The Importance of Inclusive Gaming
"By nature, humans are storytellers," says Lee Hibbard, a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. "And since people have been people, we have found ways to entertain ourselves."
Hibbard studies how people talk about their identities and share them with others. Much of this comes down to storytelling, he explains. Humans love to share stories because it's how we relate to each other and find common ground. In video games, role-playing, and tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), storytelling comes to life in an interactive way that movies, TV shows, and books just don't match.
"Games are such a huge marker of identity formation, especially for young people, because they give you the chance to pick up and play with things and try stuff out for fun," Hibbard says. "It's a lower stakes opportunity to experiment with yourself and with other people, and it's a cool way to learn about yourself."
Interest in these kinds of games has exploded since the Covid-19 pandemic, with one study reporting that online searches for D&D have increased by 85% since 2020. Beyond playing the games themselves, fans spend millions of hours a year on Twitch and YouTube watching players adventure in these fantasy worlds. Rising interest and a growing gamer base spur discussion about the importance of inclusion in such spaces, Hibbard says.
In the following Q&A, Hibbard discusses why inclusive gaming is so important and how it can help people in marginalized communities claim space in the real world.