Urban Squirrels
A Game Design Grammar

The Diversitarian Movement

DiversityFor several years now, since we started doing our own market research, perhaps, I've had a catchphrase. "Three words which will improve the games industry: diversity, diversity, diversity!" It's been a while since I participated in the founding of a movement, but it's very easy to do - all you need to do is come up with a name.

Some of you may be tired of hearing me harp on about the benefits of diversity in the games industry (and elsewhere), so why not listen to Danc do it for a change! This recent Lost Garden post pleases me greatly, as it seems to have been plucked straight from my backbrain and then lovingly composed in Danc's own inimitable style. Reading it made me want to post a link to it and add nothing, but in the end, I've decided to turn it into a pre-manifesto. (Why not a full manifesto? A really good manifesto should be composed by multiple people reaching agreement - by a confluence of diversity, if you will).

So I announce the Diversitarian Movement. Our goal - diversity. Our method - diversity. Our mood - polite but adamant.

Nothing like a bit of googling when you invent a new word - it allows you to discover that other people have been there before you. For example (from BlackCrayon):

... if a proponent of liberty is a libertarian, then it seems to follow that a proponent of diversity is a diversitarian.

Let's call the practical, strategy-based position 'diversitarianism' -- the advocacy of decentralized, diverse strategies, solutions, services, cultures, etc. This is what I now understand many to mean by "the market" -- although I think the idea applies to all biological, ecological, social, organizational, negotiated exchange-based relationships, and not just what most people understand by the term 'economic'.

Or even (from Leftism Revisited, via andrewrogers.net):

Patriotism, not nationalism, should inspire the citizen. The ethnic nationalist who wants a linguistically and culturally uniform nation is akin to the racist who is intolerant toward those who look (and behave) differently. The patriot is a "diversitarian"; he is pleased, indeed proud of the variety within the borders of his country; he looks for loyalty from all citizens. And he looks up and down, not left and right.

There are more, but they are equally eclectic and tangential. Still, the word is not sufficiently established to have acquired a stable reference in any dictionary or the blessed Wikipedia, the source of knowledge that is so diverse it even has articles that certain people completely disagree with! And of course, I can claim ownership of the word simply by making one small change... I can give it a capital letter. We're not talking about diversitarianism, we're the Diversitarian movement!

I wonder if there is any hope at all of this movement not ending up devolving or splintering into ultimate fascism and exclusionism like almost every movement that went before it... Perhaps we should build into it a tenet that states diversitarians never say what you can't do, only what you can? That might keep out fascist tendencies for, oh, a few months at least.

A good friend of mine who was around at the start of the feminist movement informs me that one of its original goals was to liberate all minorities. She drifted away from the movement as the fascism crept in at the sides... She was the first person I heard use the word 'feminazi'. Of course, this is not a criticism of feminism - just a warning from history. I hope my readership is sharp enough to understand this point without thinking I am criticising feminism itself.

I support diversity in games - whether or not I like those games. That diversity is unbounded and unlimited - all games are welcome. Simple, complex, inventive, derivative, narrative, ludic, beautiful, crude, licensed, original, ingenious, insipid, episodic, monolithic, shallow, complex, strange, charmed and wonderful. Support the Diversitarian movement! Or, do something different instead. All hail diversity!

The opening photo is a willow & date palm sculpture entitled 'Diversity', by Polly Javobs Giacchina, from Jane Sauer's Thirteen Moons Gallery in Santa Fe.


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This is seriously weird. You came up with "kfun", I came up with "K-fun". Now you're talking about being "diversitarian", and a while ago I came up with "diversalism", as a kind of counterpart to universalism.

I haven't mentioned these to anyone, either. Spooky!

FWIW: The October before last, I wrote an article on holism and game design. (It's not available at the moment, although Slashdot Games and Damion Schubert were kind enough to link to it back then.) Since then I've adopted "ecologism" as a perspective with which to think about...well, everything really, but media and methodology in particular. I feel it provides an excellent framework with which to understand a diversalist/diversitarian viewpoint, keeping "diversity" from turning into a simplistic, knee-jerk value.

At any rate, bravo! I'll support the movement wholeheartedly.

Naturally, that essay was inspired greatly by your book, Chris.

There is a business method to the diversitarian madness. It isn't about diversity simply for the sake of diversity. It is about encouraging a broad range of products that fill a wide range of consumer needs.

Though we are all passionate about game, we should not promote the act of diversity as merely a selfless endevour. If you can harness market forces to accomplish your idealistic dream, you have a much better chance of success. :-)

take care

Thanks for the nod, Danc - and of course, I'm completely with you that diversity should be profitable. I think the barrier at the moment is in the marketing, though - do we have the ability to market to the wider audience? I believe we already have the skills to design and implement games for a broad range of people, but without the promotion, will we get the sales...

And Walter, clearly we're surfing the zeitgeist in a similar fashion. :) If a link to your article reappears, let me know!

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