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Stale Roles

by Johnathan Mason 
Submitted by: jemstone21@ignmail.com (Johnathan Mason)
Spelling 2
Grammar 2
Coherency 2.5
Strength of Arguments 3.5
Presentation 3
Originality 3
Penalties 0
Total 16
Grade

We, as a community, are role-playing gamers.

The previous statement is not only redundant, but laughable. After all, who should know that better than us? We who have challenged gods, demons, and despots and returned unscathed? Who have solved the riddles of countless races? We who are masters of our destiny, defenders of the world(s)?

Perhaps we should investigate this further. A role-playing gamer would be, quite obviously, someone who puts himself or herself into the role of a character for fun. We know the importance of the mythos that the roles, or characters, inhabit. However, to look at the quality of the roles we have played over time would certainly alter that definition. Idealists, amnesiacs, adventurers - following their paths have provided us with experiences far more adult then the term 'game' would imply.

Travelling through these worlds of escapist fantasy has also yielded revelations on issues like religion, social issues, and time itself. Like any other form of entertainment, RPGs hold the power to both entertain the viewer and challenge their perceptions of the world around them. So, as enlightened "gamers", we should be intrigued by anything to shake up our worldview, to question the accepted way of thinking.

How about race?

Ethnic diversity is still, for the most part, a taboo subject. Yet I agree with the statement that at this point, race shouldn't even be a question in games any more. After all, it's the quality of the game that counts, correct? A Hispanic swordsman shouldn't add, nor take away anything from the story or gameplay than his Anglo counterpart. Then why is something not done? Am I to believe that characters like Kiros Seagul of Final Fantasy VIII or Mamcha of Chrono Cross are nothing more than token gimmicks, like a new fighting system or a graphical enhancement?

An interesting way of closing conversation about this topic is that "if you don't like the game, then go make your own." While definitely an activity to stimulate any avid gamer, this does not solve the question, but merely shifts the responsibility. As a fact, this simply raises more questions about why no company has tried to write substantial playable characters of different ethnic backgrounds. As far as writing the character should go, it should be as a person that is of a certain race. Not as a palette swap on a standard character, not as a stereotype, and definitely not as a bland infallible Superman of color. It's simply a matter of character and not caricature (Barett Wallace, anyone?). Surely, it can't be that hard for a design team to do such a thing.

Then again, maybe it is. Companies often say that they tailor a game's characters so that the majority of players can relate to the drama onscreen (If so, then what type of player was Quina Quen supposed to represent in Final Fantasy IX?). Conversely, couldn't a shrewd business tap a part of the gaming market that most don't cater to? This would expand the market to those who might not have been interested in RPGs otherwise. And should any design house take me up on my challenge, I would ask them not to try to make the characters the game's selling point. I shudder at the thought of packages advertising "Now featuring Assorted Races!" Of course, I am asking companies to risk, and think outside of the proverbial box - and since I'm not risking along with them, my cries are likely to fall on deaf ears. On the other hand, I am asking gamers to do the same thing (those who already do, know who you are).

In summation, those who have played RPGs know that especially, in the areas of story & character, so much more can be done. There are new places to explore, new people to meet. If that is forgotten, then how can true adventure ever begin?




Notes:
This is definitely not an editorial you see every day. It is checked, and it's almost perfectly clear throughout... except at the beginning, where it's difficult to guess which way he's going, which can disorientate people a little bit.

Also, there is a fairly big point which he failed to mention. This is the fact that the writer forgot [intentionally or not] the origin of many RPGs, Japan. [The Japanese culture is somewhat different to the US, and have differentating opinions on the outside world and the like.] This particular point wouldn't have destroyed his argument, but it would have added an explaination as to why certain points do occur. Also, not acknowledging this point and its implications could leave it fairly open in terms of argument.

Apart from that, and the somewhat ambigous and somewhat disorentating beginning, [Due to some fairly formal and fancy use of the English language] It is very well done. Definitely something new and interesting.

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