CREATING AND ANALYZING VALUES, ETHICS, AND INCLUSIVE DESIGN IN ENVIRONMENTAL STORYTELLING FOR VIDEO GAMES
Video game studies pertaining to representations of gender, race, culture, and sexuality are commonly discussed in relation to the characters, narrative, or gameplay mechanics. Video game environments are often left out of these discussions as most publications focus on how the environment was created and environmental storytelling. In this pilot study the researcher had participants analyze and discuss three futuristic, dystopian environments that contained alternative ways of representing gender, race, culture, and sexuality. The environments did not have gameplay or character interactions so that the player could focus on the environment. Results indicated that futuristic dystopian environments do not need to rely on stereotypes and harmful depictions to evoke core themes, even if they relate to violence, sex, oppression, or addiction. However, a lack of representation or a “neutral” take on representating gender, race, sexuality, and culture results in world that feels bland, isolated, and unnatural. Additionally, while participants disagreed on certain representations or noticed different aspects of the environments, the researcher found that focusing on “playtesting” just the environment can reveal how certain values, themes, and representations arise out of prop repetition, prop juxtaposition, and even how the player moves physically through the space.