I have to say, I’m both gladdened and disheartened by the response to the formation of New Agenda Publishing, but not terribly surprised. The balance of the comments I’ve seen are positive, but there’s that small but vocal contingent.
You know the ones.
The ones who respond to criticisms about the lack of diversity in games (or anything really) with “why don’t you make your own thing!” or “it’s not the real world!” or “it’s just a game, let’s not drag politics into it!”
Well, now that we have made our own thing they’re crying “well diversity includes straight white guys too!” and “you’re being discriminatory against white dudes!” and “You must hate white dudes!” and my personal favorite “This must be a scam! Everyone knows women and black people don’t play RPGs! Just wait until they put out some crappy little PDF for a ton of money and then they’ll blame us for not buying it!”
Now look, no where have we said we’re not hiring anyone because they’re a straight white guy. No where have we said we hate them. Hell, I’m married to a straight white guy and I love him dearly.
That being said, these same people don’t bat an eye when another company is started with all white dudes at the helm. It’s just par for the course. And when they hire more white guys to work for them, there’s always the excuse of “well he’s just working with his buddies. If he knew of any good diverse designers he’d hire them.”
Good designers don’t grow on trees. I know tons of women and people of color who believe they can’t be a designer because they never get the same chance to even try that a mediocre white dude gets. That’s one of the reasons we started New Agenda, to give those designers a chance to get their work out into the world. To help them build a CV they can be proud to show another company.
And that old chestnut “I don’t care what they look like. I don’t care if they’re black, white, or purple as long as they make a good game” only holds up as long as they don’t know that the designer isn’t straight, white, and male. I’ve had so many people advise me to use an initial or a male sounding first name and not put up a picture if I wanted to be taken seriously in this business. Because the gatekeepers have decided that if you’re a white dude you get to fail all you want but if you’re not, not only can you not fail, but if you do, you’ll be held up as the example for why people like you aren’t worthy of being given a chance.
And it’s not just the gaming industry. Jennifer Garner in Electra is still being touted as the reason female led super hero movies can’t succeed while Ben Affleck has gone on to not only continue, but lead other superhero franchises after Daredevil.
The assembled team at New Agenda has already proven itself successful. We could easily have continued along our separate paths. By coming together we hope to do more, not just for ourselves and people of color, but for the industry as a whole.
And if that means we’re going to piss off some of the old guard, so be it.