Video games are increasingly embracing diversity


Model Winnie Harlow collaborated with ‘The Sims 4’ on its vitiligo skin feature. — AFP Relaxnews

Long dominated by white, heterosexual male characters, the world of video games is gradually embracing diversity. Henceforth, heroes are no longer just men with big muscles, offering a more representative reflection of human singularity and diversity.

Is the world of video games – and the toys and games sector in general – finally becoming more inclusive? Faced with different societal issues, video games have had to adapt their products to meet the expectations of today's consumers.

Recently, the video game The Sims 4 announced that it now features characters with vitiligo. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease characterised by a depigmentation of the skin, creating white patches.

Created in partnership with the model Winnie Harlow, who herself has had vitiligo since childhood, the update with this new option is completely free of charge. It offers various levels of vitiligo, with depigmented patches that can be placed on different parts of the body.

“As a child, I spent a lot of time playing The Sims and I think it’s so beautiful to be able to represent your true self in-game. This partnership is a powerful statement encouraging players to embrace what makes them unique – both in-game and in real life,” Harlow said in a statement.

Electronic Arts’ game previously offered an update in 2023 that enabled the creation of characters with disabilities. Players can, for example, personalise their “Sim” by adding a hearing aid or glucometer. They also have the option of creating non-binary or transgender characters, including surgical scars on the torso.

The aim of these new customisation options is to ensure that as many players as possible feel represented, and therefore seen and valued.

The power of representation

Barbie has already presented versions of the doll with vitiligo and alopecia. There are even Barbies in wheelchairs, with hearing aids or with Down syndrome. Such conditions and disabilities are now increasingly being embraced and celebrated, offering consumers a wider range of representations.

“This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them,” Kandi Pickard, National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) president and CEO, said at the time. “This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”

In addition to physically diverse characters, video games and toys are also focusing on more inclusive characters, highlighting a broader range of cultures, career perspectives and sexualities. And this inclusivity is already proving popular with consumers. This is reflected in the success of the TV adaptation of the video game The Last Of Us, with its heroine Ellie, played onscreen by non-binary actress Bella Ramsay.

The toy giant Mattel is committed to inclusion with the launch of a series of inspiring and diverse dolls. In addition to paying tribute to Chinese-American actress, Anna May Wong, with a Barbie in her likeness, the brand is shining the spotlight on exceptional women in various fields. Its 2023 “Career of the Year” collection, for example, highlights women in sports. – AFP Relaxnews

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