Many friendships in the 90s were built or lost over who got to select their Mario Kart character first because character selection largely determined whether or not you would win. SNES Mario Kart designers tried to correct this by crafting tracks that favored one character over others, guaranteeing a win on at least one race. Bowser’s fast top speed and drifting skills made them the best suited character for Bowser Castle’s sharp turns and straightaways. The icy pools of Vanilla Lake smiled upon Koopa Troopa and Toad’s tight handling and minimal drift, but that was arguably the only track they could dominate.
Now imagine another version of Mario Kart, but instead of a variety of different tracks that celebrate different strengths, every track was built by Mario. With Mario as an architect, it’s highly likely that every track would favor his particular set of (minimal) strengths. This would give the non-Mario players an unintended disadvantage since they would never get a chance to excel with their diverse skills, and the majority of races would consequently be won by Marios. In many places, this is the current state of academia.
The academic environment was built by hundreds of generations of Marios and selects for future Marios. It doesn’t matter how many different kinds or amounts of racers get thrust into the competition, the tracks were still built by and for one type of player. There are few opportunities for diverse characters to be recognized or rewarded for their strengths, and ultimately every player’s success is measured by how well they can race like a Mario. This game would never sell. It is demoralizing for anyone besides Mario and few people would want to play it more than once. This is why I believe women and minorities move away from academia as soon as it’s professionally possible–the game sucks and it’s built for someone else.
The answer to fixing academia’s inclusion and long-term diversity shortcomings is a demanding academic environment with universally available resources. Yes, a Skyrim.
In Skyrim, all resources are available to everyone, whether they are useful to your storyline or not, and regardless of your player’s sex, gender, race, or species. The challenges and end goals are the same but the paths are nearly limitless, timelines vary, and character choices are rewarded or punished, equally. This universe doesn’t consider who is a Mario, Princess, or if your Dad was Dragonborn in order to favor you – its only concern is to create challenges that try to destroy everyone. Now that’s equality!
I encourage you to examine yourself and surroundings for ways to create a demanding environment that favors nobody, but assures all resources (and cheats) are equally accessible to all characters. That’s a game that will retain any player interested in the challenge of academia, rather than the challenge of fitting a mold.
And yea, I’m writing about inclusion and diversity with video games – see how well I race like a Mario?
Hey, you. You’re finally awake!