The Games Institute acknowledges that we are living and working on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (also known as Neutral), Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.
Elaine Gómez-Sanchez, founder of LatinX in Gaming, spoke about how creative works have the power to uplift individuals or destroy years of activist work through the perpetuation of stereotypical perceptions. In an ideal world, as a collective, we could share the burdens together through processes that are inclusive, mindful, and authentic, but the gravity and pressure of these responsibilities often falls heavily on marginalized creatives. The more we understand each other's experiences, history, and backgrounds, the more impactful our work will be.
Watch the lecture:
|Genuine & Mindful Inclusion: The understanding and acknowledgement of everything (e.g., cultural values, material hardships, and other lived experiences) a marginalized person carries, which is necessary for marginalized people to thrive in a given environment.||Mentorship: guidance from someone with similar lived experience who can help, discuss, and advise you through to your goals. Mentors can be difficult to find because marginalized people in senior positions often juggle multiple responsibilities.||Representation: describes the quantity and quality that people, and especially people from marginalized backgrounds, are present in both media and entertainment products and the industries and organizations that create them.|
In this talk, Elaine Gómez-Sanchez shows how genuine inclusion and cultural appreciation in game development and other creative endeavours creates opportunities for meaningful representation that impacts the games we play, our workplaces, and our everyday lives. She discusses her own lived experience as a Latina game developer, describing how Latinx representation in games is lacking, both behind the scenes and in the final product. Starting from the premise that gaming has the power to counter the perpetuation of stereotypical perceptions, she discusses how games can be designed in more uplifting ways. By understanding one another’s experiences, histories, cultural experiences and backgrounds, Gómez-Sanchez argues, we can shape creative decision making in games development to be more inclusive, mindful, and authentic.
Framework for Reaching Towards Genuine & Mindful Inclusion
The following framework is based upon Elaine Gómez-Sanchez’s “impact manifested” exploration of how one can reach genuine and mindful including within creative works, such as games. Take 10-15 minutes to reflect on each section and let Gómez-Sanchez's examples guide your reflection on to reaching for genuine & mindful inclusion.
(A) Identify what you carry and bring into your work
As Gómez-Sanchez explains it, what you carry influences your perceptions, commitments, and lived experience. Figuring out what you carry is the first step of the critical analysis we need to do when going into a project. Some examples of what people carry are:
|Identity labels (both visible vs non-visible) These might be assigned to you (ascribed) or these might be a form of self-identification (avowed)||Expectations about how you will be treated and how you want to be treated|
|Affects such as biases, dreams, aspirations, and hopes||
Traumas (individual and/or historical)
Genuine & mindful representation and inclusion involves understanding all of what one carries.
(B) A pivoting point
A positive/negative event or experience that causes a push, change or realization in yourself that affects your creative work. Examples could be representation in media or encouraging remarks from a parent or loved one.
For Gómez-Sanchez, her pivoting point was in the form of mentorship from a Latinx games academic, Dr. Jose Sanchez. He was able to open doors to research and game design in ways that respected and acknowledged Elaine’s lived experience.
(C) Creativity as extension of self
Understand that creative works are informed by what the creators carry. No game or community is created without the influence of what we carry, as every person involved, both privileged and marginalized, carries something different. This is shapes how games and media represent marginalized people.
Representation can be positive or negative, as it depicts the creators’ values of that specific group they are representing. Often, creators are best able to offer positive and nuanced representation of their own communities. Since games are an interactive immersive experience, when a player can see what they carry in the game’s characters it can further immerse them in that experience.
When media is representing what you carry positively, it can give you the encouragement and motivation to create. The Pixar movie Coco gave Elaine motivation to put herself and what she carries in her creative work, producing more positive representations to inspire others.
Once you acknowledge that you put what you carry in your games and creative works, you can influence the implementation of genuine & mindful inclusion. This then potentially creates positive pivoting points for someone who plays the game. Additionally, your involvement behind the scenes is positive representation for others like you. You could be come a mentor for someone else!
For Gómez-Sanchez, she was influenced by positive representation and mentorship to co-found Latinx in Gaming. Through this organization, she speaks to students, government officials, parents. She now can become a pivoting point for others like her to participate in the game community.
Elaine Gómez-Sanchez, (She/Her)
Elaine Gómez-Sanchez, she/her, Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media and Games, from University of Southern California, Co-founder of Latinx in Gaming
Learn more about Elaine and her Projects.