Diverse Characters in RPGs

in Opinion

We just released the Heroine Character Pack 1, and that got my line on the same thinking it did a while back, which led to the previous article on writing female characters.

A whole pack of school girls ready to star in your game!

A whole pack of school girls ready to star in your game!

But this time, I want to broaden even further and talk about writing diverse characters, such as various minorities, either racial, sexual preference, gender, or even just different social classes. Not about how to write them. To be honest, the same advice from the writing female characters thread can be carried over to writing any character. All characters are people. Think about how the society and culture would treat them because of who and what they are, then think about how they would react to that, and you have a character.

And I’m not here to demand every person to focus on representation in their games. First and foremost to me, RPG Maker has always been about people making the games they want to make. I’m a huge fan of diversity in characters myself, and when working on games, attempt to include it, but I’m never going to suggest that this is a burden everyone has to take on (though I do applaud the ones that do).

I'll admit I even sneak in an image on the blog sometimes, how many of you noticed this one here on article from last year.

I’ll admit I even sneak in an image on the blog sometimes, how many of you noticed this one here on an article from last year.

What I do want to talk about though, is the absolute truth: When you write, you will mess up. The truth is, if you mess up a white male character, or a generically anime male character, people may make fun of your writing, but no one cares that much. There are already so many of those out there, messing one up doesn’t really affect anyone. We have 8 billion more that are written pretty well.

When you mess up a character with less representation, you may face some backlash. It isn’t fun. It will never be fun. For that matter, sometimes you don’t even mess up the writing, and someone will STILL be mad at you over something you did, because it doesn’t match their personal experience with that issue. Or sometimes you’ll write the character perfectly and somebody who doesn’t like people of that minority are going to jump on you for “ruining video games with SJW nonsense.” For that matter, I might get heat just for writing this article.

More promo shots of our new Heroine Character Pack, cause honestly I can't think of a relevant image here. #honesty

More promo shots of our new Heroine Character Pack, cause I can’t think of a relevant image here, but it seems like a good break point for an image. #honesty

And this can make it scary to write anything outside our own experiences, or to write anything remotely controversial. I know I’ve shied away at times. But I’m here to say if it was something you wanted to do, stick with it. Talk to people. Get their perspectives. See what it is they see is a problem. Work to fix things. Or sometimes, there is nothing to fix. But don’t let the fear of backlash stop you from making the game you want to make. Every time we put a game out there, it is scary. In the current cultural climate, people are heated on all sides, and by writing certain characters you can get that heat, again, from all sides.

But do it anyway. Make the game you want to make. Make the stands you want to make. We believe in you.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mask de Plainview

    I love this article! If you don’t mind, I’d like to chime in.

    This is just me, but when I write characters, representation is never my first focus, it’s usually my last. And that isn’t to say I don’t care how characters are represented in games, mind you, it’s just the last thought on my mind. For me personally, I focus on making characters relatable and believable first and foremost, a characters race, gender, and sexuality usually comes after when I write them since it’ll be the last thing on a player’s mind if you write them well enough.

    The harsh reality of writing for games, stories, or whatever is that you aren’t going to make everyone happy, and that’s okay. Just focus on writing well, and everything will fall into place. Don’t feel pressured to make everyone happy, just focus on making your characters as believable as you can.

    Love the article, Nick! Can’t wait for more like these!

    • David Ruckman

      Going to chime in too. I highly agree with this mindset.
      When representation is the first thing on the writers mind, the character can quickly becoming a stereotype, end up being more offensive, weaker, and pointless character in the context of the story and it’s themes. They will ultimately become relatable to no one. (Looking at you, Riverdale).
      A character being written well should come before all else. Not to say identity shouldn’t be a part of that though.

      • Touchfuzzy

        Representation isn’t the first thing on my mind, but to be honest, it happens just because my own friend group is very diverse. The more experience you have with a variety of people, I think the more that it is just natural and doesn’t feel forced.

        • Mask de Plainview

          oh, I totally get you! When you’re around different people of different races, genders, and sexualities, it’s only natural to write with a more worldly perspective! That’s a great mindset to go off of!

          In the end, you pretty much have to find a good balance, you know? As long as you don’t come off as pandering, then you can write characters any way you want! Write honestly and well! 🙂