Thursday, June 5, 2014

Why?

Why?
            So recently I was asked “why bother” as in why is any of this important. After all, as the person indicated, this is a make believe game we’re playing in which the characters are whatever race, color or creed I as a player or a GM deems fit. Thus whether or not the art shows me people like me it shouldn’t matter. And on a certain level there is some truth to that. Nothing stops me from playing a black character, or a Jewish character or a Latino or Asian or any other kind of character I could possible think or dream of.

            But that doesn’t change the simple fact that how the hobby presents itself influence how welcome I feel with in the hobby. When you market a product with only white faces you tell the non white faces that they aren’t welcome. Or maybe that you’re money is fine but we don’t value you enough to represent you in art. It would be a kin to going to a restaurant and being told that “yeah it’s ok to eat here but you have to come in through the back.” It creates this atmosphere that you are not welcome.

            For people who have representation I’ve noticed that this feeling is kinda a hard concept to grasp. People who see pictures of them don’t really link up to the idea that not having those pictures actually maters. But most minorities express a desire to be represented in any medium that they take an interest in.

            Take the comic book industry for example. Another place with fictional characters. As the comic book market went more mainstream and people other than white males started buying the comics they expressed a desire to also be equally represented with in the pages of the books they were buying. It didn’t matter if you were black, Asian, female or gay. All minorities have expressed a desire to be represented in the pages of the comic books they like to read and collect. We see the same thing in video games too.

            Representation also builds a link to the game. I know I’m personally more connected to games that I feel represented in. I have founder memories playing WoD than I do of playing D&D. It’s not due to any difference in the rules. Or even the games styles. I just have a deeper connection to WoD (classic WoD I should say) than I do to D&D because WoD has characters like me to identify with.

            In a perfect world none of this would really matter. But sadly we don’t live in that world. This is
Morgan Freeman if he were playing D&D
important to me because I want to feel that connection to the games I buy. It is my money after all. And I know other minorities want that connection too. They want that tie. They want to feel valued by the gaming companies they spend money on. Just this afternoon I went from thinking “meh I’ll get the Advanced Classes book at some point” to feeling like I needed to preorder the book all based on the revelation that the new icon for one of the new classes was a young Morgan Freeman (ok not really but he bears a resemblance).

            Now don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day I do know that there are bigger evils in the world. I hold no delusions that I am the Malcolm X of gaming or anything like that. But gamers/nerds/geeks are a passionate bunch. We are characterized with feeling strongly about our hobbies. For showing passion. So when I talk about these things I am just as passionate about it as I am when I’m pitching a character idea to a GM or talking about why Stargate SG1 will still be hands down better than any kind of movie reboot.


            At the end of the day I want to feel connected to the products I spend my free time with. And oddly enough others do too.

4 comments:

  1. Wizards of the Coast did a presentation last year about their art direction and showed examples of different Faerun cultures which illustrated a wider variety of skin tones. Hopefully, those will be represented more in the core artwork.

    I think WotC has learned from Paizo in this regard, but we'll have to wait and see.

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  2. I think it's turning around slowly. More and more people are realizing that it's stupid to say "Hobbits can't be black" or "They didn't have non-white people in the real middle ages."
    The latter is both false and ridiculous since we're talking about a world with Mindflayers and Portable Holes.

    I think to create more diversity we need to stop arguing about why and talk more about what. What can we do to make greater diversity in RPGs (and fiction in general)?

    For starters we need to get more kids into these games. Kids from different backgrounds. In time some of them will grow up to be lifetime players, maybe even writers, artists, and designers. I hope for some sort of trickle up effect where the next generation of RPG players are diverse and they get to set the standard. That's sort of what happened in comics. Mainstream superhero crap is still the old boys club. But there are tons and tons of women and Asian and Black artists out there killing it outside of DC/Marvel. This is in part because of the 90s Manga explosion. It introduced comics to many who might never have been into them otherwise.

    But what else can we do to get more diversity in games NOW? I'm open to suggestion.

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  3. @Marty I'm hoping thats the case. We'll see in the end. I do wish they would at least advertise it. You'd think that would be something you'd be up front about when trying to get new customers.

    @Micheal I agree with you. I think getting diverse kids into gaming will require more PoC writing and working on them and less of a stigma associated with gaming. It's hard to be into gaming when you're being told by your peers that it makes you white. So more acceptance among minorities would likely draw more in.

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  4. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

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