I know quite a few of you roleplay or have roleplayed, and some of you roleplay with me. gildedage and I were talking yesterday about how since quizzicalsphinx's Faucon died, I've played the only black characters in our RPG.* There are a few characters of East Asian or South American descent in the game, and several fantasy races that are not white-- but who are not reflective of any real Earth ethnicity in looks. (To fill in those of you who are unfamiliar with the game setting, there are Earth characters who have been transported from another world, so the characters I'm talking about are actually half-French, half-African.)
*Oops, I realized this isn't exactly accurate. There are two black characters played by other people. I forgot about them because they don't get a ton of play.
I don't want to make this about me and my roleplaying characters, though, I'm more interested in starting up a discussion about this, but all I really have to go on are my own observations and experiences, so if this sounds too much like I'm trying to set an example, that's not my intent. There are very few non-white characters in internet roleplaying. In some games, this has to do with the fandom not being POC-friendly. In others, it just seems like everybody plays white people even when there is an opportunity to play characters of color. There is a weird subset of things like J-Rock games where people only play Japanese pop stars, and things like that, but in typical roleplaying games, and not just ones with Eurocentric fantasy settings, there are very rarely POC characters. There are so few, and the ones I see are so usually played by me, that I can't even make a judgment about whether they are played well-- I am sure I make mistakes, but I do try to read as much as I can when creating a character who isn't from the same culture that I am and not just play them as an exoticized stereotype. I feel like a lot of the time when I do see characters of color-- and this does not apply to the game I'm currently in, but ones I've seen elsewhere-- they are usually female and over-sexualized-- Arabic women who act like harem girls, East Asian women who act like Geisha, and so on.
I know that I have played characters who've come across as bad stereotypes in the past, and I blame part of that on the fact hat I was playing in a game world based on a series of books that were incredibly offensive in terms of the level of cultural appropriation, now that I look back on them, but that doesn't really excuse me not recognizing that.
I want to ask those of you who roleplay a few questions. I didn't do this as a poll because I felt like if you want to go in depth on one question and not answer the others, that is cool. Please feel free to keep your answers as long or as short as possible, and don't feel obliged to answer them all:
--Are you from a very ethnically diverse place, or a more homogeneous place? (That is, do you see a lot of people who all look ethnically very different on a daily basis?)
--Do you gravitate toward playing characters who look like you or look like the people you see every day?
--If you play in canon games with canonical characters of color, do you notice any trends in terms of how quickly or slowly those characters are picked up, or how they are played compared to the white characters?
--If you play in games that allow original characters in settings that allow for a diverse cast, do you notice any trends in characters creation in terms of people playing different ethnicities?
--Have you ever played in a game that included human or human-like characters in a game setting that absolutely left no freedom to play a character who was not white and of European or European-like descent?
--Have you ever had a character application turned down because the character was not white?
--Have you ever felt like people wanted to play with you less, or treated you or your character differently because your character was a person of color?
If you are a person of color, or a white person who considers yourself part of an underrepresented or poorly represented ethnic minority:
--Do you see people who look like you in roleplaying games where the setting allows it? (I mean ethnically, not in a Mary Sue type way)
--Do you frequently find that playing someone who looks like you is not possible in a game setting?
--Have you ever felt like people wanted to play with you less, or treated you or your character differently because your character looked like you?
--Have you ever been upset or frustrated by someone else's portrayal of a character from your ethnicity?
--If you were to give advice to someone not of your ethnicity thinking about playing someone of your ethnicity, what would it be? ("Don't do it" is an acceptable answer)
If any of these questions offend anybody or overlook something I'm totally missing because I'm coming at this from a white POV, I apologize and please let me know-- I'll add or edit if anyone has suggestions. And if you want to answer these questions for another minority group-- your religion, sexual orientation, health concern, or whatever, that is cool, too.
ETA, because I just thought of this-- if anyone has particularly positive or negative stories about playing a character of color, or just playing a character of a different ethnicity from yourself and would be willing to share them, even if they don't answer one of the questions above, I would love to hear them and I am sure other people would, too.
If you are a tabletop, live action, or otherwise Real Life roleplayer and don't mind adjusting the questions to fit your roleplaying experiences, or want to compare anything you've seen in those games to what you've seen online, that would be awesome, too.