Au­thor Lucy Houn­som loves the di­ver­sity in RPGs

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -

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.

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