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Great Moments In Customer Service Pt. XCI: Bioware Hates You

The original post, from the Dragon Age 2 forums:

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?

This is what we like to call a ‘community challenge’. Here is a player who raises some points, albeit in an aggressive, chip-on-the-shoulder way. What you should do is see these points:

1) The player feels disenfranchised because they can’t create a player avatar that fits their self-image.

2) The player sees echoes of RL racial/ethnic issues echoed in previous installments of the game, and would like to continue seeing that addressed.

Both of these could be addressed elegantly by one calling the other – highlighting the game series’ social consciousness and willingness to ask the player to think about racial issues in a different light, and contrasting that with how the game will, in fact, allow you to create world-appropriate/period-appropriate ethnic variations while explaning that in Talanthassala or wherever the game is set, there are no Asians, say, within the framework of the story thus limiting the choices available within customization to keep the strength of the world and the narrative – which, as mentioned, uses a coherent world view as a setting, in the best science fiction/fantasy tradition, to echo those questions of racial/ethnic conflict.

Or, you know, you could just conflate Jews and Yu-Gi-Oh players. Whatever works for you.

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.

(Note to presumably-Asian Stanley Woo – the Japanese internment in World War 2 was in fact for reasons of race. You know, if you really wanted to go there for that example. By the way, you really didn’t want to go there.)

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.

Aside from the fact that players do in fact derive value from role-playing avatars that suit their idealized self-image, which in fact may not be white, anglo-saxon Protestants:

No.

It’s not “just your opinion”.

You have a cool tag by your name that says “Bioware”. On a forum run by a company called “Bioware”.

When you post things, it’s not just your opinion. It’s the official position of your company.

So, congratulations. You just told a potential customer that their concerns about a future product being relevant to their needs is less important than your need to score Intarweb points in a ham-fisted attempt to make light of racial sensitivity. But what do I know… that’s just my opinion.

EDIT:
* Hi, Bioware forum posters! Welcome to this blog. I know you won’t actually read anything else on it, but I thought I’d just use this opportunity to say hi anyway. Hi.
* I didn’t link to the full forum thread because I am, in fact, a horrible person.
* Giving someone the ability to make dark skin hues in a character generator is not the same as including the ability to create members of different ethnic groups.
* I promise I didn’t read David Gaider’s followup post…

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.

…before writing my own “what they *should* have said” (which is pretty much the same thing but with 300% more pseudointellectual claptrap), so any similarities are wholly coincidental.