Diversity Representation in MU*ing



  • Created upon request because people like to make me work, thereby ensuring their doom in the impending Catbot Uprising.



  • #MU*sSoWhite - sometimes this really bothers me and it's particularly bothering me right now given the current climate. I'm gonna go on one of the games I play on and count the number of characters with blue eyes. I'm pretty sure it's 75+%.

    Play a POC, it wouldn't kill you.



  • @egg said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Play a POC, it wouldn't kill you.

    I'm going to assume the majority of MUers are white. So they play white.
    I'd much rather a hundred dull white characters than a single POC played as a stereotype.



  • As Generic White Lady #362 RL, I have played PoC characters in the past and likely would again if I start playing again.

    When I do, though, I am constantly anxious that I'm going to do something screwed up out of sheer cluelessness that might offend. I've been lucky thus far to avoid it happening, but even offending out of cluelessness free of any malice doesn't mean offense wouldn't have been justifiably caused if it ever did happen, and I'd really rather not hurt someone like that, ever.



  • I pick PBs largely at random and have played people across the board.

    But I'mma be honest:
    Almost every time I've seen someone brag about using non-white PBs, it has given me uncomfortable fetishism vibes.

    Make the character. Pick a PB to fit who you're playing. Don't force something to fit a PB (esp. if it comes out a stereotype) and then brag about it. Please.



  • @egg said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    #MU*sSoWhite - sometimes this really bothers me and it's particularly bothering me right now given the current climate. I'm gonna go on one of the games I play on and count the number of characters with blue eyes. I'm pretty sure it's 75+%.

    Play a POC, it wouldn't kill you.

    Not MU*ing directly, but please excuse me while I regurgitate some lengthy insomniac thoughts...

    I got challenged by a POC friend ages ago (fourteen-ish years, I think?) to try playing exclusively POC characters in MMOs and other online games for six months and see what happened, and I found it an eye-opening experience. Not just socially—in a breathtaking amount of online gaming there's a surprising amount of sudden racist toxicity you experience when you change your avatar's skin color, far more than I'd realized even though I knew intellectually it existed—but even technologically as well.

    It was surprising to me both as a gamer and a former game designer/developer how many games, MMO or single-player, simply cannot even handle cutscene lighting right if you give your character dark skin. I expected better of classic-era Bioware, for instance, but Dragon Age Inquisition was particularly bad about this in places; there were whole cutscenes where I literally could not see my Inquisitor at all. This technological aspect was particularly striking to me because I had to admit that, in hindsight, it was not a thing I'd bothered to consider in my own professional game development days. (And I was the one writing the lighting portion of our game engine...)

    I've actually played predominantly dark-skinned characters in MMOs—and any other game with chargen—even after the six month stretch passed. In part because anything else aside man has it been a remarkably useful litmus test to show me who I should not waste time trying to associate with. And often serves as a good way to judge the toxicity level of any online video gaming community overall very quickly. It was a large part of why I left WildStar despite having been involved in the actual development of the game to a point where I very seriously considered moving to California to take a job at Carbine; moving up to and after launch, the very tight-knit cool community we'd had in early beta dissolved under the weight of a much larger playerbase, and holy cheese was the post-launch community racially toxic to a breathtaking level in places.

    And even when a game is single-player, I've found making my character a POC also makes me a lot more aware of NPC racial diversity. (Which is often, uh, let's go with "not great".)

    I mean, in The Secret World, my extremely dark-skinned character did not stand out because there were a fairly diverse cast of NPCs to start with. (Heck, my character's actual NPC boss was basically "what if Idris Elba played James Bond... who'd had to retire from the field and become the overseer for a new generation of secret agents, who happened to be working for an ancient secret organization to basically fight C'thulhu and other similar scales of threat in order to keep people safe from the things in the shadows?")

    But playing FFXIV with a dark-skinned character—while I've encountered almost no OOC racial toxicity from other players as in Far Too Many Other Games, which is refreshing (though I have had a few notable non-toxic but very uncomfortable interactions)—I quickly became hyper-aware of how few NPCs were dark-skinned (i.e. damn near none), all the way up until I reached Ala Mhigan territory during Stormblood (the second of the three current expansions). And even there they were hardly the majority.

    I mean, some of that is the Japanese tendency to make characters very light-skinned even when they're supposed to be Asian or anything else, but it still felt a touch uncomfortable. (The fact that there are shockingly few dark-skinned PCs either did not help that feeling, mind you.) It was actually a relief to me on a level that caught me totally off-guard when my character finally reached Ala Mhigan territory and met the (POC) leader of the Resistance and other freedom fighters serving under him, because abruptly she looked like she belonged there.

    That sort of stuff has been an eye-opening experience about the importance of representation, even as pale a reflection as it is of the real thing.

    So, I mean, definitely don't play a stereotype—because no character should be a stereotype, and they really shouldn't be a racially-derived one, because yikes—but I've found that taking up my friend's challenge over the past however-long-it's-been (well over a decade, at least) in at least online video gaming has definitely forced me to look at points of view I probably would've otherwise taken for granted, both narratively (in RP and everything else) and OOCly socially (because hoooooly cow can people get horribly racist at dark-skinned avatars in some gaming communities).

    (Admittedly, picking a PB in MU*ing is a wildly different experience than "hey look, I'm interacting with random gamers in multiplayer" is; with online multiplayer games, RP and "in character" is not the dominant paradigm of interaction, so people are far, far more likely to think of your avatar as "you".)

    So although that friend and I have largely lost touch in the past six years or so after he moved to the East Coast, that challenge definitely had an impact. I like to think it's helped break me of habits I wasn't even aware of. I know it's changed how I write fiction in general, because it's forced me to stop just mentally defaulting to every character being white; when writing fiction I used to have to pause and go "wait... should this character be non-white?" consciously with every character I created, and that hasn't been the case for some time.

    So I have little doubt that, done right, it can be a worthwhile experience for many people to try out.

    That said... even if it helps with some understanding and forces you to break out of unconscious biases? It's even more important to take those experiences and really internalize that they've got nothing on what POC folks have to go through RL.

    Because no matter how racially toxic someone might get at my old Defiance character, or my Elite: Dangerous commander (seriously, you barely ever see them, wtf), or my old secondary EVE Online capsuleer (reiterate Elite comment here... though to be fair, EVE's just gleefully toxic in general in places, and the racial aspects were basically opportunistic seasoning), or any other online avatar? I can always log off and put all that aside. It's not like those online avatars will impact me if I'm pulled over by some paranoid traffic cop. It's not like those online avatars will influence someone's perception of me professionally in my day job. It's not like they affect my offline, real-world, actual life.

    Many folks don't have the option to put it all aside by logging off. And reminding myself of that every time I do run into one of those experiences? That's been the most sobering part of the entire years-long history of this challenge.

    And, unsurprisingly, the point the friend in question wanted to originally make by issuing that challenge to me all those years ago.



  • @Sparks said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    That said... even if it helps with some understanding and forces you to break out of unconscious biases? It's even more important to take those experiences and really internalize that they've got nothing on what POC folks have to go through RL.

    While I agree that yes, breaking biases and doing one's best to reach a better understanding of those different to one's self... I honestly don't understand how playing a POC on a MU is going to do it. A character on a MU is not at all the same as an avatar in a game world, especially if the game world is fictional. The choices you can make in a video game are exceptionally limited when compared -to that of a MU*, so playing "someone with dark skin" isn't the same as playing an actual black person from Harlem.

    If you have the knowledge to accurately play a POC, with all their culture and history intact, then chances are high you already are aware of your biases enough to deal with them. If you don't, then you're likely just playing a white dude with chocolate frosting.

    ETA: This is not at all to say that I wouldn't love to see more POC characters. I absolutely would.



  • @Sparks said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Many folks don't have the option to put it all aside by logging off.

    For the most part, it is true. There have been several times I've tried logging off from being black. It never works.

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    If you have the knowledge to accurately play a POC, with all their culture and history intact, then chances are high you already are aware of your biases enough to deal with them. If you don't, then you're likely just playing a white dude with chocolate frosting.

    Just keep in mind there are many flavors of POC who also have many flavors of culture. A lot of people forget the distinction between skin color and culture. I know a few white dudes with chocolate frosting. I know a few chocolate dudes with white frosting. They are people too.

    Don't let fear of 'getting it wrong' stop you from playing a POC character. If you want to play it safe, just play to what you know and the skin color won't matter.



  • @Warma-Sheen said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Just keep in mind there are many flavors of POC who also have many flavors of culture. A lot of people forget the distinction between skin color and culture. I know a few white dudes with chocolate frosting. I know a few chocolate dudes with white frosting. They are people too.

    That's not quite my point. My point was that if we're treating these characters as real people, which is the way I do things, then a POC is going to have had different experiences than white people. This only really applies to real-world settings, of course, but I don't mean white people that act black, or black people that act white, or whatever. I meant that I don't really see how you can take all the experiences of a white dude and put them in black skin and say that's a black person.

    I'm approaching this, mentally, in terms of homosexuality - since that's the only real minority I can claim to be a part of. Straight and gay people are basically the same. The experience of being a gay person is not the same as the experience of being a straight person.



  • I'm ethnically honky, but have found myself being complimented on how I've played POCs in the past. It's always kind of blown my mind, because in my mind all I've been doing is "playing a character who fits into the IC situation." But like, when I played a Sabbat vampire who was a 6'3" very dark skinned African-American man, what people seemed to be saying was "thanks for not playing a gangsta rap BlackedRaw.com stunt cock from The Hood." (Then again, this was a game with a low bar, where there was another vampire whose character concept was "angry black woman" whose channel title or alias or something was 'Black Lady.')

    For a while, I had the above character while also playing a petite irony-poisoned milk-white-skinned California-girl vampire, and the ways that the same players would seek out interaction on that character over the black male character were a trip.



  • @Sparks said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    I got challenged by a POC friend ages ago (fourteen-ish years, I think?) to try playing exclusively POC characters in MMOs and other online games for six months and see what happened, and I found it an eye-opening experience. Not just socially—in a breathtaking amount of online gaming there's a surprising amount of sudden racist toxicity you experience when you change your avatar's skin color, far more than I'd realized even though I knew intellectually it existed—but even technologically as well.

    This was truly a trip on WoW back in the day. Full disclosure, I am white, but I often tried to make my avatars black -- not for any more complicated reason than just to see if I could, which an absolutely shocking amount of times turned out to be "not really." When I pointed out that you couldn't really make a dwarf or blood elf (at the time, for example) with very dark skin tones to people their responses were almost always very dismaying to me, the mildest usually being some variant of "who cares?"

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.



  • @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you. In general I mean, I don't know about the specifics of WoW's races. But if you've got 'human' in your list of races, not letting them be all the colours under the sun is kind of stupid.


  • Pitcrew

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you. In general I mean, I don't know about the specifics of WoW's races. But if you've got 'human' in your list of races, not letting them be all the colours under the sun is kind of stupid.

    If all the fictional races of the world you made up just HAPPEN to be light-skinned -- that's notable.



  • @Roz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you. In general I mean, I don't know about the specifics of WoW's races. But if you've got 'human' in your list of races, not letting them be all the colours under the sun is kind of stupid.

    If all the fictional races of the world you made up just HAPPEN to be light-skinned -- that's notable.

    Oh, absolutely.

    ETA: Or worse. Everyone is X-colour, except the bad guys.


  • Pitcrew

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Roz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you. In general I mean, I don't know about the specifics of WoW's races. But if you've got 'human' in your list of races, not letting them be all the colours under the sun is kind of stupid.

    If all the fictional races of the world you made up just HAPPEN to be light-skinned -- that's notable.

    Oh, absolutely.

    ETA: Or worse. Everyone is X-colour, except the bad guys.

    bUt It'S a FaNtAsY wOrLd It'S nOt RaCiSt



  • @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you.

    Why not? Aside from the obvious, like literal aliens from another planet.



  • @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Like...you should care? It matters? How do I even need to explain it to you? It was, yeah, eye-opening about the community at large and even (very unfortunately) about people in my own life at the time.

    Eeeeh. When it comes to fictional races... I don't really agree with you.

    Why not? Aside from the obvious, like literal aliens from another planet.

    Fictional races may as well be literal aliens from another planet. There are easy explanations for fictional races to not have darker, or lighter, or whatever-skinned members.

    If there were no POC-like figures at all then there'd be a problem, but having fictional races that just aren't dark isn't a thing to be worried about - depending on the reasoning. If you couldn't make darker-skinned humans, that'd be worth worrying about.



  • @Tinuviel said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    Fictional races may as well be literal aliens from another planet.

    Specifically in regards to elves and dwarves, why? If they developed on the same world, in the same geographical regions, there's no real reason they wouldn't, they're not aliens. They've got the other human skin pigments and their bodies are almost identical to human bodies, to the point (in a lot of fiction) that they can even cross-breed with humans.

    It's much more common that elves and dwarves with black skin are the evil faction -- dark elves, and (specific to WoW) dark iron dwarves. That's just off-putting and weird to me.



  • @Wizz said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    It's much more common that elves and dwarves with black skin are the evil faction -- dark elves, and (specific to WoW) dark iron dwarves. That's just off-putting and weird to me.

    Well, yes. But I did specifically mention that above.

    And again, I said in general for fictional races. Why are dwarves and elves like that all over the place? Folkloric origins, presumably.

    But if you're all going to start talking purely about race appearance outside of MUing? Probably best to continue that discussion elsewhere.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede

    Could this conversation maybe be split off into its own conversation called "Diversity in Gaming"

    I think it is an important conversation - maybe too important to be dismissed as a peeve.


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