Following on from Matt and Jeremy’s statement regarding IRE’s solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, I want to take a moment to talk to you about how we in Lusternia are taking action to address not only systemic racism within Lusternia, but other institutions of prejudice that have over the years grown within our world like weeds.
There is a time and a place for all stories. Stories allow us insight into another person’s experience. They allow us to come to understand one another better, even if we can never do so fully. As such, it is imperative that all stories be told by the people who have experenced them, that we can learn from them. There is a time and a place for stories about slavery; for stories about rape; for stories about abuse. Written by own voices, these stories are incredibly powerful and must be told.
But Lusternia is not a story told by one person, to those who would choose to read it. It is a story that lives in everyone who comes to it, be they player or admin. It is very different to writing a novel. Because the moment we include any of those stories, we exclude those who are oppressed by them. People who come to this world to find and create themselves, who then find that they cannot imagine themselves free of the hatred of the outside world.
As developers of a living, ever-developing gameworld, it is our duty to ensure that our world is inclusive of all. And that means working to address the ways that that hatred has crept into our game. This injection of hatred does not happen knowingly; it does it insidiously, carried often on the tropes of the fantasy genre and things that (in its white cis male dominated history) are normalised when they shouldn’t be.
We have previously pledged that, going forward, we will be mindful of such things and ensure we do not include tropes or topics or characters or otherwise that are extentions of our world’s terrible prejudices. We are comitted to this. But this is not enough.
Lusternia contains many racist tropes. Lusternia contains many kinds of slavery. Lusternia has a race that is the product of rape. Lusternia has a quest involving child sacrifice. Until recently, there were instances of the pejorative term ‘gypsy’, and it was not possible to play a character of non-binary gender. I could keep going. There are many, many things in Lusternia that evoke or reinforce prejudice, and to address this properly we must address them all – not only matters of racism.
Our current plans are to begin research into recommendations made by minority-led advocacy groups, to educate ourselves on the wider prejudice present in the fantasy genre, and to consult with minority players and admin regarding what requires addressing and where lines should be drawn. We want to ensure we dismantle the structures of prejudice, whilst also ensuring that Lusternia remains a complex world of evil and good and everything inbetween. This does not mean that we will necessarily completely remove the things that people are concerned about, or that we will be radically changing Lusternia’s story. We will consider on an individual basis what is best to do to address the problems, and tailor our actions appropriately. This process will not be quick, because it is important to address this seriously and as well-informed as possible, and because it’s important to remember that the movement is a marathon, not a sprint.
For some time we have wanted to address many of these issues, but we have not placed doing so at a high enough priority. So I am making this statement not simply to offer solidarity to the need to raise up those who have been abused by society, but to pledge that as a team, Lusternia’s developers will be working to assess and undo these structures within our gameworld. That we will be giving this a higher priority than we have been. We know that this is not easy.
As such, I would like to invite anyone who is discomforted by an aspect of our gameworld to contact me privately to express those concerns. Please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and know that any submissions you make will be kept anonymous.
If you find yourself uncertain or unaware of some of the issues we are problematising here, I encourage you to visit the following resources to educate yourself on the inclusivity issues present in the fantasy genre. Remember that it is not the duty of the oppressed to educate you – this is something we must all do ourselves, from the many resources available:
- Black AF Roundtable – a discussion between black members of the online TTRPG community about racism in RPG culture
- How You Can Support Black Gamers – an excellent article listing several resources for supporting black people in the gaming community
- The urgency of intersectionality – a TED talk on the relationship between racism and sexism
- A huge, crowdsourced list of education resources for racism, including a glossary of terms
- A Framework for Decolonising Speculative Fiction – an article from Tor.com
- Racism in Fantasy – a blog discussion about the prevalence of racism in fantasy, by a book blogger
- 7 Casually Racist Things That White Authors Do – a very clear article about some of the pitfalls in fantasy novels
- Race in the Fantasy Genre – a blog study of varied fantasy worlds and the hidden racism within them
- What Is Privilege? – a video from BuzzFeed’s As-Is that clearly displays what privilege is