Author Lucy Hounsom loves the diversity in RPGs
I’ ve clocked up over 1,000 hours on the Dragon Age games, around 650 on Skyrim and countless more on
Morrowind and Oblivion. Why? Because I love stealing stuff. Okay, there are also fantastic quests, fascinating characters, beautiful landscapes and, most importantly, diversity.
We talk about the need for diversity in books, especially genre fiction, but these RPGs have been ahead of the game ( excuse the pun) for years. Diversity is a vast term, covering all manner of social, religious and political behaviours. It’s about racial representation, sexual freedom and being given the chance to choose our own paths. RPGs like Skyrim and Dragon
Age allow you to customise your character, everything from race and gender to skin colour and skill sets. No one is being forced to empathise with a protagonist modelled on someone else’s worldview. You don’t even have to be a hero. Your means and methods are your own. Relationships are a big part of
Dragon Age and aren’t restricted to conventional models. The latest game, Inquisition, discusses homosexual and transgender characters in a refreshingly modern way, giving the player a chance to interact with these individuals and their storylines. There aren’t many epic fantasy novels that offer the same breadth of experience – perhaps because they’re chiefly constructed by a single person rather than a team of creatives, each of whom brings their unique perspective to the creative process.
A diverse world is a realistic world and the realms of Thedas and Tamriel necessarily come with their own sets of prejudices. Walk into the Winter Palace in Orlais as an elf or mage and, despite your status as Inquisitor, you’ll receive a chilly welcome. Play as commoner or noble and society judges you accordingly.
We shouldn’t underplay the ability of RPGs to reflect the inequalities of the real world, while simultaneously bringing positive examples of diversity to a wider audience.
And for allowing me, incorrigible thief, to indulge my habit without getting arrested.
Starborn, the first in Lucy’s Worldmaker trilogy, is out now.
You needn’t be just Eurocentric in Dragon Age.