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The Inner Geek

August 21, 2011

And the outer geek, for that matter. Should I start of with the ways I am Geek? Well alright, if you insist. And it’ll help me practice with this WordPress html.

  • Big genre lit geek. Sci-fi (hard and soft) and fantasy and those that lay betwixt. Cyberpunk is an obsession that waxes and wanes but is always there. Waiting.
  • Big video game geek. More or less anything that’s good (subjective much?) but mostly RPGs. Avoided FPS between the first Quake and Half-Life 2 but have taken in some pretty good ones since. And some really horrible ones.
  • And speaking of RPGs, been playing pen-and-paper roleplaying games since AD&D, now also play online. Actually almost entirely online these days, except when I can sucker my partner into sitting around our makeshift game board for Pathfinder.
  • Anime. This is probably my least geeky aspect, since I’ve only really gotten into a few series and movies, but I do get into them. Anything by Manglobe wins my heart. Everything by Ghibli breaks it.
  • Oh and comic books. Are those still geeky?

I make this list because it occurs to me that, while I’m certainly exposed to the systemic racism in news and more popular media, and I want to explore the ways that’s shaped my thinking, these are the areas that I am more commonly involved. And if I could ever be considered qualified to talk about race–which I don’t take as a given–it would be in these genres of mass-entertainment. Talking about True Blood and Foreigner was a lot easier than trying to keep up with current events that, sequestered little child that I am, I don’t have the practice for. Those are still important things to me, and I will continue to endeavor in that direction, but these are things I know now.

So first, some words on being a geek. Geeks are not an oppressed minority. No, I don’t care how many times you were swirlied in high school. Geeks are not persecuted. A geek, in and of itself, is not entitled to its persecution complex because somebody threw your carefully organized collection of DNAngel cards into Monday’s trash. These presumptions lead in turn to some very ugly practices amongst geeks, that are much more damaging than a couple of awkward and horrible secondary school experiences. In fact, geeks should all read this excellent takedown of some social fallacies perpetrated by geeks.

Thus, I do not feel compelled to like something just because it falls within my geek spheres. I do think that, overall, it is mostly middle-class white kids in this country who have the time and spending money to devote to these kinds of obsessions, and being able to do so grants some kind of geek cred no matter how thoroughly somebody enjoys something that they can’t afford the miniatures for. It also sets up a supposed target market for geek products. A very white market. (And straight, for other reasons.)

So I see an awful lot of products that are pushed at me (for while I don’t qualify for the middle-class club, I do have the internet, and aren’t we all monied on here?) that have very little color outside of their lovingly rendered backgrounds. I’ve recently finished The Witcher 2, which despite having about twice as many NPCs as the first (which is a feat, since it takes place in less than half the geographical space) lacks in it’s entirety a single person of color. Instead it has dwarves and elves. Nothing new in the fantasy genre, but…really? Not even one? Also, if the other species are meant as a sort of stand-in for minorities, it’s highly problematic that they take extra damage from the witcher’s silver sword…you know, the one meant for monsters. Then there’s Divinity II, which I’m actually stuck 3/4s through in, but same thing. At least Witcher has the excuse of Geralt being the pre-established hero. There are no color options for character creation in Divinity, and nobody of color in the whole game that I’ve seen. And that takes place in a world where travel is augmented with great zeppelins, so it’s not like people couldn’t get around.

And this is ridiculous. Two huge, modern games, not with an under-representation but no representation at all. It’s criminal, and it sets up such a massive, white-washed wall of egoism that I used to be ashamed but am now just angry at how these people, these companies, and these rabid, defending fans represent white people’s attitudes.

[Oh and the FANS. When somebody goes so far out of their way (ie, before the mod tools were released) to replace Rochelle’s model in Left 4 Dead 2 with Zoey’s model because THIS JUST CANNOT STAND, it’s ridiculous. And responding defensively to accusations of racism? Ridiculous! When similar folk feel the need to mod CJ into a white man in GTA: San Andreas because it CANNOT BE. I’m sorry, are there not enough games for you to immerse yourself in? Do you feel UNDER-APPRECIATED because you’re white? Get. Over it.]

So when I play a game like Mass Effect and it takes no effort to create a Commander Shepherd that is unambiguously black and female, yes, it’s a relief, it’s amazing, and it is so ridiculously sad that this is the bar for inclusion. And when I play another Bioware game that has none of these options (eat a dick, DA) I’m like, what? Did you hit your quota? Or did you take all of that coding it would have taken to put in POC and cram it into rendering those huge, freckled tits?

All my blog posts have cut off sort of abruptly thus far, and that’s because where a conclusion is there should be some answers, and I’m not that far along. I have none, other than anger and words in the void.


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  1. pyrofennec permalink

    There was a POC in TW? It’s been a while.

    DA and ME are made by two very different teams, I believe, hence the vast disparities in everything including quality of writing.

    • I can only think of one of the top of my head, but it’s the main villain. I keep meaning to re-install and play it again so I can see how much caries over if I load a save game in TW2.

      And I understand the difference in early production teams can make a vast difference in what the product turns out as (duh) but there’s a lot of cross-over in late-production and QA in a company like that, isn’t there? And certainly DA2 ripped off lots of ME interface ideas, right down to the radial menu.

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