Diversity in Gaming panel at Gen Con 2014

Pathfinder7_Paladin-1Panel description: Come join Paizo staffers to discuss how Pathfinder and Golarion can be more inclusive and fun for people of all shapes, genders, sexual preferences, ages, ethnicities, and more.

Gamers are often characterized as straight white males, but we know our community is much broader than that! Come join Paizo staffers James L. Sutter, Judy Bauer, Wes Schneider, and more to discuss how Pathfinder and Golarion can be more inclusive and fun for people of all shapes, genders, sexual preferences, ages, ethnicities, and more–both in the books, and around your gaming table. Everyone is welcome!

Thanks to David for recording the panel.

  22 comments for “Diversity in Gaming panel at Gen Con 2014

  1. Ben Wenham
    August 22, 2014 at 7:22 am

    The guys at Paizo always give good panel. I like that they, as a company take trying to improve the diversity of their game so seriously, but they still have a long way to go.

    Their were a few areas that they could still do better, on last time I checked:

    -some representation of poly-amours people.

    – neuro-atypical people and people with learning difficulties/disablities.

    – and more varied forms of female appearance. a lot of their female art; Kess was a nice step forwards, but i’d like to see them go further.

  2. Ethan C.
    August 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I do think Paizo is doing some good work in this area, particularly with their art direction. I’ve seen some excellent variety in their depictions of characters, especially women with realistic body types and age-based appearance (and not in the stereotypical “ugly=evil, pretty=good” sense, either).

    And as they’re one of the biggest players* in the fantasy gaming art market right now, I expect they’re moving the entire industry in a good direction.

    *I was gonna say “biggest player,” then I remembered Magic the Gathering.

  3. August 23, 2014 at 7:15 am

    On the one hand I support Paizo’s progressive attitude towards gender and their commitment to creative an inclusive fantasy setting. But on the other hand as a company they can’t balance the rules of a pretend wizard game to save their lives.

  4. Ethan C.
    August 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

    hooligantuesday: Well, you try balancing the 3.5 rules, and see how it goes. :)

    That is to say, if they were writing a completely new fantasy RPG from scratch, I’m sure they could design it a lot better. But they were a 3.5 company, and they wanted to stay a 3.5 company to stay in business. So they had to do the best they could with the basic 3.5 system, and try to make all their stuff as backwards-compatible as possible. Judging by their bottom line, they seem to have achieved that goal pretty well.

    Historical contingency is a bitch — a bitch that can make you millions of dollars sometimes if you play your cards right. :)

  5. Harry
    August 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I really don’t feel that Paizo needs to invest any more effort into things like supporting poly-amorous relationships or learning disabilities.

    They make a game about imaginary elves fighting monsters, if the players and the GM want to explore alternative relationships in their elf game that’s fine (if I might, personally, find it odd) but Paizo doesn’t need to be involved.

    Furthermore, on the topic of learning differences etc. this is an area I’m interested in, as it affects me fairly directly, and I would like to see it expressed in RPG’s at some point, however, Paizo makes games about elves fighting monsters, no matter how hard they try, there is no way that they could tackle that social concept fully without comprehensively altering the game.

    Paizo is a company that makes a quality product that is distributed to many people of different creeds, interests, and personal struggles. If they try to include everyone’s specific traits, peeves, or issues into a game, they will die on that hill, both commercially and ideologically.

    Seriously: Imaginary Elf Games

  6. Fridrik
    August 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you for recording this.
    It’s a great listen and the subject is important for the future of our hobby.

  7. David
    August 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    They did discuss the female-art topic a bit, Ethan. A large part of that has to do with the artists and their styles; i remember an anecdote where the artist sent a depiction of a character, the editor said “She needs 50 more pounds” and the artist put them on her chest. Not the fault of the editor as much as the artist.

    On the whole, I think they’re doing great and I applaud their efforts so far.

  8. Fridrik
    August 24, 2014 at 3:44 am

    I liked that story. For the ‘To long didn’t listen’ crowd it went something like this.

    Paizo gets an artist to draw a female character. He sends them some skinny model looking thing back

    Paizo: She is to skinny, make her bigger =>> Artist makes breast bigger.

    Paizo: No she is a bigger woman. She needs to be bigger =>> Artist makes breasts a lot bigger.

    Paizo: You not getting it mate. Add 50 pounds. =>> Artists response: “That’s way to big breasts”.

  9. Burt
    August 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I must say, I disagree with the thought that Paizo is good for inclusiveness. They made the king of fantasy Africa an ape. Like, literally just a giant ape. And rather than include lots of different types of sexuality, they went with “everyone is bisexual”.

    Worst of all, they don’t accept criticism, banning any discussion whatsoever of people being critical of their methods. Their work comes off as “inclusive for the sake of money” rather than natural inclusivity, which is to be expected, they’re here for money, not quality of product or art. There are many far better companies than Paizo out there for people seeking inclusive fantasy, but they simply don’t make the money Paizo does, so they’re forgotten.

  10. Ben Wenham
    August 26, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Burt, that just isn’t accurate.

    Their Africa analogue is a continent, called Garund. It is made up of 20 nations, only 13 of which have been detailed in any depth.

    One of those, the Mwangi Expanse, is not even a nation per say, so much as a large region. Within the Mwangi Expanse their happens to be a civilization of sentient great apes. The Mwangi Expanse is a game space for the telling of pulp adventures of exploration and dinosaur hunting, where you can battle serpent people and elder gods with swords and sorcery.

    The 13 other nations vary widely including magical wastelands filled with gunslingers, anti-theist nations struggling to build a world free of the goods, pirate islands scattered at the edge of an eternally present hurricane, brutal European analogue colonies, and a nation of alchemists who have uncovered the secret of immortality.

    They certainly haven’t gone with ‘every one if bisexual’, there are some sixty examples of LGBT characters, with a very healthy number of Lesbian or gay characters compared to most of the industry, with the only real justification for such a comment I can think of being that the one Adventure path with any expectation of the PCs getting involved with NPCs. Jade Regent experiments with a romance sub-plot, and I believe that they make each of the romancible NPCS sexuality fluid, as opposed to making every one bisexual.

    They really don’t ban anyone who disagrees with them either.

  11. Ben Wenham
    August 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Clarification: for a community of their size, paizo very rarely ban anyone. Moreover, I have never seen an example of them banning anyone for disagreeing with them.

  12. Claive
    August 28, 2014 at 11:27 am

    This is one of those cases where I feel that “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all, or else we will call you a bigot.”

    I appreciate their attempts to be inclusive and cater to a larger audience, but it feels like the default assumption that catering to my group (strait white male) is a sin (I don’t expect to be exclusively catered to).

    “They certainly haven’t gone with ‘every one if bisexual’, there are some sixty examples of LGBT characters.” In the Jade Oath Adventure Path they have said that the default assumption is that all romancable NPCs are bisexual. After listening to the recording it sounds like there are no heterosexual people in Golarion and that doesn’t feel very inclusive.

  13. DeadlyNightshade
    August 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    All in all a fairly interesting panel. I agree with one of the first points he made, which is that if inclusiveness is your goal, you should definitely make a list and check the boxes. That seems very prudent, despite making some people uncomfortable.

    There is, however, a significant conflict between two ideas in their later discussions. At one point they say that you should write people first, and the “minority stuff” background to who they really are (I’m paraphrasing, of course). At another point the one guy is criticizing the idea of talking to one member of a particular minority group and using that to inform the background of a character. He says that the experience of your gay friend may not bu the Ur-experience of gay people. But that doesn’t matter! You aren’t writing a character whose experience is the gestalt of growing up in a minority, presumably, you are writing about the experience of one character. In that case, staying true to the experience of one person you know is just as much within the variation of lived experience as averaging the experiences of 100 members of a minority. If people criticize your character portrayal for not being true to their lived experience, it SHOULD be a defense that “This may not be true to your experience, but I only told one story, and it is in line with the experiences of some people.” I think we would all agree that if experiences can differ so much, they should be allowed to differ that much.

    Now, it could be that your friend’s experience is extreme self-loathing which they never grew out of, and if you put that in your story as your only representation of a minority character, obviously you are going to have a bad time. But that’s a completely separate point which they aren’t making.

    I think this is may be one of those cases where the people who receive the advice are the people who don’t need it, and the people who need it don’t receive it: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/24/should-you-reverse-any-advice-you-hear/

  14. Ben Wenham
    August 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    There are HUNDREDS of straight white male NPCs in the adventure paths. Hundreds.

    I am a straight white male, I don’t feel ‘un-catered to’ because they actually try to include people who don’t look like me in their games. I actually feel better catered to, because my desire for verisimilitude has been catered to. I want worlds which feel real, and having NPCs who represent all those people out their, that is a good thing.

    I’d love to know how you think your not being catered to.

  15. David
    August 28, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    “Assume every romanceable NPC to be bisexual” is a game mechanics move more than an inclusive one. That means that if one of these NPCs has something (item, information, plot widget, etc) that anyone in the party may attempt to flirt/seduce/socially-engineer the thing instead of resorting to “Rawr! Barbarian smash!”

    We must assume the presence of heterosexuals; their numbers are simply unnecessary to account for as heterosexuality is and has always been the “normal” state for beings in any setting. We have sixty-ish examples in the setting that are GLBTQ; how many beings were listed in the last Golarion census? If it’s a number greater than sixty-ish, logically there must be heterosexuals.

    We are simply more aware of the non-heterosexuals because they are mentioned. I’m sure if this panel had been one on anything besides diversity and what makes characters different, we would have heard more about the standard-standard ladies and gentlemen instead of the nonstandard-standard gentlebeings.

    But that’s just my opinion. If you don’t want your players to romance the romanceable NPCs, just veto the move. Bring in another NPC to cockblock ‘em, do whatever you want. I won’t call you a bigot for that… provided you don’t object if I run that same scenario and keep those options open.

  16. crawlkill
    August 30, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I long for the day when the neckbeards stop referring to the treatment of women as people rather than objects and the presence of non-breeder characters–you know, like the real world has–as their not being “catered” to, as being “catering” to some other group, as if they’re only capable of enjoying a game if it’s all about chainmail bikinis and helpless princesses.

    if you only feel “catered to” when gaming’s a misogynistic power fantasy for straight white dudes, you’re probably not contributing much. maybe learn that characters don’t have to be direct reflections of yourself minus a hundred pounds plus elf magic for you to enjoy them.

  17. Claive
    September 2, 2014 at 10:00 am

    “There are HUNDREDS of straight white male NPCs in the adventure paths. Hundreds.”

    Could you provide one example please?

    With the logic used in Jade Regent (I.e. everyone is bi unless stated otherwise) every male / female pairing is the result of two bi people choosing one another unless stated otherwise.

  18. Ben Wenham
    September 3, 2014 at 2:48 am

    No claive. Not ALL of the NPCs in jade regent are bisexual. In fact I know of only three NPCs (Ameiko, Sandru, Shalelu.) in the adventure path(a pathfinder campaign of six books that takes the PCs from 1st to 15th level) are ‘bisexual’, and even they are not really bisexual, so much as in a state of Schrodinger’s sexuality. They are straight, and gay, and bisexual, all at the same time, and it takes players interacting with the romance subsystem/plot to collapse that wave form down, into the NPC having which ever sexuality is narratively useful.

    The vast majority of the OTHER npcs in the Adventure path are straight, due to the specific nature of the Jade Regent.adventure path, not so many of them are white.

  19. Ben Wenham
    September 3, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Just to be clear, the word bisexual appears once in the first five releases of the jade regent adventure path, that being in the players guide.

  20. Patrick Gingrich
    September 4, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you very much for recording and posting this Ross. Hearing the folks at Paizo talk about these issues is wonderful to hear, and I know a number of non-binary folks who were absolutely jazzed at their inclusion of the transwoman dwarf shaman.

Leave a Reply