Why don't studios use consultants more offten?


#1

Too many time now games have either misrepresented cultures, minority groups, and political stances or didn’t fully understand certain subject matters. From Atlus’s bad gay characters, Mario wearing a “Mexican” outfit for “Fun”, and many more. It makes me wonder if these studios ever look to outside sources to see if these things are ok? Like is it hard to find a consultant to help with these projects? And do you think the internet, if that where they get their information instead of a consultant, is a good place to look?


#2

I suspect that most studios are behind the times (vs other areas of publising). They think that getting someone in to do a seminar for an afternoon is “more than enough” for what the project needs. At no point does it occur to the leads/hiring executives that their lack of diversity/failure to pay marginalised people a regular salary (plus having a culture of actually listening to/valuing that sort of input above established voices in the office) makes their staff incapable of actually handling that requirement for the project. That “culture fit” hiring practices have in fact ensured their team is unable to do the job.

I’d love to know how many games go through even a single full pass with sensitivity readers (which should be the minimum bar of consultation) vs how many hours it is put through testing for both bug-finding and user experience refinement (which do not have the primary goal of finding the things you mention).


#3

Getting your information from the internet is basically like getting your information from a person, in that it doesn’t really say much about how accurate or precise that information is. When searching online, just as with asking a person, it is important to know 1) what questions to ask and 2) who is a relevant or credible source.

I know that with novelists – at least in the world of fiction that isn’t afraid to admit to a genre – there has been an emerging use of sensitivity readers, although that isn’t some kind of magic bullet/get-out-of-criticism-free card.

That being said, considering how crap most writing in games seems to be, both on a narrative level and in terms of prose technique/wordcraft, it seems to me that big studios simply just do not prioritize quality of writing.


#4

They did this with the Killer Instinct reboot when they redesigned Thunder. The original version simply wouldn’t fly these days for very obvious reasons (Literal red-skin for one). So they consulted with a tribe based in Idaho to get the original look at the game launch. Then came back later and did an even more accurate look when they had time along with making a new Native American character, Eagle. It’s really interesting how they approached it and came up with accurate stories and lore in a genre that typically used to be light on back story. Another example Iron Galaxy mentioned on stream is that their motion capture actress for Kim-Wu had Korean and Chinese heritage so they asked her if they could model the in game character on her as they wanted to express the backstory (Rare was making things up as they went along in 1997, so they fixed a lot of it since the original Kim Wu was Korean but spoke Chinese and had a “Dragon Spirit”. Oh dear). Going the extra mile and putting effort into accurate backstories and historical research for a game where a genetically modified Dinosaur wrecks a cyborg from the future is pretty amazing.


#5

I’m willing to bet that studios use consultants way more than you think. There is probably no part of any AAA game that isn’t touched by a consultant. What you’re specifically asking about though is about consultants with a focus on political correctness or cultural acceptance. I suspect that the cost is higher than the perceived value, or there could be a lack of consultants in that area of expertise; the tech sector isn’t exactly well known for it’s diversity.


#6

Well part of it is I suspect that Atlus and Nintendo being Japanese companies just don’t care. In the case of Horizon Zero Dawn I suspect it was a case of caring only enough to feel like they had checked the proper boxes and could dismiss further criticisms.

And ultimately it dosn’t seem to really matter. Whenever this happens the most you ever really see is talk of how unfortunate it is and we sure hope they do better next time and it never has a real impact on sales so they never have to actually care outside of some rare cases.


#7

I think @Shivoa hit the nail on the head with their suspicion. In Switzerland we don’t use the word race (or Rasse), which makes it very difficult to address racism when it’s happening. I work at one of the biggest telecommunication companies in the country and had to call H.R. because some of my co-workers keep saying homophobic and racist things. Fortunately the H.R. manager never doubted me, when I told her what happened, but then she told me the following:

We have some experts when it comes to general mobbing and unfortunately a lot of experiences with cases concerning sexual harassment. However, neither I, nor any other person in (the entirety) of our H.R. departement have knowledge on how to handle “cultural differences.” (quotes mine) Since you have more experience on the topic then me, I will support what ever course of action you wish to take in this instance.

I offered to give her some tips for future workshops and sensitivity training on dealing with racism in the workplace. She gladly accepted and we’re going to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss further actions.

My guess is that big corporations and their execs know that controversies rarely affect their bottom line, so they prefer to ride it out and potentially miss out on all the revenue that could be generated by being more inclusive from the very begining.


#8

That’s really hard to determine. You can tell what sales you get with an approach, but it’s nearly impossible to measure the potential sales lost from people who are put off by it.