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SpyParty designer says three-way diversity is vital to the game

SpyParty benefits from three instances of diversity, and all of them are vital to the game's continued health and success, said developer Chris Hecker in an interview with Kotaku.

SpyParty is a video game version of the Turing test: One player attempts to replicate AI movements while completing espionage tasks at a party, and the other player watches for a tell in order to figure out which partygoer is the spy. It's a challenging game for both participants, which is why Hecker is thrilled that the recent influx of players from the open beta — which launched at the beginning of June — brought in people with varying skill levels.

But along with the new users came some instances of typical internet discourse: disparaging comments about SpyParty's portly characters and about female players. One player, who referred to herself as "mostly a girl," expressed her concerns on the game's forums about diversity and inclusivity, and Hecker included the thread in a blog post about the SpyParty community last month.

"I have such a perfect community right now that I'm hoping we have a really slow, steady growth," Hecker told Kotaku. "Because this game is so weird and different and hardcore but in such a different way from most games, that I really want that kind of inclusive community and the diversity of community in addition to setting the example in the game."

Hecker said in the blog post that diversity in the SpyParty player base (both in skill and demographics) goes hand in hand with the diversity of the game's characters, which gets at the heart of the new art design that the developers implemented last year.

"I have a goal to make SpyParty the 'most diverse game ever'"

There's so much underlying psychology in SpyParty, said Hecker to Kotaku, that the design of the characters plays a crucial role in the game. Players bring their own perspectives and prejudices into the experience, and if the opponents know each other, that puts an entirely different spin on the match.

"One of the aesthetic goals of my game is to explore consequential decisions with partial information. Things like racism, sexism, homophobia, all of these add tiny little biases that people might not even realize," said Hecker. "All of that kind of stuff comes up in the milieu of the game when you've got all of these different diverse characters."

Hecker expressed the same sentiments in last month's blog post.

"I have a goal to make SpyParty the 'most diverse game ever,' in the sense that you will be able to kick somebody's ass straight into next week as the Spy while playing as a queer octogenarian of color in a wheelchair. You might move a little slower, but you're low to the ground, so it's easier to hide that listening device!"

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