Spoilers for people complaining about ‘White Washing’ in Ghost in the Shell

The original story ends with Motoko in the body of an effeminate Italian man.

Transhumanist sci-fi where several characters are globs of neural tissue in robot bodies – deal with it.

Advertisements

Greenskins & Colonialism

I’ve written at length in the past about the plight of the greenskin and the tableau of colonization represented by the press into the goblin frontiers.   One of the best lampshades on the tropes of fantastic racism and colonialism of greenskins comes from Order of the Stick, where one of the main villain’s motivation is to avenge his people’s cultural status as cannon-fodder.     Asparagus Jumpsuit wants to move past the colonial tropes of RPGs.  But I think it order to move past them*, we need to backtrack.  Before we fell in love with the Noble Savage Orcs of Warcraft and the Proud and Honorable Orsimer of the Elder Scrolls, there wasn’t near as much discussion about the plight of greenskins in fantasy rpgs.    Let’s go back much further than the tropes of dungeons & dragons influenced fantasy, further even than Tolkien’s Orcs, who were twisted creations of an evil god, to when “Fey” was what people feared in the wilds.

Greenskins were not noble savages, no race of different men, but rather the more twisted and deformed members of the Unseelie Court, malevolent in intent against humans, soulless and cursed, and bound to the Devil through the teinde, a pact which required them to offer the blood of infants every seven years.  We’ve projected our orientalist and romantic ideas onto greenskins in fantasy because it is no longer acceptable to project them onto non-western people.

The only way to rid RPGs of the colonial race trope is to treat monsters as part of Fey, wholly opposed to humanity, God and the Godly.  The problem in D&D and any RPG that features goblinoid races is that people will project two different things on the same being, things which are in direct conflict with one another.  A goblin cannot simultaneously be a creature of magic and malice whose nature is to act in defiance of God and Man and be a proxy for a brown person.  You’re going to need to choose in your setting and choose early, and you’re going to have to deal with that choice, but most importantly, you need to make sure that your players are on the same page.  If the goblins of your world are malevolent fairy-kind, make sure that the guy who is insistent upon bringing his white-burden everywhere he goes (including your game table) is aware that the minions of Oberon do not need his guilt sympathies.

*Personally, I enjoy using goblin-folk as nomadic hunter-gatherers who are in conflict with humanity at times out of necessity rather than an evil nature, but at the same time, I don’t use them as stock low-level enemies, either.

Race & Gender Based Stat Tweaks and the Elder Scrolls

I was thinking about this because some article about negative stereotypes in video games was all “Black folks are too stupid to use magic in Elder Scrolls” as one of the several examples.

Just how bad are the starting racial and gender based stat tweaks?

There are no racial (or gendered) limits in any stats. All Races can eventually get 100s in all stats (except for Luck; that shit is hard, yo).

The differences in racial and gender based stats can be overcome within a single level with a little bit of effort and determination.

Racial and gender bonuses may reflect the base societal norms within each “race”. As they are quickly overcome and virtually irrelevant among adventurers, these stat differences say more about the values held by each fictional culture rather than what the developers believe to be the inherent strengths and weaknesses within various races and genders. (Crit theory says I’m 100% right about this, too, because it’s my opinion, and my critical opinion is more meaningful than creative intent)

All of that being said, I’m not really a big fan of systems that alter base stats on whether someone is playing as male or female. Usually, though, base stats are fixed for that character for the rest of the game, outside of magical items. Most systems don’t have any mechanism for a female character to overcome that -2 STR or whatever. But at least with most of the Elder Scrolls entries I’ve played, when a female character goes out and swings a sword for awhile, the game says “Well, since she’s been out there swinging a sword, clearly she’s gotten stronger.”

Racial stat traits or restrictions are more understandable when we’re not talking about the difference between a white guy and an asian or black but rather all whites, blacks, asians, whatever vs. hominid things with non-human morphology. Khajit used to not be able to wear boots, because they were uncomfortable on their kitty feet, until Oblivion (where the restriction would’ve broken the thieves guild and Knights of Nine quest lines).

The real problem is the uselessness of cultural understanding as a mechanic within the Elder Scrolls.  I’ve been playing as a high elven linguistic anthropologist in Daggerfall on and off for maybe 3 years now, and while I’ve got a full suit of elven armor, elven blunt weapons and dwarven edged weapons, I still can’t start the main quest because I’m only level 2.  At best, all of that cultural understanding merely allows her to improve her backstab and critical strike skills on the 1 out of every 10 orcs who aren’t immediately hostile.  “I strike you down in the name of the most benevolent Mara!”

The Race Problem in Gaming

A new post on the excellent Postmortem Studios blog and the post at Tor to which it linked have me hopping mad.

I am sick of everyone lamenting about gaming’s ‘race problem’.  The biggest race problem in gaming is all of the hand-wringing and subsequent pandering.  No, I’m not talking about the moral quandary of killing fey-aligned greenskins.  I’m talking about the constant cry for more diversity in gaming.

To get diversity, people from diverse backgrounds need to jump in and become content creators.  To demand that existing content creators cater to diverse groups, you end up with the sort of shallow and patronizing crap that everyone whines about as being appropriation.

And since everyone has to play their ethnic minority cards these days when talking about gaming, I couldn’t give two craps about what’s going on in latin game design.  I’m not really looking for any Man of LaMancha  B/X modules to run, and I’m sure as hell not going to write one just because I’m latino.  Then again, maybe if we all rallied together and called the RuneQuest people racists, they would’ve had to give in and let a spanish publisher release the 25th anniversary edition of HeroQuest, because calling people racist is the fastest way to get anything done these days.

If someone comes up with a good product, I don’t care what race they are.  Just so long as no one is talking about making more “Oriental Adventures”, because God, just no!

Also, it’s like white people aren’t allowed to do or write anything that’s not ‘white’ because they’re going to be accused of cultural appropriation.  So if you don’t like what white people are doing, don’t demand that they appropriate your culture and then complain when they do it badly.  Do it better!  Do it yourself!  But don’t whine about how white people have this stranglehold on gaming, because they don’t.  If kickstarter or indie-gogo blocked projects by non-white designers or fulfillment companies check to make sure that you’re white before they publish your board-games and game books, then come back to me and I’ll pat you on the back and commiserate with you about how bad we non-whities have it.

Yes, yes, Hollywood is more racist than mainstream America (Americans made people of color millionaire actors for decades before Hollywood would recognize people of color with their self-congratulatory garbage awards).  If Gencon can’t implement its own harassment policies, that’s a problem with Gencon, not gaming.  Last I checked, Gencon was a convention, not the abstract concept of gaming.  I’m sorry that Nazis apparently show up at your convention, but again, that’s a convention problem.  When Nazis show up at gaming tables in people’s homes and flip the tables if there’s a person of color sitting there, you still don’t have a problem with race in gaming, you have a problem with Nazis, and you should probably buy a gun and lock your doors.  Hell, there are probably some gaming companies and publishers out there that ARE REALLY RACIST.  But that’s a problem with publishers, not with gaming.  Gaming is what you make it.  Gaming is you and your friends at your table playing a GAME.  Don’t support publishers you think are racist.  Don’t play games with people who are racist.  Don’t go to cons that can’t enforce their policies.  If this isn’t enough, publish your own game.  There is literally nothing stopping you.  Even if you’re just running your own homebrew of “Dungeons & Dragons but Without the Racisms”, if you think the game is racist, there are other games.  I’m pretty sure you can find people who aren’t racist to play games with.  And hell, you can start your own local cons, just talk to your local library about event space.  It’ll be small, but all cons have to start somewhere.  But most of all know that complaining does nothing; action does everything.

3659884(Cuz, uh… this isn’t a real thing…)

 

(Of course PMS went and announced they were making a Gor RPG right after I write this ::facepalm::)

A follow up…: A few examples of how some fantasy settings handle ‘non-white’ races

This list will be by no means exhaustive or even particularly detailed. But I hope it will be more interesting than those “1d10 Names of random garbage” posts that I see everywhere 🙂

Just off the top of my head…

Order of the Stick: OoTS takes place in a Multi-ethnic world that for most purposes seems colorblind, at least insofar as humans are concerned, though racial tension is explored a bit through the goblins (green) and hobgoblins (yellow). Features both non-white protagonists and antagonists. Also depicts a number of cross-racial romantic couplings.

Earthsea: Multiple ethnicities exist, though each culture is homogeneous in the pockets they’re indigenous to, except in certain cosmopolitan areas. Features a non-white protagonist and a black side-kick. White people are pretty much villainous vikings through most of the series.

Middle Earth: Oh, my. Despite some claims as such, Orcs are never explicitly said to be “black”, just that they are all (probably, even Tolkien admitted having reservations, as a Christian man, in claiming that an entire race of people was evil, irredeemable and incapable of good) evil and speak the Black Tongue. Easterlings are never explicitly defined as Hun or Asiatic or such, but they’re all pretty much evil barbarians. Same with the Haradrim, except one gathers that they’re Moorish or Arabian and universally opposed to Civilization (with a capital C). I’m pretty sure the Wainriders are Gypsies.

Elder Scrolls: Lots of races here, and a lot of them are pretty racist against each other. But no race is universally defined by their racial traits, at least as personality goes. It is interesting, though, that there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, racial mixing (with the exception of the Bretons, who are apparently all half-elven?). I wonder if there are any black people that aren’t Redguards? Or if there could be a black imperial? “I’m from the imperial province, born and raised!” Too bad, you’re black, so you’re a Redguard.

Dragonlance: Were there black people in Dragonlance? People were pretty uncomfortable around Raistlin because of the color of his skin, but I’m not sure that counts.

Prydain: I’m pretty sure everyone in this was either welsh or a goblin.