BioWare Montreal developer Manveer Heir works on the Mass Effect franchise by day and champions race equality in games by night, having discussed the importance of diversity at the DICE 2010 panel, "Games of Color," and more recently speaking with Gamasutra about the delicacies of developing with race in mind. After little change over this one-year span, Heir is still an advocate for bringing diversity to game development, seeing games as a portal to a broader social commentary:
"You can think of fantasy games where if you were the dark elves, you know, the Drow, were always looked upon... They were the black people of the fantasy world, right? And if you played the dark elves, you were treated like garbage by many of the townspeople," Heir said to Gamastura. "So, my only question is, why can't we do that when we're actually talking about real people?"

The 2010 DICE panel began with data from USC showing stark disparities between the races of video-game characters and the United States census, concluding that developers create games with dominantly white, male characters because developers are dominantly white and male. A year later, Heir wants to see more honest diversity not only in race, but in sexual orientation, gender and age as well.
"I've played certain characters over and over in video games," Heir said. "I know I'm going to save the world at the end, and I'm going to play the same like archetypical character to get there, because mythology says there are certain archetypes -- the savior.

"So, to me, thinking about the sexual orientation, the gender and the race of a character can change -- even the age of a character -- that can change the way your game is structured, what your game is about, the things a game can comment on, the mechanics of a game.... I find that to be incredibly interesting because I don't want to see this medium get ghettoized."
As one of the men behind Mass Effect, Heir's perspective can impact the industry, but he's still giving it 20 years before we see any real change.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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