269: The Pasty White Person Is King

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Basically everyone in Fable, or really any medieval fantasy, is white for the same reason virtually anyone in Jade Empire is chinese (I know there was a white guy, but the whole point of him being there was to be made an ass of by you): Because people in that setting, by a wide margin, tended to be the majority race, which is white for fantasy, and chinese for Jade Empire.

Why is white the dominant colour for medieval fantasy characters? If you want to argue that there were other races with a significant population in Europe at the time, then fine, argue that. The problem is that as far as I know none of them were knights, and I highly doubt that lords and kings let them fight in their armies, and they weren't exactly meshed in with native britons.

Here, I'm going to take the article's logic and make it a little bit on the stupid side. Why can I only make Japanese Samurai in the Samurai Warriors franchise's custom warrior mode. I know that Japan is about as homogenous as they get, but there were white people going there to do trade and such. So it's not as if there were no other races there. I want to make a white Samurai. And, since I can make a white samurai, it would be racist if I couldn't make a samurai for every colour of the racial rainbow. I know that there were no samurai who weren't purebred Japanese, but with some of the shit you are asking me to believe already why can't I have a politically correct squad of Samurai called "The Diversity Force"?

I think that Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights had more racial options but they are based on the Forgotten Realms setting which, I think, is supposed to be a world were multiculturalism and gender equality are taken as granted. When you look at the cultures that are defined as exotic in the Forgotten Realms the details seem to get less defined and ruled by crude preconceptions. Pulp fantasy sells itself by delivering exactly what you expect it to deliver. You have to look to find harder content by people who really care about going past your expectations by researching real history and anthropology.

Similarly, Mass Effect is supposed to be a post melting pot vision of humanity where people with any type of racial purity are rare. But a lot of the humans you meet are really strikingly western European in appearance if that is the case. Even the aliens are sort of white, which I suppose is better than risking a Jar Jar Binks.

Del-Toro:
Basically everyone in Fable, or really any medieval fantasy, is white for the same reason virtually anyone in Jade Empire is chinese (I know there was a white guy, but the whole point of him being there was to be made an ass of by you): Because people in that setting, by a wide margin, tended to be the majority race, which is white for fantasy, and chinese for Jade Empire.

Why is white the dominant colour for medieval fantasy characters? If you want to argue that there were other races with a significant population in Europe at the time, then fine, argue that. The problem is that as far as I know none of them were knights, and I highly doubt that lords and kings let them fight in their armies, and they weren't exactly meshed in with native britons.

Here, I'm going to take the article's logic and make it a little bit on the stupid side. Why can I only make Japanese Samurai in the Samurai Warriors franchise's custom warrior mode. I know that Japan is about as homogenous as they get, but there were white people going there to do trade and such. So it's not as if there were no other races there. I want to make a white Samurai. And, since I can make a white samurai, it would be racist if I couldn't make a samurai for every colour of the racial rainbow. I know that there were no samurai who weren't purebred Japanese, but with some of the shit you are asking me to believe already why can't I have a politically correct squad of Samurai called "The Diversity Force"?

Japanese Samurai were real.

Like, really real.

History has nothing to do with fantasy. People like to pretend that fantasy is somehow bound by history, but it's not.

Fantasy has the advantage of being Whatever The Creators Decide, but so few creators actually make use of that advantage. Fantasy is always very samey-samey, and it gets trapped in these ludicrous conventions -- like the fake marriage with history, like the prevalence of white folk, like the misuse of the term "race."

-- Chuck

what really annoys me is when they have a black character in a game just to tick a box eg Sahz from FFXIII, or the sergent from Bad Company 2. I really felt when seeing these characters that the dev team just thought "ok, lets put in this black guy, ok, done, everyone else can be white as usual". I rather that game developers put in characters of different races because they wan to, not because they feel obliged. Also, i'd like to play as a Hispanic main character in a shooter. Merely a whim though

Ed.:
Fantasy does have one thing in its defence that you didn't really mention

Modern fantasy is massively influenced by tolkien who was well white and wrote his story as such. The it's based on medieval England excuses goes a bit further than credited to portra other races as merchants and foreigners is mostly fair though I'll give you there should be the odd moor.

Then that gosh-derned Star Trek had to go and mess everything up, now the entire universe has to worry about fine looking black women and their fan dances.

That could be the link why Fable 3 (representing Fantasy) is more whitewashed then Mass Effect (representing Sci-Fi) as discussed in the article. It's just the nature of the genre.

Dude, Moors aren't black, they've never been. They look more like Arabs, and were only referred to as "black" because they had tanned skin, and to Medieval Europeans who'd never seen a proper black person it was close enough.

Well, this article settles it. Mafia 2 has too many Italian-Americans.

wtrmute:
Dude, Moors aren't black, they've never been. They look more like Arabs, and were only referred to as "black" because they had tanned skin, and to Medieval Europeans who'd never seen a proper black person, it was close enough.

Moors are not of one race. They comprise both Arabs and Africans.

The point was not to say, "They're black." The point was that history is a little more colorful than some would have you imagine.

-- Chuck

Good article methinks. I think representation of other races as protagonists is more of an issue than selection of ethnicity in such games, but they are both obviously closely related. We would never get the former without addressing the latter, and the latter should be so much easier to do. However I will say that I have attempted to create black characters in games, and gave up because they just look silly.

You've inspired me to write up a piece I've been putting off for a while. Cheers.

Scrumpmonkey:
I think a lot of it comes down to layziness. The 'Balck People' in many games are just white people painted brown that bring dubious envoking of the minstrel era. 'Black' features are something many people have trouble representing accurately or at all, there is just to much of a limit on what people feel comfortable designing incasre they get labeled as 'derogetory' or 'caricature' prepresentations of black people.

If your going to do black people then you're going to have to do balck people properly and many devs don't see that as a priority or even feel comfptable with it.

It's something they are going to have to address sooner or later. Ignoring certain things doesn't mean that they disappear eventually, diversity in the gamer world is ever-expanding.

Agreed on your point though, you explained it better than I.

Lenriak:
Aaaaand no mention of the fact that you CAN do a very good job of creating any race in APB with that games editors. The various editors are easily the best thing (and too most people the only great thing) about the game.

Heh, there's a number of things I could say about that, but it would look like I would be twisting words (which may well be true).

APB is supposed to be a reporesentation of an American city, a bustling urban environment. They had no choice.

The games he noted are a different story entirely.

While I understand the point you are making re: fantasy version of Medieval England, 'having non-caucasians being far less of a stetech than werewolves', the way you word it does appear to imply that you are saying that there is evidence of significant Moorish habitation in Medieval England, which there is not, England is not even mentioned in the article you link.
Similarly with the Roman issue, the last Roman Garrisons left Britannia in the 400's, if we are really generous and say the Medieval England games reference was around 600 years later I'm fairly certain any tiny remains of darker skin passed on by Roman or Auxilliary garrisons fathering children or settling there (the latter being pretty unusual, Brittania was widely regarded as a scumhole that no Roman in his right mind would want to live in, much like today really) would have been wiped out by time and the ultra pale invading Angles, Saxons and Norse.

I get your point, it's a fantasy world, why not? Certainly as regards the main character who is obviously special in some way being different I can see any race as being fine, but if the games creators specifically wanted to create the fantasy Medieval England feel then having the game populated by pasty white dudes and dudettes is probably quite appropriate. If I made a game set in a fantasy version of Middle East or Far East and I wanted it to feel authentically Middle Eastern etc I wouldn't have lots of white dudes with English accents running around, it just wouldn't feel right to me.
What I would ask is why stick to Medieval England, not why does a fantasy version of Medieval England have loads of white dudes?

chuckwendig:

Del-Toro:
Basically everyone in Fable, or really any medieval fantasy, is white for the same reason virtually anyone in Jade Empire is chinese (I know there was a white guy, but the whole point of him being there was to be made an ass of by you): Because people in that setting, by a wide margin, tended to be the majority race, which is white for fantasy, and chinese for Jade Empire.

Why is white the dominant colour for medieval fantasy characters? If you want to argue that there were other races with a significant population in Europe at the time, then fine, argue that. The problem is that as far as I know none of them were knights, and I highly doubt that lords and kings let them fight in their armies, and they weren't exactly meshed in with native britons.

Here, I'm going to take the article's logic and make it a little bit on the stupid side. Why can I only make Japanese Samurai in the Samurai Warriors franchise's custom warrior mode. I know that Japan is about as homogenous as they get, but there were white people going there to do trade and such. So it's not as if there were no other races there. I want to make a white Samurai. And, since I can make a white samurai, it would be racist if I couldn't make a samurai for every colour of the racial rainbow. I know that there were no samurai who weren't purebred Japanese, but with some of the shit you are asking me to believe already why can't I have a politically correct squad of Samurai called "The Diversity Force"?

Japanese Samurai were real.

Like, really real.

History has nothing to do with fantasy. People like to pretend that fantasy is somehow bound by history, but it's not.

Fantasy has the advantage of being Whatever The Creators Decide, but so few creators actually make use of that advantage. Fantasy is always very samey-samey, and it gets trapped in these ludicrous conventions -- like the fake marriage with history, like the prevalence of white folk, like the misuse of the term "race."

-- Chuck

I'm perfectly aware that Samurai were real. The point I was trying to make, and which I suppose I didn't make very well, was that standard fantasy takes cues from medieval Europe and is therefore going to be taking character design from that as well. Therefore one can come to expect a degree of ethnic homogeny from basically anything set in the middle ages. Which I don't see as a big deal. They are, after all, based on the distant past. and to clarify I never said that fantasy was bound by history, I said that it drew most of it's design from history. And tolkein. In fact, fantasy as a whole is basically just a rehash of Tolkeins magnum opus, and guess what the majority of the characters were?

chuckwendig:
Moors are not of one race. They comprise both Arabs and Africans.

The point was not to say, "They're black." The point was that history is a little more colorful than some would have you imagine.

-- Chuck

Yes, they are. They're North Africans, mostly of Berber extraction, and white for all intents and purposes, even if they are tanned (about as much as a Californian). If you want to talk about blacks, you need to use "Ethiopian", but there were no Ethiopians in Middle Ages Britain. Talking about diversity is all well and good, but we need to use proper examples, not switch one tired cliché for another.

wtrmute:

chuckwendig:
Moors are not of one race. They comprise both Arabs and Africans.

The point was not to say, "They're black." The point was that history is a little more colorful than some would have you imagine.

-- Chuck

Yes, they are. They're North Africans, mostly of Berber extraction, and white for all intents and purposes, even if they are tanned (about as much as a Californian). If you want to talk about blacks, you need to use "Ethiopian", but there were no Ethiopians in Middle Ages Britain. Talking about diversity is all well and good, but we need to use proper examples, not switch one tired cliché for another.

I'm sure the Berber people will be very happy with you calling them "white for all intents and purposes." Deep Californian tanning makes one a Berber? Or a Moor? Were Native Americans basically just white dudes, too?

I mean, c'mon.

Anyway: Moor, as I understand it, is a somewhat ambiguous term. A quick Google search generally confirms this. http://www.suite101.com/content/identifying-the-ethnicity-of-the-moors-a117835 etc.

All that being said, it's quite beside the point that we needn't be married to history in terms of creating fantasy. And when we're not married to history, the onus is on game designers to move past the Pasty White Person and into the expressions of other races and cultures.

-- Chuck

Play Saints Row 2, you start as a black person, and in the loadings you are represented as a black person (the loadings show still images from the cutscenes and they are from the developers playthrough).

And the Asian looks asian and the Hispanic looks kind of indian lol

chuckwendig:
That said, DA:O still has the issue of creating a swarthy character who lives in a very white world: your avatar is less someone of a different race and more someone with a genetic pigmentation problem: "Hey, my family is white, but my skin is deeper than the midnight dark." It ends up feeling the same as WoW: a new coat of paint over a white character.

image

"Lordy, Lordy, thems darkspawn be acomin'!"

Interesting article. Although I'd say that suggesting that the Horde in WoW is a case of Othering is taking it too far.

CitySquirrel:

Plinglebob:
While I accept that character generators could be tweaked to try and represent more specific racial characteristics, the insistance that black people should be in middle ages UK settings because of the Moors is really stupid.

You are missing the point. Does it make sense to have elves in in a middle ages U.K setting? Magic? Dragons? Hordes of demon like things? Unless it is a historical simulator then reality should be no constraint. And you know what? It isn't for most things. It isn't that we should have black people in a medieval U.K. setting because there were moors in England, we should have them, and all other races, because those races all make up the people possibly playing the game. Because it makes no sense to say, "You can be an elf, a dwarf, a demon creature from another plane, but you can't be black." It isn't overt racism, but it shows how easy it is to forget about the existence of people who are not us.

It's not about simulation but setting. The stories that come from the English middle ages are full of monsters, the terrible fairies, elves, underground spirits and their dwarfish kin, boggarts, brownies, dragons, demons, peasants, kings, knights, witches, mages and lots and lot's of welsh people.

The Moors main invasion of Europe stopped in the Pyrennes and the south of modern France so the evidence of them in England is mostly from the Roman era; which is before the middle ages.

Stories of Moors from middle age England are seen but they are quick to point out their strangeness, skill in a fight and how dark skinned they were. Generally they are portrayed as dangerous or outright evil. To play a Moorish man in a fantasy game may seem a trivial thing but if your basing your game on a middle-age English Legend then it is a stretch.

Personally I see the problem more as "why is medieval England used so often in fantasy games?" and "why don't developers take the time to make characters look like they belong the the race the supposedly belong to."

It seems to me that if people like you, and by that I mean people of your particular viewpoint, stop drawing a line between yourselves and others then this really wouldn't be such an issue. To be honest, I'm not even mainly talking about people of different ethnicities fighting for their rights. I'm talking about people in general being overly touchy whenever race enters a conversation. As is mentioned in the editors note, you can't even mention race without pissing somebody off. Now tell me, how is that ever going to help? By telling the world over and over again because of such small things that you are in fact different and you can't be insulted like this, you are inadvertently causing more racism. Think about what would happen if these people had never heard of the big fuss over racism?

I realise that the big fuss was needed in the past, quite obviously, but do you need to anymore? Are you really that offended that you can't choose other races in games? Learn to pick your battles. If people are being actually hurt because of racism, like in several occasions during history, then yes, stand up for your culture, but in tiny matters which are really of no consequence, then just leave it. You're trying to point out racism where none exists.

I'm not racist at all. It's not that I particularly like other races more than my own, I just don't care about race at all. I for one care about the person as an actual person, rather than the colour of their skin and the culture they have been brought up in. I'm not saying that different options shouldn't be included. By all means, simply as a matter of taste these should be included. I guess I just don't care enough.

I guess my main point to this little rant is "Why does it matter?" Are you so vain that you only see someone as their skin colour, and are you so paranoid that you feel the need to point it out?

chuckwendig:

Silver Scribbler:

Plinglebob:
I'm going to sound like typical BNP racist, but I think this is the first article the Escapist has had made me want to whack the writer round the back of the head. While I accept that character generators could be tweaked to try and represent more specific racial characteristics, the insistance that black people should be in middle ages UK settings because of the Moors is really stupid.

Even in current times, the UK is still 90% white and the majority of those that arn't are mainly in the larger cities. In the countryside (or even some of the larger towns) the percentage of people of an ethnic minority drops to ridiculously low levels. This means even if Albion was to represent the UK today, there would sill only be about 10 NPCs who wern't white. Seeing as the game represents the industrial age, it would be even less.

This article reminds me of when the (possibly former) leader of the race and equalities commission said that the BBC should have at least 1 minority memebr in each show. One commentators response was "If you stuck a black guy in Dibley (ficitonal country village) not only would it un-realistic, the only way to make it realistic would be for them to be shot"

While Mr Wendig does mention the Moors, he's not saying that you should be able to create black NPCs in Fable III simply because of them. I think he's saying that the developers using the fact that their fantasy game is based in a time where there would have been few people of darker skin tone is bullshit, as the game is just that, fantasy.

Exactly that! Thank you!

-- Chuck

In which case, why did you bring them up on two or three occasions?

I'll be frank, yet hopefully not too offensive - this article screams the same kind of middle-class PC rage that you find in the Guardian's op-ed pages; white people being offended on behalf of minorities about issues that you don't really see minorities themselves complain about.

Is racial equality important? Certainly. Is making videogames a battleground for the issue productive? Somehow I doubt it, but I'd be interested to hear what actual minorities think of it. So, Anonymous Black Man I've Not Met Yet; are you offended that WoW only lets you "paint" your human avatar? Do you care enough about character creation choices that it would ruin an otherwise great game for you?

Most importantly, do you think that the, at most, few Thousand Moors spread throughout the British Isles over a period of several hundred years is justification for accusing Molyneux&Co of whitewashing the Fable games? :P

Zenron:
It seems to me that if people like you, and by that I mean people of your particular viewpoint, stop drawing a line between yourselves and others then this really wouldn't be such an issue. To be honest, I'm not even mainly talking about people of different ethnicities fighting for their rights. I'm talking about people in general being overly touchy whenever race enters a conversation. As is mentioned in the editors note, you can't even mention race without pissing somebody off. Now tell me, how is that ever going to help? By telling the world over and over again because of such small things that you are in fact different and you can't be insulted like this, you are inadvertently causing more racism. Think about what would happen if these people had never heard of the big fuss over racism?

I realise that the big fuss was needed in the past, quite obviously, but do you need to anymore? Are you really that offended that you can't choose other races in games? Learn to pick your battles. If people are being actually hurt because of racism, like in several occasions during history, then yes, stand up for your culture, but in tiny matters which are really of no consequence, then just leave it. You're trying to point out racism where none exists.

I'm not racist at all. It's not that I particularly like other races more than my own, I just don't care about race at all. I for one care about the person as an actual person, rather than the colour of their skin and the culture they have been brought up in. I'm not saying that different options shouldn't be included. By all means, simply as a matter of taste these should be included. I guess I just don't care enough.

I guess my main point to this little rant is "Why does it matter?" Are you so vain that you only see someone as their skin colour, and are you so paranoid that you feel the need to point it out?

Nailed it in one!

As it turns out, I wrote this article to showcase my awesome whiteness -- or, more to the point, my staggering pinkness.

As one cannot have light without dark, or awesomeness without crappiness, I hope to urge game developers to include more dark-skinned swarthy-folk so as to ensure that white people appear as awesome as they can by comparison.

Guilty!

/sarcasm

-- Chuck

Thank you for your article, it was an interesting read.

I understand the concern in customizable characters that they simply seem like painted-on white people, but I think the other side is a slippery slope towards stereotypes. At least with some Asian communities (I am Chinese), there is always an uproar and demands for apologies whenever a celebrity or group mocks the language or imitates narrow, "squinty" eyes. Remember Shaquille O'Neal years ago mocking Yao Ming, or Miley Cyrus's photo making her eyes look Asian? I personally remember the outrage from the Asian communities regarding these incidents.

My point of this regarding game customization is that there is also a danger on the other side if designers cherry-pick certain ethnic characteristics, that there could be a backlash. Maybe the fact that you can only customize your character so much, is a sign of designers being cautious in this regard?

Scrumpmonkey:
I think a lot of it comes down to layziness. The 'Balck People' in many games are just white people painted brown that bring dubious envoking of the minstrel era. 'Black' features are something many people have trouble representing accurately or at all, there is just to much of a limit on what people feel comfortable designing incasre they get labeled as 'derogetory' or 'caricature' prepresentations of black people.

If your going to do black people then you're going to have to do balck people properly and many devs don't see that as a priority or even feel comfptable with it.

I'd have to say Scrumpmonkey has a good point here, in that while in WOW, most black skin tone choices just take the white model and dunk it in brown paint, there's a real danger, especially in a cartoon style game, and with moral guardians ready to cry 'racism' at anything, to make some racial feature a caricature and therefore a mockery of a race.

I'm sure it can be done, but it'd have to be done very carefully, and I also think it should be considered when it shouldn't be done also.

If Albion was based on medieval England, there were very few non whites around, and there's nothing surprising or exclusive about an all white game. I personally, while living around people of many nations, indians, orientals, turkish, I actually rarely see anyone black, maybe if I go into the nearest town I may see one or two while I'm out, but I'd say I live in a 95% 'white' area. Doesn't make anyone racist, it's just the makeup of the area.

So yes, things could be better, but I sense we're in for more easy controversy and criticisms before things improve, as we're an easy target for the other media.

I'd like to bring up a game I used to play a fair amount of; Guild Wars. It did a variety of different settings with each of its campaigns and (in my opinion) did them quite well. While its original campaign (Prophecies) was located in the land of "Kryta" which was your standard Middle Ages England, its second campaign, Factions, had an Eastern setting, and its third campaign, Nightfall, had an African setting. And it wasn't just the scenery; the characters you ran into also reflected the setting, and perhaps most importantly, there were separate character creators for each campaign, and while they certainly didn't force you into anything, they strongly emphasized/encouraged the ethnicity/setting.

A very thought-provoking article. As your typical WASP, I can't say I've ever tried to make a character in a game other than a Caucasian, and this was quite enlightening. Thanks for the interesting read.

Unrulyhandbag:
To play a Moorish man in a fantasy game may seem a trivial thing but if your basing your game on a middle-age English Legend then it is a stretch.

I find calling these based on middle-age English legend a little inaccurate. Certainly there are a few thematic and elemental connections, but for the most part they are now part of a separate established fantasy setting that contains only a trace of the original source material. But...

Unrulyhandbag:
Personally I see the problem more as "why is medieval England used so often in fantasy games?" and "why don't developers take the time to make characters look like they belong the the race the supposedly belong to."

You are essentially correct. As Yahtzee pointed out in his dragon age review, we are kinda stuck in this vaguely Tolkien inspired set of fantasy tropes. In fantasy writing, there is have been attempts to get away from this (see the New Weird, with authors like China Mieville and Holly Phillips) but video games are, while not always, generally chugging along in the "high fantasy" swords and sorcery genre and when one sticks with these tropes it is hard to get away from the defined racial roles.

BlueInkAlchemist:
Snip

It is hard to say...

For the "being forced to play white person", explaining why Mario is suddenly Japanese would take a lot of effort and story telling that Mario really hasn't had ever outside of the RPGs.

On the other hand, when every, single, game, ever has you playing characters as white as blank word document (the only one I can think of that is otherwise is the black characters from Left 4 Dead, over the top sterotypes in Street Fighter, and a few Asians in martial arts/ninja games) is troubling.

Of course, the "dip a white person in either tea or coffee" way isn't helping either.

Not bad Chuck, but I think there was potential to go much further with this article, particularly with regard to this:

I want to put myself in the shoes of a gamer who is distinctly not a White Dude. Can I create an avatar befitting my newly-imagined race? Will I find representation amidst the pixels? Or will my ethnic identity be lost within pink and pale 1s and 0s?

Now I'm a relatively pasty white dude, bit of Irish blood and all that. Let's take a look at some games which feature protagonists who don't reflect a viable physical replicant of me- GTA 3, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, etc. When I play as a non-white or female character do I feel unrepresented? Absolutely not, I just go with it.

Would I, however, feel it was strange to play a game with a customizable avatar that had no option for a white, male character? Certainly, unless there was some specific and in-character reasoning.

So what's the difference? Why is it that when the character is customizable it has to represent the gamer, and yet when when the character is unchangeable it doesn't exclude those who do not physically resemble their avatar?

I'm not sure, but I'm going to take a swing at it- I think this is a nice little example of the constructed nature of racial identities. Given the opportunity to do so, we will construct a character which resembles or reflects our self, even down to skin colour, because we assume this has some bearing on the avatars ability to represent us in its little world. However, in games in which the avatar cannot accurately reflect us physically we are able to suspend this belief, and therefore reveal its fragility.

Hmm, I don't think that's quite there, it's full of holes. But it's the start of an idea.

-Bim

Sir John the Net Knight:
But the only point I see being made in this article, is the author claiming some kind of white conspiracy exists in game development.

That's actually not what he's saying at all. He's saying that little attempt is being made to create diversity. And I agree. But I don't believe in most cases that its prejudice, I think its laziness or following the path of least resistance.

chuckwendig:

Nailed it in one!

As it turns out, I wrote this article to showcase my awesome whiteness -- or, more to the point, my staggering pinkness.

As one cannot have light without dark, or awesomeness without crappiness, I hope to urge game developers to include more dark-skinned swarthy-folk so as to ensure that white people appear as awesome as they can by comparison.

Guilty!

/sarcasm

-- Chuck

I don't get it. The main point of my rant was to tell you all to stop getting pissed off about things that really don't matter. I'm not particularly referencing the people of other races, it's just the people who get so annoyed about it.

The fact that you sidestepped everything I posted and went off on a tangent about... well I'm not really sure just shows the immaturity of your actions both in the original post and your replies. You see, this is why we can't discuss race. People are too immature to have a calculated debate.

Indignation837:
A very thought-provoking article. As your typical WASP, I can't say I've ever tried to make a character in a game other than a Caucasian, and this was quite enlightening.

I've found the best way to test a character creator's flexibility is to create a passable Polynesian character. Very few can manage it. Fallout 3 barely scraped in, DA:O managed it and in Mass Effect I managed to create a quite good Temaura Morrison clone... which I then declined to use in play because playing a Jango Fett Shepherd just seemed wanky. Plus looking like Temarua Morrison but not sounding like him would have broken the magic.

Zenron:

chuckwendig:

Nailed it in one!

As it turns out, I wrote this article to showcase my awesome whiteness -- or, more to the point, my staggering pinkness.

As one cannot have light without dark, or awesomeness without crappiness, I hope to urge game developers to include more dark-skinned swarthy-folk so as to ensure that white people appear as awesome as they can by comparison.

Guilty!

/sarcasm

-- Chuck

I don't get it. The main point of my rant was to tell you all to stop getting pissed off about things that really don't matter. I'm not particularly referencing the people of other races, it's just the people who get so annoyed about it.

The fact that you sidestepped everything I posted and went off on a tangent about... well I'm not really sure just shows the immaturity of your actions both in the original post and your replies. You see, this is why we can't discuss race. People are too immature to have a calculated debate.

Er...no. You got the response you got because your initial post was pretty much irrelevant to what the article was about. You brought up race.

The article was about representation and choices-and how, given the times we live in and the culture of gaming, those representations and choices are strangely limited..

bimbley:
Not bad Chuck, but I think there was potential to go much further with this article, particularly with regard to this:

I want to put myself in the shoes of a gamer who is distinctly not a White Dude. Can I create an avatar befitting my newly-imagined race? Will I find representation amidst the pixels? Or will my ethnic identity be lost within pink and pale 1s and 0s?

Now I'm a relatively pasty white dude, bit of Irish blood and all that. Let's take a look at some games which feature protagonists who don't reflect a viable physical replicant of me- GTA 3, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, etc. When I play as a non-white or female character do I feel unrepresented? Absolutely not, I just go with it.

Would I, however, feel it was strange to play a game with a customizable avatar that had no option for a white, male character? Certainly, unless there was some specific and in-character reasoning.

So what's the difference? Why is it that when the character is customizable it has to represent the gamer, and yet when when the character is unchangeable it doesn't exclude those who do not physically resemble their avatar?

I'm not sure, but I'm going to take a swing at it- I think this is a nice little example of the constructed nature of racial identities. Given the opportunity to do so, we will construct a character which resembles or reflects our self, even down to skin colour, because we assume this has some bearing on the avatars ability to represent us in its little world. However, in games in which the avatar cannot accurately reflect us physically we are able to suspend this belief, and therefore reveal its fragility.

Hmm, I don't think that's quite there, it's full of holes. But it's the start of an idea.

-Bim

Definitely would fill a whole second article, but one worth writing.

I think the difference is in the term: first-person and third-person. First-person indicates that it's me, me, me. Third-person indicates I'm you, you, you. Meaning, some pre-described protagonist.

-- Chuck

sosolidshoe:

chuckwendig:

Silver Scribbler:

Plinglebob:
I'm going to sound like typical BNP racist, but I think this is the first article the Escapist has had made me want to whack the writer round the back of the head. While I accept that character generators could be tweaked to try and represent more specific racial characteristics, the insistance that black people should be in middle ages UK settings because of the Moors is really stupid.

Even in current times, the UK is still 90% white and the majority of those that arn't are mainly in the larger cities. In the countryside (or even some of the larger towns) the percentage of people of an ethnic minority drops to ridiculously low levels. This means even if Albion was to represent the UK today, there would sill only be about 10 NPCs who wern't white. Seeing as the game represents the industrial age, it would be even less.

This article reminds me of when the (possibly former) leader of the race and equalities commission said that the BBC should have at least 1 minority memebr in each show. One commentators response was "If you stuck a black guy in Dibley (ficitonal country village) not only would it un-realistic, the only way to make it realistic would be for them to be shot"

While Mr Wendig does mention the Moors, he's not saying that you should be able to create black NPCs in Fable III simply because of them. I think he's saying that the developers using the fact that their fantasy game is based in a time where there would have been few people of darker skin tone is bullshit, as the game is just that, fantasy.

Exactly that! Thank you!

-- Chuck

In which case, why did you bring them up on two or three occasions?

I'll be frank, yet hopefully not too offensive - this article screams the same kind of middle-class PC rage that you find in the Guardian's op-ed pages; white people being offended on behalf of minorities about issues that you don't really see minorities themselves complain about.

Is racial equality important? Certainly. Is making videogames a battleground for the issue productive? Somehow I doubt it, but I'd be interested to hear what actual minorities think of it. So, Anonymous Black Man I've Not Met Yet; are you offended that WoW only lets you "paint" your human avatar? Do you care enough about character creation choices that it would ruin an otherwise great game for you?

Most importantly, do you think that the, at most, few Thousand Moors spread throughout the British Isles over a period of several hundred years is justification for accusing Molyneux&Co of whitewashing the Fable games? :P

Why is it that when anyone critiques something on a racial level people refer to it as that person being 'offended', and they shouldn't be 'so sensitive'? There is nothing wrong with pointing out flaws in video games, or movies, or books. The second those flaws have anything to do with race, or culture, or gender, we get people getting really, really defensive. Saying that there are bigger problems out there and this 'really isn't that big a deal'.

But it can be, and it's important to let devs know that some people are looking at their product in this light. It can be because racial issues aren't mutually separate, they're part of a big tapestry in our culture. They all work together to push things in one direction or another. No one is making video games a battleground for the issue. But games are relevant, just as relevant these days than books, television or movies in terms of how race is portrayed in society.

chuckwendig:

That said, DA:O still has the issue of creating a swarthy character who lives in a very white world: your avatar is less someone of a different race and more someone with a genetic pigmentation problem: "Hey, my family is white, but my skin is deeper than the midnight dark." It ends up feeling the same as WoW: a new coat of paint over a white character.

-- Chuck

Or you could do like I did and roleplay that my character's mother had an affair and the dad was in a constant state of denial. :)

As for Mass Effect, I actually didn't like how it handled race. I could certainly make a dark skinned Hispanic man with stereotypical mustache and name him Miguel, but all immersion in that character was broken upon hearing him speak. There's literally no excuse for it when you consider that Jacob has a very distinct voice.

It's a bit like Wedge in Starwars. Where did he get that accent from? the fucking Dixie System in the Southern regions of the galaxy?

As a gamer and a Mexican-American, I've just recently come to terms with race issues in this nation (Thank you, Arizona...) You know, Moviebob did a video on this as well (Mississippi pwnage or something like that) where he confronted the issue head-on.

I think the main issue is that most forms of geek culture are predominantly white and Asian: comics, manga, anime, video games, tabletop games, and other such games were created mostly if not all by Whites and Asians. As such, these forms of media are aimed at said groups and patronized mostly said groups. It took a while for minority characters to finally break the mold, and they were token ones at that (Black-fill in the blank, for example)

Nowadays, American audiences are too used to a White protagonist to where minority protagonists are overshadowed or simply not selling well (see: Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle). If we want to see more ethnic-inclusion, we'll need true efforts to reach across the isles and have stories that appeal to minority audiences, preferably written by minorities themselves (Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Brothers, for example). And we'll have to hold them by the same standard or else we'll get crap using the excuse that it's the only alternative for their respective audiences (see: Tyler Perry for Black audiences and...Twilight...shudder...for Women audiences).

PS: I've made sure this post is flame-repellent. I learned by lesson...

PPS: The only Mexican American superhero I could think of was Jamie Reyes: Blue Beetle. The only Mexican superhero I can think of is El Chapulin Colorado. To be fair, superheroism is more of an American thing, I suppose....

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