Racism & Discrimination - "Creating a positive game experience"

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Disclaimer: By no means is this just a rant, there is a question at the end, the rest of the post is just a method to convey this question more effectively.

Definitions of Racism

Racism, by definition of google is

image

Camebridge's UK definition is

Camebridge's US definition is

Wikipedia's definition of racism is

the belief in the superiority of one race over another.[1][2][3] It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity.[1][2] Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These views can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities.[1][2][4]

Putting all of these together, in my own words, we get that racism can be:

  • The belief that members of different races are inherently different due to their race having an impact on their qualities, characteristics and abilities.
  • (Because of the above belief) the belief that your race, and members of your race, are inherently superior to that of other races and their members.
  • Because of both of these beliefs, prejudice, antagonism and discrimination are targeted at members of other races, whether made apparent in their actions towards them or being unknown to others not affecting the fact that it’s racism.

This post isn’t about the definition of racism, and hence, the purpose of the aforementioned d is to express under what “grounds” what this post written.

Roblox’s Community rules, under Section I, Part 5 and Part 12:

I personally find that the above part of the rules are irrelevant to this post, though they are put here for reference sake. What we want to look at is Section II, parts 2 and 3, with the appropriate parts related to this post in bold.

The actual post

Now that all the reference content is above, it’s time for the actual post! Let’s begin with an analogy towards racism. Say that Person A attack Person B, whom they never met before, specifically due to their race, and openly admits to it. This would be called racism. Say that Person C ran after and kicked Domestic Animal A, whom was doing nothing towards the person, specifically because of its species. This wouldn’t fall under racism, but be something more akin to “Speciesism” (Which is a thing according to Wikipedia, but not a thing according to auto correct) or animal abuse.

I’m neither American nor well-informed on laws in the first place, combining these two facts, I can’t make inferences related to creating legal content on Roblox that abides by American laws. However, what I will infer is that by racism, it’s referring to races in the sense of humans and not races in the sense of biology. Correct me if I’m wrong on this point, not much clarification is giving towards this on the community rules page. Going by this, we can disregard the parts in Section I related to discrimination for this post. Now, I’ll finally phrase the scenario behind the creation of this post before going into Section II.

The situation

I’m planning to work on a project where the player is given the ability to, amongst other things, customise their race (as in species, such as Human, Beast-(wo)man (depends on gender choice), Elf, etc. I.E, all those good generic races in a generic fantasy RPG). The choice of their race will not just impact their characters abilities, but also the dialogue they receive from different NPCs of different races. Regardless of what race they choose, they will start in an area tha

(Note the following example is just an example and not actually going to happen, but suggestive towards what may happen)

E.g, say that the player chose human as a race, they would originally be placed in a village that practices equality. They’ll have the ability to travel to other places, which may practice equality, or specific race-supremacy. If they go to a country that practices human supremacy, seeing as they’re a human, their experience would be equal to that of it of an area that practices equality. If, on the other hand, someone of demi-human race, such as beastman, their dialogues would be passively abusive towards the players unless they have done something to prove that they aren’t “like others of that race”, such as building up a positive reputation via completing quests & requests from NPCs successfully.

Further along the spectrum, if someone like a demon/devil would even approach an area that practices human supremacy, NPCs would attack, or prepare to attack, said demon/devil unless, similar to the prior case, they are different to others of their race.

Each race would have in-depth backgrounds to describe why they are treated in such a way by certain races, but favoured by other races, with the final result of how NPCs act towards them based on their actions (e.g. a Human NPC in a human supremacy country may still abuse a human player due to theft).

Let’s link this back into Section II, part 2.

I would argue that this does the opposite to encourage inappropriate behaviour, encouraging people to act towards people based off their actions rather than their race/species.

But then there’s part 3:

At most, it would fall into hate speech, but even then it wouldn’t. Roblox explicitly states in regards to another content type that Content that implies or makes an avatar appear naked or in underwear/undergarments. This includes solid color avatars without clothing., however, at most, the dialogue wouldn’t directly be able to be cast as (by my view) “hate speech”, being more along the lines of… something else. To give an example, rather than open abuse towards other races, the abuse would come out more “easily”, compared to those of the same race, if they make mistakes. In the example of a demi-human breaking the cargo of a human that they were employed under, remarks such as “Tch, as expected of a demi”, or “I shouldn’t have hired a (filthy) demi!”, would be the closest in resemblance towards hate speech.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Don’t know if what I even wrote makes sense to other people, so ask if more details are needed. My examples probably weren’t the best in the first place.

16 Likes

I’ll leave it to roblox staff for the final judgement on that.

In my opinion it’s a kids game where are lot of users are very impressionable. I would have a different opinion if users were generally 13+. I wouldn’t use speciesism with species which closely resemble humans. But I think it would be okay to use on NPCs/users which are something very inhuman & universally thought of to be evil like zombies or demons.

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The majority of them won’t resemble humans, the species given in the examples are just that, examples, and nothing more.

I personally take pleasure in fantasy elements, so alongside the generic races for fantasy, things from myths, such as Charybdis, may be incorporated.

The main reason demi-humans are casually discriminated against in the majority of fantasy settings is due to to that fact that they are “demi”-humans, meaning they lean further away from the human side of the spectrum and closer to that off an inhuman species, and as such, they are treated as if they were that species (generally monsters or animals like bears or wolves). They are also strongly linked with being an atavistic (in the sense of primitive/primal) form of a human.

I’d argue that it’s acceptable. You’re far from encouraging racism - you depict it, perhaps, but there is no clear IRL analogue to each race. As a result, I’d argue it’s fine.

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Well, I have to say this is very new for Dev forums but I thank you for bring this up, over the last 2 years of me playing roblox I have seen a lot of racism on roblox aimed at me and other people. Like
@Hyperion333 Said leave it to the roblox staff but do the really help? I mean like the report ONLY works if that person is inside of that game and it takes a long time for roblox to do handle it. Roblox
reports really DO NOT work it only works if someone is in the game and how does that help someone? Roblox do have rules here and there but when it comes to something like racism or prov on roblox how long does it take roblox ThemSelfs to do something about it do they Ban them? NO, Do they tell the cops NO we has Roblox Players have to do that all by ours selfs. And not by roblox helping use. My point is that roblox themselfs don’t really help when it comes to these things.

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I think that your view point on the matter of Roblox not helping isn’t entirely correct.

True, it may take longer for Roblox to find when users break the terms than when people report it, but thats what the usage of the report feature is for. It accelerates the process of having the user’s actions being reviewed to see whether they are deserving of a sanction. You have to keep in mind the vast amount of users there are, Roblox is an MMO for a reason. A quick test with user IDs shows that there are between 1 - 2 billion accounts on Roblox. Given the fact that are number of those accounts would be Alternatives, Bots or users who have quit, they still need to be moderated equally in comparison to accounts that are more frequently used.

No organisation has the man power to survey every asset created by a user, every piece of text they’ve entered into the site and any other actions they’ve done, for over 1 billion users, every day of the year. That’s extremely inefficient, and is also unrelated to the post, so I won’t go further into the reporting mechanics, mostly because I don’t know much about them myself.

Needless to say, whilst you should feel safe enough, in an ideal world, to mention your race online, this isn’t an ideal world. Your race, ethnicity, nationality etc are cast as personal data for a reason. When you accept the terms, you’re under a legal binding to follow them. Roblox expects people to do so, if they don’t, once found out, they’re punished accordingly.

You could probably get away with it. I was just trying to make the point that you do have some responsibility when designing a game intended for kids because they would pick up on themes subconsciously and are very impressionable. And there are definitely games on Roblox that could care less about that.

A kid will see a creature who isn’t human but partly resembles a human and is different. Then they will see language used to stereotype that creature which would closely resemble the same language used racially in real life(like for example “filthy” which you used as an example). If this is normalized in the game, then it could possibly build an impression that it’s normal to do that for people that are different especially for kids growing up in an environment which promotes that. This wouldn’t be the case for something like a demon or zombies. Kids couldn’t relate those creatures to people because they are scary monsters.

Yes this is a very uptight opinion. This is coming from someone who hates how so many things have been made PC and safe for kids. Like star wars, I would love a rated R star wars movie please. Until Roblox makes 13+ age requirement to join games I would say stick to using underlying themes for equality and “good” values.

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(Full disclosure, as a straight white cis male I have not and likely will never face any kind of discrimination akin to what other people have on a daily basis, and everything here is from listening to what People of Colour discuss.)

I see what you’re asking here, and I want to bring up for comparison one of the most popular cases of Racial Discrimination As A Game Mechanic - Dungeons and Dragons.

As a straight white cis male, when I see that Tieflings and Dark Elves are typical groups that face discrimination, I used to see it as a form of world building. If I see a Tieflings make a mistake, only to hear “Stupid Tieflings can’t do anything right” I used to think of it as narrative because I’ve never had anyone say “Stupid white person can’t do anything right.” I used to think it’s harmless because Tieflings aren’t real and it’s only a game.

HOWEVER

What I’ve listened to some PoC (Person/People of Colour) talk about in regards to this and when they’ve heard “stupid Tiefling can’t do anything right” they now remember that time when they had the same discrimination happen to them. It isn’t so much about the make-believe character having make-believe discrimination, it’s that the real person seeing it is reminded of their own discrimination that they face daily.

When that PoC player wanted to play D&D for the escapism, instead their immersion was broken because they were reminded of real issues that affect them.

Which isn’t to say that games aren’t a place for this kind of discussion at all, just that players should be given a heads up that it happens, and in what way. There’s A LOT of nuance in it that can be difficult to navigate and can very easily go over younger players heads.

ANOTHER HOWEVER

There are games that get around this issue while still having the player or a group be considered an “other.” In The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, players who talk to the native Dark Elf population in the game will always be called “Outlander” regardless of the player’s race. This keeps the player believing they don’t belong in these areas without the use for racial discrimination.

Granted Morrowind is far from perfect (using specific beast races as slaves, having females have less strength but more endurance than males, etc) so take it with a grain of salt.


Great thread though, I hope the discussion stays as constructive as it has been :grin:

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Is this necessary? I would personally feel very uncomfortable integrating any mechanic like this in my own game on Roblox.

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Why do they need to practice racial supremacy? They could just have historical reasons. Default human empire is like Switzerland and treats every nation fairly. Extremist nation Blah is also a human empire in between a bunch of others and hates them (who happen to be non-human) because the other nations have used it as a staging ground for their wars and devastated the extremist nation. The extremist nation is okay with the default human empire because they’re fair to everyone and have never occupied the extremist nation.

This also provides a lot of world building since nations have reasons for why they like/hate each other, rather than just “they’re x race”

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@EchoReaper

Yes, conflict is great and a history to that conflict is even better. Avoiding subject of race/species in the conflict shouldn’t take away from the storytelling. Maybe in your lore race/species is a consideration, but not including that in the game shouldn’t take away from the experience itself.

For example in star trek worf is klingon but is treated as an equal crew member. And in conflict between klingon and federation you know the two factions have a history of war. You could describe it all without focusing at all racial or species supremacy.

@Shardwielder Honestly speaking, no, it is not a necessity. However, I’d feel as if it’d add both more realism and flavour towards the game, due to it being set in a period of racism. I’d prefer to make a game that, put bluntly, I’d enjoy, rather than cater it to others by diminishing what I want incorporated.

@Hyperion333 True, children are more impressionable and what they can see now may affect them later on in life.

@Aotrou An interesting ploy to take into consideration. What does PoC stand for? (EDIT: People of Colour, should have read it properly)

@EchoReaper Racial supremacy is a common trope within the genre. If I’m correct in how I’m reading, you’re saying to stick to historical reasons without any impacts on dialogue etc?

Finding it difficult to think properly between some extremely loud fight scene and having to go outside in a few minutes, so I’ll add more thoughts when I’m back, and go more in-depth into what I think of these responses and possible compromises.

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At the end of the day a human gets the final word on whether your game gets to exist on this platform. You have to ask whether a reasonable human would determine your game’s content to be inappropriate.

Personally I think it’d be ridiculous to categorically flag racism/speciesism between fictional, mythological races as inappropriate.

Yea it is ridiculous for someone more mature who can understand the difference. But fictional characters and stories are very common way to teach values to younger less mature people. As a game developer it’s important to keep your game audience in mind.

If you look at transformers or star-wars you can still have epic stories that appeal to all ages.

This is my last comment on this thread. I found it very interested and I thought it brought up really great comments regarding ethics.

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@Firebrand1 Whilst I agree with what you saying, though the problem is this: reasonable human . I can say with 100% certainty that my moral compass is different to everyone else on this planet, and, likewise, theirs are different to my own. For example, I think incorporating music into your game is something no one should do, with racism getting incorporated into games going pale in comparison - though this is a topic for another time.

@Hyperion333 Fictional stories teaching values to U13s typically ruins the story for me. I read a story framed towards the 15 year old demographic and I expect content that doesn’t make the protagonist able to overcome their problems with “the power of friendship”. Sure, you can have stories that appeals to all ages, however, I’d rather show the real-world to them rather than having them safe guarded away from everything. Fun fact, I learnt how human’s reproduced when I was 8 because of Roblox! I also learnt that there were different sexual orientations. My age audience isn’t <13. I make games to appease my desires, I make game I’d enjoy, or think I’d enjoy, playing.

@Aotrou @EchoReaper

Both your points are valid and I can only find a couple of counter arguments, though they aren’t very good ones, so I’ll refrain from mentioning them.

Aotrou’s point also reminded me of the fact that slaves were rampant in the past, along with “sexism”. Roblox Community Rules have no mention of anything regarding slaves, so I assume that war & criminal slaves, and the ability to purchase/sell them, or in other words, trade them, be entirely viable for a game? On the other hand, having matriarchies and patriarchies (and neither) are easy to make in a way that players can’t complain.

In addition to this, whilst having only historical reasons behind racism is a nice idea that may be less likely to cause arguments, if able to, I would prefer to incorporate racial supremacy alongside this, as originally planned. This shows that the actions of the past affect the actions of the present, such as World War I’s link to the start of World War II, amongst other reasons, however I can entirely see how to frame this without racial supremacy in a way that still gets across the sensation of segregation, i.e. using countries full of a specific race, like in your example, where they hate the country, yet other countries don’t house that race, and similarly, that country doesn’t house other races (beyond travellers).

I have an idea that could fight the “racism” that might be sparked by the design of your game

Maybe when the human scolds the demi

another demi or some kind of NPC retaliates with a better response like if some kind of kid is being bullied at school a bystander stands up for the kid. I don’t know, throwing out ideas to not make it “racist”.

Plus

?? Typo?

Question

Would the game be multiplayer or singleplayer? If it was multi then would the human and demi be real players? And would the human have the choice to scolds the demi or encourage or say “it’s okay”?

No typo, entirely copied and pasted from Roblox’s Community Rules.

Section II, part 2 covers promoting inappropriate behaviour, whereas part 3 covers inappropriate content (though titled as “using appropriate content”).

Ah, it said 3. So I thought it was part of the list…

EDIT: What do you think of my idea…answer to question?

Having retaliations is a decent idea, however think of it like this:

Say that the NPC was the same race as the one being discriminated against, opening their mouths would leave themselves vulnerable towards further abuse, and might worsen the situation because, if they aren’t involved and get involved, others might see fit to also do so. It’s like bringing a third person to a one versus one fight, you’re adding fuel to the fire rather than diminishing it.

Anyway, whilst in the scolding reference to their race is given, it doesn’t change the fact that they messed up and deserve a scolding. If someone sticks up for someone who was in the wrong solely because of a single word (i.e. their race), what logic is there in this?

On the other hand, the concept of retaliations can be used in the sense that people whom you’ve built good relations with (i.e. successfully completed quests/requests with multiple times) sticking up for you, but then this depends on the actual scenario - i.e. is there a point in intervening if all you do is get chastised once and then left alone?