How Important is MC Ancestry/Skin Tone/Ethnicity/Cultural Background?

Something I’ve wondered about is whether MC ancestry/cultural background/skin tone matters for readers. Sort of general questions I’ve been curious of the community’s opinion on. Can apply to both backgrounds and cultures resembling those present in real life or fantasy ones.

In a story where it doesn’t affect the plot, do you enjoy the option to be able to chose skin tone/ancestry/ethnicity/cultural background if it affects little to no flavor text/plot elements or do you mind if its left ambiguous? How important would you rank it as a customization option when compared to things like gender identity, hair color, eye color, height, build, etc?

How much do you care about stories where the MC’s ancestry and skin tone is implied to be a particular way because they have a canon family? Does it affect your ability to enjoy the story? For reference the main thing that comes to mind is the flood of medieval adjacent stories where the MC is implied to be part of a noble house or particular family and has parents/siblings with specific, preset characteristics, but there is likely other examples I’m not thinking of.

EDIT: edited initial prompt to remove mentions of race due to comment about how “race” isn’t a correct term.


Someone take down this propagation of racism!

I don’t care overly much, but I will be picturing my character as dark skinned unless there is a story reason otherwise. Such as being a viking tale or something similar. So what does cause issues is when family members are pale skinned blondes or my character keeps blushing etc.


And in the case of the MC’s set skin tone, I have no problem with it.

I agree. When I started to venture into Choice of Games, the truth is I didn’t care much about the physical customization of the MC. I do not use the word “race” because it is a word that humans do not like and more because there are no races in human beings.

Although I say this because I am of Hispanic descent; broad term with many meanings, ethnic, linguistic, historical and geographical.


Personally, I’m more on board with having it be left ambiguous in a story where cultural background doesn’t really matter.

If there’s a canon descent for my MC, I’d be fine with it if it’s for story lore purposes or something like that. But if the game does offer me a choice to customize my MC’s descent, then I’ll happily take it I guess.


I’m not white. I don’t know what it’s like to be white. I can’t relate to it any more than I can relate to being Shinto, which I also am not. I don’t know the world from that (those) perspectives so, if given the choice, I replace them with ones I understand and relate to more. It is an impediment to have a CYOA story not let me choose to look like the people whose perspective of the world I most understand look like. Having a familiar base framework helps with the suspension of belief for the more fantastic elements. At least it does for me.

And anyway, it’s just needlessly exclusionary if someone’s bothered to completely inhabit a world with impossibilities like dragons, pixies, catboys and nine kinds of shapeshifting aliens to start suddenly pretending that there isn’t any room for different shades and cultures of humans. Which is something that is still seen all too often in traditional books/stories. Galaxy spanning tales, enormous cast of aliens and creatures…and the darkest skin is pale green or slightly tanned and the darkest hair is red.


Just speaking to this question in particular, if the author doesn’t make it clear that our MC is going to be of a particular culture, I would of course very much enjoy the option to be able to choose appearance customizations such as skin tone as well as cultural customizations such as ethnicity or ancestry, even if I know that they won’t affect the plot or even change flavour text that much.

I see people bring this up a lot, asking if it really matters that much if it’s not even going to affect the plot or impact flavour text. To me, it still matters very much. This is because, this way we know that the author has at least put in the thought to include player characters of different skin tones/ethnicities/cultural backgrounds. I don’t even care that it won’t affect the plot or flavour text, just the fact that the author has put in this choice at the beginning proves to me that the author has thought about and accounted for the fact that players of different backgrounds will be playing their game.

Having it affect flavor text in meaningful ways is just an even better thing on top of it :smiley:


It depends on the reader some really care others really don’t. I do prefer being able to choose skin color but I also really like getting into character creation look at the new Sherlock wip to get what I mean.


Since I’m not able to form mental images of characters in my mind, that kind of thing is wasted on me when it’s not relevant to the story (even just as flavor text), but when it is relevant to the story, I love being able to choose a character’s ethnic heritage.


Never really cared, except in stories that actually have dynamics according to your ancestry/background etc.


I like to imagine my character as myself so they always look like myself. So to me yes


The only thing I have to say is, if you are making a fantasy world and the primary ethnicity your players are interacting with is not white, SAY IT. SAY IT DIRECTLY. Don’t “imply”, don’t “suggest”, people will ignore it. If your cast is intended to be majority poc, make sure people know it.


Unless MC’s cultural background/ethnicity/ancestry is important,I couldn’t care less if it’s costumizable or not. It doesn’t affect the story’s quality either way, so why should it bother me?

Hollowed Minds is a story with set ethnicity/cultural background for MC and the characters, which has played a role on shaping up their personality (the author explains it in-depth on their Tumblr blog) and it’s a great read.


i don’t really mind if i can’t explicitly choose my ethnicity but every single time i play a game where the MC has a family, they all have very… western first and last names and that makes it very difficult for me to play. i’m half japanese and i always like to play with japanese MC’s too, so it’s hard not to roll my eyes a little when my japanese MC’s parents are called… Grace and Mark Smith or something. even moreso when the family has a set appearance because it’s really hard to rp as my MC’s when mom and dad have green eyes.

if it’s really important to the story and i am actually interested in it, i can make an MC from a different ethnicity, but i’m really bummed when i feel the MC has a canon ethnicity in a game where ethnicity doesn’t really matter at all.


I customize my MCs to be more European-looking, both in text adventures and video games like Mass Effect. The primary reason is that I grew up with action movies of Jason Statham; he is my childhood hero. Also, I like European history and culture, usually picking the pale skin tone and blue eyes for my MC if customization exists. But if there is a lore reason, I wouldn’t mind playing a character with a different skin tone and a different cultural background.


not very, i mean if it doesn’t effect the plot then it’s not that important for me maybe because i play self inserts and don’t often see my race represented anyway so it’s no biggy lol for me. if there’s flavour text that’s fun but yea it’s not that important.

“How much do you care about stories where the MC’s ancestry and skin tone is implied to be a particular way because they have a canon family?”
it doesn’t bother me, having more uh idk how to word this… solid (?) mcs are just as fun as blank slates.
… sometimes i have trouble with mcs with set personalities but that’s not what this topics about lol

Does it affect your ability to enjoy the story?
not in the slightest.

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The story and the author’s intentions come first. Is it a relatively straight-forward game about vikings, pharaohs, ninjas or something else from a specific culture? If just for flavor I’d probably rank the skin tone’s importance alongside the rest of the body and little higher than hair and other such things, but having it locked probably won’t change my opinion of the game

Generally I think that having multiple character backgrounds is a good thing. I’m one of those who tries to play someone who resembles myself on my first run and I’d prefer it if others could do the same if they want, but I don’t need to customize the smallest details as long as I can leave them up to the imagination. Cultural backgrounds could influence the plot in various interesting ways depending on the situation, but they seem to require a fair bit of planning, especially if they should realistically change some of the other characters; anything which clashes with how we imagine our MCs might take us out of the story. It might be easier to leave the skin tone ambiguous, but the author’s own background could influence the writing unconsciously.

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It depends. If it’s important to the story then it’s important to me as a reader. If it’s just a token feature, I don’t really care. I very much like meaningful customisation.

One pitfall to avoid is for a character (or MC) to have a set ancestry that is important to the story and not informing the reader when the character is first introduced. For a certain percentage of readers it will cause a cognitive conflict down the line that detracts from the enjoyment of a flowing narrative.

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For me, I would rank it as just as important as the rest of the customization options. In my mind, like dumping-clouds said, having skin color options even if it doesn’t affect the flavor text much makes me feel like the author had every potential reader in mind, and it just makes me more excited about the story. I don’t particularly mind if they aren’t there, but it does confuse me if there are multiple other customizable aspects other than skin tone. For example, if you can set your hair color, eye color, height and everything else, why not skin?

I do think that it tends to cut my immersion when family members are described in a way other than what my character looks like, but I understand it can be more coding to try and make the family match every different MC. In my opinion it’s best to just leave family descriptions vague beside personality so that if coding the different appearances aren’t an option, no reader feels left out. It doesn’t ruin my view of the story completely, but it does make me wonder who the story was for exactly. I feel like this is important to think about if you’re making an interactive story


I suppose we would have to separate ancestry from skin color, right? Because I can say that I am Japanese with black skin or from South Africa and I have white skin.

That would make things very complicated to code, the truth is that skin color or ancestry does not matter much to me in my mc, I mean it would be funny if my character randomly said “hello, I’m from Chile” but I know that’s not going to happen.