This morning I was reading through RPGnet's forums when I ran across a topic titled "Cultural Appropriation in Games." Now cultural appropriation is a term that I haven't seen since college as most adults are too busy living their lives to be concerned about a bunch of kids in headdresses and face paint who are cheering for the Braves. As it turns out not everyone left behind such foolishness when they parted ways with higher education.
|Bountiful Braves Fans by Bill Quick|
The topic began because the original poster has a semi-regular podcast and wanted to know if it's possible for someone outside a culture to understand its values, strengths, and shortcomings. From there things just went down a rabbit hole that I find utterly disturbing. Essentially the majority of posters seem to be under the impression that there is no way that anyone can move beyond a pseudo-European setting because white people can't do that. Hell, one poster (who is apparently a moderator for the site) even went so far as to say that the "most respectful course I could take would be not to do it at all and instead devote my free time to volunteering at a soup kitchen."
I don't understand this line of thinking.
Look the majority of settings are pseudo-European based and were designed by Americans who are outside the cultures their trying to emulate but that isn't a problem because white people live there? That doesn't make any more sense than arguing that I shouldn't enjoy Al-Qadim because it wasn't a perfect emulation of an imaginary world where genies and flying carpets were common place; or that I shouldn't play with Oriental Adventures because it was written by Gygax.
Let me put it a different way because I'm actually using the reasons that I have seen for not playing in those settings. If I'm playing a game where I am role-playing an imaginary creature who goes out exploring the world, and often kills other imaginary creatures to survive, and the setting provides me with a fun atmosphere to do that in why should I care if it's an accurate representation of a real world culture or that it was written by a bunch of white skinned people and the culture used as a starting point was filled with brown skinned people? The answer is simple: I shouldn't and I don't.
If I'm playing in the Al-Qadim setting I'm not actually playing in a Medieval approximation of the Near to Middle East, I'm playing in the world of Al-Qadim. That world is its own thing and should be valued on if it provides me with a fun game experience - not on if its an accurate representation of the Ayyubid Empire under Saladin. The same goes for every setting: it's either fun or it isn't. I play and enjoy Al-Qadim, Greyhawk, the Savage Coast, Soverign Stone, Rifts, Oriental adventures and whatever else will provide me with a fun place to explore. See I'm getting too old to waste my time pretending to be outraged over my silly games because of a bunch of extraneous things that have no impact on the enjoyment I find in the setting. That's a waste of time that will only keep you from enjoying the things you actually like.