Video games and racism, is the link too tenuous?

By Melissa Talbert June 27, 2020

The developers of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Wizards of the Coast, realize their content has a tendency towards stereotypes, making it possibly racially insensitive and the characters lack diversity.

The team of developers behind the game is working to change that but many fans of the largest tabletop roleplaying game are furious, believing that because the game is fantasy, with fictitious ethnicities, there should be no issue.

On June 17, the D&D team published an article titled, ‘Diversity And Dungeons & Dragons’.

It discussed their design goals and their failure to meet them over the years.

“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the people in the game (orcs and drow) have been characterized as monstrous and evil...that’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.” According to D&D, what they believe in is depicting “humanity in all its beautiful diversity.”

To help steer them in the right direction, the team is actively listening to gamers.

“We created 5th edition in conversation with the D&D community. It's a conversation that continues to this day. That's at the heart of our work—listening to the community, learning what brings you joy...”

However, some members of the gaming community are sceptical of the changes.

Fans on twitter said: “It is fantasy, of course, it is stereotyped. This is exactly the way it should be...”

“Fictitious species are racist?”

“When the new orcs come out I'm gonna make them straight up racist caricatures of black people. it's going to be deliciously racist out of spite.”

A local player, Mikhail Green, says the game is a classic but he thinks this is tokenism at its best. “Business is business. When Twitter doesn't buy their games they'll come running back (reverting the game to what it was).”

I can’t say if this is a marketing ploy or not but it is a depiction of how seriously representation is taken in gaming— it’s not. 

Dungeons and Dragons contain both stereotypical and aggressive content. Players spend a lot of time playing it. Seeing stereotypical images over and over desensitize players to that type of content. It isn’t alarming either because it isn’t ‘real life’.

Therefore gamers are apprehensive about D&D’s attempts to implement diversity, believing that the change may harm the game.

But what must be understood is that whether or not people are talking about orcs or blacks, or the LGBTQ Community, the practice of buying into stereotypes could very well have deleterious effects.

It is the most subtle forms of prejudice that turn into more serious acts and/or beliefs like racism.

Darren Sammy, a former West Indies captain, brought to light that very fact recently when he learnt that a nickname his teammates in the Indian Premier League called him meant Blackie. He had thought it meant strong.

The realization opened an entire conversation about racism in India. Many in India had become so desensitized about issues of race that they thought Sammy’s reaction was over the top.

It is in this way, that seemingly harmless interactions can become very harmful. But hey, maybe it’s just a game. Maybe the D&D fans are right and adding diversity to a game doesn’t mean that much.

But what if it does?

Lewis Hamilton, for instance, just slammed former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone for saying there wasn’t a race issue in the sport even though there was a clear lack of diversity.

So there is something to be said about subtlety and subliminal messages about prejudice. And there should always be diversity because it shows up the flaws in prejudice, even in the instance where we are talking about fictitious people.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

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