The Ad Council Turned Real-World Diversity Advocates Into Superheroes for a Geolocation Game

PAX West attendees can collect virtual 'Love Has No Labels' cards

The Ad Council has been spreading the gospel of its inclusive Love Has No Labels campaign to the gaming community for more than a year.

At this weekend’s PAX West in Seattle, one of the largest gaming conventions in the country, the nonprofit PSA group leans in further, speaking to gamers in their own language with the launch of a mobile geolocation game called The League of Extraordinary Humans.

The game takes a diverse group of activists, LGBT pioneers, disabled gamers and other groundbreakers who “fight for love and inclusion” and turns them into virtual superheroes, complete with bold costumes and dramatic poses.

It’s part of the Ad Council’s ongoing Game for Good effort meant to promote a safe gaming environment for players, regardless of race, disability or sexual orientation. It’s an attempt to help counter much of the negativity and hostility found in some aspects of the gaming community, especially around topics like gender representation in games and the abusive language used in multiplayer chats.

“Since 65 percent of U.S. households have someone who plays games, and millennials have grown up playing, reaching out to gamers is really reaching out to the masses,” said Anastasia Goodstein, the Ad Council’s svp of digital innovation. “And we want to continue to show up in unexpected places.”

The League features a dozen “everyday heroes,” whose images were rendered by comic book artists onto virtual cards. Players at the conference will visit beacons and answer questions to unlock and collect the cards. (There’s a Love Has No Labels Pinny Arcade Pin for winners).

The real-life heroes include competitive gamer Mike Begum, aka BrolyLegs; transgender advocate Jazz Jennings; long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad; and Marley Diaz, 12-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks. They were chosen because of their work “to further inclusion of people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability and age,” per a summary by the Ad Council.

Love Has No Labels, part of the trade show/fan fest’s diversity lounge at the Washington State Convention Center, partnered with Artifact Technologies to create a “deeper experience and deeper engagement” with the crowds, Goodstein said. On-site beacons have been placed at Square Enix, Twitch, Xbox and other booths, where players can unlock the hero images and backstories.

Questions along the way are intended to “have people rethink their biases and things like the diversity of their friend group,” Goodstein said. “We hope people will take a beat and think about the issues.”

The Ad Council also hosts a pair of panels on implicit bias and the role of diversity in gaming during the gathering, formerly known as the Penny Arcade Expo and expected to draw more than 70,000 fans over its four-day run.

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