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Steamscapes: Asia in Print

Kickstarter backers have it, now it's time for you to get it!

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Dev Notes 18 - Roleplaying the Other

In my previous two Developer Notes, I have discussed assumptions that people have about both game settings and the writers of game settings. These are certainly among the barriers of entry that come up when players try to explain why they avoid “Asian-themed” settings, or indeed any fictional setting with real-world cultural elements that are not their own. But I think the biggest barrier lies in the assumptions of play. Yes, there are some pedants who believe it is their job to police what games are written, but we can easily ignore such folks. The people we really want to reach are the people who don’t think they can play realistic games as characters unlike themselves. So in this last installment, I want to address the idea of roleplaying the “other” - that is, playing as a character unlike yourself in a world unlike your own.

 

Dev Notes 17 - Writing For, Not Writing About

In my last Developer Note, I outlined some of the key issues and assumptions that people have with game settings that claim to be “Asian-themed.” In that note, I asserted several times that we are doing things differently with Steamscapes: Asia. I hope that my explanations of how we are doing so support that assertion, but it does bring up another question that one might ask - What gives me the authority to write this setting? Is this even a question worth considering?

 

Fair enough. All questions are valid.

Dev Notes 16 - Asia, not "Asian-Themed"

I recently completed a successful Kickstarter! I was obviously quite happy about that, but I always believe that learning is necessary regardless of success or failure, so after it was over I posted a survey in the Savage Worlds community asking for feedback from those who had chosen not to back the project. Aside from the expected (but still important) reasons - such as not hearing about it, not liking the rewards, or having backed too many Kickstarters recently - one idea that seemed to show up frequently was that players are automatically turned off by "Asian-themed" settings. I saw this in replies to the forum post as well as in the Facebook and G+ Savage Worlds communities.

When I followed up to find out the reasons why, it became clear to me that there is a very strong association that players of roleplaying games have with the word "Asia," and it has nothing to do with what we are trying to develop. However, this association is so pervasive that many people were unwilling to look closely enough to even consider the possibility that we might be doing something different. For this reason, I am going to be doing a series of Dev Notes explaining how our setting differs from what has come before (and what will likely come after), how we approach the writing and development so as to avoid appropriation or stereotype, and how to help players feel comfortable taking on characters in this setting.

But first, we have to talk about how the gaming industry got to this point.

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