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Diversity in Games: In our lives, we play Metal Gear Solid

I work in a building that requires us to walk almost a mile to get to the office. It's a nice incentive to stay fit, but this week I have a hard time with that walk. I live with mild cerebral palsy; and while I like to downplay my condition, it often catches up with me. Over the last weekend, I went on a fitness binge and walked and ran for miles. The result, I limp and wince since that big push. I do this to myself, because on a weekly basis I grow tired of just relaxing and playing 3DS in bed. I need to stay active. I need to fight, or CP will catch up with me (worse than it has).

On Monday, I fake normalcy pretty well. I maintain a quick a gait as possible. I grin to hide the winces. Tuesday, my boss instant messages me. It's time to go to the cafeteria for lunch which in my condition is a bit of a haul. "I'm sorry," I message back. "I'm pretty slow today. I'm having trouble walking." My boss expresses surprise, did I hurt myself? "No, I don't really think I brought this up outside of my papers with HR, but I was born with mild cerebral palsy. I'm sorry. I just don't want to be treated differently. Don't want to be this bunch of problems."

Anna Anthropy's Dys4ia expresses a transsexual autobiography through the gameplay of Nintendo's Warioware. Reflecting on my life, I choose the stealth-action gameplay of Metal Gear Solid for my own autobiography.

While I research the topic of diversity (not just in games, but in all media), I find that we certainly break color lines. The real challenge is expressing the diversity beyond the color lines. We find comfort in the portrayal of black men as the binary Sidney Poitier or Shaft, according to Dwayne McDuffie. What about that "other"-ness, though? The conservative, the disabled, the gay, how often do we find them beyond the color line?

That's when it occurs to me how much I play Metal Gear Solid with my own life. I don't want to be a burden to my friends or family. I don't want to be treated differently, despite how different I am. I wake up each morning conscious of drone units constantly policing: who is straight, who us black or white, who is able bodied. I'm Native American and that's the one thing I concede to those drones. Otherwise, I use stealth to live. If I alert those units, how does it affect my family? My physical condition concerns my parents and friends. My sexuality concerns my whole family as an only son. I don't feel at liberty to live outside the cardboard box. So I use stealth.

This isn't new or unique to me. During early adulthood, I would commit the movie Paris is Burning to memory. One lesson I took from the movie was the meaning of "realness." For some trans community members interviewed, the challenge of life was to leave a club dressed in a way they identified and not return home bloodied.

It occurs to me how much other-ness is part of my experience. Classmates question my gait during high school and below. They wonder, why does the toe on my left shoe curl up. Why do I walk on the side of my shoes. Am I Hispanic. Am I gay, they question constantly.

So, I stuff tissue in my left shoe to fill the void of one foot too small. I monitor every step I make. I dodge their questions of where my girlfriend is with jokes. I tell them I'm indian, some don't even believe my people still exist. "You're either white or black." Doesn't matter, alert mode dies down and the drones return to their posts.

It's not always necessary for me to be in stealth mode, but it's safe. I distance myself from people who really do care about me, because if they really knew my other-ness it would make them worry. So even in front of the people who love me, I hide in my cardboard box.

Inside my box, I am strong and I can run. I laugh at jokes that no one else would get. I write treatises on the problems with the world. I'm safe and everything makes sense. I'm not always content to stay inside, however, and I often dare to give everyone a taste of my other-ness. Yet, I pull back as soon as I hear the alarm and see the drones approach.

In my game, you can attempt to survive this way. Maybe you can get that guy, and live happily ever after. Jump behind corners. Sneak and never let the drones catch you. Or maybe in my game, you can help me find a better way. That's the true goal of diversity in games for me. When we can both enjoy the experience as designer and player, collaborate and learn.
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About Neshoba78one of us since 2:00 PM on 09.16.2010

For the past ten years, I worked as a graphic artist for several wholesale to the trade companies. Recently, I worked in the Advertising Department of Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, LA. During that time, I was a graphic artist and then the administrative assistant to the advertising director. In addition to my work in graphic art and advertising, I developed myself through two degrees. First, I earned a B.A. in Humanities with a major in Mass Communication from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA. Then, I earned an A.S. in Video Game Design from Full Sail in Orlando, FL. I moved in Massachusetts this year and entered the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth, MA.
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