DISCRIMINATION WITHIN THE NARRATIVE

Posts

author=fearful
make the people racist to robot people.

problem solved! i think?

"You humans are afraid of a little robot competition. You would never let a robot on the field."
"What are you talking about? I see plenty of robots out there."
"Yeah, doing crap work. Robots are only working as bat boys, ball polishers and sprinkler systems. But how many robot managers are there?"
"Eleven?"
"Zero!"
-Throws a bottle on the ground; a robot cleans it up-
"And look who's cleaning up the crap! A human child? I wish!"
yap robots are the slaves of the future
author=Desertopa
I think it's good to be able to incorporate elements of prejudice or discrimination into a narrative without feeling compelled to make the story about those things. They're significant elements of human experience, and as a writer I prefer to be able to draw on them whenever it seems narratively appropriate. Prejudice isn't pleasant, but neither is violence, and lots of stories are made more interesting by the inclusion of violence, even if they're not stories about violence


As a minority who sometimes faces prejudice myself, this is the route I take, even if I don't always write about it. It's cathartic to write about those things because like you said, I definitely do want to address the human experience, and like many other things, discrimination is a part of that experience for a lot of people, including myself. The fun part is that discrimination isn't so easy to write about, and in a fantasy setting you have a lot more liberties.

For example, the aforementioned Krogan from Mass Effect, it's an interesting thing to think about whether the Krogan are inherently violent and destructive, or was it learned, considering their rich history and culture (before they almost exploded themselves)?
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5239
author=emmych
remember the half-elf racism in Tales of Symphonia? If you haven't played it, don't waste your time. If you have: holy shit, remember how clumsy that shit was? It was more about the human protag -- a person who was privileged by that universe insofar as race goes -- standing up for his half elf friends, who rarely spoke up for themselves and instead were subject to horrible, violent abuse from most of the people around them. And in the end?? The resolution we got?? "Racism is bad.... we shouldn't do racism.... but also HALF-ELVES STANDING UP FOR THEMSELVES IN UNSAVORY WAYS THAT INVOKE VIOLENCE TO ANSWER THE VIOLENCE THEY FACE IS JUST AS BAD AS ACTUAL DISCRIMINATION!!!!" which is just such a huge No, You're Wrong, Narrative.


I have absolutely no memory of that game's story beyond Colette's personal quest to evolve into a mute robot. But...

I actually really like stories where a type of morality that is, as you say, "a literal 4 year old could tell you that" is turned on its head and made impossible, or wrong, or worse than the alternative, or the hero just doesn't do it. Stories that are about a villain, or an antihero, or just a shitty situation that the protagonist can't solve. I like playing as the undead or the death knights in Warcraft. I like Skyrim's main arc of "There's a civil war between totalitarian invaders who are oppressing religious freedom and super-murdery racists. Choose a side." I like inviting Magus to join my team. I like that there's a genocide path in Undertale, when they could've made the game only have the pacifist path. I like Shakespearean tragedies!! I like it when there isn't a good guy.

I don't know why I like these kinds of stories. Maybe because they help show people other points of view? It's easy to come up with a fantasy where you can always do the perfect thing all the time, but it seems like a power trip, almost on the level of creating a mary sue character. There are reasons why people do the wrong thing in real life, and stories can help show those reasons and help people relate better to them and have sympathy for them. When you read a tragedy, it charts a character's downfall - I think there is value in such stories, perhaps far more value than there is in stories of heroism and happy endings. But there are lots of other reasons why tragedies and stories about villains are popular and worthwhile, and someone who majored in literature can probably explain it way better and tell me all the ways I'm wrong.

So, I would probably enjoy a game that had the player engaging in racism and sexism and discrimination, the same way I would enjoy watching or performing Macbeth or Othello.
author=LockeZ
author=emmych
remember the half-elf racism in Tales of Symphonia? If you haven't played it, don't waste your time. If you have: holy shit, remember how clumsy that shit was? It was more about the human protag -- a person who was privileged by that universe insofar as race goes -- standing up for his half elf friends, who rarely spoke up for themselves and instead were subject to horrible, violent abuse from most of the people around them. And in the end?? The resolution we got?? "Racism is bad.... we shouldn't do racism.... but also HALF-ELVES STANDING UP FOR THEMSELVES IN UNSAVORY WAYS THAT INVOKE VIOLENCE TO ANSWER THE VIOLENCE THEY FACE IS JUST AS BAD AS ACTUAL DISCRIMINATION!!!!" which is just such a huge No, You're Wrong, Narrative.
I have absolutely no memory of that game's story beyond Colette's personal quest to evolve into a mute robot. But...

I actually really like stories where a type of morality that is, as you say, "a literal 4 year old could tell you that" is turned on its head and made impossible, or wrong, or worse than the alternative, or the hero just doesn't do it. Stories that are about a villain, or an antihero, or just a shitty situation that the protagonist can't solve. I like playing as the undead or the death knights in Warcraft. I like Skyrim's main arc of "There's a civil war between totalitarian invaders who are oppressing religious freedom and super-murdery racists. Choose a side." I like inviting Magus to join my team. I like that there's a genocide path in Undertale, when they could've made the game only have the pacifist path. I like Shakespearean tragedies!! I like it when there isn't a good guy.

I don't know why I like these kinds of stories. Maybe because they help show people other points of view? It's easy to come up with a fantasy where you can always do the perfect thing all the time, but it seems like a power trip, almost on the level of creating a mary sue character. There are reasons why people do the wrong thing in real life, and stories can help show those reasons and help people relate better to them and have sympathy for them. When you read a tragedy, it charts a character's downfall - I think there is value in such stories, perhaps far more value than there is in stories of heroism and happy endings. But there are lots of other reasons why tragedies and stories about villains are popular and worthwhile, and someone who majored in literature can probably explain it way better and tell me all the ways I'm wrong.

So, I would probably enjoy a game that had the player engaging in racism and sexism and discrimination, the same way I would enjoy watching or performing Macbeth or Othello.


Racism and Sexism being favored in games can happen outside the narrative as well, when race and gender significantly impact a character's mechanical abilities:

-In Pokémon Gold&Silver, the Attack DV (random number between 0-15 that provides a stat bonus) determines the gender. So except for female-exclusive species (whose base attack values tend to be garbage to begin with), female Pokémon never have full Attack DVs.
-In Final Fantasy Tactics, male generics have more Brave on average and female ones more Faith. There's far more value in having high Brave/low Faith than vice versa.
-In the first instance of Dungeons & Dragons, humans can have various classes (Fighting Man, Thief and Magic User mainly) while other races such as dwarves and elves use a class named after their race.
-In general, most RPGs tend to give frontline/damage dealing classes to male characters whereas female characters get backrow/supporting classes more often.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5239
Is... that somehow related to my post about writing tragic situations and embracing a fallen world? I feel like you might've just quoted me by accident, but if not then I don't get it.
Sorry, I just thought it might be relevant to mention it in that context, but I guess I was mistaken. Still, I want to continue the discussion about discrimination rooted into gameplay rather than story.
author=emmych
idk. I don't like to directly address discrimination because I already do that irl. I like my escapism. I'm sick of lazy narratives that end with the radical thought "DISCRIMINATION... IS WRONG MAYBE... WOW" since w/e man a literal 4 year old could tell you that. If you can't do better than that, don't include it (not addressing you personally, here, that was a general you!)

This is something I get tired of a lot too. I feel kind of similarly to how LockeZ described his own attitude, although I don't think it's so much that I'm cynical by preference as that the stories which don't take such a tired and cliched approach to moral issues tend to be more cynical, and I find it refreshing just to see them taking a more original approach. I'd be happy to see narratives that resolve everything with a happy ending if they would at least acknowledge that the problems they're dealing with are difficult and require more than pat moral platitudes to resolve them.

To me, really the most appealing thing about the prospect of making prejudice or discrimination a significant part of a narrative is the fact that so many writers stick to the same trite messages that, as you put it, a four year old could tell you, that it's pretty easy to come up with an approach that the audience hasn't seen before and won't see coming.
harmonic
It's like toothpicks against a tank
4120
Skyrim's Stormcloak nationalism presented an interesting narrative element. Too bad the Safe Space Generation sent its brownshirts after Skyrim for doing so. It was done very well in that game. I fear a world where Sarkeesian-like cultural elements stifle game developers' ability to artfully express real things in an imaginary world.
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
7527
author=harmonic
Skyrim's Stormcloak nationalism presented an interesting narrative element. Too bad the Safe Space Generation sent its brownshirts after Skyrim for doing so. It was done very well in that game. I fear a world where Sarkeesian-like cultural elements stifle game developers' ability to artfully express real things in an imaginary world.

Trust me, anyone so preoccupied with - indeed who habitually harps on about - all things 'Anita Sarkeesian *dramatic chord* <-this is important' I believe has nothing to worry about in terms of "artful expression". I'd also like to point out that this was the first time this matter was called by name in this discussion (I kept my own concerns on the topic separate, but I guess that wasn't good enough), so take from that what you will.

I've got a tribe of blatant men-hating elven women who just so happen to be lesbians (I space these things out because the previous statement doesn't necessarily coincide with the latter) in my game thrown in for the sole purpose of showing how utterly fucking stupid blanket sexism is on both sides, all the while justifying this ingame by making the source of their troubles a traditionalist society headed by a church of "elders" (all of which are men both young and old) that favors the worshiping of idols instead of the goddesses, which in itself is a commentary on the inherit foolishness of organized religion over personal faith.

And yet, in the middle of this division:

A level head that knows this separation of the people is wrong.

This moment echoes the disparity of public interest and the people, something we see in the way we wage wars while the youth communicate friendliness across conflict-torn borders.

These things create a complete ecosystem that the player is suddenly thrown into and moved out of during their unrelated travels, serving only as a through point to the narrative and remaining relevant only as long as it is called to be. It tackles a complex issue from both sides without making it the big draw of the game, which is what I think most people who have a problem with the "progressive agenda" use as their scapegoat.

The big take away here: you're not meant to choose sides, even though the game demands that you do in the matter of a disjointed love triangle during a time of great personal conflict. Do you choose one that will most likely improve your situation, or you do break away and do something different? Either way things work out, and either way you're not affected at all, but the choice itself demands something of you: a personal investment in the lives of these people you only know in passing.
Did the Skyrim Stormcloak thing really receive a backlash large enough that the writers actually have to worry? I have seen people misunderstand that conflict, but I haven't seen much ire directed towards the writers.
harmonic
It's like toothpicks against a tank
4120
author=Crystalgate
Did the Skyrim Stormcloak thing really receive a backlash large enough that the writers actually have to worry? I have seen people misunderstand that conflict, but I haven't seen much ire directed towards the writers.


I wouldn't describe it as full blown backlash, but there have been quite a few reviews of the game that complain about it being a "racist" game despite the fact that every race in the game is fictional. I obviously find this attitude hilarious, considering the existence of dragons, alternate dimensions, actual deities, but somehow racism can't exist in an imaginary world.

You see Sarkeesian-like backlash against racist elements in games all the time, but more attacking the supposed racism of the developers, rather than the characters in the game.

Anyone who has a problem with discrimination from imaginary characters toward other imaginary characters needs to seriously get a life.
author=harmonic
I wouldn't describe it as full blown backlash, but there have been quite a few reviews of the game that complain about it being a "racist" game despite the fact that every race in the game is fictional. I obviously find this attitude hilarious, considering the existence of dragons, alternate dimensions, actual deities, but somehow racism can't exist in an imaginary world.

You see Sarkeesian-like backlash against racist elements in games all the time, but more attacking the supposed racism of the developers, rather than the characters in the game.

Anyone who has a problem with discrimination from imaginary characters toward other imaginary characters needs to seriously get a life.


Readability (great app btw) calculates this as a 9 minute read

I have a hunch even that is asking too much so a couple highlights:

author=J. Shea
How many people cite 1984 or Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451 or even Idiocracy as the inevitable, real result of political policies? All of those works are fictional, yet people push those images into their mind and live in fear of them coming to pass. Even though they will acknowledge that those works are fictional, and not backed up with actual research or statistics, they will still cite them when discussing their real fears and concerns.


author=J. Shea
So what would happen in The Birth Of A Nation was released today? Some people would say "that's racist as hell" and other people would tell them "it's just a movie, keep your politics out of it", or "thugs exist in real life, reverse racism is real, someone called me mayonnaise boy", or both at the same time. If you made it about Muslims instead of black people, there'd be no question of the vocal support this movie would receive. They'd talk about how brave the filmmaker is for presenting the "unvarnished truth", regardless of the Politically Correct SJW Cucks trying to tear him down. And even people who disagreed with the film's morals would go "yeah, but it's a fun action movie. It's possible to acknowledge that a work is problematic without dismissing it entirely." It would make so much money, you guys.

Nothing has changed. In a hundred years, nothing has changed.


Re: Skyrim and other fantasy instances of discrete races that are easily classifiable and have mechanical/narrative traits that are consistent across pretty much every member of the race/species, i.e. basically everything that traces its roots back to Tolkein and/or D&D:

Have you ever heard of scientific racism? Like, the practice and the history. Legitimate question directed at a general "you"

This is where the "traditional" approach to fantasy races often comes from. Bare minimum, the belief that there are easily recognizable racial categories/qualities that every member of a race has comes from a nasty history.

I don't like it in my worldbuilding, but I don't think people who use this type of fantasy setup are inherently going to write something racist.

Besides being inaccurate, I think it makes for boring worldbuilding. Look at the huge variety of cultures/appearances/ways of existing even if you stay within "human". I wish more people put effort into showing how their fantasy races are different within their group and less thinking of "race" as a monolithic idea. This applies both "narratively" and "mechanically".

Like yeah w/e make your fantacy species/races/what have you, but people often wholeheartedly embrace the principles of scientific racism while doing so and they don't even know what that is half the time

yes, I know

fiction
never
has

any
meaningful
influence
and
we
should

all
get
lives
and
stop
caring.

here is a constellation of 3 stars. I know it looks like linkspam, but if you take the time to sneeze on any of that there are dots to connect. Each star represents an idea:
  • Star 1: Tolkein was unsurprisingly influenced by the social environment he grew up in. This went on to influence his writing, because people don't generate ideas out of a space void. People influenced by Tolkein's work sometimes take the racist bits, often without thinking about it or realizing. This becomes seen as "normal" and "the standard".
  • Star 2: There is a history of dehumanizing (many, but especially black) racial groups. Oftentimes this is done through "exotic" comparisons and symbolic representations, especially with animals. "blackness" is seen as incompatible with an idea like "goodness" or "innocence", and you get people who were upset at the casting choice of Rue in the Hunger Games. A black child, Amandla Stenberg, gets to know exactly what some folks think of her and people like her.


  • Star 3: While a huge number of people are not based in the U.S., this is the country whose history I'm most familiar with, and the examples of anti-asian racism in the U.S. are hardly unique. Look at past representations of folks from Asia, look at some of the consequences. Consequences that came from racist ideas being spread. Fiction can potentially spread racist ideas.


None of this originates from fiction. Fiction does not create these ideas from thin air. The ideas come from people, and people create fiction. People are influenced by their surroundings and you can often see how this influences their fiction. Fiction can spread ideas, for better or worse.

alterego on the off chance you come in here with "you're saying people are mindless sheep and I think people are way better at thinking for themselves than you give them credit for"

no, we will never agree on this
@PentagonBuddy: Just remember that racism in fiction can not only stem from a problematic society, but also the writer's own racism.

Also, an explanation about how media influences people:

While media influence is certainly far more complex than "Monkey See, Monkey Do", to believe that games and such do not influence people is naive. One factor of this is lack of comparison with real things. For instance, if the only cows you've ever seen are on the cover of Milka chocolate bars, you'd have no reason to believe real cows are not purple. Compounding such experiences is a thing called Source Amnesia. If you frequently play games where conflicts must be resolved by violently taking down the offenders, you are likely to forget about that you learned about using force for conflict resolution from a video game. This is possibly migitated if you resolve conflicts nonviolently, be it from other games or real experiences. On the other hand, this influence can be in the other direction - in that your opinions shape what games you play rather than vice versa.


Jaws is a prime example of media influence - many shark species were hunted to an endangered or near-extinct state because the film portrayed them as unstoppable monsters that need to be exterminated.

Heck, there's even a word for deliberately using media to influence the population towards a political agenda - it's called propaganda.
author=LightningLord2
@PentagonBuddy: Just remember that racism in fiction can not only stem from a problematic society, but also the writer's own racism.

Definitely.
I think it's important to understand the correlation between the two. An individual will not necessarily represent society, or affect society.
But regardless of that, the society will interpret and judge what is put out, and even if it's racist, it can fall under the "normal" category if it's a prevelant idea throughout society.

@PentagonBuddy Good read! A really nice little collection.
I also wasn't really into the classic fantasy, so kool to see how the original was built.

We had a discussion in history class concerning propaganda once, where most students were convinced that media influence like the one during WW II would be "impossible" or far less effective now. It's a dangerous line of thought, because while you will avoid that particular train of thought or racist ideal which already happened and was debuked .. just because that exact same method and ideal will not be used again (or not be effective again) does not mean it will be impossible to vary it up and appeal to a new public with new ideals that fit.

So basically, it's good to just keep an eye out for it.
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
7527
author=Kylaila
We had a discussion in history class concerning propaganda once, where most students were convinced that media influence like the one during WW II would be "impossible" or far less effective now. It's a dangerous line of thought, because while you will avoid that particular train of thought or racist ideal which already happened and was debuked .. just because that exact same method and ideal will not be used again (or not be effective again) does not mean it will be impossible to vary it up and appeal to a new public with new ideals that fit.

So basically, it's good to just keep an eye out for it.

I know that's right.


"You people ride donkies!"
harmonic
It's like toothpicks against a tank
4120
author=PentagonBuddy
no, we will never agree on this


That's correct.
author=harmonic
I wouldn't describe it as full blown backlash, but there have been quite a few reviews of the game that complain about it being a "racist" game despite the fact that every race in the game is fictional. I obviously find this attitude hilarious, considering the existence of dragons, alternate dimensions, actual deities, but somehow racism can't exist in an imaginary world.

You see Sarkeesian-like backlash against racist elements in games all the time, but more attacking the supposed racism of the developers, rather than the characters in the game.

Anyone who has a problem with discrimination from imaginary characters toward other imaginary characters needs to seriously get a life.

I take this as a no, meaning the backlash was not large enough that the writers have to worry.
lol I never thought I'd see the day in which I would be shot down preemptively. xD Weird, but, Ok... And hey, whatever floats your boat. I just find it much easier for people to trust you, when you trust them; To understand you, when you understand them; To respect you, when you respect them. You get the idea... So, idk. See you on the other side, I guess...
harmonic
It's like toothpicks against a tank
4120
author=Crystalgate
I take this as a no, meaning the backlash was not large enough that the writers have to worry.


Not in this case. But we all know how these things go. Give 'em an inch, they take a mile. And now that the progressive left has become the new religious right, it's probably only a matter of time when they attempt to remove more artistic freedom and make writers and designers scared to express themselves.