I could swear I saw a similar forum thread recently, but now I can't find it.
I'm in the midst of creating a game in which there are a number of unflattering characters. The first question has to do with race, the second with names.
1. Say there are several groups of people in the game. I could go with all people of caucasian heritage, or perhaps with several different racial groups, but the problem is that the individual characters will all have something unflattering about them, and I don't want to imply that those negative characteristics have to do with their races. Any ideas how to handle this? It's especially difficult because the characters will have humorous art depicting their failings...
A much less sticky question:
2. In addition, many of the characters will have names. Will players be annoyed if these unflattering characters share names with them? Should I just go with nicknames, rather than actual names?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
You could make the characters animals if it can work with the theme. I doubt you would offend any dogs. But if they have to be humans, I would suggest making them all caucasian. I don't think anyone would take it as a racial comment if you do so.
As for the names, you could give them all really odd names or nicknames.
I disagree about making them all Caucasian, it alienates large blocks of the gaming culture. For the same reason we have seen many strong female characters emerge in games we should continue to and encourage more racial diversity.
Don't use stereotypes, when creating the characters make sure you give them a full story. Most of what you create about them will not go to print but you can do yourself the favor of having interesting deep characters not just stereotypes slapped onto comical illustrations; because firstly, it is lazy, second it is offensive.
Names should be a non-factor in offending people (as long as you avoid the stereotypes again) I like nicknames but I don't think they are really important. If you do your work with the characters, that should help to influence naming them, a simple genealogy comes to mind as an excellent way to devise a surname.
What is the theme for your characters and their attributes for your game? Maybe we can help give you ideas?
How many characters? What type of story? Who are the enemies in the game?
I have sorta a similar situation. In my game "The Hit" you play as a Italian Hitman who is working for the Don (any stereotypes yet...) You goal is to get rid of most of your rival gangs. There are 4 other gangs:
I'm sure there are *no stereotypes* in there... Anyhow the game is fully developed and playtested. But I have not gone to production (artwork, limited production run).
The game is pending me deciding to work on it again... Or more precisely wanting to produce it. Anyhow I understand your point of view...
@ questccg : I think you will be fine on your production. Think of all the video games, movies, television series from past to present. I was working on a third dimension board game that incorporated gangs, cops: good and bad and robbers and other triads two years ago. Never went thru with it due to other game projects. So good ahead produce your The Hit game.
Well I am working on "Of Legends And Lore" currently. And I also am working on software (I'm a Software Developer) which needs to be completed soon (like end of the month). The Hit will remain uncompleted because I need to invest in *artwork*. And right now there are other priorities... I also have a 2nd Edition of Quest which could be sold and manufactured at The Game Crafter, but again I need some more *artwork* to be done. So that too is on the back burner...
These guys are all screw-ups from criminal organizations (think Bond). Part of determining the racial mix is figuring out the era - 1950s would probably be mostly caucasian, whereas now would be more mixed.
One thing I can certainly do is include a racial and gender mix within each organization. It's just harder trying to figure out whether to include these traditional film criminal organizations (gangs, the "voodoo doctor", yakuza), since they aren't typically multi-racial organizations, which lends itself to more accusations of stereotypes (whether or not they're being used).
Cash N' Guns is one of my favorite party games, and each character is basically a racial stereotype. It's supposed to be funny, and it is. People with no sense of humor wouldn't be playing this game anyhow. In an effort to please the overly sensitive you may end up with cheese pizza. It's not bad, but nobody is going to truly be satisfied either. Keep your vision of your game.
The further you move from everyday reality the less obvious the racial commentary will be.
Bond vs Villains is essentially a Good vs Evil scenario, so you might consider shifting the theme while keeping in the same mode.
What about Super Heroes vs Super Villains?
In this case the unfortunate characteristics would become ridiculous super powers - so a character with a big head would become Extremely Obvious Man (instead of the invisible man) or the Human Cloud could be a person with extreme flatulence, a person with a well endowed nose would be Sinustria (with the power of super smelling).
I dont think a parody of the super hero genere has been used in a theme yet.
Unless it is absolutely dictated by the setting, I'd say go with variety rather than making all the characters caucasian (or any other single race, for that matter). Dork Tower summed it up nicely:
The way to avoid racial stereotypes is to include multiple characters from each race instead of just a token inclusion. For example, if you had a game where all the characters are caucasian except for one token asian, onlookers may see whatever characteristics you chose for the 1 asian character to be racial stereotyping. But if you have multiple asians each with different characteristics, you break away from racial stereotypes and into human diversity.
@kos - That's a good way of putting it. There will be a large number of characters in this game, so it easily allows for a number of people from different backgrounds (social, racial, etc) which definitely helps avoiding stereotyping problems. I think it also helps to include characters that are specifically against type - but again, not just a single character, or you have that same problem.
You could also put in a few characters that break stereotypes. Put in a nerdy black man. Put in that rough and tumble aisan woman. Put in an indian in a suit and tie. These sorts of things allow you to have diversity but if you DO include a stereotype, they help show that you're not doing it because you believe all (fill in the blank) are (fill in the blank).
Hope this makes sense!
I think of something I read in H. Beam Piper's "The Uller Uprising" in what he called his terro future history:
He believed that the races were so blended that you ended up with characters like Hidiyoshi O'Leary, Mustapha Gorman, and the like. If you feel the need for stereotypes use the future. Star Trek, Star Wars and others are full of alien races with distinct characteristics. (IE KLingons: Aggressive, Ferengi: Greed, etc.)
As to names you cannot be overly concerned with it.
Basically as long as you make the game fun, do not make the characters an exreme of stereotyping and include some of the same race that are an antithesis of the "stereotyped" you'll do fine.
After all we ARE the same race...HUMAN