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Excellent column from Mark Rosewater about diversity in design

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21 Aug 2019 14:10 - 21 Aug 2019 14:10 #301007 by Erik Twice

Sagrilarus wrote: By the way, "gypsy" is considered very derogatory now. Not appropriate in polite company.

I've seen a couple people mention this lately, but it seems it changes wildly between countries. The term doesn't have any negative connotations here in Spain and I know it's the same in the UK. Most organizations use the term in the name and their writings so I was surprised to find Americans saying otherwise.

I googled it up and found that the European Union talks about "The integration of Roma" in English but "Los gitanos" in Spanish. I've also never seen anyone here classify themselves as Roma, only as "gypsy". I also know that the classification of Roma is seen by some like yet another euphemism that groups different groups together (like "Native American") and some don't like the term.

I guess I'll follow the EU and use "Roma" in English and "Gitano" in Spanish.
Last edit: 21 Aug 2019 14:10 by Erik Twice.

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21 Aug 2019 14:34 #301009 by Jackwraith
I was following Erik's lead, since he's "on the ground" in Europe, as it were. My inclination was to refer to them as Roma, as well, but I may be behind the times on modern interpretation.

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22 Aug 2019 00:38 #301019 by mtagge

Erik Twice wrote: This article is not groundbreaking and Wizards painting one (1) character in supplementary materials as trans four years ago is not exactly a high bar.

I'll admit I skimmed the article and the attached short story. How am I supposed to know that she is a trans hero? She just seemed like a female Khan. Was there a specific sentence buried in the middle of page 8? Even when I played MtG I never really got attached to any particular character in a deck (I didn't feel myself a zombie when playing a fun blue/black zombie deck or the goblin king when trying a goblin king rush deck). Perhaps that is different in the commander format or something, I got out before then.

Now in adventure games why wouldn't a designer include a diversity of characters. In Arkham Horror I'm going to pick the character with the abilities I want to try, not restrict myself to the white guys, but if it makes other folks feel better to view themselves as their character it sounds like a win. Just make it fit the setting.

I don't understand the hub-bub about someone striving for the correct goal. Are his declared motives not pure enough? Is it just lip-service? I can understand the criticism that if the goal is diversity, saying you value it and not reaching it despite no cost (skin color on fantasy art is a marginal paint cost) brings into question if you actually value diversity. I dunno, not into MtG anymore.

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22 Aug 2019 01:44 #301020 by Sevej
I feel the Mass Effect game so very personal to me even though my character is an English-speaking, white female (with black hair tho, which has the best contrast!)

Sorry, just a South East Asian passing by. You may continue to put black characters in your games.

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25 Aug 2019 09:20 #301070 by jason10mm
These types of articles always confuse me. On the surface they seem to be a major "Duh" statement about increasing sales by identifying with more groups. But then there is usually this "as a cis hetero white male...." comment in there that just seems like the author is trying to establish their woke credentials and then the entire tone of the piece starts to veer off into yet another geek male bashing piece written by a geek male. Why so self loathing?

This stuff shouldn't be difficult. Diversity on the design team leads to organic diversity in game setting, character choice, background, and all that. A homogeneous culture design team leads to tokenism or "good intentioned" stereotypes. What bothers me is that "here is the checklist!" attitude of specific groups to target that (self?) identify as victims, oppressed, or marginalized. Rosewater is Jewish yet he feels the need to downplay it because I guess being Jewish isn't cool (i.e oppressed) enough anymore. That guy has undoubtedly been "the other" in just as legit a way as anyone else.

Make a good, nay, GREAT game. Find an audience that is bonkers for it. Make them happy so you stay in business. THEN diversify for continued growth. This doesn't have to be about race, sexual orientation, or culture. Making a checklist of every race and gender and trying to cram them all into your starting hero roster often leads to a confusing and milquetoast backstory because each group loses their identity and becomes interchangeable. Which is fine for an abstract euro but death for a character driven RPG (IMHO).

Most of this is superficial art aesthetic stuff anyway. Has Life fixed their fundamental heterosexual gameplay mechanics? Any other games with inherent mechanics/concepts that prevent a specific group from enjoying the game (Puerto Rico and the brown "settler" tokens perhaps)? This seems like a more productive discussion to me.
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26 Aug 2019 18:38 #301100 by jeb
Funny point about LIFE--we randomly pick our genders and spouses (ie, from pink and blue) in that game in our house! Look at my wokeness! Gaze ye upon it!

These "gestures" might seem empty to you cynical guys, but they matter to kids. I would prefer kids, especialy mine, to know it's okay to be a girl, a boy, gay, straight, cis, trans, black, white, Jewish, athiest, whatever. If they aren't hurting people, they're doing okay. That's the metric. People that hurt other people are bad people.

As for Rosewater's piece--it's pretty tepid fare, common for today's giga-corporations. Frame it as profit-making, to appease the racists and sexists; make it fulsome and we're-all-just-folks to appease the oppressed that have found their voice. I expect better from him, honestly, but he may not believe it, or may not be able to say it without getting canned.

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26 Aug 2019 21:12 - 26 Aug 2019 22:22 #301105 by Sevej

jeb wrote: These "gestures" might seem empty to you cynical guys, but they matter to kids. I would prefer kids, especialy mine, to know it's okay to be a girl, a boy, gay, straight, cis, trans, black, white, Jewish, athiest, whatever. If they aren't hurting people, they're doing okay. That's the metric. People that hurt other people are bad people.


These "gestures" are not "empty" because of itself, but because how they are implemented. Whenever an American say, "oh, it's got diverse cast!" Most of the time that means it includes a black person, a female, and a gay person BEFORE it has any East Asians, Indian, Arabs, Turkish, Egpytians, etc. Now apparently it must also include Chinese, thanks to Chinese box office $$$! But that's fine for me, since by demographic, games should at least include 2 or 3 Chinese for every 10 individuals represented in the game.

EDIT: It just occured to me, that I had never been aware about race or ethnicity group, until I was in Senior High School (around age of 15), and I've always been in catholic schools in that contains lots of Chinese descents. The same with my daughter. So when we play stuff, it's only sex that matters (even then it's not much; when we played minecraft, I was the one who wanted to change to the female body shape, not her).
Last edit: 26 Aug 2019 22:22 by Sevej.

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29 Aug 2019 23:43 - 29 Aug 2019 23:47 #301235 by jason10mm

jeb wrote: Funny point about LIFE--we randomly pick our genders and spouses (ie, from pink and blue) in that game in our house! Look at my wokeness! Gaze ye upon it!

These "gestures" might seem empty to you cynical guys, but they matter to kids. I would prefer kids, especialy mine, to know it's okay to be a girl, a boy, gay, straight, cis, trans, black, white, Jewish, athiest, whatever. If they aren't hurting people, they're doing okay. That's the metric. People that hurt other people are bad people.


My kids automatically associate color and gender. We try to keep it inclusive as well but there is, in my experience, definitely some innate gender role association even in little kids.

Regardless, my issue with "if they arent hurting other people its ok" is that in today's atmosphere of identity politics the term "cis hetero white male" is practically a slur and is used to immediately discount any type of human experience you might have as a CHWM. Your straight white male privilege means you can never have been hurt, isolated, demeaned, trivialized, or stereotyped like a socially recognized victim class. IMHO it is as bad an attitude as what they accuse CHWMs of.

But there is a aspect of "blinders on" if you have a homogeneous design team, especially if it extends to the art department where, quite frankly, it seems that 95% of any issues of diversity or the lack thereof could be resolved. Which is why I'm curious if there actual fundamental core game concepts that limit inclusiveness, or if it is largely an issue of fluff text and art.
Last edit: 29 Aug 2019 23:47 by jason10mm.

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30 Aug 2019 06:12 - 30 Aug 2019 06:47 #301237 by Erik Twice
Last edit: 30 Aug 2019 06:47 by Erik Twice. Reason: Nah

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30 Aug 2019 13:52 #301255 by jeb

jason10mm wrote: Regardless, my issue with "if they arent hurting other people its ok" is that in today's atmosphere of identity politics the term "cis hetero white male" is practically a slur and is used to immediately discount any type of human experience you might have as a CHWM. Your straight white male privilege means you can never have been hurt, isolated, demeaned, trivialized, or stereotyped like a socially recognized victim class. IMHO it is as bad an attitude as what they accuse CHWMs of.

Who's the "they" there? Hmm.

What is wrong with grounding your experience in context? What is wrong with allowing others, with different contexts, to express their thoughts an opinions on topics that may differ from yours, in an attempt to account for context? There is a lot of this country that is built for me, and not just things like signs on bathroom doors. Zoning covenants are written for me. tax codes are written for me, golf courses are laid out for me, CostCo is built for me, school admissions policies, voting regulations, police procedures, me me me me. Not me, but CHWM me. It's not wrong to acknowledge it's rigged. It's honest.

Someone pointed out this AM that there are more governors that have worn blackface than there are black governors. 70% of American CEOs are white males. I don't point this out to slur the governors and CEOs of this country. I point it out to indicate that there may be something more than just their hard work and dedication to their careers at play in their success. Acknowledging the systemic bias of our culture and working to correct is laudable. You don't have to agree, but I'd ask you think about why you don't agree.
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