Monday, October 28, 2019

This Makes Me Sad and Angry At the Same Time


I was on a Forum earlier today where someone posted they didn't like using sentient beings as antagonists and were deeply offended by the stereotypical treatment of orcs and goblins and their obvious parallels to minorities.

WTF?!

First, when I run for younger players, I often use robots or golems or whatever because most of the time I'm running at a local library and don't know them. I decided that non-living enemies were more palatable and didn't promote bad behavior. I might be mistaken, it just makes me more comfortable. For the poster on the Forum I mentioned, I get that. I really do.

Second, I think if you look at a made-up race in a game of make believe with rules and see a certain ethnicity in that made-up race, then you probably shouldn't be playing RPGs. I think that you are troubled and maybe this hobby has exacerbated other problems in your life. Or, well, you are a bigot.

As a gamer, I have had different preferences from the RPGs I've played in the last three decades. At the beginning it was fresh and new and I couldn't game enough. Then I became obsessed with being the best Game Master in the world. After that I focused on telling stories and spotlighting characters. My obsession with game design followed that. Up next were the Story Games, like Thirty, InSpectres, and Spirit of the Century. I eventually discovered the OSR and realized that things I though were bugs were really features to me in this era of game design. Then I started this blog and that led to Cross Planes Game Studio being a modest success. At this point in my life, gaming is about hanging out with good people, laughing, blowing off steam, and rolling dice. That's what I want out of a RPG these days.

Yes, we fight orcs...and humans, deep ones, alligators, elves, etc. in my games. None of them are based on real world stereotypes. I'm not promoting violence against a segment of the real world's population in some king of metaphor. The Players, hopefully, are the Good Guys and they kill the Bad Guys, whoever they might be. That's it. No deeper meaning. Just hanging out.

Now, I do run modern games, but we don't tread on stereotypes in those games either because it's not who we are. It's for the same reason we fade to black if romance is in the air. That is not what we are at my table to do. You can do whatever you want at your table, I get that. But if you see ethnic stereotypes in the portrayal of orcs, I feel bad for you and I don't want you at my table.

17 comments:

Pandatheist said...

You may not recognize or play up stereotypes in fictional races, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.

For instance, the Drow are cursed with dark skin for betraying Corellon Larethian in the Forgotten Realms. Their evil is literally a stain on their skin. Slave owners used to explain away slavery via the curse of Ham, which said black people were cursed with their dark skin to mark their evil and deserved to be slaves due to their betrayal of God. That may be an unintentional parallel, but having elves be light skinned except for the evil ones plays into bad stereotypes.

In the case of orcs, Tolkien based them explicitly on Asians.
Part 1: https://jamesmendezhodes.com/blog/2019/1/13/orcs-britons-and-the-martial-race-myth-part-i-a-species-built-for-racial-terror
Part 2: https://jamesmendezhodes.com/blog/2019/6/30/orcs-britons-and-the-martial-race-myth-part-ii-theyre-not-human

I'm not saying you shouldn't use orcs in your game, or drow for that matter. If you and your players don't see those parallels, cool. I run games with orcs too. I also run Call of Cthulhu, which comes with plenty of baggage. But someone seeing those tropes, which in the case of orcs the author explicitly stated he was using, isn't troubled. They just have a different threshold.

PolarFrosty said...

I mean, I'm a straight white dude, so I'm not overly affected by stereotypes. So when a marginalized community tells me that there's a troublesome stereotype in the media I'm consuming, I'm inclined to believe them, because I don't see it.

Scott Anderson said...

How can it be offensive to anyone to make up and use stereotypes for made up races? This isn’t Seattle 2019. I am sure there’s a crappy RPG about that. If imaginary races cause you offense then play that RPG.

PolarFrosty said...

@Scott Anderson, you do recognize the difference between "I don't find this offensive" and "no one could possibly find this offensive", yes? Pandatheist above dropped a few examples of troublesome representation in TTRPGs.

Scott Anderson said...

I reject the notion that there is anything objectionable or offensive about this. I would say that if someone says they are offended than they are either lying or mentally ill. Outrage culture must be excised from the hobby or it will be destroyed just like every other thing SJWs touch. That’s the line: don’t be a silly bitch. This is made up and stop ascribing your own hang ups to it.

PolarFrosty said...

...ohhhh. Now I understand. Have a good day!

Ruprecht said...

Gygax made Orcs pig-faced removing the minimal taint of racist characteristics that might have been there from Tolkien. Warhammer, Warcraft, and other games subsequently made them green-skinned, further moving the archetype away from Tolkien. If you have to dig back through decades of Orc versions in order to make your point you're trying too hard to find racism.

Ruprecht said...

In fact by spreading this nonsense you are likely to make People of Color less comfortable and thus less likely to play RPGs. You are making the gaming world less inclusive which I don't think is the position you want to take.

Cross Planes said...

@Pandatheist, I have gamed with a very diverse group of people. None of them found the Drow's skin tone problematic. Arguably, D&D's most famous character is a Drow and many players want to emulate him. I think there are various problems in our hobby, but I wonder how many minorities are complaining about this vs well-meaning allies looking for trouble that isn't there?

I don't look at the elements of an RPG and correlate them to the real world. To me that is on par with the Satanic Panic. In fact, this whole movement and its arguments stink of that movement. And for gamers to emulate that type of behavior is worse, IMO, than the ignorant parent that claimed D&D led to devil-worship or casting real magic.

Pandatheist said...

@CrossPlanes I don’t know the demographics of people complaining. In the case of Drow I know black people who think they’re super problematic and shouldn’t be used, and black people who think they make for an awesome villain and use them in their games and write articles about them. I don’t know that there’s a consensus. I just try to have empathy for people with experiences shaping those opinions that I don’t have. I will say in the case of Drizzt, there is a lot of literature about the model minority, or “one of the good ones”, and wouldn’t lean too heavily on that.

I think recognition and response to problematic tropes is pretty far from what the Satanic Panic was. The Satanic Panic was from outsiders who did not understand the hobby attacking players of the game. Most of the types of criticism we’re talking about are from insiders hoping to make the hobby better, and more welcoming to new people. Important as well, these criticisms are(most often) about game content, not players of the game. There are exceptions to this, but in most spaces I hang out on the internet, these discussions are good faith attempts to engage with the community from a perspective that isn’t heard to often. No one(effectively) is trying to take away our game. They just want us to be more thoughtful about them. I don’t think thats causing any harm.

Scott Anderson said...

This is also people who don’t understand the game attacking the game. These people have already tried to ruin computer games, they have ruined TV and movies, they have ruined comic books and they are trying to ruin this.

This far and no farther.

Pandatheist said...

@ScottAnderson My first computer games were X-COM(on MS-DOS!) and Wolfenstein 3D. There have been new editions of those game as recently as this year. The first movie I saw was Star Wars. There is a new movie coming out in 2 months, and multiple tv series. The largest tv show on earth is a show based on a fantasy novel. Comic books are more popular and mainstream now than they’ve ever been before. Who are these people you’re talking about? What has been ruined? Cause as a nerd in his 30’s, this is the best time in my life. All of media is catering to me.

Scott Anderson said...

Tell us about how much you love Star Trek and Star Wars.

PolarFrosty said...

@Ruprecht - I find bizarre your claim that trying to make the hobby less exclusive somehow makes the hobby more exclusive. Clearly you don't hang out on RPG twitter because these are real issues that people address. No one is saying "IF YOU USE ORCS IN YOUR GAME YOU'RE RACIST", what they're saying is that Orcs have some unfortunate racism in their history, and that makes certain people uncomfortable. If you (or OP) have an issue with that and don't want them at your table, that's certainly your prerogative, but it says a lot about you.

@Scott - Why are you so fucking aggressive? Relax. We're talking about elf-games. No one is coming to audit your table and make sure you're up to code using the latest SJW manual. If Orcs work for you and your table as-is, by all means, continue. But it's not sacrilege for people to question some of the assumptions of the hobby. Especially when the hobby has historically included some pretty awful people.

Pandatheist said...

@Scott Anderson This far and no farther

Ruprecht said...

@PolarFrosty - Saying a game has racist elements is not likely to get people of color to play that game. In fact it is likely to drive them away. Do you seriously disagree with that?

Orcs come from Tolkien. Tolkien is one author of many in Appendix N. Orcs had the problematic elements removed in the first editions of D&D. D&D is thus clear and yet Orcs are used as evidence of problematic elements in D&D so people of color are being driven away based on a false premise by do-gooders taht haven't though things all the way through. That upsets people.

Cavegirl said...

I could try posting a proper explanation of how media analysis works, but Scott seems to have contracted Brain Rot, so it would be pointless.
As far as 'this far and no further' goes, we've always been here, and we aren't gonna go away. As an actual card-carrying SJW publishing RPG content, I don't want to 'destroy RPGs', since I'd be out of a job if that happened. I want them to get /better/. I want them to be well written and respectable. We have enough crap regressive media that panders to the same audience as everything else, and fixing that makes RPGs better.
Don't like that? I don't care. There's plenty aimed at you already. Get used to it. Or, you know, whine ineffectually on the internet. I don't see the regressive anti-sjw brigade actually publishing anything good, so fuck 'em, they don't count.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Lightning Giants

According to Sargoo the Sapient lightning giants were originally storm giants who due to age or illness have their flesh and blood viol...