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  • Originally posted by Omegaphallic View Post
    But that doesn't mean the authors of these books were racist, it just means there is room for depth and polished and new ideas and innovations in these settings.
    I can't agree with this statement. Intent is not as important as results, and harmful results are racist even if a creator doesn't think of themselves as racist. At best, and in the most forgiving sense, creators who say they were well intention are often guilty of benign patronizing and condescending behavior towards the peoples and cultures they are exploiting for a game. And benign racism and exploitation is still racism.

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    • It’s possible to do things by accident.

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      • Just because someone published a product that didn't handle certain ideas involving another culture perfectly or even just well doesn't mean that person is a racist or deserves to be called a racist. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes people have ideas but they aren't up to the task of presenting them correctly. And sometimes people have good intentions but but things sounded better in their head than they came out on paper. Those cases can most definitely be failures but it doesn't necessarily mean that the person who failed is also a racist.

        When people intentionally misuse other cultural groups or intentionally present them in dehumanizing or derogatory ways, then by all means call them out as racists. When people don't present another culture perfectly but had good intentions, then the best course of action is not to declare them racist but instead to point out where they went wrong and what the problem is so that the next time they won't make that mistake again.

        I'd also be a bit weary of telling telling people of various ethno-cultural groups that they will be considered racists if they attempt to produce content that involves cultural ideas from a different ethno-culture group and it doesn't come out flawless and beyond reproach.

        That's a potentially dangerous idea to have since at that point (as an example) many white creators will go back to creating media products that only deal with "white" cultural heritage since the risk of being labeled as racist for trying to include non-white cultural groups but not doing so perfectly would be too high (especially in an era where people can lose their jobs or receive death threats over accusations of being racist).

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        • It’s not like “working with people from a given culture to make sure their depiction of that culture isn’t awful” was only invented after these books were published.


          He/him

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          • Not at all, but even when you do work closely with people from a given culture to make sure the depiction of the culture isn't awful, your product can still hit some sour notes like Ghost of Tsushima did. The game ended up being well received by Japanese individuals and is well regarded there. It was more poorly received by Japanese Americans. Does this mean that the game is racist? Are the creators are racists?

            Ultimately, I think that if the intent is to produce something in a way respectful way and if meaningful steps were taken to try and make the product respectful (like, for example, working with people from the culture to try and depict things accurately as was the case with Ghost of Tsushima) then if the product still ends up being flawed the creators should be given leeway for their good intentions and recognition of the steps they took to engage in a positive cultural depiction, rather than accusing the creators of being racist.

            Basically it's possible for a product to fall somewhat short in places, despite working hard to depict another culture accurately and fairly. Few things in life are perfect, after all. And while racism among the creators is one possible reason for why there could be flaws in a product dealing with another culture, even when people from that culture are closely worked with, there are other possibilities as well, and I think it's unfair to accuse content creators of being racist, when they take reasonable steps to depict another culture in a positive way, but still end up with a product that that has flaws.
            Last edited by AnubisXy; 03-13-2021, 04:21 AM.

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            • Accidental double post, sorry.
              Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 03-13-2021, 04:21 AM.


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              • Note that Grumpy RPG Reviews wasn’t saying intent isn’t at all important - just that it’s eclipsed by the results. After all, absent magical mind reading we can only speculate about intent, but we can look at the impact of a person’s actions.

                (Also there’s been some conflation between different types of racism here, probably we all could stand to be clearer with our definitions.)


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                • Ideally if you want to "lead a cultural conversation" about how to better portray countries and cultures in media (if that's, like your career choice or how you make money from media), then there is a strong obligation on you to engage with and integrate the opinions of diaspora and people living in home nations, to the utmost degree to which you have resources, because both sides have something to add and silencing either is not really right.

                  But say, you're instead someone who is a consumer just looking to find out "Is this Japanese set videogame that seems exciting to me to play and experience something which is honest and true to Japanese history, or something which badly misrepresents the country in ways that people who know a lot about it would object to, and that dampens my enthusiasm for it?". There are lots of other demands on your time, like starting a career and family, socialising with your friends, looking after relatives and so on, which all have a prior and far more important claim on your time. In that case, I would say its a good, quick heuristic to just trust the Japanese-in-Japan where there is any conflict with diaspora ideas (in this case including from a wide conversation involving lots of Asian-Xs who are not even Japanese in background). It seems like a proportionate response, given the limitations on your time.

                  In either cases though, I think it's worth noting that ideally conversations should be checked by experts (who ideally are not biased by any pressures of involvement in any kind of political activism; experts are no better, and often worse, if they have personal or class conflicts of interest and are heavily engaged in politics). Recent example - Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. Looked like an exciting recreation of a time period, but learned when historians looked at it that it has a litany of historical sins and ones I can remember; Chock-full of "mystical Celt" stereotypes. Inaccurate hyper-exaggerated versions of British and Norwegian landscapes (snow in harvest time, snow-capped peaks from hills in the Yorkshire Dales). Roman ruins surviving well-beyond the era they'd be rubble, much larger English cities than in reality. Stave churches and fully built cathedrals all over the landscape where they're out of both time and place. Playing down violence of Viking colonialism. And probably more. So it's probably a "Why didn't they just make a fantasy game in the first place?" one to avoid. That sort of thing is where unbiased historians of whichever origins can tell us more than either the broad-slate of public opinion from a home country or diaspora.

                  Originally posted by Sith_Happens View Post
                  While it’s certainly interesting when the people being depicted or used for inspiration receive the work differently than expats or descendants thereof in the place of publication, it’s not a “Who’s right” issue. The former are the preferred authorities on accuracy while the latter are usually who you’re trying to avoid harm to, which are interdependent but still distinct goals.
                  Getting into concerns about harm when thinking about history can be kind of a sticky business though, because it can lead you away from truth (if truth seems potentially harmful somehow) and that can eventually prove fatal for the whole enterprise of objective history.

                  If we do consider harm though, I'm not sure the scales are just so balanced that way. The most credible it seems to me of harms from a bad historical depiction are those of cultural imperialism and the spread of a distorted mono-cultural perspective. For an analogy, historians of Scotland just pure have hard hate for Mel Gibson's 1990s film Braveheart, because it portrayed history in a completely false manner, and has displaced attempts to build accurate history with a complete imagination, completely falsely depicting a likely French-speaking Norman knightly nobleman from the 1200s, who would've dressed and spoken much as his opponents did, as a much later tartan-donning Gaelic highland clan leader for the sake of nationalistic romantic cinematic appeal.

                  When making the film Gibson no doubt thought he was both doing good and making money and paying tribute to his ancestral connections, as a diasporic man of mixed Scottish-Irish-Australian-American background, but the cultural imperialism of the film in its imprint in the Scottish imagination has proved difficult and annoying to roll back! Those kind of distorted histories, amplified by the power of Hollywood and the wealth of America, tend to be long-lasting,because people simply have no direct experience to counter them, while on the other hand untrue stereotypes about people tend to quickly fade with experience and interaction where that proves them false and the reality reveals itself.

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                  • Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
                    Note that Grumpy RPG Reviews wasn’t saying intent isn’t at all important - just that it’s eclipsed by the results. After all, absent magical mind reading we can only speculate about intent, but we can look at the impact of a person’s actions.

                    (Also there’s been some conflation between different types of racism here, probably we all could stand to be clearer with our definitions.)

                    That's worth considering. For me, the definition of racism has, in our social media driven world, almost become secondary to the effect that calling someone a racist is. Accusations of racism can cost people to lose their jobs, lose the ability to work in an industry, get them doxxed, hit with death threats, get them banned from being able to conduct business with certain companies, etc. Getting accused of being a racist can upend someone's life. John Schnatter (Papa John) is a racist for using the N-word. Amy Cooper (the woman who called the police on a black man who was innocently in a dog park) is a racist who lost her job for her actions due to public outcry.

                    But one problem is that there's no actual definition of racist. If someone were to accuse the developers/writers/programmers of (say) Ghost of Tsushima of being racist, many people might put them in the same category of people like John Schnatter and Amy Cooper. Do those people deserve to be in such a category and be treated in a similar way, losing their jobs, maybe being barred from the profession, and being tarred and feather on social media because their game (which they worked closely with people from Japan on, and which was popular and well received in Japan) was not so well received with Japanese-Americans?

                    We live in a world where there isn't any grey area for racists where you can say, "Well these guys are racists and deserve to lose their jobs, but these guys are racists and don't." The label of racist is a very heavy one, and I simply think people should be discerning about whom they attach it to.

                    Ultimately I'm all in favor of racists losing their jobs, getting kicked out of their professions and feel that that's all something they have coming. At the same time though I don't know that, that having worked hard to make a product that's culturally respectful and that the creators worked with people from that culture on, it would be reasonable to accuse people of being racists simply because their attempt at cultural positivity was maybe not quite as successful as it could have been.

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                    • Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post


                      That's worth considering. For me, the definition of racism has, in our social media driven world, almost become secondary to the effect that calling someone a racist is. Accusations of racism can cost people to lose their jobs, lose the ability to work in an industry, get them doxxed, hit with death threats, get them banned from being able to conduct business with certain companies, etc. Getting accused of being a racist can upend someone's life. John Schnatter (Papa John) is a racist for using the N-word. Amy Cooper (the woman who called the police on a black man who was innocently in a dog park) is a racist who lost her job for her actions due to public outcry.

                      But one problem is that there's no actual definition of racist. If someone were to accuse the developers/writers/programmers of (say) Ghost of Tsushima of being racist, many people might put them in the same category of people like John Schnatter and Amy Cooper. Do those people deserve to be in such a category and be treated in a similar way, losing their jobs, maybe being barred from the profession, and being tarred and feather on social media because their game (which they worked closely with people from Japan on, and which was popular and well received in Japan) was not so well received with Japanese-Americans?

                      We live in a world where there isn't any grey area for racists where you can say, "Well these guys are racists and deserve to lose their jobs, but these guys are racists and don't." The label of racist is a very heavy one, and I simply think people should be discerning about whom they attach it to.

                      Ultimately I'm all in favor of racists losing their jobs, getting kicked out of their professions and feel that that's all something they have coming. At the same time though I don't know that, that having worked hard to make a product that's culturally respectful and that the creators worked with people from that culture on, it would be reasonable to accuse people of being racists simply because their attempt at cultural positivity was maybe not quite as successful as it could have been.
                      There is a quote from one of my favorite youtubers/streamers "We let perfect be the enemy of good" Which means some people won't accept anything that isn't a perfect depiction, or a perfect solution, or a perfect whatever and that's how I feel a lot of people act. I think Sukerpunch did everything that could be asked of them, but its not perfect therefore its bad. So I agree with you. Their attempt at cultural positivity was not as successful but I still feel it was pretty damn good and much better then most.

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                      • When we’re discussing a topic in this kind of detail, we should endeavour to avoid essentialist language where we make a leap from criticising a person's actions and body of work to criticising the person themselves.

                        It makes adhering to the forum rules easier and keeps everyone on the same page.


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                        • Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
                          Note that Grumpy RPG Reviews wasn’t saying intent isn’t at all important - just that it’s eclipsed by the results. After all, absent magical mind reading we can only speculate about intent, but we can look at the impact of a person’s actions.
                          Thank you for this - I appreciate it.

                          Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
                          But one problem is that there's no actual definition of racist.
                          This reminds me of a story about the definition of "pornography."

                          In a SCOTUS case, Justice Potter Stewart wrote "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."

                          Racism, sexism, and so forth are similar; probably hard to define intelligibly (or at least to define in less than several thousand words). But we know it when we see it. And it's the harm that matters. The praise Ghost of Tsushima received from people in Japan does not erase the harm felt by Japanese people living in America.

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                          • Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
                            This reminds me of a story about the definition of "pornography."

                            In a SCOTUS case, Justice Potter Stewart wrote "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."

                            Racism, sexism, and so forth are similar; probably hard to define intelligibly (or at least to define in less than several thousand words). But we know it when we see it. And it's the harm that matters. The praise Ghost of Tsushima received from people in Japan does not erase the harm felt by Japanese people living in America.
                            The problem is that while racism is hard to define, again people lose their jobs and receive death threats because they're racist and sometimes even just accusations of being racists (which as I said earlier, is fair enough if the individuals are racist). But do you feel that the developers/writers/programmers of Ghost of Tsushima deserve to be put into the same box as someone like John Schatter or Amy Cooper?

                            At the end of the day if a company undertakes steps for cultural positivity, works closely with people from a culture, and has their product received well by most people in that culture, does this make them racists because a few people from that culture or who have origins in that culture (and note that there are many Japanese-Americans who are perfectly happy with Ghost of Tsushima and don't view the game as hurtful) are not entirely happy with the outcome of the product?

                            I feel that it's possible, even likely, that no matter how hard someone works, how closely they work with people from another culture, how much effect they put into creating a product that is respectful and positive towards a culture, they could still end up with a product that some people feel doesn't live up to their standards (not very many people can make a flawless, perfect product and some people have standards that are simply impossible to meet). This means that essentially, no matter how hard someone works or what steps they undertake, if they try to make a product about another culture and fail to do so flawlessly in a way that can please everyone, then they deserve to be considered racists and put in the same box as someone like John Schatter or Amy Cooper.

                            In such a case I fear that the end result is that either people will simply shrug off being called racist - (what's the point of going out of my way to produce culturally positive work if I'm going to end up being called and considered a racist at the end no matter what?). Or they will simply avoid including other cultures in their work entirely - (better stick to only depicting white European culture rather than try to respectfully include other cultures in my products, that way nobody can accuse me of being racist because I was unable to perfectly depict those other cultures). Or many people will simply avoid creating content entirely because they'll feel like they're stuck between a rock and hard place - (if I don't depict other cultures in my product people will call me a racist, but if I try and depict other cultures and work really, really hard to do so in a positive way but end up failing to do so perfectly that will also make me a racist).

                            Ultimately I just disagree with the idea that intent doesn't matter, that a person who is intentionally racist and disrespectful (throwing out the N-word for example) is no different from someone who worked really hard to be respectful, worked with people from another culture to create a product that is respectful but simply ended up with a product that wasn't universally well received.

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                            • Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                              There's a big difference between now and the 90s. In the 90s, research was hard, and often relied on rather terrible material from the 19th century that the information age hadn't called out yet. Now, most of that shit doesn't stand. So, if you take the time to look at things properly, you can find anything. But I suppose you still get idiots that write shit like Mulan...
                              That's not remotely true. Research is, of course, a skill in itself, and is always hard, regardless of the extent to which you might rely upon the Internet or not. But the 1990s were not appreciably worse than the present in terms of material which was available to people who wished to do research; anybody relying on material from the C19th was just not trying.

                              It is kind of interesting going back to the discussions that were being had about White Wolf products in the mid to late 1990s, when it was not uncommon for books about areas outside of America to be met with criticism for their lack of research. There were, of course, a lot of responses from writers along the lines of "This is hard!" and "Actually, I'm right!" When one of the books in the Giovanni Chronicles stated that the River Thames flowed from east to west, there were more than a few people who defended this information on the basis that the writer was correct, and everyone who had ever lived in London or had looked at a map were wrong...


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                              • Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post

                                That's not remotely true. Research is, of course, a skill in itself, and is always hard, regardless of the extent to which you might rely upon the Internet or not. But the 1990s were not appreciably worse than the present in terms of material which was available to people who wished to do research; anybody relying on material from the C19th was just not trying.
                                Perhaps if you're at a professional level, you may be correct, but for a layman, no. I distinctly remember, during the early 2000's, getting taught the narrative of -Classic era good, medieval era bad- at school, among other very silly historical things (Nobody knows why they used straight swords....) . You would have to actually hire an expert for your film to completely ignore if you wanted to pretend your film had some attempt at accuracy. Let's not even go into psychology, where the pulpy quackery of frued is still taught today like it's something anyone should learn, nor should we go into nutrition, where common knowledge has been based on a few unfounded assertions that only a small and unheard-of subset of nutritionists have ever contested. Maybe you're right and contemporary culture wasn't so difficult to get accurate information for, but it'd be the odd one out in a long list of things people were getting consistently wrong. Someone with a low budget, say, someone writing an RPG supplement, probably doesn't have the budget to hire an expert knowlede, so the quality of high-level sources isn't nearly as relevant as the quality and number of easily accessible sources.
                                Last edited by MyWifeIsScary; 03-14-2021, 02:45 AM.


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