How to Make Your Games Avoid Racism
When worldbuilding, it can be easy to fall back on tropes and stereotypes in order to imagine up civilizations, societies, and people. However, those stereotypes and tropes can sometimes call to mind certain racist caricatures.
To ensure you create a diverse and interesting world without including these stereotypes, here are a few tips to consider.
There are a lot of fantasy tropes that are problematic. Elves are typically lighter in color and are associated with goodness while dark elves are associated with evilness. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a common trope nonetheless. You only need to look at orcs to see that they are, typically, the only ones wearing dreds and are depicted as evil or monsters for heroes to defeat.
Avoiding these tropes is easy. You can reinvent them. You can simply leave out the certain characteristics that are associated with certain racial qualities. Let’s examine elves. Why do they always have to be good? Surely living as long as they have might push them to feeling more godlike or superior over the races in the world? If you make elves as an enemy, regardless of their skin color, then you’re already starting to reinvent the common fantasy trope that light-skinned elves are good beings.
Half-orcs and orcs can be difficult to get right. They’re often entrenched in African or African-American stereotypes. Some are even darker in color. To avoid racism and be able to keep your half-orcs and orcs in your world, then give them a diverse range of skin color. There are several shades of white just as there are several shades of black and tan. Think less about depicting your half-orcs and orcs on race and more on their environment.
For example, half-orcs and orcs that live in the mountains may be greyer in color. There may even be different shades of grey based on how high in the mountains they live. Think about how they survive there. They must be able to keep warm, so perhaps they’re hairier. Then consider half-orcs and orcs that live in a different climate. Those that dwell in the forest may be greener in color. They may be smaller to hide in the brush or lithely in order to flee larger predators that live with them.
When you create your characters and societies based on their environment, you can already shed several racial stereotypes. The key is to ensure that each society is diverse within itself.
Avoiding stereotypes and tropes that are rooted in racist requires a lot of effort of thought for those who aren’t part of a minority. Yet doing so is a great step towards removing racist culture from our own society. Following the tips above can help you worldbuild your game, novel, video game, etc., and keep those qualities absent from your own work. Do you know of any racist stereotypes or tropes that DMs, writers, and other creators should avoid? Let us know in the comments!