Inclusivity Is Awesome

I was originally going to post about what I’ve learned about game design through LARPing and how it can be applied to video games, but given the current discussions about Gamer Culture, I’ve decided that instead I’m going to focus on one particular portion of that.

Where in recent weeks the discussions about inclusivity of Game Culture has seemed to have been taken over by the loudest and most toxic individuals, LARPs do inclusivity right, and they’re better for it. Almost all of the LARPs I’ve attended have a fairly large female population. The LARP I primarily go to, EPOCH Toronto, has an almost even ratio of men to women. In addition, there’s usually at least one woman on the executive board at any given time, and not long ago, the board was entirely composed of women fielding those positions.

This isn’t limited to just the sex of a person. Gender, race, nationality, religion, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome at a LARP event. In addition, there’s nothing stopping you from playing any kind of character you want. Are you male, but want to play a female character. Totally doable! Want to play a very religious person, but are not particularly religious yourself? Not a problem! Want to play a character whose gender is completely different from your own? Go for it!

As for the more toxic individuals that try to attend? They’re usually given the cold shoulder by the rest of the player base, and often wander off to another LARP, or just stop altogether. If the individual is particularly disruptive, they’ll be asked to leave. There will always be inter-personal conflicts in any social group, and conflicts are resolved rationally by the owners or executives of the LARP, often getting both sides of the story before taking action.

From a business standpoint, however, inclusivity gets you more customers. If a LARP is a safe environment, and provides a great game atmosphere, those that attend will tell their friends, and bring them to the next event. Then those new players tell their other friends, and bring them along, and for forth. Often times the best advertisers of a LARP are the ones that play it rather than run it. And the more inclusive a LARP is, the more varied, and therefore larger, the potential audience becomes.

Marketing teams across all game companies should take a good look at this, as sales will be more constant as more and more people buy the game, play and love it, then tell their friends, who will then buy it and do the same, as opposed to making things look shiny and having to rely on pre-orders to make their money.

Aside from the business portion of the equation, inclusivity also creates a positive culture that can actually be respected by those viewing it from the outside. There’s a reason why many people regard “Gamers” as mouth-breathing, socially-inept neckbeards, or a bunch of juvenile 12-year-old boys. They’re the ones that are the loudest, and the ones most people think of when they think of what a “Gamer” is.

By having a more inclusive culture, those in the media, and people in general, can consider games as the art-form it can be instead of a juvenile past-time. LARPing might be in the same boat when it comes to public viewpoints, but that’s just on the surface of LARPing. A LARP can bring people out of their shells, players can experience things that they may never experience in their normal lives, social issues can and often are explored, and so much more. On the surface, yeah, we’re in silly costumes swinging plumbing supplies at each other. But that’s far more benign than what Gamer Culture is on the surface: A culturally backward, toxic place where threats of rape and murder are commonplace.

If you want a better culture surrounding games, or just better games in general, allow more than just the social-inept dictate their direction. Bringing women, LGTBQ folk, those of different races, nationalities, etc. into the development-side of gaming. Have them included in creative decisions, not just in artwork or animation where a majority of women have positions inside the games industry, but in design and programming as well. From there, games being made with these groups in mind will come, and in turn, people that identify with them will come to play.

Communities will come together to create a great, positive spaces for everyone to enjoy. Those that try to bring them down will find themselves quickly silenced.

It’s already happening, folks. Just let it happen. You’ll be a better person for it. Don’t believe me? Give LARPing a shot and see what you’re missing out on.

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