Tuesday, April 23, 2024

An inclusive and cyberpunk future is in the cards

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A diverse and inclusive world “had been something that internally we had wanted for a long time, but PIs never really allocated it,” she said.

In a podcast, Damon Stone, who would later become the lead designer of Android: Netrunner, described world building as “pointillism”: each map is a small piece of color that adds to the global world. Robinson was given the task of directing the many artists who would contribute to these small roles to get the big picture.

“If you send out a textual art brief and you don’t specify things to an artist, especially freelancers, they’re going to give you what they think you want,” she says. “So if you don’t specify race / gender / age, you’re going to have a white man in his thirties, with cropped black hair and black eyes, sort of like anything from video games.”

The team has therefore become very specific with its artistic direction. Robinson said they even had “a spreadsheet for who was overrepresented and who was underrepresented. It was incredibly deliberate.

The Fantasy Flight team made a number of changes to the legacy game from Wizards of the Coast, ranging from the return of ICE in all caps to the use of fixed and non-random expansion packs. But perhaps the biggest change was the addition of a card representing you, the player.

Instead of being an out-of-game manager outfitting a team of misfits with day hair and bionic limbs, you could be Chaos Theory, the school-aged daughter of a Chinese-Irish father and Scottish mother. – African American who does it. netrunning via a plush dinosaur console. Or you can be Valencia Estevez, “Angel of Cayambe,” who fights for the inhabitants of a city in present day Ecuador and a slum in New Angeles in the new myth. You might even be Whizzard, one of Android’s rare white cis-male characters: Netrunner, based on Android designer Kevin Wilson.

And a game whose business model depends on the regular printing of new expansion decks is one whose cast of characters must constantly grow. “The world is so big and there are so many different types of people,” Robinson said. “What does cyberpunk India look like?”

“I hate having to call diversity a risk.”

The pressure to deliver games under tight deadlines makes it difficult to fight for various representations in for-profit companies, says Jonni Trev, a volunteer designer for the Oakland, Calif., Fan organization Project NISEI. He is also a video game designer.

“The external pressure to make money makes every game you’ve played worse,” Trev says. “There is no game you will ever play that has been enhanced by this.”

In Trev’s experience, the games that demonstrate a consideration for diversity and inclusion are thanks to a few people on the inside who fought for it. “True inclusion is very hard work,” they say. “You can’t just say, let’s get some brunettes here. It doesn’t work that way.”

Now independent, Robinson has experienced some industry retrospective views on what players want. She says she was “rebuked once there were more women than men in a product, and for never letting them see it ever again.”

“There is always a silent recoil, even if you don’t quite see it,” Wilson says. “They won’t go out and say they don’t want diversity. They’ll say, oh, the numbers show that a white male protagonist is going to get us the best return on our money. It’s always framed in those numbers that you can’t argue because they are often mysterious somewhere.

With less money at stake compared to big budget video games, the designers of Android: Netrunner had more freedom to take risks. “I hate having to call diversity a risk,” said Robinson. But Wilson says he and his colleagues had the full support of Fantasy Flight CEO Christian Petersen to create the gaming world they wanted.


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