I've been thinking a lot about inclusiveness when putting together Strike! It's important to me to make a game that everyone feels welcome to play. I wanted to share with you some of the things I've done to that end, and I hope to hear from you in the community about ways I could do even more.
On page one, I have included the following note:
"It should go without saying that your character can be of any culture or creed, any gender, and have any sexual identity you like, regardless of the setting, genre or tone. Even in realistic historical games, history tells us that there were people from distant lands traveling the world, there were people who did not fit the common ideas of the time, and there were people who defied both rules and expectations. Your character can be any or even all of those"
First, let's talk about gender. In the art, I am requiring that fully half of the characters will be female and half male. A few of the characters will look androgynous, as well. In my examples in the text, about half of the names I use will read as female. Half of the characters in the adventures are women, and the women occupy roles just as important as the men. I've found this to be very easy to do - it's not hard to use one name over another, and the characters that seem fun or cool as men seem equally fun and cool as women.
When discussing hypothetical characters or players of unspecified gender, I use the pronoun "they" as a singular instead of the clunkier "he or she," except where it would cause confusion. Whatever the opinion of grammar prescriptivists, the "singular they" is something nearly everyone uses at times without even thinking about it these days, so I don't feel that my usage is at all controversial.
None of the characters in the art will be sexualized. If you want fantasy pinups, there are plenty of other games and places you can go to find that.
Dealing with sexual preference is trickier simply because Strike barely touches on sexuality at all. If we reach our $10 000 stretch goal and I flesh out the setting of the Last Aeon, you will find that some of the major faction leaders in the setting (the icons) are in same-sex relationships. I am asking a friend of mine who is a trans woman for advice on the best way to include a major character who is explicitly transgender without making that the focus of the character. I'm not ashamed to admit that I would like more advice making the rules text and examples inclusive with regards to gay or trans issues.
Next up, I'd like to talk about race. Again, I've given my artists instructions that the art should include men and women with a variety of features and skin tones. At the same time, I want to avoid tokenism: I won't ever say "oh, but we already drew a black person, so we don't need another."
Using the word "race" to refer to things like goblins has always seemed a little bit off-the-mark. In the section on Origins, I have the following statement:
"If you want to use these mechanics, you should decide whether the “races” in your game represent different species or if they represent different cultures or subcultures. Both are appropriate and you can even mix and match. The word “race” doesn’t refer to either of these ideas though, so I’m going to give them the generic label of Origin. You decide what to call it in your game: species, culture, model number, phenotype, whatever."
Strike aims to be inclusive to players of all different sizes, all different ages, disabled and able, deaf and hearing. The characters I write will represent this, as will the characters in the art. One of the pregenerated player characters in the Sci-Fi adventure is Deaf. Yuri recently drew this fantastic old woman roboticist with her killer robot pal:
When I think back to the books I read in high school and before, the fat characters that spring to mind are the Baron Harkonnen and Ignatius J Reilly, along with some evil old aunts or stepmothers. Hardly an inspiring bunch. When I read Gardens of the Moon, I was impressed by Tattersail as a type of character I hadn't seen before: she is explicitly described as fat, but she is good and powerful and respected and other characters regard her as attractive. We need more Tattersails! Terry Pratchett wrote several books where the protagonists were a couple of grumpy old women, not to mention all his work taking on racism and sexism through his fiction. We need more Granny Weatherwaxes and Nanny Oggs! Again, writing the Last Aeon would be a chance for me to try to live up to my heroes and write such great characters in powerful positions in the world.
I'm sure that there is much more that I could do that I've never thought about. How could I make you feel included? Let me know!
Please share, discuss and comment on this post. I have more to learn, and I hope that this post will both help others make more inclusive games and attract comments from people who can help me make Strike more inclusive, too.
Jim McGarva is married to an awesome (and very patient) wife, and a father to three awesome (and not so patient) young girls. He is a math instructor who loves to play and create games.