RPG Classics Mailbag
Well, looks like the replies have tapered off a bit... either that means that our topic, diversity in RPGs, is either a) extremely stupid, or b) too deep for all you morons to even bother trying to formulate a reply to.
B! Definitely B!
No way, it's A.
No! It's B *and* A!
NON NO NO!!!! IT A C Y'MORONS!
...We'll just leave it at that, then. Let's kick it off with d Galloway.
Well, I got the sleep I wanted. Unfortunately, it was in class *insert sound of Homer Simpson saying D'oh!*
But anyway, onto the topic. The reason for diversity in an RPG is for the same reason diversity exists in the real world: if everything was the same, life would be completely dull. Therefore, races, species, languages, and cultures are neccessary to make an RPG fun! BEAR WITH MY IDEAS!
Then again, I'm the only person on the planet to use Masaru in Live A Live. Oh well.
Yes, you certainly are. Matt Owen seems to disagree with you:
Cid, Cid, Cid. Don't you know by now? RPGs should be made of only white males ages 18-25 with blonde hair and blue eyes! After all, they are the superior humans....Oh wait, promote races and such? Well make sure everyone knows as much as possible about each species and make sure that those species play an integral role in the game, or else nobody will care that they are there.
True dat. I was surfing the GIA's site and there are tons of tribes in FFX, for example, that are never named and almost never seen (Hypello, anyone? And do you know what tribe the bird guy with the butterfly mini-game was?) I personally enjoy any species that has a deeper culture than just animal-like cuteness/violence or "we're just like you only look different!". I Abibde, natch, has a university discourse on the matter, so take it away!
Since Monsieur Doma Dragon, a rather eloquent gentleman, appears to be challenging my title -- a title given by the Mailbag staff, not by myself, one must remember -- I feel the need to defend said title, so I shall see if I can manage a response to the most recent topic.
(As the writer prepares said response ... insert a random cut scene of Lunaris, clad in a yellow smoking jacket, sitting, with a green-and-white flannel blanket over his lap and an ivory-stemmed pipe in one hand, in an overstuffed chair in front of a roaring fire in a stone fireplace, dozing off as he leafs through a dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.)
EY EY EY ! I never do that ! Maby the only being artistical thing I do are huge explosions, firery stuffs and flashes ! And ka-booms too ! Yeah !
I have also noticed the attention paid to culture and ethnicity in Final Fantasy X, what with its mixture of Al Bhed, Guado, Ronso, and Yevonites and all, though it still seems that the (ruling) majority of its denizens is modeled upon traditional Caucasian / White appearances and cultural themes. The appearance of a new (spoken) language and the mentioning of intercultural tensions is, at least, a step in the right direction.
Role-playing games usually gloss over ethnicity, even where one sees, as in the original Final Fantasy, such diverse racial combinations as the traditional, Tolkienesque combination of Dwarf, Elf, and Human. Even in that dynamic, there exists a race (the Goblin / Orc race) that is construed solely as a hated enemy that must be destroyed without any thought given to its anthropological value. (I am personally rather tired of the Tolkienesque ideal, and I would love to see a new ethnic group in a role-playing game that is not a retread of those described above.)
Wait for FFXI... I don't know much about it, but I do know that race plays an integral role in it.
One could easily mention the Breath of Fire series, the Sa Ga series, and the Shining Force series as examples of role-playing games that have no problem including a wide variety of races in a single game, but one must also ask a question: Do those games address the differences among the many races that they showcase? To the best of my knowledge, in those games -- please correct me if I am wrong -- the issue of race is never explored. The characters, as diverse as they are, exist with each other without much in the way of tension, save for that created by the desire to, of course, save the world from one Foozle or another. Yep... " Hey...your all scaled, you look like a monster and it always like your hungrly looking at me...welcome in the party ! "
(Insert another random cut scene, this one of Ozzie blowing up a blue balloon that has clouds and continents painted on it, so that it resembles a typical Earth. It pops in his face when it becomes too large, and he looks surprised for a second before he bursts into tears, which fountain, anime-style, to either side of his watermelon-ish face.)
(...Man, how does he come UP with these?)
One could also mention Legend of Dragoon, which, in spite of the antipathy that it generates, does feature a central conflict among races as the background of its primary story, though the representatives of each race are, again, mostly Caucasian / White in their inspiration. The fact that each race is shown as having distinct cultures and both Good and Evil members is a significant development that may have been overlooked by more than a few players.
Another good example of multiculturalism that one can mention comes from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. I have only played the former, which features a genocidal war between human beings and wildly different Mystics as a key part of its story, as well as a much earlier war between human beings and Reptites and a certain segregation of the human race in the time of the Kingdom of Zeal. Come to think of it, Chrono Trigger may actually be one of the best examples of multiculturalism in role-playing games that I know. And it even worst in CC, the demi-humans and humans hate each others guts, save for a few. In boths worlds, anyway...It more complicated than that, but it basicaly it.
One may be surprised that I have not yet mentioned Star Ocean: The Second Story and its curious mixture of Expellian, Fellpool, human, and Nedian, but I am making a point of not mentioning said game in every single Mailbag response that I send. Never mind that I am going to be playing through it for the third time after I am finished with Final Fantasy X. (Insert a sigh of contentment here, though it has very little to do with the topic at hand.)
If I had to bring an end to my blathering by mentioning an ideal for role-playing multiculturalism, I would probably have to point to the model of Chrono Trigger as a good starting point. Including different races that are shaped by realistic conflicts and a sense of cultural identity is a good way to add new dimensions to a role-playing, and, considering how popular Chrono Trigger is, even in the present day, it may be difficult to argue otherwise.
(I apologize for the length of this response, but multiculturalism is an important aspect of my academic major, and I do not get many chances to discuss it in intelligent company. I also apologize for leaving out many minor examples, such as the Phantasy Star series and Xenogears, but I do not like to leave a book where I should be leaving a pamphlet.)
The weirdest thing in most RPGs is that when you have whacked-out people in your party (like a Moogle, a living onion, a seven-foot-tall Ronso, whatever) nobody ever seems to notice them. You can walk into a bar and have a perfectly normal conversation with anybody you want and no one ever says "Well, the MOUNTAIN up NORTH has been infested with yetis lately... HEY, isn't that one THERE? POLICE!" Lessee what DarkAni has to say.
You sure picked a tough one this time. But since I'm none to keen on anyone having my "guts for garters" I'm answering anyway. I say There's no real point in doing so because if you notice, it's already been done here and there: They already have Barret in FF7 to cover the race diversity, so thats a first step. And the friendly RPG creatures, such as the Matango mushrooms in Secret of Mana and the Moogles of FF6 seem to have their own cultrue(heck, the 'shrooms even have their own greeting and goodbye!), which is another step.
P.S.: Out of curiosity, why is a HELMET called "OzziePants"? Does Ozzie use his slightly-used boxers as protective headgear or something? If so, no wonder it messes up your characters' status! I imagine anyone would get a little loopy if they were wearing HIS underwear on their head!
It's...er, a hallowed Mystic custom! Yeah! You can't insult it or the Multicultural Police People will be on yer backs!
Er... yeah! Haven't played Akira's chapter in Live A Live yet, have you? 8p Anyway... having a black person in your party doesn't mean you're introducing diversity. Barret is exactly like everyone else except he makes a bad effort at talking in ebonics. Heck, his daughter is white! On the same thread, did anyone else notice that in FFX Isaaru's brothers had brownish skin while he was white as a clam? I'm sure you did. Something very strange in that family. Next up is Benjamin Graham.
many games already have race/speecies diversity in them. examples are Legend of Dragoon for ps1, and Grandia also for the PS1. the language has also been done in many games where you need a certain item to be able to understand or talk to the animals. Otherwise, unless the character is multi-lingual, this would make the rpg unnecessarily harder than it needs to be. too many complications make the players forget the story, and what their purpose is.
Yes, but just saying "well, you can't understand this language, come back when you can" and then when you get an item they all of a sudden talk in English, is NOT the same as slowly learning an actual language. Of course Al Bhed is a much-simplified version of a foreign language (a real one would have you learning *words* slowly instead of letters) but there's a sense of accomplishment as you slowly begin to understand what people are saying instead of all at once reading their minds. And learning Al Bhed wasn't an absolute necessity (there was always someone to translate the important stuff). Anyhoo, here's Robin's take on it.
Question: Why can't RPGs can't be more diverse?
Answer: RPGs are made in Japan. (Ah, well, the GOOD ones are --*) I disagree ! All 'CONSOLE' RPGS are ! Not all of 'em!
Lets think about Japan for a second. Up until maybe 200 years ago (or thereabouts, I'm not in the mood to go look it up and I doubt anyone cares --*), Japan was not letting anybody in. The entire archipelago was closed off to foreigners, until whatsis-face marched in and they moved the capital to Tokyo. Fast forward to today. Japan is still way more strict about immigrants than America, and they're still having trouble getting along with Korea, China, and America. Japanese people are NOT bigots. No way. But if you go to Japan, you are going to see a LOT of Japanese people. This has been changing, but the fact remains: the VAST majority of people living in Japan are Japanese. And so following that thought, the VAST majority of people in RPGs are white.
So why are people speaking Japanese in RPGs always white? Japanese people have liked Westerners for a long time. After they got through the we-just-met-and-you're-weird stage with the Americans and Europeans, Japanese people idolized them. How else would you explain how they've gone pretty much from raging, purely Japanese feudal civil wars to very, very, Westernized cities, skyscrapers, captialism, and democracy in the space of one or two centuries? ("Westerners" took more than twice that time get from feudal law to what we have now.) I get the feeling that caucasians in RPGs ARE supposed to be Japanese---they speak the same language, and may think the same things, but they look like those fancy Westerners, and I tend to think this is because the Japanese hold Western looks and lifestyle to be an ideal (why do you think so many of them whippersnappers are lightening and perming their hair these days?). (Wah. That sounded so biased. Please don't eat me. >
Note that anime characters also look caucasian while being most certainly Japanese.
So that's my point. Japanese people seem to like to represent themselves with white people, which is why there's so many of them in RPGs, which are often set in a time and place where people are white, anyway. And if they're representing Japanese people, they're probably going to be the majority.
Representations of minorities tend to be pretty...inept (I'm trying NOT to remember Barret from FF7 and Macha from Chrono Cross...>
(It's like my thing to make these long, I know, but I could go on about this one all day...I didn't even mention age discrimination (or how every single RPG hero I've ever met isn't a day over the age of 19), or how everybody is always straight in RPGs (though there are exceptions, if you look...and it's not such a big deal in Japan), or how women get second place like all the time...so I'll end this here. If anybody thinks I'm trying to say that Japanese people are this or that or whatever, well, they're not. I mean, I know I just did, but don't assume just because *I* said so. ^^
And on the subject of assuming, thank you for not making assumptions about my gender. ^^ I'm a girl. And now I'm never going to waste time complaining about it again. --*)
Good on yer. That was an excellent point, by the way. Notice that Parasite Eve, an RPG set in actual real-life America, took real-life American people and had real diversity in it, since it was meant to emulate real Westerners and not Japanese people. Note that America and Canada, by and large, are the exceptions to the rule. In most countries, you will not find a melting pot of all kinds of cultures and races; America and Japan are extremely multicultural, which is why when us Westerners see only one race in a game/movie/whatever it grates on us after a while. Well, let's see what Bling Bling, of all people, has to say about this.
How would species, race, etc, etc. etc., be promoted in a rpg? Welllllllllll, here we go! What they could do is make a rpg in our time! They did this in parasite eve with the Japenese Maeda. Though he was quite minor. Though he saved Aya's useless A$$..Flashback! Ultimate being: I am the ultimate being!! I will destroy you for killing my mother, Eve! Even though I'm a baby..Aya:Oh yeah, thats original.. UB: Why does everyone make fun of my speeches!? Thats it! *Transforms into his final form* *kicks aya's ass* hmmm.. billys mom: Billy come down here and clean up your room! Well, looks like I won't be able to finish my flashback...or maybe i did that so i wouldn't spoil the game....nah! Anyway, they should make a game like parasite eve. It's really to bad that pe only took place in new york instead of around the world. You would go everywhere! Like South America, U.S, Canada, (my friend was born there, he said it was pretty cool over there) Europe, Asia, and more! You would have people from each place join you in your battle to find the perfect girlfrend! Err..battle to defeat the greater evil! Yeah..oh, and Cid, I read the mailbag last week, Al Bhed isn't the only language in a game! What about Tod2!? It's probably so much better than FFX. Meredy speaks Celestian. But you can't understand her for half the game..oh well.Also in my awe-spiring game I would include undressing Fmv's for the girls in the cast. This would cause perverts worldwide to buy the game, while they learn about diff. cultures! Education and Perverts, who knew they would ever come together!? Oh, and dark cid, It'll have Lucca undressing too...Hmm..Lunaris you know i'm gonna find out how hard that hair of yours is! *Gets Fei's gear* Fei: Can I have my gear back now!? No *Stomps on Fei* Eat that! now feel my power Lun! *Stumps on Lun* How do you like that? ??:Oh Bling.. Bling: Huh? Id:Now you die! bling:Uh oh.. *Censored* *Sigh as the gear break apart as it hits* Cid...why the hell you alway posts that bouffon ?
I apologize, I've never played ToD2. Anyway, this one made very little sense, so let's skip to the next one, by SilverKnight.
Hello, it's SilverKnight again, here with another smart ass comment at someone's (most likely mine) expense. :) Here. Take a few exclamation points. They're on the house. Oh. >rummages through a bag< Here, take a few plot holes too. You seem to be using them a lot lately.
I never run out of plot holes. They're spontaneously generated. See? *hits button* *Ozzie falls down a plot hole* Ah... cheap corny overdone gags, where would we be without them?
>ahem< Anywho. How would I promote diversity? I'm all for using race/species diversity. I mean, one of the best selling points for me for an RPG is the fact that there are different species, because I'm shallow and superficial like that. :) But, what I'd really like to see would be the race diversity. I mean, how many times to do you see a black man in an RPG that isn't some background character? I mean, honestly? (Discounting Final Fantasy VII. That was a weird game anyway. >smiles<)
So, needless to say, different races would rock. I'm not sure how I'd go about it or sell it to people. It's not exactly PC (as in "politically correct", and not "personal computer", for all you nerds out there) to say in a commercial, "The Golden Empire--hailed to be the best new game of the season! It's also said to have the highest minority count outside of city limits." (I'm sorry ahead of time; that was so very wrong of me. <jumps down a plot hole>)
*Indistinct Voice: AUGH! Too crowded! *Ozzie floats out of plot hole* Damn... should have done that before.
Well, anyway...Somehow, I don't think that will get positive attention. But if someone can figure it out, then go you. As far as languages go...well, um, that's not my area of expertise. I don't even really know how to speak my OWN language, much less another one.
Anywho, that's my two cents. >tosses Cid a few more exclamation points and punts Ozzie into a plot hole< Hey...that IS fun. I see why you guys do it so much.
It's very cathartic, no?
Indistinct Voice: I should really start bringing some furniture down here, since I spend so much time in it anyway...
And where are you gonna get money to buy furniture?
Indistinct Voice: Damn.
Yah. Hey, next up is Helen. Wow, all these female gamers in one mailbag, what's the odds?
Got something against female gamers?
No! No, not at all! I love them all!
No, that's not what... no, there's no possible answer that'll get me out of this, is there?
Well... er, just... talk, Helen.
Helen again! Usually, I'd open with my nonsense, but I threw away my special book last entry. So you're stuck with this uninteresting intro.
*blue screen is shown for five minutes* AHHHHHHHHHHH ! BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH !
Still here? If you are, you get to hear my opinions. And I'm sure a lot of you are thinking "Damn! Should've scrolled down!".
So, how would I promote race/species/etcetera diversity in RPGs? I personally wouldn't try as it would end up taking more effort than a lazy girl like me would use. The thing is, you've got to set up RPG soapboxes for diversity rants, write letters to RPG making companies demanding more diversity, cause some nasty "accidents" on the generic spiky-haired human swordsmen mains and the generic skimpily-dressed human female magicians.... I think you see where I'm going, ne? So, since it takes more effort than I'm willing to use, I won't try. That doesn't mean the rest of you can't, though.
*runs away, chased by the legions of generic RPG heroes*
*shades eyes* Ooh, looks like some of 'em are tripping over their own hair. How horrible. Someone named "Sultr_953" has the following gem:
how do you promote diversity with a straight face in rpg? this is starting to sound like a set-up already. An alien. a blue furry guy, and an elf walk into a town togather.
No comment. O_o Hey, Doma Dragon's here too! It's an intellectual Mexican standoff! *begins selling popcorn*
I am greatly honoured by your belief that I am worthy of being equal to the revered I Abibide. In any case, let us look upon this week's mailbag question...
In my opinion, every RPG should tell their own story. If that story means a uniform, completely Caucasian human cast, then so be it. If it has people from dozens of unique cultures, so be it as well.
I suspect that some people will look upon the FF7 character of Barrett and claim that he was a poor attempt to appease the critics of interactive media, who use facts such as diversity (or the lack thereof) to illustrate how it is nothing more than just a childish diversion. I will not argue for or against Mr. Wallace's inclusion, but merely point out that he may have been our first true look into the question of race in our medium.
As for the question of language, I think the answer is simple: it is difficult for some people to understand their native tongue with a degree of skill, let alone a foreign one. The odds that the party members would be able to understand between them all the languages in the world is somewhat farfetched. In fact, one of the most interesting things I found about the original Final Fantasy was that in order to proceed, you had to learn an entire different language (of course, simply with the push of a button... cela pouvais m'aider quand j'etais dans l'Immersion, mais que peux tu faire?). Live a Live solved the problems of primitive communication through the use of pictograms. And of course, it seemed like Daravon spoke an entirely different language... to conclude, it is simpler to have a common language that all people in the RPG world can understand, but there are specialized cases that require a special touch.
First of all, usually characters in an RPG come from all over the world anyway, so it's not so farfetched to have them speak different languages. Second of all, in true AD&D format there's usually a "common tongue" that everyone speaks anyway... I think this could really go places, myself!
Species... countless species have been used in RPGs. Even in the basic days of D&D, there were elves, dwarves, and halflings. More recently, werewolves (Zylo, Kevin), amphibians (Frog, Jean) and even plants (Spar, Peco) have joined the battle. Most of these suffer from the "cookie cutter" syndrome, where there's no difference between what they act like and do than a human counterpart of the same type of class. Frog is just a cursed Cyan, for example. The "furries", as you put them, are little more than humans in funny suits.
Still, there are cases where an underlying theme of equality can be found. Stop me if you've heard of this (not really, it's just a figure of speech): A girl of a different race, who has seemingly been subjugated her whole life for what she is, meets up with another of her kind and learns of her heritage. Seeing everything that the humans have done to her, she does not strike out in anger. Instead, she puzzles over her place in life, and finds it in a group of children orphaned by an act of senseless hatred. At last finding a place where she belongs, she is content to stay there, until her charges are senselessly attacked by an ancient monster. She is forced to recall her heritage to the forefront of her existance, although she knows this may alienate her as it did so long ago. Rather than that happening, the children rally around her as if there was nothing changed (and indeed, there wasn't). Buoyed by this, she heads off to stop the source of the hatred, confronting it head-on. She fights for everyone and everything, even those who previously feared her.
If we look deep enough, we can find levels upon levels of depth in our games, such as FF6. Kefka attacked the Espers on the very cusp of a peace accord, destroying all the hard work that General Leo and Terra had made to try to bring humans and Espers together. He is the embodiment of hatred of that world, just as Zeromus was for FF4. In the end, he has such a profound hatred for life itself that he seeks do destroy all existance for the sheer purpose of fufilling his destructive views. He is defeated by a group that set out not through hatred, but through hope. This is a lesson that holds true in our world, as well as theirs.
Awww... brung a tear to my eye, did that one... Well, here's a bad attempt at comic relief by RedSlime.
RS:...None of you shall make fun of me any longer, for I have made my final transformation, LAVOS!(Insert lavos theme here)
I'M NOT THAT BAD !
Lavos: SILENCE LUNATIC!!! QUIT CALLING ME CRAZY! YOU'RE ALL NUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Honestly, I don't think this guy EVER bothers answering the question. Our final (yes, final) reply comes from Shalcar, our only newbie for this week, so HI!!!!!!!
How would you promote race/species/language/ culture diversity within an RPG? Or should you even try?
I personally think that species diversity in a RPG is a good idea, as it adds weaknesses and specialties. The best way (IMHO) to promote species diversity is to use a plot that encompasses a cross species conspiracy, which although entertaining, is rather difficult to pull off properly. Im assuming that you mean that it the promotion is on the box art/blurb as i cant think of any other way to promote stuff *grr 3am brain*
In most RPG's race and species are considered interchangeable, as when you have elves and dwaves (etc) then the small interspecies differences would be almost insignificant. Thus race is not really worth parading as a selling point for an RPG, unless you have only one species.
Language is also another "feature" that is not of much use to an RPG, as it only needlessly complicates an RPG unless it is pulled off well (which is difficult).
Culture diversity is a good selling point in an RPG, as noone want to
visit all 150 (or whatever) map areas and find that they have the same
type of buildings, items, people, quests etc. This is also the easiest
to promote, as clichés abound in terms of box blurbs....
Who put that door in? That's discrimination, that is!
Ah, stuff it.
Urk. Well, we're done for today! Nice kid's-size mailbag. For next week, why don't you tell me the following (sent in by Jake Gad): What's the best BAD RPG you've ever played? You know... the game equivalent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, that's just so bad you actually have fun playing it? And WHY? Send in all the jollillity to email@example.com and no, I'm not sure jollillity is a word.
Hmm...At this rate, there will be more Female Mailbag replier than male ones...SEMONE CALL THE GUINESS!