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We find meaning through popular culture. It is a space where identities are negotiated and a society's values and beliefs are reinforced--as well as being subverted and challenged. Ultimately, popular culture is a projection of a society's collective subconscious.

As I have discussed here and elsewhere on numerous occasions--and with no small amount of controversy on the part of those who disagree with a basic thesis--popular culture is a space where political values and dominant norms around race, class, gender, and sexual are both reinforced and reproduced.

Popular culture is not "just" a fun distraction. Its power lies in the ability of individuals to dismiss it as "harmless", when in fact, popular culture is one of the dominant means through which individuals are socialized into a set of cultural and social values.

For example, The Walking Dead, which returns to television on Sunday night, is not "just" about zombies. Rather, the zombie motif is a way of working through anxieties about gender, nationality, freedom, human nature, survival, race, consumerism, faith, and other issues.

The HBO mini-series True Detective is a meditation on the place of religion in a nihilistic world, and where the story is set against the crippling poverty of rural New Orleans. Of note, careful viewers of True Detective have likely noticed how African-Americans are both invisible and hyper-visible in the story through the use of flashbacks as a narrative device.

I am particularly fascinated by how questions of race and representation remain present even in those spaces where individuals are seeking escape through popular culture and finding pleasure in creating alternate lives through traditional pen and paper role-playing games, having adventures in video games, engaging in speculative exercises of the imagination through literature and other media, or attending events such as The World Science Fiction Convention.

Discussions of how race and gender still "matter" in those "fun" and ostensibly "neutral" spaces are very impassioned. Why? Those spaces are "their" spaces. And how dare "you" bring "your" issues into "their" world.

White Supremacy and white privilege are operative across every aspect of American society. Ironically, fantasy--what should be detached and separate from the "real world"--is one of the spaces where Whiteness is most entrenched as an ideological force.

The fantastical spaces of video games, comic books, role-playing games, conventions, and other mediums/venues are not racially unmarked: there are "White" fantasies, "male" fantasies, and "straight" fantasies which are not universal...although they gain their power through a pretense and appeal to normality.

When the particular nature of a given fantasy is identified, its owners and adherents can become very defensive.

This dynamic is even more pronounced among those who imagine themselves as "outsiders" and somehow separate, if not superior to others, because of their choice in hobbies and interests. Self-described progressives, visionaries, futurists, and free-thinkers can be the most reactionary when confronted about how they too participate in and support systems of white privilege, racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

Relative invisibility is one of the most powerful and enduring aspects of white supremacy and Whiteness. This is accomplished through appeals to "common sense" and the language of "everyone" or "it's just normal".

If such assumptions are challenged, and the particular way that the white racial frame operates is exposed (as a myopic and narrow understanding of the world, and not one that is all encompassing and natural) an uncomfortable truth is made visible.

The roles for people of color (and the Other more generally) in White fantasies are limited and circumscribed. There is a defined script for non-whites as viewed through the White Gaze. Those roles are even more pronounced in the realm of fantasy and speculative fiction (both interactive and otherwise). The best works of speculative literature and art, both digital and traditional, subvert and challenge those norms by making them clear and present in the text. The common, those examples of popular culture that are the worst examples of what we can derisively term as "mass culture", simply take Whiteness and White fantasies as a given.

To point. There is a discussion over at Kotaku via the sites The Daily Dot and Medieval People of Color about the "historical accuracy" of an upcoming video game called "Kingdom Come: Deliverance" that would have non-white characters in Medieval and Renaissance era Europe.

The quest for a "historically accurate video game" is an oxymoron. This does not limit predictably racist responses such as the following:

The following comment is very revealing as well. While it strives for a reasonable reading of history, it too is steeped in a type of unconscious and taken for granted white privilege that does the work of White Supremacy:
Well, as a historian, a gamer, and a decent human being, I'm torn on this (although not at all torn on the reaction of the "Death to SJW" fellow, which was despicable and rude).

    There were quite a few people of black or Arabic decent in medieval Europe, especially after the early Crusading era, due to trade and the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem operating as a "cultural portal" between various peoples (and if any of you bring up Assassin's Creed as valid history, I'll find out where you live and . . . um . . . tie you up, and make you play only the Abstergo parts).

    Also Spain's Christians and Muslims were, while technically at war for over 750 years, living through long periods of relative peace, trade, and even intermarriage in some places. Despite what some (poorly researched) modern histories might indicate, the Spanish Inquisition did not remove the Muslims or Arabic-decent Christians from Spain in any significant amounts (although there were periods of deportment for some Jews and Muslims, while others left voluntarily; it wasn't a very friendly period to say the least).

    So, yeah, there could have been a decent amount of colored people in Bohemia, from a variety of sources.

    The problem is, they wouldn't be knights, nobles, or anyone else you're likely to encounter or care about in a video game where you play an action hero. They were usually monks or servants (or both), almost always second-class citizens (except in Spain), and sometimes isolated to their own communities.

    Moreover, it wouldn't be accurate to say they were a "common sight" in late medieval Northern Europe; while there are records of black and Arabic people mixing in society with white people, and being accepted as warriors, merchants, or any number of other professions, they were always the exception rather than the rule.

    So while it might be historically accurate to portray them as townspeople or religious brothers or sisters, being able to play as a black character or finding one sitting on a local throne or something isn't where I'd go if the goal were historical accuracy.

    But that said, there's more than enough leeway and historical "blind spots" in our knowledge to integrate people of African descents subtly into a game like Kingdom Come (Asians, Native Americans, and Subcontinent Indians, not so much).

The problem here is simple. Most white Europeans would not have been knights, nobles, or other social elites. White players will not be limited by such a fact. The fantasy of being high-born and a "hero" trumps how such circumstances were outliers. Why should black and brown players be limited by historical veracity and "accuracy" in a video game?

The public's cultivated ignorance about the interracial and cross-cultural contacts that typify human history is not surprising. There are Americans who still believe that Gone with the Wind is a documentary film. Undoubtedly, there are likely many more people who think that Rome was a "white" society, that Europeans were the only people to explore the world, and that anyone who was not "white" was sitting around waiting to be "discovered".

Eurocentrism has a crippling effect on a person's cognitive and intellectual abilities. It magnifies one's sense of security and importance. Eurocentrism does this through compelling lies that distort reality and the historical record.

Video games are not immune from the alluring intoxication of Eurocentrism. Video games are a powerful tool for political socialization. Those mediated fantastical realities are sites for teaching about history. There are "technologies" of race. Historically, these have included the printing press, "science", radio, and other types of mass media. Digital media is part of that trajectory: video games will reflect the complex tensions within a multiracial democracy, one that is very racially and class segregated on a day-to-day basis, with a self-consciously "integrated" popular culture, in a neoliberal moment, and where globalization is the norm.

Video games and other online digital media will be spaces for the macro and micro level aggressions known as cyber-racism. This is a mirror for America's (and the West's) public anti-racist turn after the civil rights moment and the end of World War 2. In the United States, formal White supremacy retreated to private spaces, and now hides behind "colorblindness" while marching under the banner of movement conservatism and the White Right in the United States. Anti-racism is a public norm. Yet, American society remains steeped in systems which sustain and support white race and class privilege.

The Age of Obama is a mixed, dynamic, and contradictory space for matters of racial justice and progress. Video games are reflections of that fact.

My hope is that the fantasies and adventures which we can live out through video games and other digital media can be more hopeful, forward, thinking, and radical than the present day "real world". Speculative texts should be a place for dreaming. The challenge for those who are racially privileged is to divorce themselves from a taken for granted assumption that their fantasies, and the worlds they inhabit, are necessarily those of others.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Muslim science was far more advanced in (12+ / 0-)

    the middle ages. I think it would be revisionist not to include them. Anyone who's been to Spain can attest to the influence Moors had on European culture, at least in the Mediterranean.

    "Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change." Muhammad Ali

    by blueoregon on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:15:33 PM PST

    •  I meant to say: far more advanced than christian (9+ / 0-)


      "Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change." Muhammad Ali

      by blueoregon on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:16:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  there is so much to be done there (11+ / 0-)

      Europe was a backwater, resource poor, population poor, and quite far behind the rest of the world. I laugh when I hear students still reciting the Eurocentric lie about the "European Miracle". The world is/was dynamic and cross cultural contact relatively common. Alas, that is the meat of history often not taught in American schools.

    •  That and a very inclusive Roman Empire (11+ / 0-)

      really did create a melting pot that some want to ignore.

    •  That's not the setting they're using, is it? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hannibal, Louisiana 1976, ColoTim

      I mean, they could place the game in the middle of the Arabian empire, in which case there'd be barely any "white" people.

      Obviously a game set in China in the Qing dynasty would similarly contain mostly Asians.

      •  Yeah, but to all but the very worst of the lot... (0+ / 0-)

        ...Asians are "close enough." Not joking here - I heard that crap growing up. Thinking about it, I heard it after growing up as well.

      •  If it's in Europe then yes it is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        leftist vegetarian patriot

        There were a great number of Arabs in Europe, and anyone with a significant amount of learning would be aware of Arab science. Certainly they wouldn't be a large group, but the only large group in medieval Europe was peasants, and I have a feeling that very few players will be peasant. In noble circles Arabs were far more common.

        I mean, they could place the game in the middle of the Arabian empire, in which case there'd be barely any "white" people.
        Setting aside the fact that there was no "Arabian Empire" there would be a great many white people in the lands that were controlled by the Abbasid Dynasty.

        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

        by AoT on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:57:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  and for that matter (4+ / 0-)

          there was a pretty vast degree of diversity in the qing dynasty, or any chinese dynasty. same for the mughals, same for the ottomans, same for any great world empire.

          just because they're ignorant of history doesn't make that history go away. as the original post points out, people aren't playing these games as peasants. outsider nobles, priests, adventurers and scientific experts were a steady feature of many a royal court, all over the world.

        •  See Shakespeare's Othello, The Moor of Venice (3+ / 0-)

          Also the Saracen Nasir in Robin Hood's band of Merry Men in the time of the Crusades, played by Mark Ryan in Robin of Sherwood, and his various successors, including

          Morgan Freeman as Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

          Isaac Hays as Asneeze and Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights

          Hakim Alston as Kemal in New Adventures of Robin Hood

          Anjali Jay as Djaq in the BBC's Robin Hood 2006

          Separately, the Arab ambassador Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, played by Antonio Banderas, fell in among 10th century Vikings in the supernatural fantasy movie The 13th Warrior, from the Michael Crichton novel  Eaters of the Dead.

          And separately again, Brother Cadfael's Penance, by Ellis Peters, is a murder mystery in which Cadfael's son Olivier by a Syrian woman from his Crusader days shows up in 12th century England.

          And again, in the adventure novel and movie The Black Rose, originally by Thomas B. Costain, two English knights travel to Yuan-Dynasty China, and one marries an Asian woman who makes her way to England to find him after they are separated. (It's complicated.)

          In actual history, there were large numbers of Black Africans in the Roman Empire, and modern Italians are about 2% African genetically. The percentage decreases north of Italy.

          Chinese silk was a vital trade good in the Roman Empire, coming via the Silk Road through Central Asia. A Chinese dynastic history records a gift of two lions from a Roman Emperor to a Chinese Emperor. Legend has it that a group of Roman soldiers captured by Parthians escaped into Central Asia, and wound up founding the town of Li Xien (Alexandria) in China, where there are blue-eyed Chinese to this day. An extant dynastic history appears to describe a lost painting of these Romans in their famous testudo (turtle) formation of interlocked shields.

          Buddhist missionaries from the Bactrian Greek kingdom (modern Afghanistan) took up residence in Alexandria in Egypt (Greek Sarmanoi, from Pali Shramana).

          The Tatar allies of the Mongols conquered Russia, and they and the Mongols were on the point of conquering Poland, Austria, Egypt, and possibly Constantinople when Genghis Khan died, and everything had to be put on hold for years until a new Khan could be elected and could take charge of operations from Europe to China. By the time they got back to business, all of Europe and North Africa had been sufficiently alarmed to arm against them effectively.

          Although Jews could not be knights or lords in feudal Europe, they often had prominent positions in various courts as financiers and doctors, since they could attend Arab medical schools, and Christians could not.

          Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, was one-eighth Black, being a descendant of the court slave Abram Gannibal, who was elevated to the Russian aristocracy.

          One of Russia's greatest composers and pianists, Sergei Rachmaninoff, was partly of Tatar ancestry. The family name consists of Russian suffixes added to the Arabic Rahman, Gracious, as in the ubiquitous Muslim prayer,

          بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

          bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm

          In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

          Chinese and Mongol explorers sailed to Africa during the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty. They could have made contact with Europe in the next century, except that in 1368 the Yuan fell to the native Ming Dynasty, which ordered the destruction of all seagoing vessels and the abandonment of all foreign trade and exploration. Vasco da Gama was the first to sail from Europe to India, in 1498.

          Marco Polo did not bring anybody back to Venice with him from Central Asia and Yuan Dynasty China. What if he had?

          Christopher Columbus in 1493 and others after him brought back Native Americans to Europe.

          See also the history of paper, invented in first-century China. Muslims captured a paper factory in Central Asia and spread the art to Spain, where a paper factory was captured by Christians in the 11th century. Higher-volume paper manufacturing grew up with wood block printing in Europe, and was thus ready for Gutenberg's movable type printing process, which in turn was ready just in time to support the Renaissance.

          Other Chinese technologies vital to the European Age of Discovery were the lodestone compass, and gunpowder.

          There is much more of this sort of thing.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 08:11:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Anybody who claims to think that their (13+ / 0-)

    notion of "historical accuracy" is of paramount importance in a video game is a pedantic apologist for racial privilege.

  •  White fantasies? (4+ / 0-)

    What is a "White fantasy"?

    (never mind about what "the White Gaze" means).

    We were not ahead of our time, we led the way to our time.

    by i understand on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:30:32 PM PST

      •  Being the hero is a universal fantasy. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We were not ahead of our time, we led the way to our time.

        by i understand on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:39:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Apparently not if you want to be a black hero (9+ / 0-)

          in a video game. Hence the complaints referenced in the diary.

          Or, to take an example from my own experience, I have run tabletop pen-and-paper fantasy role-playing games since the late 1980s. It has always been an option in my games to play completely non-human characters: dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-orcs, etc. This is common in most fantasy games. Over the years, many players have availed themselves of this option. Players can likewise choose to play characters who are of the opposite gender. Many have.

          However, although I have very deliberately created my fantasy game worlds with areas containing humans who range over a wide spectrum of appearance and skin color, most vaguely approximating real world ethnicities (albeit often with wildly diffent histories and levels of technological/magical progress), I cannot recall that a single one of my (white) players has ever created a character who was a nonwhite human being. Am I accusing all the white people I have ever gamed with of being actively racist? No. But it is striking that it is apparently easier or preferable for a lot of people to imagine portraying an immortal elf or a dwarf from a subterranean culture or a person of the opposite sex than to imagine portraying a human with dark or dusky skin, even when that human comes from a cultural milieu different only marginally from others portrayed in which the majority population is white.  

          My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
          --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

          by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:12:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I always figured most people create characters (0+ / 0-)

            that look like themselves. Although I get what you're saying.

            I think this article is more about NPCs though as I expect this game, like most, would give the ability to greatly customize your character (although it looks like they don't talk about that on their kickstarter).

            In any case, I don't see any reason there shouldn't be diversity in any game regardless of so called "historical accuracy" which has no chance of being accurate regardless.

            We were not ahead of our time, we led the way to our time.

            by i understand on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:31:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Almost none of my players look like their PCs (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kevskos, AoT, poco

              (PCs = player characters). Few players have actually created PCs who resemble themselves in any way...any way aside from skin color, that is.

              I already mentioned that it isn't uncommon for gamers to play characters of an entirely different species or gender, who are obviously very little like themselves. However, it goes further than that. Although few gamers (heck, few people) are built like Conan, many gamers create warrior-type characters with the same physique...who also happen to be pale of skin. And it isn't just  a matter of unimaginative players copying characters from movie or books. This seemingly unimportant choice extends to human characters of types far less often portrayed in Western pop culture, like wizards, cleric/priests, and rogues.

              I won't say I've never seen nonwhite characters portrayed by white players. I do myself from time to time (at the moment my favorite long-running character is a skinny little Egyptian-themed wizardess named Khef with a penchant for sarcasm, convolute plans, and mild paranoia). I know I've seen one or two Asians portrayed by fellow gamers in games run by others (as opposed to the aforementioned games I've run), although IIRC they weren't particularly well developed, being fairly stereotypical. I've read online about various characters of diverse appearance and assume at least some of them are played by white gamers. However, in my experience this is far from common.

              My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
              --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

              by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:03:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I still don't see the point. (0+ / 0-)

                Are you saying non-white players create characters with different skin color then their own disproportionately more often then white players?

                I get diversity wrt to NPCs that's 100% the choice of the game developer. But the idea that your subject line "Apparently not if you want to be a black hero" is the case doesn't ring true to me at all. People can, and do, create whatever character they want in a game as long as the game mechanics allow for it. And every game I've played allows for a wide range of skin color among the visual controls.

                I think everyone wants to be the hero, I don't think race has anything to do with that desire at all.

                We were not ahead of our time, we led the way to our time.

                by i understand on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:25:45 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I never gave it any thought, but I can't imagine (2+ / 0-)

                I would ever "bother" to create a non-white player character for myself -- the primary reason being, what difference would it make? Unless the game-master has introduced some sort of explicit racial dynamic related to skin color (or any other tertiary physical characteristic associated with race), there would be no difference at all between playing a white character and playing a black character ... so it wouldn't even occur to me to choose anything other than what I happen to be myself.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:46:51 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I can see that reasoning, I suppose (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  but I don't think it is universally applicable. A long time ago I decided mere racial prejudice is (even more) ridiculous in game settings with entirely different species, so in my game it does not exist. On the other hand, species prejudice between sentients is common(e,g.,elves are commonly feared by humans and hated by dwarves, while feeling superior to both).

                  However, there are differences in the areas humans live in in my game. Differences in culture, climate, available skills, and backgrounds. I've tried to avoid generic cookie-cutter settings and by and large I think I've succeeded. I've almost always had more people wanting into the campaigns than I've had room for. During the character creation process, players choose where they are from. When all the players seem to be coming from only a few different places that in my opinion are no more interesting than any others (and as their creator, I think I'm entitled to an opinion), it does form a pattern.

                  I haven't done anything about this pattern but note it because I haven't deliberately made the "white" parts of the campaign LESS interesting than the rest, either. But people are definitely choosing off a smaller menu than they need to, just to have characters they can better identify with, even though (as stated earlier) this isn't an issue if they're playing nonhumans who look very very different.

                  My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
                  --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

                  by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 05:19:06 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Or a female hero. (2+ / 0-)

            As a woman gamer, I can roleplay a male character, but I am sick to death of having games force it on me.  Deus Ex, which I just recently finished, for example.  The kickstarter game the diary references is another.  And countless other games.  It's part of why I go back to Skyrim time and again; the ability to be any gender and any race, and still be the hero.

            Shop Kos Katalogue
            I’m a feminist because the message is still "don’t get raped" not "don’t rape"

            by Avilyn on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 07:12:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  The other problem is that it makes (12+ / 0-)

    those people of color who were present and active during these periods even more invisible, like Alessandro de'Medici, the Duke of Florence during the early 16th century.  His historical reality gets erased because he doesn't fit the mold, which was created to exclude people like him in the first place.  Vicious cycle.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:30:37 PM PST

  •  If these game players want to be accurate. (20+ / 0-)

    Only a small percentage of the players can be royalty or knights. Imagine logging on and realizing that you'll be washing dishes or cleaning up horse sht.

    •  Yup, "accuracy" in video games? (9+ / 0-)

      It is to laugh. I've always like the way the Society for Creative Anachronism handles race. Everyone is presumed to be a lord or lady unless they specifically choose not to be (or behave in such a way to prove themselves not to be) noble born. Whatever race your face may proclaim takes a distant second to who you say you are. I knew a guy who had a Japanese persona. Not Japanese in the slightest, but lived there for many years, spoke the language fluently and worked incredibly hard to bring period workmanship to his Japanese encampment. Dude says he's Japanese, he's Japanese. Black woman says she's a Viking warrior, no problem, she's a Viking warrior. Seven foot tall male Samoan says he's a female Greek hetaira--good on 'er, although she'll get some guff for being out of period.

      I established a circa-Dagobert Frankish persona, visited extensively in Elizabethan England (for the clothes!) then said to hell with farthingales and folderol and ended up dressing early Viking most of the time. Didn't even raise an eyebrow. Loved my time in the SCA!

      "Nothing's wrong, son, look at the news!" -- Firesign Theater

      by SmartAleq on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:53:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Strictly speaking, "untitled gentry" (0+ / 0-)

        The title "lord/lady" has to be earned. One member of my earlier acquaintance was aggressively "peasant", and continued to declare himself so even after he was inducted into the Order of the Laurel (when you become high nobility).

        As for race...consider Master El of the Two Knives  (Note: article is from 2010 - he died recently).

        Or for a current example, Duchess Isabella of York (article is from her second reign as Queen).

        Anyone can be any persona they choose and achieve any rank and title they are willing to work for.

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 06:46:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Worst video game ever: (8+ / 0-)

      taking care of horses until invading army shows up, slaughtering you or selling you into slavery where you....take care of horses.

      The dossier on my DKos activities during the Bush administration will be presented on February 3, 2014, with an appendix consisting an adjudication, dated "a long time ago", that I am Wrong.

      by Inland on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:04:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's probably more an attempt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yoshimi, pico, Louisiana 1976

    to attract the stereotypical video gamer (white, male, generally middle class) than it is an attempt at historical "realism". What better way than to show that "hey, you can play a hero that looks just like you?"

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:36:27 PM PST

    •  That does happen, too, but in this case (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, Kevskos, terrypinder

      the developers were clear that they're doing this because history:

      I asked the devs if they plan on adding any NPCs of other-than-white-descent and received a polite reply of "[In Central Bohemia, there] were, unfortunately, almost none."

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:40:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bohemia, like almost all of Europe (0+ / 0-)

        included Romans, Celts, Germans, and then a mishmash of invading Central Asians since Roman times, but was Slavic in language starting in the sixth century, and in culture up until it went Catholic in the tenth century. There were African and other slaves, Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and others there, even if not among the aristocracy.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 08:38:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Many games have non-white characters and (3+ / 0-)

      allow you to choose a non-white appearance without losing their target audience. But they usually don't try to go for historical accuracy.

    •  Ad why are those gamers the stereotype? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftist vegetarian patriot

      The exclusion of characters of color may have something to do with that.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:04:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Um, yeah (12+ / 0-)

    Medieval Europe was a huge mash up of churning and changing ethnic identities with wide variations in different regions of the continent.  Plenty of Asians and Africans cycling through Europe and vice versa.  The medieval world was not as static as people think.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:37:24 PM PST

  •  Generally there were also no trolls, dragons (17+ / 0-)

    or actual wizards.  So, I think putting a brown-skinned woman in charge of the local guard is the least of the historic sins.

    "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

    by nightsweat on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:41:25 PM PST

  •  Not the first problem to come to mind. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For historical accuracy, you wouldn't be able to play a female character.

    If the video game is supposed to use a realistic historical setting, and the main character isn't supposed to stand out, then yes, I argue they need to belong to most common ethnic group, and be male (although if the game wants to hand-wave this it wouldn't bother me, but I don't really play video games for realism.)

    Assassin's Creed handled this relatively well (although they kind of make it a moot point, seeing as the main character is the world's most menacing, hooded, and conspicuous assassin ever.)

  •  I do see limits. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, WB Reeves

    I don't think I'd be interested in seeing John Wayne as Genghis Kahn.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:11:33 PM PST

  •  I am of the opinion that if you got a team of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, slothlax

    historians together, gave them a team of programmers, and enough time, snacks and money to make it worth their while and asked them to come up with a computer/box game that was accurate with a historical setting (any setting before 1900). You would never get your game.

    And if you picked one alpha-historian to lead the team, you'd get a thousand reasons why it was flawed immediately upon release.

    If the game has actual characters from history, Pope X or Queen Y, make them as realistic as possible. For the role play adventurer, increase racial diversity, increase female characters with real choices (not just chain mail bikinis) and just maybe you get more players (translated more $$$).

    "Yes, reason has been a part of organized religion, ever since two nudists took dietary advice from a talking snake." - Jon Stewart; The Daily Show

    by Uwaine on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:12:14 PM PST

    •  You would get different players, definitely. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The crowd that wants to ogle the chain mail bikini character would go to another game.  All depends upon what audience you're looking for.  I don't know that it would lead to more money, as I could see the cheetoes-eating-basement-dweller as being more likely to want to lose themselves in their fantasy ogling than someone who has an interest in some more variety and perhaps intellectual characterizations.  Without any evidence for this assertion, I'd think you'd get more per player from the basement dweller than the intellectual because they'd be online far more.

      •  No, no, no, I wrote "not just chain mail bikinis", (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        you keep the chain mail bikinis as a choice, just like there should be chain mail loin cloths (or blue woad ink for the Pictish). Make the entire gamer world a possible player for the game.

        There may be Red Sonja fans that want the chain mail. There may be female gamers who want full dress English armor. Who cares? Give 'em all a choice. And make sure there are NPCs who look similarly to but not exactly like whoever the buff heartthrobs (male & female) of the day are and dress them for ogling purposes.

        I don't know what the financial maximum would be for that activity though. You probably want enough sleaziness to get complaints, but not enough for the non-prudish to boycott? Some marketing guy would have to determine the max-min curves for that. Apparently, the bulk market in the US doesn't seem to have an upper limit on violence as long as it isn't perpetrated on children. So no worries there /bitter sarcasm.

        "Yes, reason has been a part of organized religion, ever since two nudists took dietary advice from a talking snake." - Jon Stewart; The Daily Show

        by Uwaine on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:24:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What if it were a Viking-based game? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, icemilkcoffee

    Trying for historical realism?

    Or a Zulu-based game, trying for historical realism?

    I suspect that the larger problem is that we tend to locate 'our' romantic, heroic past among the 1% in the European medieval era. If I want to play someone who looks like my ancestors, it'd have to be Realm of Shtetls, and for others it'd need to be based on the Malian or Mayan or Korean empires. But our 'mainstream' fantasy era is white and Christian and male.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:29:48 PM PST

  •  This isn't an historical drama or documentary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, Debby

    Mainly it sounds like they are letting the player choose his own race, etc... I would think that would be an essential feature. Besides is anybody here going to worry about what some random posture who would use the term "Whiney C___ts" thinks about the subject?

    "Nothing happens unless first a dream. " ~ Carl Sandburg

    by davewill on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:33:03 PM PST

  •  Have we completely run out of issues ? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:33:53 PM PST

  •  Mogolians and Indians as well (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, slothlax, wu ming, poco

    Served in the military with a guy from Chicago who was descended from Mongolians that settled in Europe under Genghis Khan.

    Had a somewhat slavic variation on a Mongolian word for his surname.

    Alexander the Great likely brought people back from India - and the Romans surely brought people from and to central Asia and Africa.

    Europe's had more variety than people "like to think" for a long time. Over the generations many of these groups blended in - but not always, as Romany and some Jewish and Spanish groups indicate.

    OMG, like, gag them with a multi-colored spoon. Like, ya know.

    by Jyotai on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:04:21 PM PST

    •  Er... Mongolians (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      pesky spelling...

      If a game was set in the middle ages, its not unreasonable for there to be a Mongolian or Arab around somewhere - especially if the adventure involves traveling beyond just some rural village. And especially more so if you're going to involve anything like horse archers (Europe's horse archers are descended from the Mongolian invaders) or wizardly lore (much of European scholarly-mysticism comes from Arabian sources).

      I suspect a number of other 'fantasy tropes' trace to things that came about as a result of trade / immigration.

      OMG, like, gag them with a multi-colored spoon. Like, ya know.

      by Jyotai on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:25:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  making that even more complicated (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is that "mongol" was a vast tribal construct that included pretty much anyone that surrendered and joined the horde when the armies rolled into town.

  •  Phoenicians, Persians, Carthaginian (4+ / 0-)

    mercenaries (Numidians (Berbers) & Libyans) were all represented in Spain & Rome and post Roman Europe. Likely folks from even further afield.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:47:15 PM PST

  •  In late 17th Century Blacks were called Moors (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leftist vegetarian patriot

    In the late 17th Century, slavery of Africans was still in its early stages. Mainly Spain and Portugal were involved in the trade to provide labor for their Americas colonies. The Dutch and English slavers came later in the game. There was also the French in Haiti and New Orleans.

    But on the European continent at the time, an African Black man was considered a Moor and thought of as exotic.

    If a game maker is looking to be authentic, then there were maybe one in 5,000  warriors who could be considered Black by today's standards. Women in the battlefield were non-existent except as part of the baggage train for an army. Most of them were prizes of war.

    It's the age old saga, kill the men and grab the girls.

    Game manufacturers on the other hand, have to appeal to the widest audience or consumer base. Their base  is male and female, and a multitude of races.

    If racial purity in a video "game" is of overriding importance to you, you have other issues.

    Video games are fantasy designed to appeal to the widest possible audience. If you don't get that, don't buy the product. There are enough non-judgmental whites, other ethnic groups, and females who will buy, that your silly whining wont make a difference.

  •  They're wrong about LoTR too. (2+ / 0-)

    I play LoTR online, and although you can't have a midnight-black character, three of the four races can be configured to be distinctly dusky, certainly well past just 'tan' Caucasian range.

    •  Cool! Me, too! (0+ / 0-)

      What server do you play on?

      You're gonna need a bigger boat.

      by Debby on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:11:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Arkenstone, Riddermark, Gwaihir and Anduin. (0+ / 0-)

        I've got a char of each class (plus a low level mule) on each.  I started on Ark, and all my chars there are 85+, added Riddermark when it came online, so my chars there are 78+, added Gwaihir when I decided to start getting my German skills back up to speed, so I've got a 95 and the rest 65+ there, and only added Anduin at Yule fest, so the chars there only mostly only in their 20s, with a 41 hunter feeding the rest crafting materials.

        •  I'm Landroval and Windfola primarily (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

          but since the 'hobbits to Isengard' thing started, I'm working to have a character on each server. I just want the option to participate in server-based events. I've only been playing a couple years, spread over the two servers and more than one character on each, so my highest is around 65. I've just started adventuring in Lorien; part of the charm of the game for me is exploring those new areas. The world design is just fantastic.

          You're gonna need a bigger boat.

          by Debby on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:58:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I lucked out, I started on day one. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Was actually still employed back then, and coughed up the $200 for a 'lifetime subscription', so I don't have to pay a monthly fee, and still get the VIP benefits, including 500 free TP a month.

            I agree that there are some truly stunning areas.  My favorite simply to ride around in is the trollshaws, because I love the fall colours.  But if and when I ever get employed again, I want to save up for one of those laser engraving machines, and see about recreating some of the carved stonework found in the dwarven areas irl.  :)

            •  I've just been (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

              figuring the logistics of casting in plaster one of the pedestals that hold the dwarf banners in Moria! Candlestick size, I'm thinking. Laser engraving would be nice, but those skills go way beyond me.

              How cool to be there from day one! Two hundred is a small price to have paid for what you're getting.

              You're gonna need a bigger boat.

              by Debby on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:49:41 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Laser engraving is mostly cost. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Even the base machine that can only handle individual objects around 4" thick and maybe a foot across cost 8 grand with a few 'add-ons' to make it easier to use.  You really need to either be pretty rich, or willing and able to use it constantly to make a stream of things you can sell to make it worth owning.  We've got a river nearby, I can get a pretty much endless stream of river rock that could be cleaned up and carved with words and patterns if I had the engraver.

  •  In a "realistic" medieval video game... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, old mule

    The players would pretty much all be peasant laborers living in tiny shacks and hovels trying to eke out a subsistence after paying the rent due to the local lord.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:14:19 PM PST

  •  Realistic video games!!! Hahaha! (0+ / 0-)

    See me falling off my chair.

    Like Vegas Dave said upthread, all this race purity obsession hides other issues.

    Un pour tous et tous pour un aka United we stand

    by livebyChocolate on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:18:42 PM PST

  •  Chauncey, even your intellectual energy is finite (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think this issue is worth your attention, because it's unimportant and because, as racialized issues go, it's a relatively close case.  

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 04:50:29 PM PST

  •  It's hard to comment on this without (0+ / 0-)

    offending someone so I won't.

    “He talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans.” James Carville

    by Mokislab on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 05:06:32 PM PST

  •  What is "white" is medieval Europe? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, TheOtherMaven, Debby

    At least in late-antiquity or the Early/High Middle Ages?  Racialization as we know it is a considerably later and less provincial development.

    •  "Blue blood" (0+ / 0-)

      Nobility on Wikipedia

      Blue blood is an English idiom recorded since 1834 for noble birth or descent; it is also known as a translation of the Spanish phrase sangre azul, which described the Spanish royal family and other high nobility who claimed to be of Visigothic descent, in contrast to the Moors. The idiom originates from ancient and medieval societies of Europe and distinguishes an upper class (whose superficial veins appeared blue through their untanned skin) from a working class of the time. The latter consisted mainly of agricultural peasants who spent most of their time working outdoors and thus had tanned skin, through which superficial veins appear less prominently.

      Robert Lacey explains the genesis of the blue blood concept:

      It was the Spaniards who gave the world the notion that an aristocrat's blood is not red but blue. The Spanish nobility started taking shape around the ninth century in classic military fashion, occupying land as warriors on horseback. They were to continue the process for more than five hundred years, clawing back sections of the peninsula from its Moorish occupiers, and a nobleman demonstrated his pedigree by holding up his sword arm to display the filigree of blue-blooded veins beneath his pale skin—proof that his birth had not been contaminated by the dark-skinned enemy.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:05:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Realistic"? Is the dialogue (3+ / 0-)

    in Middle English?  Will most of the "action" consist of watching characters till the soil and milk goats?

    I'm a Christian, therefore I'm a liberal.

    by VirginiaJeff on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 05:23:41 PM PST

  •  Syrians (2+ / 0-)

    There were plenty of Syrians in Germany during the times that the medeval guilds were trying hard to do high-end wool rugs- experts from Damascus were poached to help set up the German rug business- forgot what city, specifically- was it Augsburg that had weavers' guilds, surrounding sheep farms, and market connections all at the right time?

    Look through books of renaisance paintings and drawings- you will see African and Arab figures at dinners, at work, at business. Not as novelties either but as players on the observed scene.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 06:43:01 PM PST

  •  I think the only people who would care (0+ / 0-)

    either way whether or not a game was this historically accurate would be hardcore role players that demand 100% accuracy to history (or cannon in a fictional world like Star Wars or Star Trek) - and they're a decidedly small population of the player base of any game.

    As such, perhaps the historical statistics are relatively moot and adding non-lilly white avatars would be just fine.  If a handful of hardcore role players want to get bent over it - let 'em.

    On the other hand, if it's the developers goal to be as historically accurate as possible, then they should be as historically accurate as possible without worrying about pissing people off.  As such, if it's a game that is based in an area without a lot of Moorish peoples according to the history books, then they should not have too many non-lilly white avatars.  For that matter, there shouldn't be a whole lot of female avatars either since females during that era were largely not noblemen or soldiers, with the obvious exception of a few, like Joan of Arc.  And again, as noted by others - to really be historically accurate most of the players and/or NPCs aren't going to be doing things like being a knight - they're going to be  playing a farmer or some other feudal peasant.

    So it's really a decision for the developer to make.  If they're trying to placate players - I'd say it's relatively safe to add in different ethnicities and ignore the hardcore RPers that are going to demand as much accuracy as possible.  If they're trying to be accurate because that's what they want, they should do their historical research if the area and period the game takes place in and be as accurate as possible to meet their own objectives for the game.

    "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

    by Darth Stateworker on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 06:45:03 PM PST

  •  I watched that kickstarter for a while (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leftist vegetarian patriot

    The comments on the project and its updates didn't mention race that I saw, but there was a 'spirited' discussion about not being able to play a female character, and whether it would be "historically accurate" or not.  Apparently the game designers concession was to add a tutorial mission where you could play a female character who assists the (male) main character at the beginning of his quest, but then you'd have to play the male character for the rest of the game.  Thanks but no thanks.  

    Shop Kos Katalogue
    I’m a feminist because the message is still "don’t get raped" not "don’t rape"

    by Avilyn on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 07:03:04 PM PST

  •  Oh for crying out loud! (0+ / 0-)

    Is it possible to just enjoy the darn game without analyzing it to death?

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