Tag Archives: overt racism

Missing the Point part 1

POCGamer GrenadeSo, as I’ve explored the internets in my quest to rapidly expand my breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject of racism and SF&F culture, I’ve come across a disturbing, but sadly predictable trend within the tabletop gaming culture towards POC asking for increased recognition and inclusion in gaming materials. The trend is “Missing the Point”. Tabletop roleplaying is all about several things. Wish fulfilment. Escapism. Imagination. Power fantasies. Story telling. POC want these things too, but are currently, largely, denied it in official materials and canon resources. When a POC or supportive non-POC brings up the subject of racism in tabletop gaming, or of lack of inclusion of POC or other minorities in gaming materials, the result is the same. The POC or commenter is immediately attacked, the discussion hijacked or derailed, and the point they were trying to raise is utterly and completely missed by the attackers or the non-commenting population. Where did this attitude come from?
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Mired in the Past

A continuous plague, not just in gaming, but in real life, is the continued use and belief in non-Mendelian genetic inheritance. This can be particularly hurtful towards, and irritating to, POC who identify as “Mixed-race” individuals. This is because non-Mendelian ideas of inheritance come loaded with social stigmas and pervasive stereotypes that we still labour under to this day, despite serious science’s rejection of them. This affects gaming by reinforcing negative impressions of the “half-breed” player races and by extension, actual people of mixed ethnicity. When Gregor Mendel did his work on peas, he immediately disproved the then existing ideas about what we now know as genetic inheritance. If you need a quick crash course in Mendel’s work, and Punnett Squares, check out this video. Unfortunately, the more common sense sounding “Blending” inheritance model and the disastrous aftermath of the laws designed to classify ethnicity via blood quantum and one-drop laws continue to affect us both in reality and in game.[1][2] So buckle up, this one is going to be a bit science-y, and then I’m going to look at how fantasy races (species?) act as the other, and reinforce real world prejudices and beliefs. As previous, D&D will the fantasy gaming world I’m examining, as it is the most prominent and popular.
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What Makes a Good Campaign Setting?

clipart-tabletop-rpg-dice-set-ii-256x256-9f70After the diatribe of the last post, I think it’s time to talk about what makes a good campaign setting for a fantasy RPG. I’ll put this out now: this is my opinion, and I do not speak for the entire POC community on the topic. As a POC gamer, I look for the same things than non-POC gamers do in game. I look for fun, immersion, and emotional investment in what is going on. Some campaign settings make this difficult, others make it nearly impossible. I mentioned before that POC are demanding more recognition, and equal recognition in the worlds of SF&F. The same problems and issues acting as barriers to POC occur in both SF&F gaming and literature, where publishers gleefully whitewash (replace minorities with lighter or white characters) cover art for some books under the belief that people (read: Whites) won’t buy books with non-White human protagonists. [1] This trend carries on into interior art in the case of game books, and with the assumption that White is the “default” setting of humanity, and everything else deviates from that, and that gamers won’t or don’t want to buy or play games featuring non-Whites prominently. The subject of inclusiveness shouldn’t be an issue, but, unsurprisingly, it is.

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The Chult Event

DD-Logo“The Chult Event” is my term for the events that occurred during the retcon and revamp of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for 4e D&D. The Chult Event was the last straw for me, it was one of the catalysts that brought this blog into being. As with most things, it’s best to start with some background on racism in fantasy. It’s not unfair or hostile to say that the genre of fantasy is riddled with racism. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not, it is mostly achieved through the aggressive use of stereotypes and writing tropes, racism by omission, and through substitution (of monsters for human ethnicities). [1][2][3] For all intents and purposes, it happens to further the immersion in and to carefully maintain the comfort zone and status quo enjoyed by the main audience and producers of the product, namely, a white audience. Given the increased and increasing plurality and integration in modern society, where more and more minorities and POC are asking for recognition and fair depiction, this has lead to a clash in the roleplaying and gaming subculture. It has also lead to game companies like Wizards of the Coast (WotC), to (hopefully unintentionally) commit some fairly racist actions that make it hard for POC to invest themselves in their product.

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Gaming While Coloured

POCGamer GrenadeAs a person of colour (POC, sometimes people instead of person), gaming can be a sometimes frustrating experience. In addition to the usual issues all gamers have, like finding time, and getting schedules to match up, there are other issues. Problems that are coming under increasing scrutiny, and that are becoming a subject of often vitriolic discourse both online and offline.

One of the key issues at hand is that POC are increasing tired of the hackneyed and stereotyped representations of themselves (and by extension, other ethnic groups and minorities) in gaming, and also of the frequent occurrences of racism by omission. As a population that is increasing in size and in consumption of games (both tabletop and video), its understandable that we would like to see ourselves represented a bit more often, and in less negative portrayals and roles.
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