Race, Sexual identity, and Player Character customization in a pre-civil rights setting

Do that and people who like this period but prefer escapism will not like your game.
Don’t do that and people who like this period but prefer historical plausibility will not like your game.

In any case someone will not like your game, then just write what you prefer.

On a more practical note about writing discrimination:

  1. Discriminatory events should be woven organically in your story and not gratuitous.
    Good Example: You need to enter the Gentlemens’ Club, a fine establishment where the rich and the powerful of your city reunite to smoke cigars and drink brandy. You need to track down the international spy Monsieur Deladier before it will be too late. Just one problem, you are a woman and the waiters don’t let you in.

Bad Example: You are strolling in the park by the river, walking your dog, when a couple of drunkards sitting on a bench catcall you. You stop and turn to shout in their face. You hate disrespectful people.

  1. For the love of God, don’t comment on discrimination, just describe it.
    Good Example: The russian prisoners are marching in a line, like every other day, to the ammunition factory where they are put to work. Suddenly one of them staggers and falls on his knees. The SS officer sees him from the back of the line, he catch up with the still kneeling prisoner in no time. The officer points his gun to the back of the prisoner’s head and pulls the trigger.

Bad Example: The same as the paragraph above, but with the addition of something like: “The Nazis considered Slavs to be of an inferior race, to exploit and exterminate. It was still a long way before peace, harmony and equality etc etc”

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I was going to reply to this yesterday but I was too tired but I don’t think you should scrap your project and I do not like the idea that white authors should refrain from writing about certain things because “They’re white and privileged and simply cannot understand the struggle” white people also can experience discrimination based on their gender identity, sexuality heck even race in some circles. I don’t agree that discrimination is an inherently POC thing.

Write what you like, please. If we’re striving for a community where we’re equal then I don’t think some topics should be off limits because of your race. With the sensitivity you’ve displayed regarding this issue, I doubt that the story you write will be malicious or antagonistic towards non whites.

I wanted to ask though, if your book is going to have supernatural elements, does that not already break the realism to some extent? Is there a reason that can’t extend to lgbt issues and race relations? (I’m just asking because I don’t know if the supernatural is accepted in your story or hidden from the human world)

I don’t think you’re obligated to make my reading experience pleasant or inclusive. It’s a good thing that you strive to do so, but it’s not mandatory that you do. At the end of the day I don’t have to read your story and you don’t have to write one that fits my tastes.

I see some comments that are more or less saying, “I’d love to play as an oppressed minority in 20’s America! :star_struck:” alas that’s something that I didn’t consider as someone who has faced discrimination. I can’t fathom why some would willingly want to be treated that way but I suppose it’s the fact that it’s just a game some can walk away from that while it is an inescapable reality for others. In that regard there is an audience for your book, it just won’t be me or any other black person or lgbt person who doesn’t want play “bigotry simulator” as someone else put it.

I do wish you the best of luck if you choose to change your mind and keep the story as is or if you’d like to keep the :sparkles:aesthetic :sparkles: minus the racism, sexism and homophobia. You could create a fantastical setting with elements from the 20’s with Art Deco and Gatsby. Kinda like the setting for rapture in bioshock.

But again that’s all up to you. To reiterate my opinion on this is, you can write what you like, be it inclusive or not, and I can decide whether or not I’d like to engage with it.

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The thing to keep in mind is this:

Do you want the game to be some sort of escapism for the reader, regardless who they are IRL, or do you (in the worst case) want it to be ‘misery p*rn’ for a very small group (if you watched ‘Get Out’ you know what I mean).

There have been a few games where the author was so eager to let the player ‘experience’ discrimination etc that it was just disgusting (some the authors have long since left, I think, others (the ‘milder’ cases) actually have been published). So, ask yourself what kind of world you are writing, and for whom. who is your target audience?

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You can write anything and some people will not like while some people would.

As such you really should do what you think you can do best. Ideas are, by themselves not that important, it is the execution of the idea that matters.

If you were to write an historically accurate world in a way which educates or encourages to empathize with the oppressed and their suffering then most people will not find it disrespectful or offensive.

A good example of this is Choice of Rebels and the effects it had on me.

Influence of CoR on me

Before playing Choice of rebels, I had an “I don’t care” attitude regarding the helots of Sparta.

The reason for this was simple, I didn’t know what the Spartans did with their slaves. I knew they weren’t nice to them but then again, who wasn’t?

But after reading CoR, I went down the rabbit hole and began reading about the tortures Spartans inflicted on their slave population.

I am not going to mention what they actually did as the details aren’t central to the point I am making. Spartan actions made the Harrowing look like a mild inconvenience.

CoR gave me a new perspective and pushed me to be emphatic to those helots and slaves who existed all over the world, in general and in Sparta, in particular.

Such games which put us in a world of oppression and allow us to experience it and provide the opportunity to change the way of the world are satisfying and inspiring, at least for me.

If your game is to include oppression then it really should also include opportunities to oppose the oppression.

In short, if MC must face or see bigotry then it should be in a way that is educational with opportunities to oppose the said bigotry.

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Or they will probably stop reading your story.

There is a difference between saying racism is bad and that you should feel bad to victims of racism. And describing a scene where racism impacts on a character of the story and you can reach your own conclusion.

Let’s say you play a white kid in segregationist Alabama. You build a friendship with a black kid, the son of your housemaid. One afternoon your father gives you both 20 cents to go watching a movie. You’re both waiting to the bus stop, the bus arrives, you board, your friend boards, you sit in front, your friend waves you a hand in a “later” movement and goes sitting at the back among the other black passengers.

Period.

You already told your readers everything they need to know about the world those two kids live in. Any sort of commentary is like the author masturbating himself thinking “you are too dumb to understand the harshness of segregation, thank god I’m here to illuminate you dumb brains”.

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You will lose the audience that prefers realism ( myself and others ) to those who wish the experience to be as inoffensive as possible. You may be able to create an AU fantasy world and draw in people like myself and everyone else if your writing is good enough.

Personally, I enjoy RP’ing as many many different types of characters ( race, sex, attraction ) when I play a CoG and discriminatory encounters that I have to figure out how to overcome are some of my favorite aspects of one. You can sort of get around that with the aforementioned AU fantasy setting but the lack of discrimination at all automatically maked it blander and less interesting to me personally tbh.

It is unfortunate that attempts to make a game historically accurate make it so that some people won’t be able to avoid this aspect of a game if they play as who they actually are irl and they want to avoid it. Or even if they want to avoid the concept of discrimination entirely ( Ex. if it took place in an AU Fantasy setting and some Fantasy race was discriminated against ).

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This however is what it’s meant with ‘misery or savior p*rn’. what you are describing there is zoo-ing. you create a scene to have the reader oogle at the misery, instead of having things in flow.

you want the reader to feel bad, or whatever, and that’s the sole idea behind the scene. that’s not a good thing.

Thing, for example, of Mia’s godawful ‘music’ movie and how harmful it was. that entire thing was that.

also, for people talking about ‘realism’: scroll up and check other, similar threads:

a lot of what people who clamour about ‘realism’ deem that is not realistic.

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I’m not really talking about specifically crafting a “misery” scene. At least not to the degree I think you mean. Only that these features are relevant to the plot in a way that feels like it’s accurately portraying things and is something that can alter the gameplay ( a good example would be choosing your starting Barony in the Infinity series has an affect on your starting stats due to the various locations reasonably giving you very different backgrounds and thus very distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to one another ). Something like choosing to make your character black for a game set in a 60’s Civil Right’s era would offer you a choice like joining the Black Panthers if your character were indeed black while that actually wouldn’t be an option if you chose to be white. I.E. things that aren’t just active buffs/debuffs but rather offer unique alterations ( both positive and negative ).

I gotta admit, never seen this “music movie” you’re talking about.

Edit: Just realized that wasn’t directed at me.

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Misery porn is a genre of literature centered around stories of abuse (sexual, mental, drugs, etc), and the suffering of the protagonist until an eventual release or happy ending.

I don’t get how this relate with my previous post.

here’s a good criticism of that movie:

As for scenes: As with every scene that tackles a heavier topic you got to ask yourself (as author) why is it there. Cause when it doesn’t fit into the plot, it becomes grating and often preachy (and, again, saviour-y). Likewise if you make an entire game for the ‘authentic’ experience, especially if you are not part of the group.

To be honest, I don’t think people should be excluded from writing about certain topics or concepts simply because they don’t have as deep or authentic of a connection to those things as others. I just don’t. I understand the concern of portraying it inaccurately or in a way that’s offensive to people who have been affected by those events ( or events that were similar ) to a more significant degree or who reacted to/perceived their own similar experiences differently, but that is the potential consequence of expressing anything in this reality that can be perceived by another conscious being.

I agree, it’s still something we should be aware of when putting together creative works of course, I just can’t buy it as a wholesale justification for barring entire groups from areas of discourse/creation.

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Oh, not what I meant. But if you set out to write for the ‘authentic’ experience, THEN you ought to be part of that group (but still ask yourself WHY, depending on WHAT you are planning on doing).

For everyone else the best rule of hand is: be respectful. (check the vid, especially the bit of criticism 'bout the movie using autistic people as props)

I agree, no story is liked by all. There are many books that I stopped reading for one reason or another that were good in a objective sense but they were not for me.

This is exactly what I was trying to convey.
Being separated from friends and loved ones is something no one likes. In this scene, you see racism and feel its effects on you and your friend.
The author doesn’t need to spell out “you feel bad”. You simply know it.

Would this scene not give the reader a chance to ponder over the racism’s effects on society?

Emphasizing something isn’t bad and you are assuming that everyone is already aware of segregation which most people really aren’t.

Take me as an example. I, only have known about segregation for some five years (I am not American) and as such there are many intricacies which are still not known to me, an author describing racism with accuracy would be doing me a service.

It is one thing to read about injustices on Wikipedia and another to read about it in a story.

The former is mostly devoid of emotions while the latter has an emotional impact that lasts a lifetime (assuming the story is well written)

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There’s a really big difference between writing about historic or current ‘real world’ discrimination, and fantasy/sci-fi discrimination that might be seen as an allegory, but isn’t a direct depiction of what real people experiences.

Facing discrimination in a fantasy game, for having chosen the background of being a foreigner, or being from the countryside, or even being an elf or a half-demon, isn’t the same as being forced to face extra discrimination for wanting to play as who you are in real life, and should not be treated as such.

‘Real world’ discrimination is best tackled in a game with more limited character options, where enough time and effort has been put into showing such themes from a very specific point of view.
The example above with the white and black kids doesn’t say anything about how such scenes would play if the player character is african american themself. Or native american, or asian american, etc.

Being able to ‘opt in’ to experiencing discrimination from an outside point of view, is literally privilege.

And, to iterate what @MeltingPenguins was saying: We are learning more and more, that history was much more queer, and much more colourful, than we were brought up to believe.
None of us really know what real historic realism would actually be, and I find it frustrating when people insist on claiming that sexism, racism, and homophobia is a prerequisite for this mythic ‘realism’.

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[[Facing discrimination in a fantasy game, for having chosen the background of being a foreigner, or being from the countryside, or even being an elf or a half-demon, isn’t the same as being forced to face extra discrimination for wanting to play as who you are in real life, and should not be treated as such.]]

Very true. Though they are both similar in that they depict discriminatory encounters which may affect people in similar ways. Especially depending on the perception of the specific individual who may find themselves affected by the mere depiction of the concept as something beyond their ability to consume in a way that doesn’t hinder their experience and prevent their enjoyment.

[[The example above with the white and black kids doesn’t say anything about how such scenes would play if the player character is african american themself. Or native american, or asian american, etc.]]

Optimistically ( for me anyways ) they would be depicted in a way that seems likely to have occurred during that era in a way that’s engaging so that I can enjoy being immersed in that world. I play CoG’s to get away from my life and detailed and realistic depictions tend to help enhance that feeling.

[[Being able to ‘opt in’ to experiencing discrimination from an outside point of view, is literally privilege.]]

One that the player is assumedly paying for which I think is pretty fair.

[[None of us really know what real historic realism would actually be, and I find it frustrating when people insist on claiming that sexism, racism, and homophobia is a prerequisite for this mythic ‘realism’.]]

We do have historical accounts that can give us a pretty good understanding of what certain times were generally like. That being the case, people who are paying for the game seem to me to be somewhat entitled to be given an experience that is reflective of the realities we are aware were around during that time if the game is being advertised as a “period piece” or taking place in a certain era.

This is a side note to the main questions, but I’m a little confused by how you’re using “binary” and “non-binary.” Those aren’t sexual orientations… “nonbinary” refers to gender identities that differ from binary male/female. Lots of binary people are LGBT!

Yeah, I consider this the key issue. That means you wouldn’t be treating some players better than others; everyone would be engaging with that issue—and as it’d be a focus of the game, they’d know that to be the case going in.

I guess as a middle ground, I remembered Slammed! has an optional subplot available to female main characters in which they tackle sexism, but they can choose different subplots instead, so it’s more a matter of extra available content than required bigotry. That kind of option might work in some cases? I’d be curious how women who played Slammed! felt about that bit. But I can certainly imagine that there could be some circumstances in which some optional extra gay-related content might be nice—in a '20s setting, maybe a jaunt to a speakeasy with gay clientele, as an example? :thinking:

On the other hand, I would quibble that I do think it should be fine for someone to write these stories even if they’re from another group, provided they got some input from people from the group(s) in question. Especially when it comes to LGBT topics, making this a requirement can lead to some rather nasty results when people are LGBT but are in the closet or are still working out their identity. It’s pretty important to let people be private about that, and I’ve seen sensitive enough takes from people whom I at least don’t know to be LGBT.

Like others were saying, I’m sure you can salvage a fair bit of the project! I don’t know exactly what your plot involved and all, but the overall '20s vibe could still be really interesting and worth keeping.

Depending on how open your supernatural elements are, I could see magic overshadowing some elements of bigotry that existed in our history… depends on how magic works (for example, how dependent on availability of education it is), but if it’s similarly accessible to all people, a world where people of all genders and races are equally likely to have powerful magic could go some way to changing the power dynamics :thinking: (Not necessarily—prejudice is irrational, and for example sexism is totally compatible with having noblewomen and queens with power over peasants—but it could have such an effect, and worldbuilding is all about the coulds.)

Though you don’t even need to get into that for it to be viable. Well, you don’t really need any justification to lack bigotry because cultural is variable and the forms of bigotry that we’re accustomed to aren’t inevitable. But you could also just background them… the story you’re telling could exist in circumstances where they happen not to come to bear so much.

I’d point to Tally Ho as a shining example of how you can write a historical setting without discriminatory issues coming into play. That’s not even far from your timeframe, though I believe it’s in the '30s. It’s got a very strong interwar England atmosphere, and there’s not really anything to strain that (aside from some comedic flights of fancy, as it is a comedy). The main character’s role is consistent whatever their gender, as a personal servant, which works the same in the story as a valet or a lady’s maid. Their employer, Rory, wears different clothes but is fundamentally the same whether male or female, being a member of the idle rich, and that fits the narrative of the story quite well in either case. It can be done!

Well, I would too; I’d just like this to be focused on that experience rather than something that throws obstacles in my way that other players would be able to ignore.

Oh yeah, this is also a big part of history that people often don’t realize. Homosexuality was perfectly legal in several European countries then. In France, it’d been legal since the French Revolution, with similar laws having been spread during the Napoleonic Wars to several other countries like the Netherlands. Meanwhile, in Poland, it had never been illegal. France was also notable for having an expatriate community where gay people from other countries had gathered.
And, in a bigger surprise, while homosexuality was illegal in Germany, there was a significant gay rights movement there… look at the Institute of Sex Research and all of Magnus Hirschfeld’s research and activism. It ended up destroyed once the Nazis took over, but all this was thriving before then.

If you don’t want to use a specific European country, there’s also the option of a fictional one, which gives even more leeway for setting up society and culture the way you want but lets you draw on this sort of historical material. And can definitely provide a noir-y vibe :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Or, even in the US, given the noir theme, it’s worth noting that prohibition somewhat paradoxically led to a more even playing field for gay people… because suddenly gay bars and all other bars were equally illegal! You mention The Maltese Falcon… there’s a reason that the gangsters in that are distinctly gay-coded. (Not that that’s positive, but it is historically relevant.)

Dora Richter would’ve been surprised to hear that.

But if they’re presented in a game in which their presence depends on the player choosing to belong to those groups, they can be ignored by those who don’t make that choice. And when someone’s writing a worse playing experience for players based on those very aspects, that is reinforcing the difference. It’s not saying that “describing bigotry is… the same as reinforcing it” in general. It’s in this specific context. Depictions of bigotry can still be worthwhile and powerful, but that should be a theme of the work as a whole, not something to inflict on a subset of players. This is where writing a game where the player always belongs to such a group would come in; this would result in a story that grapples with such issues for everyone who’s playing it.

That’s just as realistic as the preceding “good example”… discriminatory events in life are “gratuitous” and will pop up when people are just going about their daily lives.

Now, I still think it’d be best to leave those for linear fiction or for interactive fiction where that is the set focus, but within those domains, it’s a perfectly good example of the sort of thing that one could very well include.

There are all sorts of rich and fascinating facets of history that don’t revolve around bigotry…

Everyone would be paying the same amount. No one would be paying in order to opt out of discrimination. The difference in what different sorts of characters experience. What does paying have to do with anything?

And popular conceptions of history often minimalize the amount that minorities were involved throughout history and minimalize the history of those communities that did exist.

And paying customers aren’t entitled to other paying customers having to experience bigotry.

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[[There are all sorts of rich and fascinating facets of history that don’t revolve around bigotry…]]

Sure, the problem is that pretty much all conflict can be boiled down to some form of discrimination and removing more overt forms of the concept tend to make those conflicts less compelling to me.

[[Everyone would be paying the same amount. No one would be paying in order to opt out of discrimination. The difference in what different sorts of characters experience. What does paying have to do with anything?]]

I never suggested some would pay more or less than others based on their play preferences. I was simply pointing out that while getting to experience discrimination vicariously is a “privilege” it’s one we’re assumedly paying for here. Those who don’t necessarily care for that experience ( completely understandable ) can make it clear with their wallets by simply not buying it. And if the author is losing out on a lot of money by doing that, they can attempt to provide alternatives in an attempt to prevent loss of potential revenue streams ( if that’s their desire ).

[[And popular conceptions of history often minimalize the amount that minorities were involved throughout history and minimalize the history of those communities that did exist.]]

What’s great about that is research can be done by the author so that they are able to more accurately portray the role of minorities from those times. :slight_smile:

[[And paying customers aren’t entitled to other paying customers having to experience bigotry.]]

Other players are not required to pay for a game they believe has bigotry in it…

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I am curious as to why you want to experience discrimination so much? If your that eager we can exchange lives.

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To be clear, that statement doesn’t necessarily indicate that I do ( though I do in a format that I can control, why I couldn’t really tell you, I just find it enjoyable ).

I’m sorry you experience more overt forms of discrimination irl though. As someone with a white dad and mexican mom I’ve had to experience a bit of that myself. I went to a middle school where kids only associated with their own races. Neither groups wanted me. I probably could’ve passed for white but I made the mistake of saying my mom was Mexican. Being left alone, I’d sometimes pull out a book during lunch time. That’s when they started beating me up when I walked home from school.

Actually, maybe it’s BECAUSE of experiences like that that I like playing through those stories. Gives me a feeling of power and agency that I didn’t have back then getting to topple/change something as an outsider. Though I can completely understand how such experiences could cause the opposite feeling and make you want to avoid any reminders of it entirely.

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The privilege is getting to play someone like oneself and not experience discrimination when other people don’t get to do that. That is why there’s a big difference between a game automatically including discrimination to certain player characters versus a game that focuses on such characters (or a linear story).

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