EA says LGBT inclusivity is good for business

At the GaymerX conference, EA employees spoke frankly about why making games LGBT-inclusive fails to hurt sales, and how positive feedback could convince executives to allow it more often.

13

While being inclusive may sound like an entirely social agenda, it's quite friendly to capitalism too. EA employees spoke about LGBT issues in games at GaymerX over the weekend, and said that appealing to a broader audience doesn't hurt the bottom line.

David Gaider, a narrative lead at BioWare, cited Dragon Age 2's same-sex romance options as an example. He says they didn't feel the inclusion affected sales at all, because at the very least it was a wash between pro- and anti-LGBT fans. "Say a fan said on the forums they weren't going to pick it up because they were offended," said Gaider. "Another fan would say they bought the game because they heard it had that feature. That's the sort of language companies listen to."

Community manager Jessica Merizan pointed out that the executives in charge aren't bigots, just capitalists. "Not only are they capitalists, they're copycats," Gaider told the audience (via Gamasutra). "Nothing is going to change so quickly as when some indie game breaks out and sells so many copies." For this reason, the panel encouraged fans to vote with their wallets, putting money into inclusive indie games and abstaining from buying games that may encourage a more close-minded agenda.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 7, 2013 11:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, EA says LGBT inclusivity can be good business sense.

    At the GaymerX conference, EA employees spoke frankly about why making games LGBT-inclusive fails to hurt sales, and how positive feedback could convince executives to allow it more often.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 11:07 AM

      People are more likely to buy a game they feel included in and marketed to? You don't say.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 12:16 PM

      Actually, making a game more inclusive, trying to include something for everybody and not offend anybody is actually VERY bad. It ALWAYS lead to a dumbed down generic gaming experience...you know, like just about every EA game that has come out. I am not against including gay/bi or anything like that, but do it in a way thats realistic and not lazy or feel trying to pander. Dragon Ag2 and the mass effect series show the WRONG way to do. By having EVERYONE be bisexual, it just became a bad joke and unbelievable. They should spent time to have had some characters be gay and other be strait. That would have been at least more realistic.

      As for David Gaider, Anybody who has followed this guy will realize he is an ass. He still believes dragon age 2 is the best thing ever and everybody who disagrees is a idiot. He likes to hide behind inclusiveness when anybody criticizes his work and accuse people of being bigots/X(insert whatever here)-ists to deflect from how bad his games is. At one game conference, he was supposed to talk about dragon age 3, instead he went on this tripe about women in gaming. Why? Not because he believes any of the shit, but because he obviously did not want to answer question about how they have learned about dragon age 2 mistakes...which would mean admitting the game was bad.

      Actually I should say this isn't just his, but EA policy now. Any critizism and they suddnely throw the gay/women in games card up to deflect. Do not believe it has anything to do with them actually being nice.

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 12:43 PM

        While I'll agree with some of your points, EA has done a whole lot of "actually nice" things for the community (the most recent example would be raising $18K for AIDs foundations by taking part in the 2013 AIDS Walk San Francisco last month). Also, beyond the protagonist, they no longer make all characters bisexual. They recognized the flaws to that system in regards to representation, and now each character has a set sexuality.

        • reply
          August 7, 2013 12:46 PM

          And making games inclusive doesn't always lead to a generic or diluted experience. That only happens when it's not done well. That doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage developers from trying. It means we should provide criticism while encouraging them to keep trying to improve.

          • reply
            August 7, 2013 2:18 PM

            I would say most things they do to include the LGBT community, like same partner relations in the Mass Effect series, wind up being accidental satire.

            • reply
              August 7, 2013 3:31 PM

              Sounds like they're on par with the straight relationships, then.

              Relationships in Bioware games were always hilariously bad.

      • reply
        August 9, 2013 5:13 AM

        "Dragon Ag2 and the mass effect series show the WRONG way to do. By having EVERYONE be bisexual, it just became a bad joke and unbelievable. They should spent time to have had some characters be gay and other be strait. That would have been at least more realistic."

        This is precisely what I think they did WRONG.

        Especially in a game where you're dealing with Sci-Fi and fantasy. Who's to say that in such realities sexual orientation would mean anything.

        In a game environment where characters *can* be romanced, I believe you should be able to romance whatever characters you want.

        I think they should just make it 'harder' or more 'intricate' if you want to romance a character, that maybe they didn't intend you to be able to. Anything from a ritual, to just putting more effort or frequency into conversation.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 2:08 PM

      Good ole corporate America. Doing the right things but for the wrong reasons. If the situation were reversed and they could instead make more profit by being bigots, they'd do that too.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 2:13 PM

      " For this reason, the panel encouraged fans to vote with their wallets, putting money into inclusive indie games and abstaining from buying games that may encourage a more close-minded agenda."

      That has got to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

      So now any game that doesn't include some form of GLBT has a "close minded agenda"?

      All games must now include every sexual preference, every race, every religion, every creed, every type of disease or disability, etc, otherwise they are have evil intentions!

      Ridiculous.

      And since when did games stop becoming about having fun and start becoming about pushing some sort of political agenda?

      So.... I have a question for these guys... Why not make the inclusion of GLBT a user configurable option?

      Just add a little check box beneath the swear filter option and the gore option to disable GLBT romances.

      That way the people that want to partake - can, and the people that don't want to don't have it forced on them.

      What's that you say? If you give people an option to disable it goes against YOUR agenda? Oh the irony...sir.

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 2:51 PM

        Agree, that was the utmost hair-brained comment, and is nothing more than pathetic EA marketing speak, attempting to manipulate people into buying their games out of principal, and not buying their competitors'.

        DO WHAT THEY SAY: Vote with your wallet, and refuse to purchase EA games on the grounds that they stoop to such miserable lows to pimp out their products and undermine their high-quality competitors. EA, your trash talk and vain morals are not needed.

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 3:57 PM

        Encouraging people to buy games that align with their values is perfectly reasonable. Also, it's not at all clear that they're saying games that avoid sexuality entirely are closed-minded.

        Games are about fun. Some people have more fun if they can identify with the characters they play. Providing the option for them to make in-game choices in that direction isn't a bad thing.

        Why make it a configuration choice? You already get to choose through what actions your character takes/the choices you make. There's no good reason to (1) force LGBT players to opt-in to having characters have the option to be like them or (2) allow other players to completely avoid exposure to the topic. The shouldn't make a config option that assumes (by default) that everyone is straight and wants to avoid any mention of an alternative. An option to completely avoid any sort of relationship stuff would be a better approach.

        When you say "forced on them," you make it sound like turning down an advance from a same-sex NPC is some huge burden. Please.

        • reply
          August 8, 2013 6:12 AM

          Why NOT make it a configuration choice? Many games already have swear filters that can be enabled/disabled, or gore filters that can be enabled/disabled.

          "They shouldn't make a config option that assumes (by default) that everyone is straight "

          So you want them to assume (by default) that every one is gay? According to most numbers, approximately 3% of the US population is LGBT. So you're telling me that we should cater to the 3% and ignore the 97%?

          " allow other players to completely avoid exposure to the topic. "

          And this is really what the issue is about. It's not that the LGBT community wants to have content catered to their sexual preference, it's that they want it forced on individuals who don's share that same view point in some hopes of justifying their lifestyle.

          • reply
            August 8, 2013 3:13 PM

            You're way off base. As has already been said, getting an in-game choice whether or not to flirt with a same-sex character alongside choices to flirt with opposite-sex characters isn't assuming anything about sexuality. Giving options to flirt with only opposite-sex characters is making an assumption that everyone is straight; and that's a bad thing. As far as I can tell, no one has ever suggested *only* giving players the option to flirt with same-sex characters. If they did, that would actually fit your argument about catering to a minority. But as I said, no one ever did that. You're saying that giving players a choice to have a gay character (at the same time as they get choices to have a straight character) is *forcing* homosexuality on everyone. That's a laughable statement. You just seem unusually uncomfortable with any exposure to anything but heterosexuality. That's your problem, not ours. Feel free to not buy games that let gay characters out of the closet.

            • reply
              August 9, 2013 10:18 AM

              You conveniently keep side stepping the question while throwing up smoke screens.

              Why should it not be a user configurable option?

              If someone doesn't want to be exposed to swear words, most games have a profanity filter.

              If someone doesn't want to be exposed to blood/gore, most games have a gore filter.

              Nobody is having parades because Germany & Australia have tight censorship laws on violent video games even though scientific studies have proven that violent video games do not create criminals.

              How are you specifically, or the LGBT crowd being affected if I would like to play through a game without the option of same sex relationships?

              This is like arguing that some great injustice is being done because Commander Shepard is not in a wheel chair even though 3% of Americans use one. OH the inhumanity!

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 4:10 PM

        For rpg's that focus on letting the player create their avatar's looks, behavior and eventual story I'd say the designers should strive to give as many of these options to the player as possible/feasible.

        For games with a fixed protagonist, the character should be whatever the designers feel is appropriate.

        For games with a silent and passive protagonist, who the fuck cares? They can be whatever you want them to be!

        For the first set, I don't see why it should be a configurable option. You can't walk through life with the LGBT flag set to false. Assuming you're a dude, if some other dude hits on you, you reply with "Sorry, I'm not gay" and move on. Do the same thing in the game. Big deal, no harm done.

        Now, what would be hilarious is if there was a homophobe option where you could punch the gay guy in the face, but with the consequences of your friends abandoning you for being a bigoted prick. You'd spend the rest of the game alone, unable to complete the simplest of missions, until the Reapers destroy all life in the universe all because of your unjustified, ignorant prejudice.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 2:47 PM

      I really wish that games would cease to be political soapboxes. Having lame-ass and token romance portions that do nothing to help a game but just provide distractions are not all that much better than stripped content being sold later as DLC. They both take up development time, and are solely for the purchase of a quick and cheap buck.

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 4:29 PM

        Says the person that likely already has games that cater to them. For gamers that aren't straight white dudes, it's not a political soapbox to get a quick buck. It's a developer recognizing that they have a larger consumer base than they are marketing to and making efforts to change that. Thinking that something isn't a problem because it's not a problem for you it the epitome of privilege. If you don't want to play games with romantic subplots, you don't have to, but please don't dictate what developers should do for the rest of us.

    • reply
      August 7, 2013 6:32 PM

      Some pretty disgusting responses in this thread but I guess that is par for the course given the topic. I am glad that EA promotes a culture of inclusiveness internally and that that culture is reflected in some of EA's games. Still, contrary how some might interpret this article, developers at EA aren't making progressive choices in their games for cynical business reasons and the relative rarity of those choices among AAA games should be evidence enough of that.

      • reply
        August 7, 2013 9:10 PM

        I didn't notice any particularly disgusting responses. Most seem pretty thoughtful. Especially considering the topic.