Aha Moment, Diversity

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.

Screenshot Credit: The Verge (https://www.theverge.com/2017/2/15/14622050/prey-bethesda-softworks-arkane-studios-science-fiction-game-preview)

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.

9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. It’s fresh and interesting to read your thoughts on issues such as these. I already like the gaming posts well enough, but I think this is a new angle you could explore more often 🙂

    I’m also a terribly spoiled-by-society cisgender (mostly, I guess, ach, who knows for sure nowadays how to call things) white guy. Your mindset resonates with me. I try to be balanced and open to all. But it’s interesting: Some years of meditation made me pick up on my own biases a bit better, and that exposed that I do have some weird racist stereotypes. Ones that I mostly picked up from U.S. TV shows, because they don’t exist in my safe country of Switzerland!

    As in: There’s a black guy driving by real fast on a bicycle. Did he just steal that? I don’t *want* to have these thoughts, they are completely not what my rational brain would ever think. Yet they bubbled up, and I think being exposed to U.S. media so much did that to me.

    This shows how influential media is, even on me, and I used to claim to be free of such influences.

    If we count video games as media as well, it gives me hope that game designers are choosing to be more inclusive now. We’ve had the white muscular dude or the white sexy lady with bad/revealing armor for so long, that’s such a bore. I remember when Half-Life 1 came out, even *that* was a step up from the usual, because the hero was mostly a nerd. White male nerd, but still, it was a first step.

    I never played GTA V, but I hear they did a cool thing in there in that when you play the only black character, NPCs start treating you differently and the racism and prejudice comes out. I don’t know if they did it well. If they did, kudos.

    I hope more games start doing such things. I actively seek being someone else in a game, I often pick all manner of ladies and gents of all colors and shapes to play, and it’s great fun. After all these gaming years I get a bit pissed when every character in a game is white and suburban and college-age. And don’t even start on ageism 🙂

    1. Thanks, and I will try to be less afraid to put more of myself in my posts. Your bike story is interesting as a time stamp of sorts – 10 years ago, if you were riding with friends, someone might have made that comment out loud and then laughed as if it was some kind of a joke. I know people are much more aware how incredibly wrong and inappropriate that is. Moreso nowadays at least. We can save ageism for another post / discussion =)

  2. Hey Isey, I appreciate reading your open thoughts on the matter. I think the fact that you’re allowing yourself to take a closer look at your reactions is positive. As for the building comfort on being something different than what you actually are in real life, I can’t say for sure. I can’t say I’ve experienced this problem exact problem. For me if the story of a game is really good and I can relate to the character in a deep way even if they are different from me, I usually have no problems with it.

    This is actually a really interesting question to think about. I have read books in the past where I couldn’t relate to the characters at all, but while their stories and lives start to become more known to me I begin to understand their perspective a little more, how the character connects to things, etc. Maybe not as deeply as if I had lived the life myself, but it gives me more knowledge about their lives and how everything could have made them who they are. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense. I guess being open to it without judgement is a good place to start even if you might be uncomfortable at first.

    If the above doesn’t make any sense, disregard what I said and find what works for you. lol I think words sometimes fail.

    1. Very neat observation about books – because I am reading the action (or, as with TV, watching) I feel far less connected already and can absorb the story as “their” story. When I am in direct control of the actions and choices it very much feels like my story. You are right though, it is wholly on me. Doesn’t make sense to me and is something I should try to overcome. Will have to make a character as opposite to me as possible and go on a RP Server or something =)

  3. People apologizing for being born white/black/orange/yellow/on a mountain/on a tropical paradise/rich – whatever your origin – I fucking think that’s insane and it needs to stop – just ignore the people guilting you into feeling that way. I love Canadians as a country and people, and given the rest of your post don’t think you have anything to apologize for at all. You seem like good people. Also thank you for your blog roll – especially the ‘A-holes watching movies’ a new favorite blog.

    1. Jay from A**holes stopped by here and commented or liked a post of mine, which lead me to that site, which made me blogroll it. It’s great! I agree with you on the “apology” party, I do think the “Outrage Internet” needs to calm down and allow respectful differing points of view, regardless of where those points of view came from. If I mis-wrote something here, and that quote gets to twitter, then it blows up and the world hates the site because of words used that are usually not further researched or further explanations looked for. That’s why it is easier to just stay away from those things entirely.

  4. My issue tends to be the opposite. I understand theoretically that a subset of people identify so strongly or project themselves so strongly into their MMO character that it becomes their avatar in nearly all respects, but I’ve never been able to do it. Or stick with one “main.” I just compulsively end up with a stable of alts everywhere I go.

    Some suggestions to veer more to this side of the spectrum would be:

    + Consider writing a story or GMing, even if in a hobbyist only-for-your-eyes category

    A story or a GM’s adventure requires by default a cast of characters, all of which you need to make up. Try to spend time with each major character, protagonist, antagonist, side character, figuring out how they tick, and when doing so, make -them- the central character of their own story. “Play” them for that moment. The villain is doing the right thing in his or her own eyes, unsoweiter.

    + If too much work, just take that style of thinking and apply it on existing franchises in tv shows, books, etc. Pretend you’re going to write fanfiction. What would Snape’s or Dumbledore’s POV be, if the same universe existed, but we didn’t see the story from Harry Potter’s POV? What scenes would they see or experience?

    + Be open to the story possibilities from mixing MMO classes and races, and have fun thinking up origin stories of characters. Dwarf ranger? Dwarf warrior? Dwarf mage? How might they be different or the same? Any way to distinguish two dwarf warriors from each other? How might they have grown up differently if they came from different towns/cities, grew up with or without parents, in rich or poor enviroments, etc.

    To cap it off, name them. Make their name represent who they are. I find this tends to give them a separate existence from myself. Bits of me find their way into them, but never the same bits in the same order.

    To make things really hilarious, once you have a few favorites, play the “what if” game and ask them to react to the same situation from their POV. You will have successfully developed a kind of author schizophrenia when a whole committee of them sits in your head and weighs in with their opinions and argues with each other. Then again, you may not want to go -that- far. 😉

    1. This comment was probably the most helpful one I have read in a long time. Great ideas and thoughts on how to inch my way in and find a path for it. I always wanted to write (but I do know I am not a strong writer) and that is probably the easiest place to start – because it’s personal and easy to step into.

      I would love to GM if I had a group going, too old and too busy. sadface.

      The multiple personalities discussing something is awesome =) Will have to work my way up to that, heh =)

  5. I think playing a character in a game and making choices, decisions or actions that you would if that were you is a form of roleplaying. Some games just make it easier than others.

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