View Full Version : Gaming Stereotypes

Dornier Spy
04-05-2013, 04:28 PM
Hello all,

I have been playing Dragons Dogma, Dragon Age, Dragon...everything basically and I come to notice a few things about these games. Something I'd like some other people's opinions on (My roommate finds these games for the entertainment value and doesn't really see anything passed the screen). Not, I am not a racist in anyway. This is just a post to see what you guys think.

RS1: "Quit exploding, you cowards!" - Zapp Branigan, Futurama

In all fantasy games I have played, the Humans are always the dominate, if not one of which, species over the whole planet while species like the dwarves, the elves, the orcs, the...something else, are dying and/or extinct. But why, and why is it usually the humans that cause these actions. Such as in dragon age, all humans are racists towards Elves, but not racist towards the different colored skins of themselves. This has always questioned me and well, what do you guys think?

RS2: "You can't own me, you don't even know me!" - Bender, Futurama

Why are humans either starting wars, or enslaving other races. I'd like to have a game where the human's are owned by some other race. Thats just me, also why do the humans have the most advanced weapons other than ancient or godlike weapons. Thats all.

This is just my thoughts after playing a bunch of games.

04-05-2013, 06:00 PM
Well, to delve into the history of the matter is quite a thing, but a big part of what you're mentioning has to do with the fact of bad storytelling... Quite honestly, computer games lack any great story writing, and hence they fall back on the common great fantasy stories and settings...

One that comes to my mind, that fits pretty easily into your observations is Lord of the Rings... Really the original fantasy story, and generally where the common perspective of elves and dwarves comes from. Lord of the Rings indeed was a land in which humans were the dominate species, it's part of the world and history, it was the dawning of the age of man, and the wane of the other races. Tolkien's stories were fairytales, and in essence were meant to be seen as the truth, like a myth or a legend... you are meant to see middle earth as a place that could have existed in reality, and I think the fact that all the other races were leaving was a way to make it more akin to our reality, just like there are legends of dragons, goblins, vampires etc... elves and dwarves are just as plausible.

As far as the racism etc, it's just a speculation that as we have a racism over someone skin colour, having multiple intelligent species (cause that's what they are) would cause even more prominent prejudice. Many stories see race as a big hurdle for people to overcome, and in many cases they may use the prejudice of elves as a proxy for our own racism, to explore the topic without making it about the topic.. many stories do that for many different topics that are hard to talk about head-on.

As far as starting wars and enslaving other races... again I'd say it falls back on good 'ol Tolkien, and his concept of the races... Tolkien saw each goodly race (Elves, Dwarves, and Humans... lets leave hobbits out of this one) as having it's own benefits... Elves and Dwarves are two opposite lifestyles, to compare it to the real world.. elves would be considered the religious, they trust in a higher power... and are creative and such... Dwarves are industrious, and rely on themselves and their own... humans are in the middle, and can be anywhere.. as a race, they are free to do as they wish, which... in Lord of the Rings... makes them powerful... It is also said that due to a humans mortality, they are more motivated to preform great things... there's lots of talk of it in the books, and i recommend reading em all, because they are great :P

long story short, i find videogames to be VERY lacking in story, characters, and everything else.... beyond the very basics of storytelling... creativity is unfortunately something that is very lacking in all but the oldest of games, most of todays games regurgitate a story, movie, or older game and only change a few things to give it a new spin.

04-05-2013, 06:01 PM
ps. great questions...

04-05-2013, 06:32 PM
This is all my opinion but here we go.

I think humans are usually the primary antagonists because the people who are creating them and the intended "consumer" find it easier to identify with them and there are plenty of real world human civilizations from which to draw reference.

Other things you'll note is that most of the human civilizations are also white skinned and often set in a medieval european like world. Another common thing is the whole "relics of a past civilization". Because european civilisation grew amongst the old relics of ancient Rome.

The humans might have a range of cultures as well but they'll often draw on real world examples (in dragon age for example, Ferelden is roughly english, and Orlais is french).

On the other hand other races tend to be "mono cultures" following established ideas (elves live in forests, dwarves live in the mountains, etc etc. There's not much ethnic diversity amongst them).

I think it's mostly subconscious or a case of people writing what they know and I admit I am partly guilty of the same thing although I have made an effort to avoid many of the traps. I'm not aware of many non-white non-european/american fantasy authors unfortunately. Which is a shame because I bet they would add some fresh ideas to the whole genre.

In regards to the racism from humans against other demi-humans, I think it is something of a lazy crutch myself. It seems people want to put in an edgy element of racism but they want to avoid the potential controversy of having humans doing it to each other due to skin colour or culture. Given it is a heated issue in real life, it's easier to just have all in-world racism directed at the demi-humans.

04-05-2013, 09:18 PM
May as well chime in because I've wondered what's wrong with this myself...

My feeling is it's hard to think outside the box. Obviously: Creative Thinkers in short supply. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21719784)

It is ridiculous to me how many movies show Humans as the winners against insurmountable odds. If there were other intelligent life out there and mankind was facing up against them, I really think man would loose and racism would be a big factor as to why.
Because of the inability to trust one another (or be trustworthy) humans have created a segregated planet. Even faced with a massive assault I doubt everyone would share what they know. As result they would be fighting with one hand behind their back if facing a united force. I'll leave this thought here for now because I don't really want to get into a social debate about what's wrong with humanity. At least it's not all bad...

Man is very warlike, hence, he's the one most likely to start a scuffle. He also is the top of the food chain as we know it and his inventiveness is amazing. It's hard to think of something more awesome than him. He breeds quickly, far more quickly than the definitions of other fantasy races. If you think about a long lived race it's easy to see how a spastic quick moving resourceful race would upset the scheme of things. If you lived forever you would probably put a lot more time into thinking about how you would do something instead of just doing it. For instance, these houses we have that are built to last 60 years or so...are you serious? Do you really want to be rebuilding your house all the time? I doubt it. You would probably figure out a way to do it right the first time so you didn't have to mess with it for at least 500 years. Thus, this kind of thinking would slow down how quickly you did things. I think this adds to the idea of man winning over Elves, etc. Man doesn't worry much about pollution if there is a profit to be made. There has to be laws or he just goes full steam ahead. He doesn't think a lot about the future issues of his actions. (Think about it next time you buy something like roofing shingles for you house....how many years warranty are you interested in? I bet you don't bother with that pricey lifetime one do you?) People don't even drive their cars until they are dust, they buy a new one as soon as they can. Hence, man is pretty short sighted and destructive. It works for him because he only lives to be 80 or so years old.

It's human thinking to believe we can overcome anything...At least it's an American idea from what I've learned from folks I've met around the world. And lets face it, for better or worse, Hollywood is in America.

I probably had more to say about this when I started but see the Ps. message. :-/

Ps. if this seems whacked in anyway I was interrupted several times while attempting to write it so my train of thought was all jumbled up.

Will Brawner
04-06-2013, 10:40 AM
I really like this discussion so far. Right now I'm in the process of making a map for a modern-day world that has Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Gnomes, and Humans. I'm definitely facing the danger of falling into a cliche trap like you said. I was thinking of having Elves be the most imperialistic race, a parallel for Europe in real-world history. The other races are imperialistic as well, just not tot he extent of the Elves. The Humans, however, will represent African cultures in the real world. They have had history stacked against them but are still growing strong. In this conworld, each of the five races will have a variety of cultures and ethnic groups within them. Some humans will be more antagonistic toward humans of a different skin color, than they are toward Elves or Dwarves. How does that sound?

Dornier Spy
04-06-2013, 01:24 PM
Thats sounds amazing, this discussion was placed due to the fact of curiousity as to "Why Humans always..." I didn't think to get such a great response from such a short time. Thanks for sharing your guys ideas with me.

04-06-2013, 02:15 PM
AHH !! Pride my favorite of the seven deadly sins. Definition of pride "I am always RIGHT and always in the RIGHT even when I am WRONG!!" I don't think it is the lack of imagination in RPG both on computer and tabletop or in fantasy movies and novels.It is the lack of acceptance that drives the market. The late George Carlin said "in more colorful words of course" Pride should be reserved for accomplishment not for Genetic accidents! People are PROUD to be this Nationality or that one; This race or that one; This religion or that one; This Sex or that one ; ETC... These are seen as accomplishments but usually just happens !!
So what does this have to do with the topic at hand ??? In the beginning being the best meant survival !! I don't think that has ever really changed except NOW it is about being right. Even when you're wrong !! Because Humans read books Humans are involved and are the major characters. Same for Movies, games etc. Humans will occasionally watch a movie with main characters not of the Human condition but only if the Human character is the dominant factor. We portray ourselves as the Heroes Because the Hero is Right. Even when the Villain is human in their mind they are justified with their evil so they are right. All other creatures in Fantasy are Villains or window dressing or Sidekicks.
In games this goes all the way back to the grandfather { D&D} for you Younger guys that was 1st edition "BLUE BOOK" Humans had unlimited advancement in their paltry 70 year (Optimistic) live spans . Others were highly limited. EX. A 40 year old Human Wizard could be 40lvl but the 3000 year old ELF (ugh dirty word) was limited to 12 or 15th lvl I believe! Most Players were Humans Males. So cater to their Egos.

In books Most Heroes were Human Males and Human Females got to be Damsels in distress. Recently this has changed some and Female Kickass women have become more common.Still not on even ground except as antagonistic love interests. Ex Everything series on TV.
Most media ; Games Books; Movies; Tv is so cookie cutter that when something "Different" comes along it either is a hit or it dreadfully bombs regardless of Merit. So cookie cutter is the most economically feasible option.

Another thought : In games and Movies even ; its really all about the ACTION . Story is there to get you from one action scene to another so it doesn't really need to be that original. This concept really P......me off !!! I like FX as much as the next guy but with out a good story and acting its like eating all the icing off the cake and leaving the cake . Gives me a Sugar rush but turns my stomach. WOW I am becoming obnoxious!!

So in closing What is Profitable is what is acceptable and what is acceptable is what is common. Stepping out of the box can get your toes stepped on so why bother. "I LOVE OUT OF THE BOX " of course I don't have to make a living of it !!!

04-06-2013, 02:15 PM
People think of themselves and their situations as normal, and anything else as "OtHeR". Tall people hear others remark on their height so much they know they're tall, but they subconsciously still think of the rest of the world as short. Identifying with folks who are OtHeR is mental work, and people tend to be lazy. It's tricky for instance to write nonhuman protagonists so the reader sympathizes with them, particularly when the bad guys are human. Cherryh's Chanur books succeed with the Hani, but in some ways her Hani are more human than the humans :-). When the hero sides with the good aliens over the evil humans you still have an underthought of "traitor to his own kind!"

So to focus primarily on the potentially fascinating nonhumans places a writer in the spot of turning off a lot of his readers. If his point is to tell a certain story, and it could work with humans ( or his own ethnic group, or language, or socioeconomic group) then to cast the story in a foreign setting is to obscure the point of the tale. That can work in reverse - to make a statement that will be hard for the audience to accept, one can set it in a strange place with unfamiliar people, and either reveal at the end it's ReAlLy *YOU* I am scolding, or better yet, leave it to the reader to draw inferences.

A creative setting can be a delight, and can allow one to explore situations normal to (say) white middle class Protestant English speakers... Particularly if one accepts a smaller than otherwise likely audience;-). Hey, if you're Already in the niche audience of fantasy or science fiction, maybe you're improving your audience -- among those already interested in otherness! The first necessity though is a good story. All the ingenious Worldbuilding possible, all the creative constructed language aside, I still won't care about a story (or map) if it isn't crafted well, plotted well, characterized well.

Perhaps as a generality it's good to suggest authors (etc) work with what they're familiar with, to first home their craft. But I'll cheerfully acknowledge if it is the attraction of a unique setting that draws you to create, then dive into the odd races and wierd worlds from the start! Just be ready to write and write and write and file away the first hundred of what you're making, till you get good enough to get people engaged with your UV-seeing, radar-communicating, argon-breathing centauroids :-). It's only an Isaac Asimov who typed finished copy from scratch. It's only a Tom Clancy who sells his very first novel. If you're like me and music - I assert I play strictly to amuse myself and annoy the cat - you can have a lot of fun with what you create, and if others happen to like it, fine. If not, also fine :-).

Cunning Cartographer
04-06-2013, 02:40 PM
On the flip side you are putting all "humans" in the same bracket.

"Why are humans either starting wars, or enslaving other races?"

They're not. SOME humans are, but similarly how you ask the question why are they racist towards other races but not to their own races with different skin, you yourself have just lumped all humans together :D In Dragon Age sure there are some bad humans about, but they're also the main faction that fight against the Blight, so they are both the good guys and the bad guys.

I think it's rare that the main antagonist or protagonist in any book, film or story is anything other than human (or humanoid) if the choice is there simply because we can associate with these characters better and their lifestyles, culture and history generally mirror our own to an extent.

04-10-2013, 12:14 PM
True Yospeck, and well.. everyone else :P I enjoy conversations like this.. mainly cause everyone is right, for different reasons, and its such a complex topic you can argue almost any point... I didn't mean to imply people are uncreative when making games and such, I just find that story usually comes near the end when there is so much more to do.. rules, visuals, programming, and everything else.. usually stories are crafted at the end, and when most games are already crunched for time, and a story is something that cannot be tangibly defined as "finished" I find at least for computer games, it gets a basic once over, and that's that... the easiest way to do so is to copy the gist of another popular story, fiction or non-fiction, or combinations of those. as well there are plenty of exceptions, so i don't want to seem like i think everyones story in a rpg game is crap.

I also believe it does come down to storytelling, and the concept of "write what you know"... it's easy for us to picture humans, because we ARE humans, and have thousands of years of human history to draw off of... a fictional race is much harder to define, because in essence, we probably can't mentally grasp how a drastically different race would act... it's also why different races tend to be humanoid, and also tend to model themselves after some other human empire or race... its easier to base them off of something we can actually understand.... Those that do successfully define, describe, and really understand how a fictional race works is rare indeed, and very hard to do. Even things like language, like elvish or dwarvish in LOTR, is usually a lifetime effort in itself... understanding and creating truely unique language in any way but a natural cultural change is extremely astounding to me, but the same would go for a culture, especially when they don't fall into the same aspects that humans fall into...

For me, the best i can think of still ends up using what i can learn... I'd look into the society of other animals for instance, prides and colonies, alpha males, etc... it'd be interesting to attempt to create a culture based on say, a lions pride... but also expand it beyond those limits, exploring the idea of lions that are intelligent, and how their culture would naturally evolve beyond the current, fairly small prides... it's look similar, but on a larger scale, and very different... how would an army work, what kind of caste system would their be, etc... again.. something you could spend a lifetime exploring.

04-10-2013, 01:40 PM
Hello all,

I have been playing Dragons Dogma, Dragon Age, Dragon...everything basically and I come to notice a few things about these games. Something I'd like some other people's opinions on (My roommate finds these games for the entertainment value and doesn't really see anything passed the screen). Not, I am not a racist in anyway. This is just a post to see what you guys think.

RS1: "Quit exploding, you cowards!" - Zapp Branigan, Futurama

In all fantasy games I have played, the Humans are always the dominate, if not one of which, species over the whole planet while species like the dwarves, the elves, the orcs, the...something else, are dying and/or extinct. But why, and why is it usually the humans that cause these actions. Such as in dragon age, all humans are racists towards Elves, but not racist towards the different colored skins of themselves. This has always questioned me and well, what do you guys think?

RS2: "You can't own me, you don't even know me!" - Bender, Futurama

Why are humans either starting wars, or enslaving other races. I'd like to have a game where the human's are owned by some other race. Thats just me, also why do the humans have the most advanced weapons other than ancient or godlike weapons. Thats all.

This is just my thoughts after playing a bunch of games.

I just wanted to point out, that in the world i have been building (stories for kindle) Humans are more often then not the slaves of other races. However, they take slaves themselves. The Empire race is my own creation, they are about American civil war era in terms of tech, black powder guns, metal war ships and electricity. They take slaves at every turn. They have no magical talent so they have started "breeding farms" where they try to cultivate the magic gene. Breeding humans and crossing them with other races.

Humans on the other hand are general fantasy type. Swords, magic and castles. I think they are the most wide spread race still though. Dwarves on the other hand unlike most fantasies are doing very well, they had their "almost extinct" moment and have since brought they population back up to happy levels.

Anyway i could go on for days talking about it. Glad to see other people have noticed these things too.

04-10-2013, 02:20 PM
With regards to the racism question, i think in the real world its a problem to do with fear of different people. ion a fantasy world filled with orcs elves and goblins, i think mankinds natural tendencies to fear the different and unknown will pick out the elves and orcs and whatnots above the different coloured/ethnicities of humanity. though its an interesting subject in its own right

with regards to humans being the dominant race... its a cliche (though cliches arent in their nature bad... perhaps trope is a better term) and im guilty of this myself. But try look at it in a roundabout way - its like any action or horror movie. the main character is the main character because s/he is the survivor. imagine it as a true story - youre not going to adapt the tale of the first victim into a movie, youre going to base your story around the survivor, thus making him/her the main character.

imagine the races in a fantasy setting in the same way - humans are the pov races because theyre the most dominant (ie the survivors) - however that happens can be the focus of the story. If the dominant race was something other than humans, the same logic applies.

think that makes sense...

EDIT: when i read the thread title i assumed the thread was going to be about unwashed rotund bearded guys hanging out in comicbook stores...

04-14-2013, 03:34 AM
In the Ancient World race didn't mean much. I learned about how the Roman emperors came from different cultures. All were equally evil. I think if humanity could coexist with anything with a brain the Neanderthals would still be alive. If human mythology gives any clue to reality, legends are laced with stories of how we overcame the giants and whatever existed before us. We are just best at out competing other species. Even if we coevolved with elves, dwarves and orcs, we would have wiped them out or have been wiped out before we reached the Mideval Period to duke it out in our fantasy RPGs. Dragons are the most known victims of zenophobia I know about. I think humanity in Ancient Times was better suited for a united front against whatever threat there is than the modern population we think of. In Ancient Times wars were over land, religion and resources rather than race itself like today. I really doubt that we as a species could get along and coexist with any other sentient life form. We even slaughter dolphins for no reason in various parts of the world. Humanity is born with fear and we evolved from a prey species that was eaten by the Big Cats in Africa. We are born with fear of anything new. It saved us from extinction, but it does terrible for an original story.

None of the mythical races have the all around enginuity of humans. Each race seems to be and exageration of a human quality. Dwarves are greed, Elves are grace, Orces are anger, Giants are Ego, Mermaids are Lust, Fairies are Innocence, you get the idea. They are aspects of ourselves. As a person with a learning disability, I can vouch for these sentient mythical races. They stand no chance if we can't get along with ourselvs. I really doubt we'll ever get along with another species with technology and a civilization independent of our making. It would really suck if an advanced alien race from outer space came to Earth with human values, we would really be f***ed. I get descriminated because my mind thinks differently. So this prejudice runs deep and for people born different it was never good.

A good RPG would probably have no humans and let the mythical races duke it out or tell some sort of story about their lives. I'm sure these mythical races would make a really good story of their perceived history or a totally made up history before humans existed, since mythology says these races existed before man. Was the fall of Atlantis caused by a mythical race? Come on people, lets see where this one goes.

04-14-2013, 05:26 PM
Well, my published Kaidan setting of Japanese horror dwells in the 'humans first' racist trope, not due to lack of creativity, rather to fit the concept of a dark fantasy Asian world that somewhat fits historical feudal Japan. And it's not just against non-humans, but consider the word "gaijin" which means 'long noses' referring to westerners and meaning 'barbarous' to a degree - it is somewhat derogatory. However, the first module of my Kaidan introductory trilogy, the Curse of the Golden Spear (http://paizo.com/products/btpy8msl?The-Gift-Curse-of-the-Golden-Spear-1), which feature visiting 'western' adventurers accompanying a merchant in the delivery of a 'gift' to an exotic realm - all the PCs are considered gaijin by the Kaidanese populace, and stated so multiple times in that adventure trilogy.

Like the Japanese of the feudal era, the Kaidanese are a very xenophobic people. The non-humans of Kaidan: kappa, kitsune, korobokuru, hengeyokai, and tengu hide in the wilderness, knowing that most samurai, if not most Kaidanese will kill them on sight or run away in horror. Though many such beings can shapechange into human or animal form and blend in to the crowd. With this point of view, however, non-human gaijin, can expect an especially frosty interaction with the Kaidanese.