[generic] Inclusivity and representation

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#21
Thinking about the OP. I probably wouldn't vote for a "Feminism" theme just because it's so specific I can't think of enough game play to support it.

Similarly I would not vote for a Star Wars theme, because *horror of horrors* I don't know enough about Star Wars.
But I would vote for a more generic Space theme.

So to put it in context, if 'Feminism' was only one part of a wider theme such as "Women as Heros/ Women Warriors/ Women in/of Power" then it could be broad enough to be interesting without being too in-your-face with the "let's all show how sensitive to issues we are" push. In that case, I would vote for it.
 
#22
Thinking about the OP. I probably wouldn't vote for a "Feminism" theme just because it's so specific I can't think of enough game play to support it...
...if 'Feminism' was only one part of a wider theme such as "Women as Heros/ Women Warriors/ Women in/of Power" then it could be broad enough to be interesting without being too in-your-face with the "let's all show how sensitive to issues we are" push. In that case, I would vote for it.
For Conpulsion, I think it's fair to say that the theme is at best advisory and more generally ignored when it comes to the content of the games. What it is used for is the logo (the core of the competition to name the theme), the website and all the publicity. So you'd probably end up with a con that sold itself as "Conpulsion Feminism" and just had the usual random selection of games with a couple being all-female PCs or something.
 
#23
No, it's embedded into the character set-up and stats. An example would be the You Only Die Twice, Cthulhu game, at Seven Hills. Once the fight started the two female characters really didn't have much impact or opportunity to help the team. This was despite the GM being very careful to include everyone and get everyone in play, it was just inherent in the stats.
But that's more or less what I'm asking about. My assumption on reading this is that you had pre-gens that were conforming to the stereotypes that blokes like me hold of women. I have no way of knowing if that's nonsense, but that's my (prejudice-guilt driven?) initial reaction to what you wrote. If these were player generated then that's a slightly different issue, and I really would feel like hypocrite if I took players to task for falling into the same hole that I can't get out of myself. I'll admit that I have generated characters like that. In fact, until I took the names and sexes off, the pre-gens for one of this year's con scenarios (recycled from a couple of years ago) were exactly like that.
Can we really judge unless we either ask a person of colour, or are a person of colour?
I would say probably not without spending years doing anthropological studies of the situation, which sounds a lot harder than asking.
I know that there are black people in my wife's Audio Engineering field fighting for equal representation and inclusivity. I know that a mate of mine who is under 30 and was born in Pakistan and grew up in Liverpool still hates going back to Birkenhead because of his nightmarish school days. And I recently had a white bloke at a convention tell me off for having a laugh and mess around with a friend, because in his words she was Chinese and so she would be "too polite" to tell me I was upsetting her.
So how do I represent that in a game? It seems like a no-win situation, to be honest. If I try to show the problems that minorities face and get it wrong, I open myself up to accusations of misogyny and casual racism. If I don't try, I definitely do, because I'm white-washing or part of the 'boys only' club. For PC's there is a relatively simple solution, just leave sex/race out of the character and let the players worry about it. But in the scenarios, NPCs and background stuff? I dunno.
So yes, we don't shoot black people here, let's give ourselves a pat on the back.
I think the inner-city folks might say we shoot fewer black people, rather than not at all. But still, I count "Kill fewer people" as a tick in the positive box, actually.
 
#24
Dear me .... read through the initial showers in the shitstorm on FB, and the Conpulsion cttee statement and its a classic misguided cop out. The idea that not allowing 'feminism' through to the judging panel as it would puncture some sort of apolitical stance is one of the most naive things I have read recently. Surely by now we understand that simply that decision is a political one - one that backs down from supporting feminist principles. Its pretty dumb.

The question isn't whether it was a good theme or not - its whether the pre-emptive elimination says the convention and the people that run it are more concerned with not rocking the boat than standing by principles.

As for the discussion of gender and inclusivity in gaming, even if many (but not all) of us are middle-aged, middle-class white blokes we can create an open playing field in our games. Its not hard. Where possible, offer characters without an assigned gender, with alternative art if thats your thing. If you have specific characters, make them all functionally useful in the scenario and consider stereotyping. Consider the dramatic triggers in your games. Just think.

For me, I think we have more work to do in two different areas - representation of non-western cultures in our games, and dealing with mental health issues in games.

Looking at the latter, consider this - we have stripped racially charged language from our common parlance, and many people are becoming increasingly adept in removing sexist and homophobic language. Now consider how many times we use phrases like:

Crazy!
Insane!
Barking!
Madness!
Mental!

Food for thought?
 

Guvnor

Administrator
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#25
Where possible, offer characters without an assigned gender, with alternative art if thats your thing. If you have specific characters, make them all functionally useful in the scenario and consider stereotyping. Consider the dramatic triggers in your games. Just think.
This..
That's what I do and did only recently.
The women players chose female art and a fighter and rangee, the men chose male art and a wizard and a halfling thief.
There were people of all colors in the art mix.
I try and cast against type and use a wide range of artwork.
I assign gender and sexuality by random dice rolls.
I try to mitigate "sausage jokes" without being anti-sex.


I know I am not perfect.
 
#26
Three options:

(1) If character gender is unimportant in the game setting and scenario, Male/Female options for each character, with a choice of art if applicable. This is my default these days.

I'll note that players aren't bound to choose their own gender. I certainly don't.

(2) The same number of male and female characters, with an even split for certain archetypes. For example, if two out of four characters are fighty types, make one male and one female. I do this sometimes. The thing to avoid is the single token woman, or an absolute male/female split in abilities along lines of gender stereotypes, as far as a setting permits.

For example, in an ancient Rome setting my former legionary would be male, but there would also be a woman with combat abilities, just from outside that structure.

It's absolutely key to avoid the "token woman" situation. It used to come up all the time. For that matter I used to do it, I unhappily admit.

One final point, which is just to offer up the characters neutrally and definitely not to assume people always want to play their own gender. See above.

(3) In some historical settings, all men or all women might be appropriate. It's a case of being careful not to exclude players on the basis of gender, even though the game setting is sexist in modern terms. Even though a setting is sexist, it's possible to avoid actual misogyny, and to play in a sexist setting without being sexist to players.


It's amazing and a little sad how long it took me to see a problem, let alone a solution. One thing which thrills me is that there are more women at conventions these days. Even as recently as ten years ago, there were probably fewer than 10% at the cons I attended.

Though I'm uncomfortably aware, as others have said, that there are only men so far on this thread.

On matters of race I need to think. I feel it's a different though related issue.
 
#28
Racial over-sensitivity may be some white middle class guilt complex in action. I have played and lived with people across different countries and backgrounds, and there is definitely some subtle racism and and tribalism all over the world, which shows it to be a universal human problem, though the white savior trope out of game is always amusing to watch.
 
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#29
Let me bring a controversial "blaxploitation" tokenisation trope on Kickstarter that profits already established white publishers but, sadly, seems to steal away attention from authentic black publishers.

Jerry Grayson, an Afro-Caribbean publisher of note, launched an afro-centric Bastion RPG on Kickstarter and funded at about $12, 900.

Contrast the above to Monte Cook and his core team of fellow white middle class business partners (Shanna, Sean, Bruce, Charles), who launched the Numenera Discovery and Destiny Kickstarter funded at about $845,000. Here is the real kicker in that Monte Cook loaded the Numenera game with so many black African ethnic NPCs and art basically drowning out the unique selling points of Afro-futurism by black publishers. I say this because the white folk have culturally appropriated this trendy black African cultural aestheticfor fun and profit, which, mostly benefits white publishers disproportionately to those cultural attuned to Afro-futurism.

No amount of token black characters on a character sheet makes up for the overt reality that when white people produce content it sells very well to the demographic of middle class white Americans, while smaller black publishers struggle to attract the same audience.

Sorry for the rant, though.
 
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#30
One of the key points of writing is
“Write what you know”

If you never experience anything from different ethnic cultures then you are going to struggle to portray those cultures appropriately.

Do complete research *and* gain experience with those cultures and characters along the way.

Anything else is just tokenism.
 

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
#31
This..
That's what I do and did only recently.
The women players chose female art and a fighter and rangee, the men chose male art and a wizard and a halfling thief.
There were people of all colors in the art mix.
I try and cast against type and use a wide range of artwork.
I assign gender and sexuality by random dice rolls.
I try to mitigate "sausage jokes" without being anti-sex.


I know I am not perfect.
I'm less perfect than you. My pregens have fixed art and names because I'm all on to get them done. Not good enough. As a slight mitigation I mix gender fairly evenly and try to avoid racial tokenism, but not always successfully. I make sure gender does not define archetype.

I have more to do.
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#32
Sorry for the rant, though.
Tricky.
I backed Mythic D6 and bought Bastion.
Does Jerry G have exclusive rights to a subset of world culture because his ancestors once lived in Africa?
By that reckoning was he misappropriating Euro-Asian Hellenistic culture by publishing Hellas: Greek mythology and legends in space?
This talk of ethnic ownership and identity politics always starts sounding ok but seems IMHO to lead to cultural apartheid and then eventually to ultra individualism.
 
#33
Tricky.
I backed Mythic D6 and bought Bastion.
Does Jerry G have exclusive rights to a subset of world culture because his ancestors once lived in Africa?
By that reckoning was he misappropriating Euro-Asian Hellenistic culture by publishing Hellas: Greek mythology and legends in space?
This talk of ethnic ownership and identity politics always starts sounding ok but seems IMHO to lead to cultural apartheid and then eventually to ultra individualism.
True, talk. And I was not stating that Jerry Grayson is the only legit authourity on Afro-futurism.

What I highlighted was a sort of "blaxploitation" by Monte Cook, a white American making hundreds of thousands of US Dollars by riding on the backs of Afro-futurism themes, while an authentic black minority is struggling to reach even a quarter of Monte Cooks funding.

Basically, Monte Cook Games could do better than virtue signaling positive minority credentials in book content but actually helping black creators reach the vast white American demographic that seem to throw the most money at while men who appropriate minority cultures instead of supporting actual minority creators.

I support many Kickstarter projects and the same pattern repeats itself with minorities struggling to get funding, while popular white Americans adapt the same minority themes and maxing out profit at the expense of minorities who they drown out on bookshelves.

And that is the crux, to focus on empowering minority creators by supporting their businesses instead of just plastering token pieces of art in books published by white men and sold to mostly white middle class America.
 
#34
... tOh this is a sensitive one.

First off, comparing Grayson and Cook together and claiming that the disparity in their Kickstarters is racial is ... well, spurious at best. Grayson has published a handful of well-received but ultimately marginal games. Monte Cook has been a mainstay of the RPG industry for decades, with numerous massive games in this rear view mirror including a indie starlet called D&D 3rd Ed. Bastion is a new game, whereas Numenera is a new iteration of an amazingly successful franchise. Scale, scope, influence ... they are all different. You might claim that this is institutional racism at play within gaming culture, but I think there are better examples you could have chosen.

As for the rest, this is easily an example of the rock:hard place situation many well-meaning gamers are in at the moment.

A progressive gamer looks critically at their games and sees white, white, white. Clealry, this is unacceptable and there is no representation. The gamer wants to include some characters and themes from culture X and goes ahead and does it.

Another more progressive gamer looks on as the white gamer includes themes from culture X and screams cultural appropriation. How can the gamer use those themes if they are not from that culture! OK, says the first gamer, I'll remove them. More progressive gamer screams again - good grief man, now your game is just white, white, white! Where's the representation?

The first gamer looks on, a little confused.

The first gamer reflects on this conundrum and decides to find a friend from culture X to advise them on their inclusion of these themes. The friend furrows their brow and asks why they have not come to them beforehand to ask about their games? Are they only valuable when it comes to this issue? Is that all they are to them?* The gamer explains more and their friend agrees. Hurrah.

The gamer presents their newly validated culture X material at the table and More Progressive Gamer is aghast. Now you're riding on the coattails of a talented culture X gamer, taking their ideas and not allowing them to present them.


So the gamer asks their friend from culture X to come as a guest GM at their game, so that they can run their stuff. More Progressive Gamer just rolls their eyes - so the White Saviour GM rides to the rescue of the poor Culture X GM and 'allows' them to run at their table.

And the Gamer finally snaps - I can't not include culture X as that's not inclusive. I can't include it as that's appropriation. I can't ask someone about it because that's tokenism. I can't bring someone in from culture X as that's white saviour complex ... so what the f**k can I do?!

And then someone says 'just write what you know...' and the gamer does that, and its white, white, white and we're back to the beginning.


Meanwhile, someone from Cultures Y, Z and Q all sit there and raise their hands ... What about us?

This is reflective of some of the issues that are being thrown around Hollywood at the moment regarding casting. Will Smith is not black enough. More ridiculously Ruby Rose is not gay enough or Jewish enough to be Batwoman.

It is, to me, just too complicated and loaded to tackle easily.

Neil

* If you think this one is a bit of a stretch there are manifestos online regarding panel appearances and refusing to be included if you are a token representative for a culture, and demanding at least 50% representation before inclusion.
 
#35
Without seeking to confuse matters more, I wonder whether there are discussions happening in South American, Japanese or Korean* gaming boards about the lack of representation of white European characters and cultures in their games? What does that say about the issue?

*I chose them because I know that there are substantial gaming communities in these countries.
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#36
And... Let's get this out there.
There are British people who are black.
There are British people who are black.

But only in the eyes of racists and the ignorant are they the same.

There are British people who are South East Asian.
There are British people who are South East Asian.

But only in the eyes of racists and the ignorant are they the same.

Ditto "Chinese"

But ditto "White"

The UK is incredibly multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan.

The only places similar to my mind are New York and that's not typical of the USA.

That's why I am very nervous about importing US memes.
 
#37
I think, correct me if I'm wrong @negromaestro, your point essentially boils down to a very simple matter of fairness vs unfairness. I didn't see that as a rant at all, more awareness raising that really needs to be done.

Even if Monte Cook was more popular to begin, even if one is starting up and the other is established, the comparison of these two is very easy to divert into a straw-man argument about particular writers instead of the general issue.

Let's instead invent a white writer also starting out with a new RPG, and postulate him in competition with a black writer, and both are writing an Afro-Caribbean based genre. I think the point is more that both writers starting from the same platform gives the black writer an unfair starting block, because he's trying to break into a world where the clientele is largely white middle class while the other starts off already in that world. So what would actually be better, would be to encourage more support for the black writer in this scenario. Because even if we did do this, the white writer would be more successful because he's starting in a place that offers him more support by its nature.

Am I getting close to the bones of the point or Hallelujah do we have another White Saviour? :LOL:;)
 
#38
Without seeking to confuse matters more, I wonder whether there are discussions happening in South American, Japanese or Korean* gaming boards about the lack of representation of white European characters and cultures in their games? What does that say about the issue?

*I chose them because I know that there are substantial gaming communities in these countries.
I'm sorry, Neil, there isn't a double "like" that can attach your longer essay. Very very apposite.

Though TTRPGs are the single most inclusive human activity - with the least barriers to participation of anything else I can think of - I am still aware that there are groups of all teenage females, all black African etc players that I will never get into, never get to play with. And that's fine. The potential for inclusion doesn't bring a right to inclusion and I love the fact that the hobby is so widespread.

I've also heard of a strand of Steampunk fiction arising out of post colonial countries which imagines worlds where the colonisation never happened. What wonderful technologies would those countries have developed? The closest we get to see of that is Wakanda in the Black Panther film. That fiction isn't for me and I wouldn't want to read it.

And I love the fact that our hobby seems to be a forefront of recognising white male dominance in the western media and is trying, however misguidedly, to address it. Every little helps.

And at least we seem to have tackled the gender issue which is still defeating 99% of our culture. (Have I got News For You, Friday 12th April 2019 - 21st century. Prime time television. Four middle aged, middle class white guys, one beleaguered woman.)
 
#39
Thing is not to overthink or panic.
I get through it like this:
I played a game of Cartel, we all had terrible Mexican accents. I mentioned that it would be really cool if somewhere in Mexico City a group where playing Space 1889 which shockingingly bad English Accents.
Please don't let the internet suck the joy out of gaming.
 
#40
This discussion has been pointed at on the ConTingency Facebook page, which garnered this response (reposted with permission of the author):
Simone Davis I’d be tempted to weigh in except that is yet another forum for me to expend a lot of energy to eventually be shot down/ignored/ insulted/patronised or asked to prove my credentials and i don’t have the energy to spare today. Interesting conversation... and yet... it’s all very simple. Representation matters and making assumptions about people, whether players or characters based in the shape of their genitalia is absurd. Any white man who wants to be inclusive, just write the characters you really want to play... skilled, useful, interesting, quirky, driven, well armoured, fun, competent in a fight....then make them female and/or ethnically diverse. No other thought process needed. If you wouldn’t want assumptions made about your white male players and characters don’t make them about any other kind.
 
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