I have always been sympathetic to ‘liberal’ social causes. First, I am Canadian and we have a supportive society with a distinct world view. We are just friendly people, for the most part, to use the stereotype. Most of this came from attending a liberal arts university that back in the 90’s was considered ‘gay friendly’. That is a pretty progressive label to have back in the 90’s. I came from a rural town in Canada and while homosexuality was very foreign to me I was in such an accepting and open minded environment that I learned quickly how normal and natural it was. It was even cool, in our little circle of friends and spheres of influences. There was still hate, and bigotry (there always is), but there was also hope and acceptance. Turns out my favorite uncle ended up being gay and hid it until he was able to move away from hick-town and go somewhere where he could fall in love openly and get married. . I use the term ‘hick’ as a term of endearment here. Very small town folk we were/are.
My general viewpoint on equality is that I unequivocally support the exact definition of the word in all societal senses, labels and freedoms even though I am an outsider to many of them. Religious equality (I do not participate in organized religious constructs, but I am spiritual in my own way) Gender equality (Women should be equally empowered. I am a man). Sexual equality (Love whoever you do, openly and without harm. I am cisgender) Racial equality (Humans are humans! I am white). I am an outsider because I embody the privileged, middle class, white cisgender male that is the root cause of what ails the world today (if you read the news). I could only be worse if I was a christian as well, I suspect. This is not my fault – it was the way I was born and brought up, I did not have the choice in this. Please do not judge me based on who I am and my skin color.
As much as a good natured, open minded and progressive cisgender white male that I strive to be I cannot draw from experiences when it comes to racism, or sexism, or most ‘-isms including the own privilege I enjoy. I know it exists, but my cisgender white friends and families are also as afraid of the future as our more diverse friends and families. They are scared about good work and providing for their families. The world is changing in many ways and most of it not good for middle and below home incomes, regardless of what color of skin you are or how you self-identify sexually. I think no one really feels safe anymore. Not even the rich, because we common folk are coming to get them. (This is part of how I think a guy like Donald Trump gets elected, but another story, and I try to keep this blog politics free).
I try not to get on heavy topics here. I don’t write particularly well enough to ensure I am getting across what I am feeling so typically leave this space to my gaming whims and child-like hobbies. Still, I do have a point coming up. And that point is that I finally had a moment where I understood how visible minorities have felt for some time about representation in games. Because it happened to me – finally. The difference is that when I felt it it wasn’t a reflection of the struggles I have had in my real life, or a disappointing ‘yet another time” I was made to feel small, or an outsider. It was an “A-ha!” moment. One of small triumph. Because I finally had what felt like a more honest and true understanding of the movement for more diversity in games that I have already supported in thought only. It was nice to be able to draw a direct experience to how that made me feel – so I could, for an instant, and on a very safe level- have a small glimpse of understanding.
I am going to be clear here that I do not think it was wrong, and for me that didn’t matter – it was just a moment of realization and understanding. And because it is such a sensitive topic in general, as you can tell, I am really trying to be clear and cautious about how I present this, because I am petrified to have it come across the wrong way. One more table to set before sharing.
People who read here often understand by now that I am a terrible roleplayer. I do not roleplay. When I am engaged in a game (with a story for the most part) I insert myself into the story. I am not playing as Scott Ryder, I am a my real life counterpart, thrust into the situation by whatever backstory/justification I could think of. When I insert my present-day self into my games I find I can more deeply be moved by them and feel more closely to what is happening to my characters – because it is happening to me.
With that, and the rest of what I have written, in mind, Prey.
Having protagonists with clear Asian decent is progressive, right? I am unsure of how many First Person Shooter games that have. My immediate thought was “this was different – good for them!” and then I wondered how it would be accepted by the gaming community. And then it hit me:
“They don’t represent me. I don’t feel connected to those characters visually.”
That’s the AHA moment, as silly as it is. Those four words (They don’t represent me), probably felt by millions of non-white gamers over decades of being forced to play as white, male characters as the norm and I felt it for my first time. I haven’t even played the game and I doubt that racial selection of the Prey protagonist has any sort of real impact on the game either, but there is the realization that I understand it just a little bit more.
Funny to note I was afraid to write this post – silly, right? I spend so much time reading things on the internet that I felt that just presenting this thought could have negative consequences in this friendly little gaming space. Would people think I am racist because I feel those characters don’t represent me? Would they attack some of the phrases or words that I used? I don’t have much hope for the internet, of course. I do know that I am not perfect and am just a human being, trying to be cool to all other human beings, and learn and get better along the way.
I understand that people who are good at roleplaying might not understand this line of thought and relish the opportunity to be different people, sexes, aliens, etc. Any tips on how to build that comfort? I feel like I am missing out on huge opportunities. Even when I played PnP games in the good old days I stuck to male humans. Boring AF.