A player on the official Dragon Age 2 discussion boards posted the following question yesterday:
Do we know if DA2 will have a better range of racial diversity? I was dissapointed that Dragon Age, a game that seem to use elves as an allegory for black slavery and the treatment of native Americans lacks any black or asian people. That and it’s a fictional fantasy world that’s not based on anywhere specific so it just seems thoughtless to the point of discriminaton to not include other ethnicities. Not to mention that the character creator doesn’t really let you make a black or asian character with its messed up colour settings.
Will this be changed for DA2?
It’s a legitimate question. One that many of our readers have commented on here at the Border House. Regardless of Dragon Age’s inclusiveness with gay characters, the game is not racially diverse in any fashion. Stanley Woo, who appears to be a Quality Assurance employee at Bioware responded to this question.
In response to elves as a metaphor for black slavery:
It can also be an allegory for the Jews, North-American Japanese during WWII, the poor, the Romani, Yu-Gi-Oh players or any other peoples segregated and ghettoized for reasons other than race. :p
In response to the world being fictional:
We should include all real world ethnicities into a fictional fantasy world why, exactly? How does it fit into our fantasy setting, or are you trying to tell us what our fantasy setting should look like in order to be “fair”?
In response to changing the character creator to allow a wider variety of races in characters:
You should probably play the game to find out. i have not yet met anyone who disliked a game because of “lack of racial diversity.” Most folks will concentrate on story and gameplay, but what do I know? That’s just my opinion.
Wait, what? First of all, you are representing your company Stanley Woo – it’s not “just your opinion”. Your argument that most people play Dragon Age because of story and gameplay and not because it is inclusive goes against everything we believe at The Border House. Has Dragon Age not received praise for allowing same-sex relationships within the game? Has BioWare not been known as a more inclusive RPG storytelling company? I was under the impression that diversity is actually quite important for BioWare based on their previous titles. Sure we play your games because the stories and gameplay are particularly impressive, but we have applauded you in the past for making decent attempts at inclusiveness in that story and gameplay.
Your sarcastic commentary about how elves could be an allegory for Yu-Gi-Oh players? Really? That’s how you professionally respond to concerns involving race in your game? This is why companies have Community Managers to do the talking.
He also states:
While this is not a forum for political discussion, this seems relevant to the subject under discussion. If we were to arbitrarily add ethnic diversity “for the sake of fairness,” we would not hear the end of how careless and insensitive we are in not highlighting the noble differences in each race, or how “X race people don’t act that way” or”how come the X races didn’t have more to say?” Because the second you open the door to “fairness”, very little becomes forbidden and you end up with an unfocused product that tries to please everyone but ultimately fails to please anyone.
Perhaps you’ve noticed other concepts that weren’t in our game: vegetarians, polygamists, horses, fox hunts, soccer moms, conservational biologists, astronomers, pansexuals, furries, LARPers, numismatists, lepers, schizophrenics, the deaf, paraplegics, Protestants, or Yu-Gi-Oh players (yes, i’m using it again, since so many people said they liked it). Now, currently the discussion is racial diversity, but how far do we go in order to be “fair” and “inclusive”? Do we start getting into religious diveristy (which could seriously compromise our concept of the Chantry and the Maker), sexuality (which has its own inherent issues), hobbies, nationalities (can you imagine a “Canadian” in Thedas)? Where do you draw the line on “fairness”?
This sounds an awful lot like the straw man argument we hear too frequently in the U.S. - “Once we legalize gay marriage, what comes next – legalizing bestiality? Is nothing sacred?” Luckily, David Gaider stepped in:
Yet I think it’s fair to say that we could have included a broader spectrum of visible ethnicities in our world, if we wished to. I have to agree with Stan that this isn’t necessarily a worthy goal for its own sake. It might be interesting, sure, but it could also be pretty banal– if I were to include that in a setting, I certainly hope it’d be more than just tokenism. I don’t think anyone wants that.
There’s a little too much privilege involved to say this shouldn’t be a problem for someone (not that you’re saying this, Alex, just a comment on some posts I’m seeing). Obviously everyone wants to see themselves reflected in a world they’re enjoying, at some level, and I can see how someone might perceive a lack as feeling excluded. Ultimately we’re going to tell the stories that we think we have something to say about, and if they work as allegories to issues in the real world I think that’s possibly a bit better than having everything stake out a claim in our fantasy (also as Stan said). Racially speaking there are multiple human races represented in Thedas and you’ll see them depending on where you go– Kirkwall is in a different part of the world than Ferelden, so you should see that reflected in DA2.
In the end it’ll be up to you to tell us how well we did. With any luck the effort we made to have your family represent your appearance choices will show we’re at least listening.
Read the full thread here for other responses and the full discussion. What say you, commenters?
Edit: I’m compelled to continue here after reading the full thread (which Stanley ended up locking after it ‘got out of control’).
Am i concerned that I won’t be able to feel represented by my PC or the story/setting? Heck no! I am defined by more than just my race. i have my height, my roguish nature, my love of fantasy, wish fulfillment, and lifelong love of sword-and-sorcery. I also have a love of good story and the triumph of good over evil.You know what wouldn’t have represented me?Jade Empire with non-Asian themed names. but that’s just how far you’d have to get for me to not find something in a game that represents me.
Do I think a game/story/setting is racist for not including Asian characters or themes? Heck no, i would think the opposite. Not everything is about me. sometimes it’s about the black guy over there or the Jewish girl over there or, and I know this is a radical concept, the white guys all around me.
I know people feel very strongly about them, but ultimately, It’s. A. Game. And games have their own internal consistency and rules. I don’t have to like all the rules in order to play the game, and in some games, i can even modify the rules, so I’ll accept that. Some folks may wish to die on this particular hill, but there are far bigger and more important ones where I’ll hang my hat. but again, that’s just my opinion.
Don’t you think there are more important things to worry about? After all, it’s only a game. You’re not representative of everyone. Here Stanley uses just about every derailing tactic there is once he realizes that he’s backed himself into a corner.
A player said that the world has changed and therefore media should change too. Stanley says:
It may, at that, but it’s not going to do so through a handful of people making unreasonable demands and accusations to a single content creator… especially not due to an internet disagreement. You want real change? Join an advocacy group or related non-profit organization and get involved with like-minded people who are actively working to effect change. Telling a random BioWarian that they’re wrong ultimately accomplishes nothing towards your goal.
That is one of the most frustrating responses I have ever read on the internet from a representative of a game company. First of all, these are your official fucking forums. This is the place where players come to talk about issues like this. Telling people who question the inclusiveness of their game to basically GTFO and go back to their ‘advocacy group’ is some of the most dismissive bullshit I have ever read. Going to the official forum and initiating a conversation with the developers will accomplish nothing towards our goal? That’s what I’m going to tell the next person who claims that The Border House is a waste of time because we should be contacting developers directly instead of ‘preaching to the choir’. Fuck that.
I can tell you, though, that at no time was there ever a meeting, email, conversation, or workflow which consisted of “do we include black people (y/n)?” “No.”
That is the fucking point. Making an active decision to exclude black people is just as exclusionary as forgetting to ask and answer the question in the first place. You wouldn’t have to sit down and ask a question about “do we include black people” if white people weren’t the default human.
Here’s the deal. If inclusiveness is really of importance to Bioware, why is this Stanley Woo (who has worked at Bioware since 2001) allowed to say this offensively dismissive shit? Why is he managing the tone of the community? Why is he locking threads? Why is he the voice of Dragon Age 2? He’s quickly turned me from a Bioware fangirl into someone who is quite hesitant to spend another dime on a Bioware game.