In honor of the #INeedDiverseGames tag, I share an excerpt from Player vs Player @RiptideBooks

For those of you who aren’t aware, I have a mystery/suspense novel coming out in December titled Player vs. Player. This novel is set within the gaming industry and deals with the rampant misogyny, homophobia, and racism in gaming and geek culture, and more specifically, the violent backlash against anyone who speaks out and threatens the status quo. It was inspired by, among other things, the way Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has been treated for her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video series.

Today, CypherofTyr on Tumblr started the #INeedDiverseGames hashtag on Twitter and a Tumblr blog called Why-I-Need-Diverse-Games. It only took a couple hours for trolls to appear and start trying to derail a tag that has already picked up some absolutely awesome momentum. In support of this, I thought I would share a particularly relevant excerpt from Chapter 18 of Player vs. Player.

Cast of Characters:
Rosena Candelaria: (Latina, pansexual) CEO of Third Wave Gaming Studios
Niles River: (Half-Turkish MOC, gay) Lead writer at Third Wave
Jordan River: (Half-Turkish MOC, gay) Niles’s identical twin brother, marketing director at Third Wave
Angela Payne: (Black, lesbian) Police detective
Timothy Wyatt: (White, bisexual) Police detective

The atmosphere in the studio felt different when Niles came in to work the next day. Jordan had tried to urge Rosie to close the office, but Niles had protested. He needed to work. He needed things to be normal again. In the end, Rosie had sent out a mass email to all their employees, giving them the option of working from home until the investigation ended and they were sure no one else associated with Third Wave would be harmed.

Unsurprisingly, considering the dedication of the people Rosie pulled to herself, most people had shown up, their attitudes almost defiant. But everyone was tense, and the sense of relaxed camaraderie they usually enjoyed seemed to have disappeared overnight. The art department, writing staff, programming and design people, all did their work—grim, quiet, speaking only when necessary, and then only in hushed tones.

Niles was supposed to be preparing notes for a preproduction meeting for the DLC that would follow Gairi’s, but he found himself staring at the concept art pinned to the wall across from his desk. Issis, Gairi, Halliday, Marc—they were all there, all the characters he’d helped bring to pixelated life, whose words and voices he’d crafted. But now his mind’s eye kept superimposing other faces over the familiar characters. He saw Lakshmi Agrawal’s sweet, quiet smile eclipsed by a sickly gray pallor as they pulled her from the river still wearing her Gairi costume. He saw fiercely brave Charity Anspach falling under a hail of bludgeoning blows, Daniel crushed by a car, Patrick abducted and terrified . . .

He had, quite literally, written their death scenes.

How the hell was he supposed to ever write again?

Unable to focus, he left his office, heading down to Rosie’s where she had set Detective Payne up on one of the gaming rigs, away from the bustle of coders working in the lab. He met Jordan in the hall, apparently on his way to consult with Rosie about something. He caught his brother’s eyes, but he couldn’t think of anything to say besides to tell him to back off Tim, so he pressed his lips together and said nothing.

Tim was in Rosie’s office too, looking as bewildered as ever as Detective Payne carried on a murmured discussion with him about each bit of dialogue, each choice made in the game. She was the one playing, controlling the player character, but Tim was taking notes.

“Seriously?” Rosie groaned at her computer screen.

“What is it?” Detective Payne paused the game and turned in her chair.

“Oh, this picture.” She gestured to her screen, and Detective Payne rose and crossed the office to look. “The new Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman v Batman movie.”

Detective Payne made a derisive sound. “Needs to be a sistah.”

“I know, right?” Rosie held up her hand and bumped fists with her.

Tim shuddered. “Did you just feel that?”

“I think that is what the geeks would call a great disturbance in the Force,” Jordan murmured.

Niles shrugged, feeling a touch of amusement for the first time in days. “Well, if it’s any consolation, on the day of their coronation as joint Planetary Imperators, we can tell people we were there the moment the Unholy Alliance was forged.”

Rosie was giving Detective Payne a rundown of the controversy over whether or not casting the Israeli actress was considered POC representation or not when Tim spoke up again.

“Let me ask you a question, Niles. I know you love your work, and you’ve spoken a lot about the potential outreach factor, but, still—video games? Why make your stand there? Why not just find something else to do for recreation, and fight the good fight someplace a little less, well, fringe?”

Rosie clearly overheard because she cut off her discussion with Detective Payne, and Niles met her eyes as she asked casually, “Angie, Rosa Parks should have just found somewhere else to sit, right? I mean, a bus seat doesn’t really matter.”

Detective Payne rolled her eyes in response, and Tim held up his hands. “Whoa, that’s not— We’re talking about video games, not the next great civil rights frontier.”

Jordan moaned softly, muttering to Niles, “When he starts digging, he brings the backhoe, doesn’t he?”

Rosie came to her feet, and Niles gave Tim a sympathetic look. No way was he going to get in the middle of this.

“Tell me. What do you think the next great civil rights frontier looks like?” Rosie asked, drawing herself up. She didn’t fold her arms over her chest or look defensive or confrontational. Instead, her posture was open, conversational but authoritative. He’d seen her do it before, and something about her presence compelled people to listen, which was why she was such an amazing public speaker. “The face of prejudice in the twenty-first century is not a guy in a pointy white hood. It’s hundreds of thousands of little ways our culture sets people who aren’t white, able-bodied, cis-het males to the side and says, ‘You’re different, and therefore you can’t have what we have.’ You can’t have the same access to healthcare, to jobs, to education, to bodily autonomy, to protection under the law, to tax and inheritance laws. To basic human dignity.”

He watched Tim’s reaction, but Tim didn’t say anything. You didn’t interrupt Rosie when she was in this zone. Her intensity was electrifying, and you just shut up and listened.

“Two years ago, while I was in the hospital having a baseball-sized tumor removed from my skull, I had people posting images of my house online, daring someone to rape or kill me, wishing death on me. Why? Because I have this audacious idea that people who aren’t white, straight cis-men should see positive reflections of themselves in media and common recreational activities.” Her eyes flashed with a fire that Niles hadn’t seen in her since— God, he didn’t remember when. “One of the last interactions Charity Anspach had on this planet was with a guy who called her a crazy bitch for saying that he shouldn’t grope her without her consent. And our culture supports that. In hundreds of little ways, it tells him that he’s right and she was unreasonable. And if you found that guy today and told him she was dead, I’ll bet you cash money that the first thing he’d do is hop online and start mouthing off about how she deserved it.”

She lifted her chin, and the stare she fixed Tim with became a little challenging. “So, what do you think? Should I go do something more important, something less fringe? Because sure, I could teach women’s studies, but is that guy going to sit his ass down in my lecture hall and walk out thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve been a real douchenozzle, maybe I should knock it off’? Or do I need to go into the spaces he thinks are his, and get up in his face, and challenge him, and say, ‘This is not okay, this is not okay, this. Is. Not. Okay,’ until he finally gets it?”

She fell silent, but she held Tim pinned with her gaze until he bowed his head. “I’m sorry. That was a completely stupid thing for me to say,” he murmured.

Rosie’s mouth curved into a wistful smile. “Apology noted. I suppose I should thank you. You just made me remember why I do this.”

She sat down, turning her attention back to her computer. “You guys have about ninety hours of gameplay left. I’ll let you get back to that.”

Detective Payne nodded once and returned to the computer against the far wall, gesturing for Tim to start taking notes again, and Niles slipped quietly back to his office.

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