seen. While no games from Ubisoft star an African-American in the leading role, hopefully the developer can achieve positive diversity by taking notes from its 2017 title Watch Dogs 2.

For its presenters, Ubisoft is better than its competition, with females making up four of the conference’s 14 on-stage personalities, but that statistic is still disappointing. If 29% is the best that the industry can do, it still has a long way to go in the years to come.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Ubisoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Ubisoft’s conference.

Square Enix

E3 Chart - Square Enix 2

Square Enix may have had the most disappointing press conference this year in regard to gender representation. Of its 14 games, not a single had only a female protagonist, while over half centred around males. To the publisher’s credit, several of these games feature, in some segments, playable female characters, but to have so many male-centric games without a single sole female protagonist is incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully, five games shown at Square Enix’s conference allow the player to select between a male or female. However, even in some of these games, representation is not entirely clear—only one of the five main playable characters in Marvel’s Avengers, for example, is female, as is only one of the three in Outriders.

Unfortunately, the disappointment of diversity is only exemplified with the conference’s presenters. Only one of the show’s nine presenters was female, with her appearance taking place at the very end of the show alongside a male presenter. Square Enix has a long way to go with its female representation.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Square Enix

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Square Enix’s conference.

Nintendo

E3 Chart - Nintendo 2

Historically, Nintendo is not known for strong female characters—Princess Peach is the figurehead for the damsel-in-distress trope—but it has made strides in this area with strong characters such as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, none of these characters have been allowed to represent their own video game, constantly being shadowed by the male protagonist.

While six of the 17 new Nintendo games shown during its Direct this year featured male protagonists, not a single game featured a female protagonist. With three games allowing full customisation and six giving the choice between male and female, not all hope is lost with Nintendo, but diverse representation is better than customised representation. Being forced to take on different perspectives—as females must do when playing 35% of Nintendo’s games—is more beneficial to the player than choosing to play as an undefined character.

Nintendo only had three presenters during its presentation—deputy general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi, president of Nintendo of America Doug Bowser, and general manager Shinya Takahashi—but seeing some more representation of its female staff (as it does rather well during its Nintendo Treehouse live stream later in the show) would be encouraging.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Nintendo

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Nintendo’s conference.


Overall

As a whole, E3 2019 was rather disappointing. While a third of the games showcased at the five conferences above featured only male protagonists, only 7% featured female protagonists. While developers are improving in regard to player choice—allowing either full customisation or the selection of a male or female character—diverse representation is a necessity moving forward, and the industry needs to look at improving.

Presenters Demographic

Demographics of presenters at the five conferences during E3 2019.

In terms of race representation, the statistics are even more abysmal. While an Americanised show is expected due to the location of E3, some diversity would be appreciated; with over half of the presenters being American, the companies are failing to demonstrate their diverse talent. The same can be said about the games; as seen below, 27% of protagonists in games are Caucasian, while 3% (only two games) feature African-Americans as lead characters. As aforementioned, developers are seeing improvement in allowing players to customise or select their characters, but specified diversity is a change that the industry requires.

E3 Chart - Games Demographics

Demographics of protagonists in the games showcased at the five conferences during E3 2019.

The industry has a long way to go.

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