Playstation, Xbox and the rest have a vital role in helping under-represented people form a sense of themselves. But is the industry doing enough?

When Katie Stone Perez’s daughter first tried to ride a two-wheel bicycle, the little girl took her Super Mario plush toy and put him in the basket on the front of the handle bars. Intrigued, Katie asked why the little plumber toy had to accompany her on the ride. “Because he taught me to never give up,” her daughter said.

Perez knows a thing or two about the power of video games as a reflective, empowering and emotional influence in the lives of players. While working as the senior program manager for Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, which seeks to support independent development on the console, she worked closely with Kenny Roy, creator of forthcoming puzzle platformer I, Hope. Aimed at children affected by cancer, it’s the story of a girl who must help defend her island home against a mysterious sickness. Perez also supported the launch of We Love Chicago, a narrative game about multiracial communities living in the city’s urban areas, and right now, she’s helping out at the Xbox-sponsored Girls Make Games, a three-week summer camp dedicated to teaching young women how to code and create video games. “Diversity within the games industry is incredibly important to me,” she says. “I think we need to back away from this focus on one type of consumer or one type of developer – some of my favourite gaming experiences come from really diverse creators.”

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