Monday, October 28, 2013

The Elven Bro

The Elven Bro
Artwork by Deviantartist Dame Eleusys
         I was once asked why it was important to me that there be diversity in fantasy races in the medium of rpgs. The friend who asked me admitted that yeah there could be more minorities in the design of humans but didn’t understand what the big deal was when it came to elves and dwarves, races traditionally depicted as white. This is a valid question, why should these races be depicted in a manner that fly’s in the face of tradition?
            The answer is self identification. When I play an rpg I want to be able to self identify with more than just the human races in the game. The ability to self identify with the fantasy elements of the game is a powerful thing. Let me take a moment to talk about Star Trek.
            Star Trek is great for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important thing Star Trek has done for sci fi is being one of the first shows to feature an African American as a key member of the cast. The shows progressiveness is one of the reasons why the show is a cornerstone in sci fi. But for me the show didn’t become an all time favorite until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was in Deep Space Nine that I saw for the first time a black man as the commander (and later captain) in a sci fi show. I had watched a lot of sci fi programming before that, and I’ve seen black characters in the cast (such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5). But as someone who was in charge? No, that was a rarity (and still is). I was instantly hooked on the show. I watched the good and the bad. It’s the only Trek series that I own on DVD.
Captain of the Year
            Or how about Star Trek: Voyager. This show stood out to me because of one character, Tuvok. Vulcans were one of the shows main alien races. There had been black actors playing in the roles of Klingons (such as Micheal Dorn’s Worf on the Next Generation), but as a main cast member we hadn’t seen an alien that was black. And this was a rarity in the realm of sci fi. You don’t often see a black race in space. So to have a character be black and Vulcan was a powerful thing for a young black man. It drew me deeper into the Star Trek universe. It allowed me to identify even more with a race of aliens that were one of my favorite things about Star Trek (Spock was my favorite character on the original show). To go one step further, Voyager was the favorite Trek for one of my closest friends because she could identify with Janeway, the first female to sit in the captains chair.
            And that’s what you want when you’re developing a product. You want your customers to look at it and say “that’s me”. This is a very important element for rpg’s because the entire product is based around players forming make believe worlds. You want your potential customer to be able to open the book and flip through and see a fantasy race and think “wow that’s cool I want to play that”. Shadowrun is one of my favorite games because it does just that. Its fantasy races can come from any race. You can be a black elf. Or a black half orc. A Hispanic elf. Or even an Asian dwarf.
            Yes I know that traditionally, these races are not multicolored. But we are talking about a make believe world here. There isn’t a logical reason why dwarves and Halflings need to be white. After all ….. we have a black Nick Fury and he’s one of the best elements of the Marvel movie verse. Elves are one my favorite fantasy races. One day I hope to open a fantasy rpg book and see a black elf and know that I could play that. We’ve come a long way, but there is still more to be done, and this is one of the bigger milestones that needs to achieved in our push for diversity.

            Also I think we can all agree that a dwarf with a wicked afro would be cool.

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