Video games without people of color are not 'neutral'


#1

[Read the post]


#2
The response from detractors was swift and vocal. They argued that adding non-white people to games in which they “don’t belong” (a common refrain for period fantasy) is pandering or illogical and would somehow taint, misrepresent or destroy these worlds. Beneath the auspices of concern for accuracy, they’re arguing that these are white worlds and can only function as long as they remain that way. And white worlds demand white heroes.

I would earnestly like to see that link go to another piece of journalism which documents and exposes the breadth and depth of this opposition. One tweet is one tweet. One idiot with a megaphone is not ‘they’ or a pluralized detractor.

I believe they’re out there, I do. Bring me more evidence (or at least two pieces if you’re planning to pluralize things) and I will bring you more outrage and more interest in your cause here.

Thanks for listening. Well written piece!


#3

I did not realize the missing of diversity in color during my play through (not finished yet), but now you told me I feel ashamed.

I think you are right.

Maybe I oversaw it, cause there definitely is diversity in W3. There are strong and weak characters of all genders, male, female and everything between. But there is no diversity in skin color, which is bad.

I would change the terminology from “start adding diversity” to “stop with taking diversity out”. Cause diversity is a natural thing, in every society. Not having it in your game (or whatever) means you have to remove it from your fictional society and you better should have a reason to do this. Of course with differences not only in skin color but also with differences in the facial structure this could mean a lot of workload which could break your budget and project.

So for W3 I would be fine if there were at least 2-3 characters of different skin tone and some kind of explanation for the rarity. That can’t be so hard… I guess.


#4

I haven’t played the game, but i know books it’s based on. The world of Witcher is definitely not medieval. It looks like a traditional fantasy but everything else in books is more similar to the first half of XX century. Some elements are even more modern. Black people wouldn’t be out of place there.

The reason behind a lack of POC in the game is probably very simple. The developer is from Poland. There are not that many black people there. Maybe 200 or 300 persons for the whole country. It’s really easy to forget about an importance of representation of different races when you never see them.


#5

More or less this. I was born in an Eastern European country, and I had never seen a black person until I moved to the US. There is a different history of racism (tending toward antisemitism or anti-Asian sentiment), so it feels kind of odd to use The Witcher as an example, going so far as to apply American cultural critique to it.

On the other hand, Bioshock Infinite has no excuse. Not only did it willingly wade into the murky waters of American history, but it also decided to take the South Park “the truth is in the middle” approach.


#6

I wonder what kind of a reaction World of Warcraft would get if it were released now. Every race is code for some ethnic group.

Human-looking races - humans, dwarves, gnomes, blood elves - almost all American/British, almost all white.

Monstrous races are Other. Orcs are coded black. Trolls are Jamaican. Tauren are Native American. Being culturally black in World of Warcraft is to be a literal monster.


#7

Exactly. I dont know why the Witcher is being singled out for this. Like it is the fault of a developer in another country, adapting a work of literature on that country, that it doesnt reflect the diversity of the US.

That in a game inspired on a series where racism is one of the main themes, even if it is filtered via dwarves and elves, which mainly play the role of Jews, which would be the significant diversity factor in an Eastern Europe inspired game.

All in all CD Projekt seems to learn a lot (compare the “collectible sex cards” approach to this last iteration of what romance is), and I’m sure they will have more US-style diversity in Cyberpunk - which I hope they are working on.


#8

It’s not like there wasn’t talk of this when it came out, either, or when the Goblins (who draw on Jewish stereotypes) were released. It’s just when people talk about it, there’s nowhere near enough care for others to listen, and the people who speak out are often attacked and harassed for it.


#9

Aren’t people free to choose their fights? I know, it is frustrating and annoying that the recruitment for your pet wars sucks; but there are so many other pet causes YOU do not subscribe to, so it evens out at the end of the day.


#10

The international context of this is one of the more interesting angles on race (and gender) in games. Internationally speaking, the US is pretty damn well ahead of most of the rest of the world on these issues (probably moreso on race than on gender). The exposure most game devs had in their childhoods is from Japan, which is hardly a bastion of progressiveness on either issue.

It’s an explanation, not an excuse, but it’s not something that should be ignored - this isn’t just Americans, this is a global pull in the direction of diversity.


#11

I also think it has to do with the time that WoW came out. Non-humans as shorthand for different cultural and racial struggles in history has been the way fantasy has been written for decades. It’s only very recently that fantasy has been a mainstream concern, and thus subject to criticism, ESPECIALLY in games.


#12

I really dislike the dismissing of equality and diversity as a “pet cause” or “pet war”.

Lack of diversity, be it race or gender, is an issue that affects everyone, its not something to be dismissed so lightly.


#13

How in movies I always watch to see if the one black character in main cast gets killed first (try it yourself, you’ll be surprisingly and sadly not let down nearly often enough), I think the mentality that produces that cliche move on the script writers part is the same mentality that causes game makers to whitewash these games too. I used to think it was racism (like directly I hate these people racism) but I’ve come to think its an effect of hackey writing amongst a large pool of white content creators. I think in situations where POC are shown only as a background if at all the writer may not feel negative toward them, yet may personally not feel they are competent enough to create convincing dialogue for them that wouldn’t come across as even more racist (or at least expose them as bad at writing), so leaving them out of the story is just simpler or safer to them. People are complex and a convincing character has backstory and depth, yet contriving a history for one from a perspective you haven’t personally felt or experienced is, while not impossible, not a simple matter and most people getting involved in these projects did so for reasons other than taking up the goal of creating deep characters. I don’t think that leaves us in a good place but I think the solution is better writers and better writers aren’t something that crawls out of the woodwork once you get rid of the bad ones.


#14

This isn’t even lack of diversity that’s being dismissed. This is blatant racist stereotypes. But, hey, just a small pet cause.


#15

Yeah, while the point of race in the witcher is true, and well taken, I think this is a poor battle to choose.

CDProjekt have proven they listen, and that they care about their stuff. They went from the sex cards to an arguably humanist main character, well rounded female characters, and a bunch of other stuff. The bloody baron questline, about the unborn baby, is some of the best written questlines i’ve ever played on an rpg. You honestly feel for the guy, a god damn npc. Credit where credit is due. I’m glad they’re at the helm of Cyberpunk.


#16

But arent then we impossing ONE interpretation of diversity on everybody else?

Because really, I dont know, imagine a Chinese company releases now a Wuxia RPG that is set in some Mythical China of the Past.

Are we going to complain if there are no Black or Latino … or White characters? Should they have them? For what reason?

I think there is room for everything, and really the state, currently, is “too low on diversity, need more”. But I’m not sure that this is something that have the same meaning everywhere and that the US is “ahead” of anybody else. The US is a place where it is much more relevant - as the lastest disgusting news of racist terrorism and the way it is reported (or not), but the US diversity makeup is not the gold standard for the world to represent. We all live in different societies, we are not all dealing with the specific circunstances of the US and the legacy of black slavery.

Probably we all have our own, different diversity problems to deal with in our fiction and games.


#17

The “historical accuracy” excuse really is a flimsy one considering the fact that just about no fantasy game I can think of is actually placed on earth, and as such just doesn’t hold up when given as an excuse. Unless your game is actually set on Earth, there is no history except the one you make up. If it is set on Earth, then unless you set it hundreds/thousands of years ago in northern Europe, there’s still not a lot of excuse to be white-only - but I can’t think of a single game set there, anyway.

What’s even worse is that the vast majority of gamers don’t really even care what race people in the game are while they’re playing the game, unless the game hits them over the head with it. For the ones that do notice it, it can be a constant source of annoyance with the game, and ruin their immersion. As such, not including PoC in a game comes across as laziness or insensitivity at best.

Lack of diversity in main characters is even worse - I can’t think of a single non-white non-male main character in any game I’ve played other than the Assassin’s Creed series (not counting games with actual character customization screens). Considering how easy it is for the writers to make the main character whoever they want in any setting, there’s no reason not to have more minorities in these roles. (Since you’re The Hero, you’re immune to all setting cliches and societal requirements unless the plot demands it.)


#18

All you need to do is follow Moosa on Twitter and you’ll see more than enough examples of the apologists mentioned in the article.
“It’s because, you see, Poland didn’t have many trade routes and therefore PoC’s would never have shown up in the area that’s ‘recreated’ in Witcher 3… The dragons and shit? Oh…uh…WHY DO YOU HATE VIDEO GAMEZ!!!<><$5*#$”


#19

I have a problem with the word racism being used when naivety is a large factor.
Is there no difference between racism and prejudice?
I see a clear distinction where racism is premeditated and or malicious in intent.
We are all prejudist. We all make presumptions about people as part of all interactions. It is not possible to not have race/gender presumptions about people of other race/genders.
Surely the difference must lie in having malicious intent and when it is not it is only naive prejudices that can easily be shifted and countered, psychologically and socially.


#20

Developers struggle with nuance.