This is a guest post from POC in Play. Content Warning: Discussions around racism and hate crime
What is #StopAsianHate and why is it trending right now?
The Coronavirus pandemic, which started at the beginning of 2020, and still persists today across most of the world, has been an incredibly trying time for us all. Without a doubt, this has also led to a significant increase in the levels of inequality we see through society.
Due to discrimination, racial minorities have for generations seen disproportionate effects of negative social determinants such as hate crime, policing, quality of education, healthcare and more.
As the World Economic Forum reports: “Women, alongside the poor, elderly, disabled and migrant populations, have borne the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic. Minorities have been hit harder and are recovering more slowly from the downturn.” Based on the knowledge we have; this is an unsurprising yet still very urgent situation to tackle.
When the pandemic began, early links were made to China as the potential source of the outbreak. Whilst scientists generally agree that the source of the outbreak was indeed Wuhan, China (where cases were first reported); this has become a new source of senseless anti-Asian hatred with very clear impact particularly in the western world, where Asian people live as part of minority communities across Europe, Oceania and the Americas.
An increasing number of violent attacks against East Asian people in particular has been recorded over the past year, but the shocking murder of eight people including six East Asian women across three spa parlours in Atlanta, USA, this became the catalyst for a viral movement on social media with the hashtag #StopAsianHate. The intention being to raise visibility about the very real dangers East Asian people face at this time in addition to being a way to bring together resources and tangible actions that the whole global community can get behind.
What is the history of this form of discrimination?
In the UK, anti-Asian hate crime has seen a significant spike since the pandemic started, where according to the Metropolitan Police, a single month in the first quarter of 2020 saw more than 350 per cent rise in such incidents compared to any month in 2019.
Like all forms of discrimination, anti-Asian discrimination has a long and complicated history. This history of course has implications relevant to the situation today. One example of this would be the mass deportation of Chinese seamen after World War II, this was due to widely recognised discrimination against Chinese people and perceived suitability for their place in British society. The result was hundreds of separated families with implications for years to come.
Similarly, in the United States during this period; Japanese-American civilians were indiscriminately held at internment camps, as retaliation for the involvement of the Japanese government in World War II.
Discrimination from this period and generations prior have not simply disappeared over the years. It has contributed to a frame-work by which hatred, distrust and violence against East Asian people is continually perpetuated to this day.
How it affects games industry people and the wider community
In the video games industry, we are a close-knit community of incredibly creative people, with a true passion for our craft and entertaining the general public via the world’s biggest entertainment medium. However, we are also very much part of wider society.
It must be appreciated however that marginalised people carry a weight with them every day. A weight of experience, of expectation and of hypervisibility. With this in mind, imagine how a person already experiencing negative outcomes due to their background may feel when seeing very public expressions of violence against those who look like them.
But for many, this is not just something happening to someone else on TV, or the internet, it’s happening to them too when they walk down the street or turn up to work.
It should be considered how cultural aspects of our industry may also cause issues of inclusivity. For example, because drinking and pub culture play a central role in the UK games industry in terms of networking, team building, and idea pitching, many Asians who suffer from alcohol flush reactions, sometimes referred to as Asian flush, are placed at a disadvantage.
They are either excluded from these activities if they don’t want to experience the uncomfortable symptoms or don’t want to be seen having the physical reaction or persist in participation, often receiving ridicule or mockery.
Responsibility of Games Companies
As previously stated, the video games industry is the world’s largest entertainment industry, vastly exceeding film, TV and music. Along with impressive revenue statistics, video games have long had a significant cultural impact with majorities of several populations actively participating in gaming.
The internet and social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and Twitter. This has meant not only has the influence of the medium only grown stronger, along with game studios’ connection with the players.
With this in mind, video games companies need to make a visible stand against anti-Asian hatred across every available platform they command.
Practical advice for Employers
We’ve spoken about the external declarations of support games companies can do relatively easily but we must remember they are employers with accountability to their staff too. If you are an employer there are some practical things you can do to support your staff who may be struggling at this time:
Internal policies on racism and discrimination and grievance process
• Letting employees know where you stand on the important issues can be a great source of reassurance.
• This also means being vigilant about anti-Asian sentiment in internal chat spaces.
Access to counselling & mental health support
• There are a number of organisations that can provide access to services such as counselling, stress management and mindfulness.
Internal mental health first aider
• Mental health first aid training is a great way to ensure a dedicated person(s) can be the point of contact for anyone who is struggling at work.
Flexible time off / rest days
• Consider offering time off for those who are going through a difficult time in the form of compassionate leave.
Consider offers of subsidised/safe transport for individuals at risk of violence when travelling to the office
• This can be a temporary measure if your staff are being asked to visit during the pandemic.
Wider context / Advice for representation in games
Representation matters. We have previously discussed the broad cultural impact of video games. One of the biggest ways in which this impact can be shown is via the on screen representation of characters, cultures and stories.
Games studios have a responsibility to ensure that depictions of people and societies do not lean on stereotypes or eurocentric ideologies. Some examples include:
• POC should not appear in games simply as mythical or magical others.
• Be mindful of casting dark skinned minorities as being exclusively from deprived backgrounds or villains.
• Avoid common stereotypes such as a submissive or ‘dutiful’ Asian woman included only to support white male characters. Silent Asian characters or the ‘martial artist’ are also commonly overused.
• Non English languages and languages using non-Latin alphabets should be displayed correctly and should not be used only to create a sense of exoticism or discomfort for the player.
Representation behind the scenes is equally important and when proper input is allowed from team members and consultants of diverse backgrounds, many of these incorrect or stereotypical depictions may be avoided.
Advice on Hiring
Improving hiring practices in order to build a more diverse & inclusive environment is something that every game studio should aim to do. A few areas we commonly remind employers to think about:
• Job advertisements should aim to reach as a broad and audience as possible. Hiring should not be focussed only on the personal networks of a few people.
• Make entry requirements fair and realistic. “5 shipped games” for a mid-level role would put off most candidates, but people from marginalised backgrounds are even less likely to apply. Those from sectors outside the video games industry, where representation may be higher, could be completely ruled out even if they are qualified.
• Interview processes should be structured and consistent. Where possible diversity in interviewers and rounds designed to reduce bias should be considered.
• Avoid cultural stereotyping in roles. East Asian people are underrepresented in creative roles in the UK video games industry for example. Consider how stereotypical ideas of subjects or roles an East Asian person may be ‘good at’ could affect hiring decisions.
POC in Play is an independent organisation creating a range of initiatives and programmes of events designed to increase the visibility and representation of People of Colour in the video games industry. We aim to work with industry, educators and other diversity organisations to create more opportunities for all.
For more information and support visit: https://www.pocplay.org