An Open Letter to GLAAD

Dear GLAAD,

My name is Justin Amirkhani and I’m one of the founders at Vagabond Dog, a video game development company. I recently read your statement, criticizing Nintendo’s decision not to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life.

While I wholeheartedly agree with your organization’s cause and would like to see more games offer the sort of inclusion and choices that appeal to everyone, I’m saddened that when I went to your web site and looked at your extensive list of GLAAD Awards, I did not see a category for video games.

 Your web site states:

 The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.”

Wouldn’t it be great to honor and recognize outstanding examples in video games who strive for inclusion, rather than weigh in on this issue in a public manner for negative reasons instead of positive ones?

I notice that in addition to extensive categories for GLAAD Awards in Film and Television that there’s even a category for comic books. It’s true that video games are a relatively recent form of entertainment when compared to films, comic books and television, but given that multiple generations have now grown up with video games as their main source of entertainment on their computers, consoles and now mobile phones, isn’t it time to dedicate an award for the dozens of games that come out each year that do recognize fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community?

Vagabond Dog’s game, Always Sometimes Monsters, is a game about player choice. Its core premise is that we, as humans, struggle daily with moral and ethical situations and are, like it or not, frequently imperfect. The game allows the player freedom of choice in the goal of finding your one true love that got away – and importantly, the game lets you design your character to be whoever/whatever you want before you start playing the game – race, gender, and sexual orientation.

From a purely technical standpoint, offering this sort of freedom to players is not a simple task. It requires significant foresight, additional time and resources, all in addition to a desire to make it happen. Speaking as a developer who has built a game from the ground up with this sort of freedom in mind, allow me to clarify that the sorts of options GLAAD wants to see in games do not come easily.

However, if organizations outside of the video game industry like GLAAD were to recognize the achievements of progressive games the same way our own industry frequently does, the choice for inclusion would be easier for many developers.

We are not the first to include these choices, there are countless other games that have gone unrecognized for their inclusion over the years. Games that have sold millions upon millions of copies.

We, and other developers I’m sure, think it would be great for a respected, powerful organization such as GLAAD to finally recognize the positivity in the video game industry.

I’m happy to discuss this further with you at any time. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.

Respectfully,
Justin Amirikhani
Vagabond Dog