Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Importance of Inclusiveness

Over a week ago, Wizards of the Coast released the D&D Basic Rules, a free PDF presenting the most basic version of the new edition's rules. Like with every edition of the game, there are some who love it, some who hate it, and a few who either fall somewhere in between those two extremes or feel completely indifferent. Although I've already given my own impressions of the new edition (HERE), there's a specific piece of text found within the PDF that seems to be getting a lot of attention that I'd like to talk about for just a moment.

In Chapter 4, which talks about developing your character's background and personality, the following paragraph from the section entitled "Sex" can be found:
"You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide.
While the above paragraph isn't perfect and a few people have pointed out how the language targeting transgender characters in particular is a little problematic because it perpetrates the use of a "single story", many gamers (like myself) have praised the paragraph because it represents a more inclusive attitude and a step in the right direction for Wizards of the Coast.

Of course, there are some individuals who feel like this really isn't that big of a deal, wondering why its so important to point this stuff out within a game that's about adventurers exploring ancient ruins to retrieve lost treasures. Because this is such an important topic to me, I thought I'd try to explain why I believe the inclusive attitude present within the above paragraph is important.

Its no secret that people like to see themselves represented within their media. This representation gives us a stronger sense of self, an affirmation of identity, and gives us something we can relate to within the narrative. For those of us who belong to groups or communities that are often ignored within mainstream media, representation is of special importance. It helps show that we are no different from everyone else, that we are not abnormal or something to be feared, that we are just like you and deserve the same amount of representation as you.

Making roleplaying games more inclusive is good because it helps people who tend to be excluded or ignored feel welcome. They can look at this simple paragraph and see their identity matters, just like the everyone else's. Paizo figured this out and has been pretty inclusive since the first volume of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path (which included a paladin NPC who happened to be gay and in a loving relationship). People have cried foul in the past, claiming this level of inclusiveness doesn't fit a setting based on the Middle Ages. However, if we were to follow that logic, we'd have to severely limit the roles for women within the setting as well due to their treatment during the time. Also, its a game about having a fun time adventuring in a fantastical world. I think its okay to have some anachronisms.

Although its just a simple, little paragraph within a single chapter, the paragraph is a good sign that shows WoTC is at least trying to be inclusive and make the game a much more welcoming product. I think that's a pretty good thing.