Sunday, June 8, 2014

Roleplaying and the Lack of Inclusive Characters

Over at http://blackroleplayersorganization.blogspot.com/ , the author has many a note on how race and roleplaying fall together for him. Its interesting reading and I wander over there every now and again to see what is being written about. Another good one for fantasy and race is the chronicles of harriet, http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

I've mentioned it before but I think getting more authors and creators of content of various ethnicities will bring far more diversity than other white people creating more 'token' pictures and places. I think that for a company, a corporation, like WoTC to be more inclusive they've got to have a 'show me the money' moment as sales of say, Nyambe and other non-standard European knight settings tend to be flat or poor.

Studies and other benefits of how inclusion is awesome for morale and confidence levels are all well and good, but if there's no MORE money to be had from it, a company whose making a new edition to make money off of the old edition fans, isn't probably worried about that. Then there's the 'lame horse' argument that the company 'has to get it right' so that they're not accused of using racist portraits and stylings in the first place. 

In terms of successful African styled fantasy games and popularity, or lack of, this isn't always the case though. Recently Spears of the Dawn, an OSR style project on 'fantasy' Africa, ran a fairly successful kickstarter and delivered ahead of time!

This isn't necessarily just a RPG problem as much as a 'geek' problem. How about comics? I remember reading Milestone when they first came out. Hardware and Icon were some of my favorites but that imprint didn't last and DC's later efforts to incorporate it into the mainstream have fallen flat every time. 

The fact that the initial imprint didn't last, I believe, has more to do with comic glut, the failure of new comics in general, and well, DC being a bone head about things. If you're name isn't Deadpool and you started out in the 90's and are still around now as a comic character with your own title, good work!

Take Hardware for example. Marvel has three movies about a rich guy in a suit. If there was anyone looking for a character like Iron Man in the DC universe, they don't have a lot of options there. Hardware would also give DC another rich person who wasn't Bruce Wayne or Lex Luthor and more opportunity to play with the tech side of the universe. 

In terms of fiction, even one of the original non-Caucasian fantasy heroes, Imaro, couldn't have his initial series published by Night Shade Books through all the way through and had to take the last two volumes self publishing. If you're one of the people who wants to see more inclusion in fiction and other mediums, you have to support it when it's available to start off with so guy buy a copy of Griots, a sword and soul anthology and speak with your wallet. Show your support with money, not internet posts talking about what you want. 

Is there a potential audience that they could be missing? As role playing games shrink in total, the potential buyers of any type shrink. Could more inclusive art reverse that? Well beyond my scope but...

I don't think that's what WoTC is betting on. I think WoTC is betting on, "We've bent over backwards to show how OSR like we are and how cool we are despite you know, not having any of the old artists or losing so many of the old writers but hey, OSR feel in the rules amirght?"

You want real inclusiveness? Get Charles Saunders to write a book for WoTC or Paizo. 

More importantly though, with the low cost to content creation, and the cost getting lower all the time, if you want to see something, if you rely on the corporations to bring it to you, you may be waiting a long time. Paizo makes good use of the OGL license and other people can build on that success or do material like Spears of the Dawn with a different take on things altogether.

All my own opinion and subject to change and be expanded upon as the topic goes back and forth. The internet is at best a poor substitute for 'real' communication.