07 June 2015

Race Relations - Character Diversity in RPGs

I'm sharing with you a concept I learned in my Global Communication class, the idea of a message coming down to the basic human condition. What better way to explore the condition of race and diversity, on a level we can each see for ourselves. Don't get defensive. Just know that we are all racist in some aspect or another. Accept it, find it in your own lives, and then deal with it. Now, I'll explain how we can do this.

Let's say in a classic text based role-playing game (RPG) every class of character is built with a different set of properties. So for example, I may play a human at 6'1" and maybe 210 lbs. If I have 200 hit points, 85 endurance points, and 300 spell points, as a basic human, I will have different reactions in game movement than another character of a different race.

If I get hit badly, I may lose a lot of blood (hit points), but then I might heal faster than the other guy. I may elect to heal myself by eating various types of food items or by consuming healing potions obtained within the gaming environment. Otherwise, I could be a cheap ass and wait for time to pass in order to heal my wounds.

A game may have a timer on restoration of hit points and maybe one set of characters has a different calculation in rate of restoration than another. That's how you distinguish races/classes in an RPG, in other words, diversity!

If the other guy is a cleric, he can heal himself with his spell points, which also restore at a particular rate with time. Either way, the dynamics of gaming, together in this sense, can be very rewarding or very exasperating. Diversity is a wonderful thing. You expend points dependent upon the situation: how aggressive the creature is, how much energy is required to swing your weapon, how far away you are in proximity to the creature, and even how protected you are with the armor you are wearing.

When fighting beside another character in a party, you have to be mindful of one another, else things could become fatal. One situation you might find yourself in is becoming idle, waiting because you are partying with someone who doesn't mind sitting around healing with the passing of time rather than using other resources like food and potions to bind their wounds (maybe they didn't know where to acquire such resources, but how would you know). One such example happened to me years ago, when my character was out hunting with an elf. I say the word elf with derision and note how classless they are. Now that's racist!

The examples I show below will have a black background because that's my favorite config when it comes to text based RPGs. So, after an exhausting battle with an aggressive ogre, I looked at my partner the elf, and this is what I saw:

He is in critical condition!

The text is in red to connote blood. The next stage after healing a bit might be something like so:

He is bleeding profusely!

This movement from one stage of injury to the next would indicate he is getting better (his hit points are slowly being restored) and we would be able to continue on and look for other creatures to kill, but in the condition he was in (critical), it was best to remain where we were - out of harms way. Patience may be a virtue, but I don't have any while gaming because...well just because. I alternated screens while waiting for him to heal. I decided to do some writing, so my attention was elsewhere until I returned about 15 minutes later to see the following text on my screen:

Elf says, "So, what you been up too?"

Elf looks at you.

Elf pokes you.

Elf says, "You must be thinking really hard about something."

Elf dances around and snorts.

I felt guilty as hell. I should have taken the time to role-play and get to know the character a bit. Maybe some interesting dialogue might have occurred. But, this was a missed opportunity.

I take another look at the elf:

He is in critical condition!

What the hell?! Now I'm pissed because this guy is such a cheap asshole. I never played an elf so I have no idea why he's not healing quicker, but I'll be damned if I wait around all night for this fucker to heal. I know food costs money, but time is money for me as well, maybe not for him.

You say to Elf, "EAT something!"

Then I realize how lame I was being. This is completely out of character in a game where role-play is strictly enforced. What should have happened was something like so:

You kneel beside Elf.
You say to Elf, "Here, let me bind some of your wounds."
You give sirloin steak to Elf.
You give sirloin steak to Elf.
You give sirloin steak to Elf.

Elf consumes sirloin steak.
Elf consumes sirloin steak.
Elf consumes sirloin steak.

You look at Elf.

He is slightly wounded.

You give Elf a thumbs up!

You say, "Ready?"

Elf nods.

Elf exits North
You exit North

If this makes you giggle, fine! But that's how we do it. Now, when you look at it from this perspective, it is kind of funny, but hell...you can't beat text based RPGs.

When we gamers get together like this, we bond like no other group of people you will ever meet! If the rest of the world could show some tolerance and compassion for one another like so, it might be a better world. Just saying.

I can only imagine how the perspective must have looked from the other side.

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