Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A small rant on image farming and wiritng inclusively...

Writing fan supplements for an RPG offers advantages ages that other forms of writing do not. For one, it often allows me to choose the illustrations first, and write based on them, as opposed to the more traditional way of writing, which is to pray you can find or create an illustration to match after the fact. However, occasionally I need to find very specific images, because I have written myself into a corner. And because I can't do anything easy, the specifics of these images are often crazy difficult to find, anywhere. Case in point, i Am working on a write-up for a lesser, but upcoming, Asian based street gang. Now, because I am running a game at the same time, some of this is my fault, such as, I need to find an image of a fairly attractive south east Asian girl, preferably Vietnamese or Laotian, with a horrible scar around her eye... she is third in command of a gang in Night City called the Ghost Disciples. A gang made up of orphans and runaways of mostly Asian or mixed descent. I also need to find suitable group shots, which is also more difficult than it should be. I have a simply ridiculous number of images waiting in the wings to be used, more than I will probably ever be able to use, and more added daily, but sometimes the right image eludes me completely. In these times, as I am trying to be a better ally, and a better writer, I find myself worrying a lot, especially when trying to walk the fine line between cool homage to the concepts of my favorite media, in particular Hong Kong and exploitation cinema, and cultural sensitivity. Sometimes it's impossible to avoid stereotypes, but I always try to make the character or concept more than any stereotype. When such stereotypes are present, it's due to the cool factor, and never the negative connotations. But even the positive stereotypes are still stereotypes, and still can be harmful. In the end, I write for myself, and of course for my gaming group, and while to me, having a gang based on blaxploitation and kung fu in a cyberpunk city, and having their leaders be based on Sho Nuff, Pam Grier, and Jim Kelly, who also run a pizza, sushi, and taco arcade attached to their dojo, is the coolest thing I could imagine.... I do still worry that it might come across as offensive. I worry about that, I worry about making anyone feel marginalized. I didn't used to, but I like to think I have grown since then, and these days it's important to me to be a better writer, and a better person. Without sounding like to much of a pretentious ass, in the very small niche circles of people who play Cyberpunk 2020, I am afforded a small bit of fame/infamy. Some people like people, some people hate me, but in this small circle, I am pretty well known. However, even though the creator of the game is a person of color, the game's audience, like most RPG's, is predominately white. Before I started my site, when I still lived in KC, I counted POC in my gaming group. I live in NW Arkansas now, where trying to find anyone, let alone POC, interested in playing Cyberpunk is a nightmare, one not made easier by the limitations of my back problems. Now in my online circle of friends who play the game, there are a couple of people of color. I listen to the input and feedback of these people very closely. But I worry that asking directly for it, would in itself be problematic. I am an insecure mess if you couldn't tell. Anyway, if any of you fans of the site out there are people of color, or gay, or women, or really any group that might feel marginalized, if you come across something on my site that you feel is problematic, please feel free to talk to me about it,


  1. Yes, writing characters that are outside ourselves, or that we are unfamiliar with, can be be tricky. Although people make a big deal about stereotyping — casting wide-angle assumption on whole demographics — it is unfortunately the strange reality of our world. Every culture engages in this. For example, many cultures base Americans on what they see in our movies and shows, as such, we are seen as cocky, brash and irresponsible with a love for fast cars, women and guns. It is human nature to make broad assumptions about people we do not understand fully, especially when filtered through other people (including pop-culture and mass-media) who lack the full picture. Inclusiveness is great; more variety in life. The desire to avoid generic, one-note stock-characters (including the often ham-fisted "playing against type" types, like "strong female" characters who are literally strong, instead of figuratively so) is also great. Although, as nice as it is write a character that is a genuine representation of a curtain demographic, stereotyping is generally unavoidable. The best way to minimize bad pretension is through research and finding the right books and documentaries. (Hell, something like Everybody Hates Chris is a great primer on black communities in the '80s.) It is unhealthy to dwell on those who might take offense, as such critics are the hardiest to please, even when you are not doing anything wrong. As long as you make characters who are different from yourself (female, colored, gay, transgendered, etc.) relatable as people (dreams, quarks, flaws and all), instead of having their differences define them every second they appear, you'll do fine. Plus, the whole point of RPGs is about escapism, having fun, and of course, having a platform to try out new shoes, so to speak.

  2. Hey man, don't worry about it, I'm a person of color and it doesn't bother me at all. Actually,I kind of enjoy it. I mean usually all the NPCs of game are white or based on white individuals, so I found your supplements a refreshing break from the norm. I found that when GMing games it was easier to base NPCs off of movies or books that I like.