BAFTA Games Award host Elle Osili-Wood on The Last of Us Part II and LGBT+ representation in gaming
The BAFTA Games Awards takes place Thursday (25 March) and this year’s list of nominations are the most LGBT-friendly yet.
Elsewhere the trans narrative game Tell Me Why has been nominated for the Game Beyond Entertainment award, and Hades – with its diverse cast of Greek gods and heroes – receives eight nominations.
The nominations list is a testament to the diversity of games the industry now has to offer.
“I’m thrilled to see the positivity within games towards these perspectives that we haven’t really covered, we haven’t really seen in-depth, particularly in AAA titles,” Elle Osili-Wood, the presenter and journalist who’ll be hosting the awards, tells PinkNews.
“I think this has been a huge year for learning and reflection and growth, and this year shows that the games industry is willing to put in the work to find those voices to represent those stories.”
Elle is well-recognised in the industry as a journalist, is a member of the BAFTA Games Committee, and has been named by GamesIndustry.biz as one of the most influential women in gaming.
As the most nominated game this year, there is of course huge buzz around The Last of Us Part II, which Elle praises for its “nuanced depiction of a woman who just happens to be a lesbian”.
“It’s a fleshed out portrayal of a woman who has many aspects, many facets of her personality and who she is,” she says. “It is actually that she is a human in this game. [Being lesbian] is fundamental to who she is, but it’s not fundamental to who she is in the game. And that for me is the most exciting thing.
“That’s what I want to see more of: really truthful, realistic, nuanced portrayals of people because we are not our most obvious identity. There is so much more to each of us than that.
“I would love to see more portrayals like this that represent the truth of what it means to be somebody who is LGBT, to be somebody who is trans, to be somebody who is not a traditional representation of femininity.”
The game dominates the best performance awards, with five nominations including Ashley Johnson as Ellie, who’s won the award twice previously for her portrayal of the character.
“They are the very best of video game performance, they are full of physicality, incredibly evocative,” says Elle. “And that’s due to both the performers and Naughty Dog’s legendary skill at storytelling. That’s what they do best: they write beautifully, they flesh out worlds, they world-build in a way like nobody else.”
The Game Beyond Entertainment award is particularly interesting for LGBT+ gamers, given to a game with strong cultural and social impact. This year’s nominees include Tell Me Why, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and, of course, The Last of Us Part II.
“The thing I love about this category is that actually this year it does have a focus on diversity and that’s a reflection of the year that we’ve had. I think a lot of people have had their eyes opened to perspectives they perhaps hadn’t considered before,” says Elle.
“This is the category that most hammers home the power that games have. The fact that there is no other medium that can do what games do. We fall into them, they are immersive, they are transportative, and so this is a category about the power of games and using it for good, to sound very superhero!”
So how can the industry build upon this diversity in the future? For Elle, there is already a huge amount of representation in gaming, from indies to AAA games. “What we’re not good at is lifting up those voices, lifting up those stories, lifting up the titles that tell us things we’ve never heard before and take us to places we’ve never seen,” she says.
“I’d love to see more work done on stopping the onslaught that can land on people if they speak up about diversity, speak up about representation. I’d love to see studios banning incredibly toxic players. I’d love to see studio’s social media really genuinely speaking out, not vague statements on a nice black background or a rainbow flag, but in fact unequivocally coming out in support of their employees… and the issues that they genuinely believe in.”
What’s more, the industry needs to attract and retain diverse talent in order to grow and keep telling stories from underrepresented voices.
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“I’d love to see more work done on bringing people into the industry and keeping them here, preparing them for the realities of what it’s like to work in games, giving them the skills they need to succeed because that’s how we’re going to bring those voices in,” she says.
“That for me is our next big challenge: how do we find those voices, how do we bring them into games and how do we keep them here?”
Elle is excited to see how the industry will continue to evolve and build upon the diverse representation that currently exists.
“I think over the next couple of years I’m really excited to see how the games industry re-shapes and re-defines itself,” she says. “I can’t wait to see what’s on the way. Fingers crossed I won’t have quite as much time to play games as I’ve had in the last year but I’m incredibly excited to see what’s on the way.”
The BAFTA Games Awards 2021 will be livestreamed on Thursday (25 March) at 7pm GMT, viewing details here.
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