Earlier this month, a recently hired Naughty Dog employee recalled how their interview with the company went, via a thread on Twitter. The thread resonated with people and soon went viral, with multiple mainstream media publications covering it. Read the thread for yourself:

Boon Cotter, the aforementioned employee went for an interview with a company he never expected to be hired by. When Naughty Dog asked him why he wanted to work for them, he started off with a fairly generic answer about how they were the best but he cut himself short. The rest went as follows:

“But then I stopped and said… “Ugh. No. It’s Bill (from TLoU).” and everyone looked at me with this kind of bemused curiosity. I told them it was the first time I’d seen a gay man portrayed as this gruff, masculine, tragically heroic type of character. He wasn’t a punchline to a joke. He wasn’t overtly stereotypical. A lot of players didn’t even pick up that he was gay. I told them that I saw myself represented for the first time. A burly, hairy, daddy bear character, a guy I respected and understood. That made me fall in love with everyone here. And telling them that made me start crying.”

For Cotter, the moral of the story was to never underestimate authenticity; To be raw, to be vulnerable and to be real because that is how you allow your true self to come out and that is what people want to see. However, his story also unwittingly showed the power that comes from being represented in an industry that you’re passionate about and love.

A slowly changing tide

Despite countless articles being written on the importance of representation, not just in the gaming industry, it is still a hotly contested issue. Some feel it doesn’t matter as much as people make it out to. Others say that they never pay attention to the character that they play and so it’s not a big deal. Others still, suggest that people are being overly sensitive about worrying about the character they are playing and whether protagonists in gaming overall are diverse or not.

Despite some pushback, many in the gaming industry have embraced the importance of accurate representation and the tide is slowly but surely changing. Whilst there is still a long way to go, there is definitely progress being made. Voices, very much like Boon Cotter, are being heard and the industry is responding. There are so many aspects of the gaming industry, be it the games themselves to the esports communities being fostered, that understand the impact of fair representation and are striving to do it justice.

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There was Watch Dogs 2, which had a black man as a protagonist. It was apt that the police brutality in the game was directed at a black at a time when America was dealing with growing violence against people of colour from its police force.

Overwatch is often championed as an ideal for all games to strive for in terms of representation in its cast. The game goes further than that however, with its esports scene making diversity equally as important in its competitive scene with its World Cup allowing opportunities for countries all over the world to compete and represent on the global stage. As a country still trying to punch above its weight in the competitive scene, this is an opportunity South Africa can truly appreciate, despite not qualifying this year.

Riot Games’ League of Legends is another esports scene that has gone a long way in creating an inclusive scene that allows opportunities for smaller regions to have representation on the global stage. It may still have a long way in regards to having a net as wide as Overwatch, Riot Games has put in a lot of time and effort to develop smaller regions and with countries such as Brazil, Russia and Turkey, just to name a few, seeing representation in the annual Worlds Championship, Riot’s efforts are seeing encouraging results.

Whilst the game hasn’t come out yet, Far Cry 5 is a highly anticipated game that has already seen polarising discussions with its narrative set to tackle the issue of Christian extremism. What’s equally as compelling for this game is the cast the trailer highlighted showcasing so much diversity. Seeing such varied representation in AAA games is encouraging as it shows the gaming industry is listening and making the right changes.

From Mafia 3 to Nier Automata to Horizon Zero Dawn, more and more games are doing right and it’s something the gaming industry as a whole should be proud of. It shouldn’t mean we need to be complacent but it is important to acknowledge it.

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The power of representation

Representation has so much power and when it is allowed to flourish, it can have a massive impact and create positive change. One only needs to look at the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene and the rise of the Brazilian team SK Gaming (formerly Luminosity Gaming) and to a lesser degree Immortals and how that brought with it a rush of fans and support from the Brazilian community. It gave them teams to cheer for and players to relate to. League of Legends experienced a similar experience when the first Brazilian team, KaBum! e-Sports, attended the Worlds Championship in 2014 due to the International Wildcard format.

It breaks down stereotypes and cultivates cultural acceptance and understanding. Women are no longer seen as the damsels in distress in every game, a trope that is harmful and wholly inaccurate. Franchises such as Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge dispelled such tropes and showed that women are powerful in their own right.

Proper representation in gaming exposes people to cultures they may not have known about or had negative views of. The relatively small furore over the Middle Eastern map in Overwatch called Oasis was an illustration of the cultural intolerance in some parts of gaming culture which is fostered when it caters to a small minority. Counter-Strike is currently dealing with its own clash of cultures as the Brazilian community continues to grow and the intolerance shown towards them increases in size. Whilst the conflicts can get ugly and the “them versus us” mentality makes for horrific reading on social media, these meetings of cultures is what is needed for a more inclusive and understanding community overall.

The list is endless on the significance of representation. The voices it gives to the voiceless, how it forces people to confront their biases and their own flaws, the inclusive environment it creates and so forth. Gaming has come a long way and whilst there is still a lot to do, stories like those of Boon Cotter are proof that the power of representation is being understood and the results are beautiful to see.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: September 19, 2017

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Cool piece, Glenn!

    I’m really glad to see far more nuanced & well developed characters in games, especially in story reliant ones, it makes the whole experience more fun & immersive overall. It’s very cool when you can identify with something a character displays or speaks to you on a personal level.

  • Nice one Glen bud!

  • Magoo
  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    WHEN ARE WE GOING TO SEE PEOPLE OF INDIAN DESCENT FAIRLY REPRESENTED IN EVERYTHING???>>>???>?>?>??>>?>?

    Oh wait. Nobody cares.

    • BradeLunner

      The Accountant.

      • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

        I enjoyed that movie but don’t pay attention to the skin colour of characters, so I can’t recall any indian people in that movie.

        More importantly, how much vitriol have you received for your user name and profile picture from oversensitive internet underlings? lol

  • konfab

    The stupid thing about identity politics is you can never, ever have enough representation. The developers/directors will always be leaving out some group/identity. Because you can infinitely subdivide these identity groups. A perfect example is the always increasing list of “persecuted” groups . So before it was just LGB, then T got added, then QQI and so on.

    So lets say the LGBT representation is fully there, then you are going to see the black-gay-trans-fat group complain about not being represented.

    The real funny thing is that the evil, western patriarchy as already solved this problem. It is called individualism. Which means you judge people and characters as individuals. But this isn’t good enough because it pulls a pillar out of the cultural marxist ideologies.

    • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

      I agree with this, hence you are right. If I don’t, you are a stupid bigoted fascist and you must rot in hell. Only my close-minded opinions count!!!!

      I’m off to organize a protest. Who’s joining?


      What are we protesting again?

  • Sageville

    I think my biggest eye-opener was a video clip of a celebrity lady speaking about how Wonder Woman was special to her *(I kick myself I can’t find the video now), but basically she said something along the lines of:

    “Now I understand why boys love superhero movies so much. It’s because they can see themselves as that hero. Until now I had never experienced this, girls never used to have such characters to emulate and it’s important that they do.”

    I think representation is all about putting yourself in other people’s shoes *(As with most things), take a moment to reflect how others, those not like you, would be able to emulate a character in your favorite medium, are there any cool characters for them to emulate and look up to? This is important when I look at my life and the characters that have influenced it.

    I dunno, it just got me thinking.

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