Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


The Court of Appeal vs The Alien Threat

26 August 2013

Over the bank holiday I’ve been leading the senior judiciary in the war against invading alien forces.

I’ve been playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

For the non-gamers, XCOM is a strategy game in which you try to fend off an alien invasion. Much of this revolves around controlling a squad of soldiers in turn based combat.

The relevant point is that you can rename these soldiers.

Traditionally, you name them after friends and family – for that personal connection. But I’m either too squeamish or not good enough at the game. My soldiers tend to die. And who wants to be responsible for the mass slaughter of one’s nearest and dearest?

So, for this play-through, I decided to name all my soldiers after judges.1

I mention this for two reasons. First, I recommend it. Perhaps it’s a sign of my juvenile mind, but casting judges as elite anti-alien combatants is fun. I was particularly amused that the first rookie named after an admired Lord Justice of Appeal was promoted to Squaddie after his first mission. This was the first step on his meteoric rise to Colonel. He also went by the randomly chosen, but rather appropriate, nickname ‘Warlock’. Coincidence? I think so.

The second reason is more serious. The alien threat is worldwide. So your troops are drawn from a wide range of countries and ethnicities. Their gender is randomly chosen when you recruit them.

If you’re naming everyone after senior British judges, this soon creates a problem. You need female names for about half your troops. And how do you approach black or asian soldiers? I felt I should name them after black or asian judges (changing their ethnicity in the game just felt wrong).

In short, you quickly run out of suitable namesakes for soldiers who aren’t white men. Which rather brought home just how homogenous the judiciary is.2

The government publishes judicial diversity statistics. We know from these that, of 35 members of the Court of Appeal, only 4 are women. And only 5 members of the Court of Appeal and High Court declare there ethnicity to be other than white (out of 143 Judges).

I’m familiar with the statistics and I’ve written about judicial diversity before. But, although it’s truly frivolous, my difficulties naming soldiers did highlight the issue for me in a new way.

  1. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the mass slaughter of the British Judiciary either. But it is only a game. 

  2. Thank goodness the game doesn’t randomly select an educational background. 

blog comments powered by Disqus