This is a story about a racist role-playing game I encountered at Dreamation 2019. This game exemplifies how racist expressions draw on public-facing and commercially available cultural expressions: in this case food, cinema, and sport. It is also a story about the man who designed and facilitated the game, but I wish it didn’t have to be. I want to focus on what he did, not who he is, because he now realizes the thing he made harms Asians and he wants to improve.
I don’t know whether he’ll succeed, though, because he wrote a game about fortune cookies. Read More
I’m back from Dreamation. It went well, really, but damn was there a lot of racism. My hero Clio Yun-su Davis graciously agreed to talk with me about their intense, exhausting experiences with racism at this convention and elsewhere. Content warnings: racism, elder abuse. Read More
I get this question more frequently than any other in my professional and gaming life. I get it almost exclusively from white folks, since gaming’s Eurocentrism requires people of color to play outside their race most of the time. My answer is emphatically yes, but please study how to do it. Here’s why and how. Read More
This is the first installment of a two-article series about the racist origins, nature, and ramifications of orcs, a malevolent humanoid species from English author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy setting. I started researching this article with the hypothesis that a collection of negative assumptions about people of color in general, common among the British of Tolkien’s time, gave rise to orcs. I was wrong. Drawing on the most hateful stereotypes he knew, JRR Tolkien explicitly and purposefully crafted orcs as a detrimental depiction of Asian people specifically. Part I, below, traces the long histories of the racist fears and ideologies which motivated Tolkien. Part II will explore how later fantasists have adapted the orcish concept to express different harmful cultural stereotypes; and draw parallels between the challenges of rehabilitating orcs’ portrayals and of decolonizing one’s own relationship to one’s cultural stereotypes. Read More
If you’re a new arrival from the past couple days and you want to hear me say things to more people, here are some more interviews for you to enjoy. Read More
I hope you enjoyed Part I of my series on Thousand Arrows, sensitivity, and respect. Here, Part II addresses issues specific to our 900-backer stretch goal, “Dragon King’s Gambit.” In this campaign, a sea monster attack in December 1592 forces the Imjin War’s Chinese, Korean, and Japanese combatants to work together against a common enemy. It draws on historical, literary, and religious sources: I wouldn’t call it fantasy, but it features folkloric and legendary entities important to East Asian religious practice.
While we’re unlikely to unlock DKG, its subject matter has generated some concern above and beyond the core game. My previous post on best practices for historical gaming governs my take on the Imjin War. But I want to go a little further and break down some of the reasons why folks might worry more about DKG than about core Thousand Arrows, as well as why I think DKG is important nonetheless. Read More
I’d like to share some principles I follow when I work with historical and real-world settings, either in play or in design. For shorthand, I’m going to refer to them as “historical,” but many of these principles also apply to games set on contemporary Earth. This article refers to choices I made in Thousand Arrows, but it isn’t really about Thousand Arrows, so you still get a proper Imjin War-focused Part II later on. Read More
So, Thousand Arrows is on Kickstarter! Thousand Arrows is a tabletop role-playing game about samurai action and tragedy in the Japanese Warring States Period, powered by the Apocalypse. I’ve gotten some questions from the Internet about sensitivity, respect, and appropriation in the game. I’ve broken my answers into what I project to be two blog posts. This first one addresses issues which affect the core game of Thousand Arrows. Read More