Next Mass Effect developer says games need to move beyond race, gender stereotypes

BioWare developer Manveer Heir’s GDC talk explained why games should move beyond stereotypes.

Gameplay designer on the next Mass Effect at BioWare Manveer Heir spoke passionately at GDC this week about why games should move beyond presenting certain groups as stereotypes.

"Why should we reject stereotypes? Not only is it lazy, but it's fairly boring,” Heir said, as quoted by GamesIndustry International. “We play so many games that use the same stereotypes. I get fed up with the same old story and characters in every game. I know there are others like me, I talk to them all the time. For me, these stereotypes are contributing to the creative stagnation in our industry. But I also believe we need to reject stereotypes as a social responsibility to mankind."

Heir said that this is one of the biggest areas of growth in the industry, and while developers might make a lot of missteps along the way, it doesn’t mean that they should stop trying. He also rejected the notion that games have to feature traditional protagonists because it makes them more realistic.”If we want to make meaningful games, if we want to avoid turning away a significant portion of our potential audience, if we want to be a successful medium that is grown-up and not stuck in adolescence, then we need to stop falling back on the realism excuse and use realism responsibly and not as a default."

Heir ended his talk by calling developers to action, saying that the only way to solve this problem is for them to challenge the majority and the minority perception of how we deal with race, gender, sexual orientation, and all other sources of social injustices.

“This is the way to push the art form,” he said. “This is our way to challenge ourselves and others. Wherever we stand today as an industry, I am confident that we will stand somewhere far better tomorrow as long as you right here are willing to be an agent of change.”

In December 2013, we heard that the next Mass Effect is already playable and that it’s “fresh but recognizable.”

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer in search of the Citizen Kane of burritos.

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Discussion

592 comments
DonJuan2000
DonJuan2000

The only boring things are those stupid claims from this Bioware. First of all if we talk about RPG you MUST choice somethings and see consequences otherwise do FPS/Adventures without pretending to do RPG. Love adventures, just dont bore who want to play True RPG.

2nd Social Injustice ? God help us. Yeah it can be fun to help someones and see some of it in the game story, but its still a GAME. I want to entertain not to bore with everyday social issues. I just go out if i want to see that.....

This is for ENTERTAIN and merely for that. If you dont want to sell videogames anymore, do someother. As someone said too it seems too much like a totalitarian governement.

Dont pretend to tell us how we should entertain with such bad games... Or just do what you want, if we like we'll buy, otherwise goodbye. Thats free market.


slackrabbit
slackrabbit

The fact is games are targeted at at demographic. If the game is good and like by that demographic, then the firm will make money. 

All the social political correctness rubbish fails to ignore the profit motive.

Just as Victoria Secret targets females, so do Game developers target surprise, surprise - gamers.

Both groups targeted want a good product, both do not want a political correctness lecture.


bourne714
bourne714

Mass Effect 4 vs Cyber Punk 2077 and The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt vs Dragon Age Inquisition!  God help me if they release a new Fallout alongside any of those.  I'm going to love rotting away getting all drunk and smelly for days on end playing these games LMAO!  Gonna be good times....

ptown58
ptown58

In full agreement with M.H., love all M.E. (next please)

Intellijosh
Intellijosh

You just worry about making an ending that doesn't ruin your entire franchise in 5 minutes please.

perphektxero
perphektxero

My response to him is to stop trying to tell others how to make their video games, and make one himself if its that important to him.

Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

I just wish all main characters could have a customizable race. I'm so tired of playing as a white guy (Nathaniel Drake, Last of Us guy, Far Cry 3 guy, Batman, Deus Ex, Dishonored, Hitman guy, Max Payne, Red Faction guy, Shadow Warrior guy, etc, etc., etc,). And these are just a few.

joshua2415_8887
joshua2415_8887

I have a brilliant idea.  You read your market and make a game that you think people will want to pay you millions of dollars for.  If we like it, we'll buy it.  If we don't like it, we won't.  Stop trying to tell us why we should buy games we may not want to just because "we need to move past current archetypes" or "it's only 45 minutes long but hours and hours and hours of hard work went into thinking it up and designing it".  You are selling video games. The most luxurious of all items. Something that is literally used to waste time and nothing more. Mere entertainment.  Stop trying to tell us how we should be entertaining ourselves and still expect us to pay for it. Sounds too much like the government.  

Sarcasm101
Sarcasm101

You know I have to say this is a bit hypocritical of Bioware. I mean during the development of The Old Republic, the fans were crying out for the ability to be one of the many races represented in the Star Wars universe, including the non human looking races and BW said they were not going to do that because the players would not be able to "relate" to the characters. Isn't that a form of stereotyping?

kkrakhed
kkrakhed

Welcome to the day when personal agenda got in the way of making a game FUN.  This game needs something....just can't quite figure....i know!....boobies!  Everyone loves boobies right?  Do it!  ;]

Afonsop
Afonsop

Yes they need to reboot and change that stupid ending!!!!

Oakspear
Oakspear

I've got an idea: How about focusing on make fun, entertaining games instead of using them as a platform for socio-political activism?

Seriously. BioWare is already getting a negative reputation for hitting players with heavy-handed social and political statements in their games, and I think that's going to hurt them in the long run. Heck, it's even making me think twice about getting the next Mass Effect game, and I consider myself a fan of the series.

SaudiFury
SaudiFury

I think this article does a poor job of showing what Mr. Heir was trying to convey. 


I strongly recommend to watch the Adam Sessler interview, especially all the way to the end to the last question he asks. Gives you much much better insight and clear argument as to what he is trying to make. and I personally think it's a perfectly understandable and reasonable argument. 



you can find it on Youtube at Rev3Games (in case Gamespot won't allow me to do a direct link) 


SaudiFury
SaudiFury

I think this article does a poor job of showing what Mr. Heir was trying to convey. 


I strongly recommend to watch the Adam Sessler interview, especially all the way to the end to the last question he asks. Gives you much much better insight and clear arguement as to what he is trying to make. and personally think it's a perfectly understandable and reasonable arguement. 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTy1SrUiW30

ghost59
ghost59

welcome to hell. i hope you have a lovely  time here. 

therealdravvar
therealdravvar

Ok, so maybe I've put way too much thought into this but here I go.


one thing I've learned in life, that really sucks but its life and we have to learn to grow up and deal with it, is that "life is high school". That means there will always be bullies, and there will always be stereo types, and their will always be stupid things that happen. That's not a good thing, but that's life sadly. When he talks about how its mankind social responsibility to reject all stereo types he is sadly delusional. Its a sad fact but there will always be stereotypes, but snowplow123 is correct in that if you create great characters you will overcome those stereotypes.


Also in Mass Effect didn't joker talk about how when you use stereotypes in your jokes you actually help connect with others? or something to that affect.


naymleswon
naymleswon

Videogames as an art form? sure, why not, I'd buy into that. But don't forget that video games are one of the only forms of media that we can interact with. Movies, books and comics are mostly a passive experience but video games, you can make your own stories (skyrim for example).

It's not like some Holy Crusade to change the minds of people, just make games that are fun and interesting and the people will come.

MN121MN
MN121MN

"I know there are others like me"


Assumption is the mother of all screw ups.

snowplow123
snowplow123

If you create proper and believable characters, then they'll naturally overcome the stereotypes.

Unfortunately, Bioware is so caught up in jamming LGBT characters into their games that it all comes off as amateurish and incompetent.

Also funny how they talk about stereotypes being bad when they made Dragon Age 2, a game with nothing but one dimensional stereotypes instead of characters.


Seriously, these guys have absolutely no authority to talk.


Triton
Triton

Its not Art , you are making Video GAMES for people to play. you are starting to sound like Hollywood along with their hidden agenda on what you try to sell as being"Normal". Just make makes, plain and simple.

domisbatman
domisbatman

Or be like South Park and embrace them , make sure no one is safe 

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Um, yeah? Is this "stereotypes are bad" thing new to anyone? 'Cause it shouldn't be.

Bioware, actually *do* this stuff and stop posturing.

timtedtomtod
timtedtomtod

Most of these comments are so lame and depressing, they can be summarized as:  

"Don't make me think!" 

"Don't make me relate to people that aren't like me!"

"Why can't we just have 'normal' games?"

Deano
Deano

what is he even complaining about, in mass effect shepard can be any race, sex or orientation, how much more do you want. 

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

But I don't want to have sexual intercourse with a Krogan

HipHopBeats
HipHopBeats

Political corrective at it's finest. Instead of making the game they want to make, they are more concerned with appealing to crybaby groups and playing it safe. Expect to see a male homosexual Krogan and Salarian couple next time around.

whynotdairy
whynotdairy

Stereotypes are the benchmarks of media. DISCRIMINATION is not. Stereotypes provide predictable and reliable standards for stories and storytelling. 


Stock characters are stereotypes. The action hero, the victim, the villian, etc. 


I am not saying all action heroes have to be certain genders, races, etc.But they must conform to STEREOTYPES to be recognizable, relateable. Most game developers don't have the proper understanding of the concepts they are trying to win sales for by talking about them. 

virtualskill
virtualskill

Please keep your Liberalism and politics in general out of video games. The character "diversity" can be achieved by adding cool new Alien races with rich back-stories. No need to create a homosexual Mexican transvestite just to be "creative & different".

gawdzila
gawdzila

@slackrabbitFirst of all, likening games to lingerie is an extremely poor comparison that fails on so many levels as to make it worthless.  The point being made here is that pandering to stereotypes *doesn't* make the game any better -- in fact it doesn't even necessarily make the game closer to "what people want".  You can eschew stereotypes and be more imaginative and the product will not suffer for it -- in fact it will improve.

godfather830
godfather830

@Oakspear Bingo. And now I consider myself a very liberal guy, but I don't want forced political statements in my games.

Oakspear
Oakspear

And understand this: Video games are art, and as such, they can be used for many different purposes (entertainment, activism, education, expression, etc.) But when you're in the entertainment industry and are making art for the purpose of entertainment, you run the risk of alienating your audience/market when you start inserting activism into your work. And I'm not just talking about those who disagree with what you're advocating, but also those who simply want to be entertained and see less entertainment value in your work because its shift in focus.

naymleswon
naymleswon

@hippiesanta That some scrary shit right there. it's like having intercourse with a bulgy crocodile :P

kukumav
kukumav

and why not? they've been appealing to rednecks like you for centuries.

Cloud_imperium
Cloud_imperium

@virtualskill Exactly . Game industry is going down the drain . Instead of improving things that really matter (like gameplay) , everyone is trying too hard to be controversial . They are distracting gamers from real issues like season passes , DRM , DLCs , paid demos , Copy paste gameplays , dumbed down experience and so on .

perphektxero
perphektxero

@nekoceko @perphektxeroHow? Its important to him, so he should be one to do it.  Game companies shouldn't make games to change the thoughts and beliefs of everyone because a person or a group of people think its right.  Games should be fun, tell a story, not throwing all that out to make political statements.

LesserAngel
LesserAngel

@kukumav Calling someone a redneck because they don't agree with you despite that you know nothing else about them, how stereotypical of you.

naymleswon
naymleswon

@kukumav wouldn't it be awesome if in the next mass effect you can select a alien race that you want to play.

perphektxero
perphektxero

@nekoceko  Its not, I don't want real life politics taking over my gaming.  Saying art or games without any type of social issues is mindless is stupid.

nekoceko
nekoceko

@perphektxero @nekoceko That's rubbish. Games, just like any art form, should reflect society and social issues. Maybe you like mindless games that you just play for "fun", but not everyone plays games for that. Everything Heir said is truth and there's nothing wrong in educating other game developers.