Game Development Journal Part I: RPG Maker and Character Creation

So in addition to finishing up my dissertation, I am also in the midst of constructing a video game version of my work.  My goal is to gamify my chapter on gendered memes in gaming culture in order to make it accessible to a broader audience.

I chose RPG Maker VX Ace to construct my game because it requires very little actual coding skill (one must be able to think like a coder in order to assemble the instructions for an event, but one need not actually know any coding languages).  And, for the most part, it has proven to be a useful and easily adaptable tool for my purposes.

However, in my early dealings with the program, I ran into an (unfortunately predictable) problem : a lack of characters of color in the pre-made sprites that came with the game.

premade faces 1

premade faces 2

premade faces 3

And although it is possible to create custom characters with different skin tones, the darker options don’t look nearly as realistic as the lighter ones.  It is as though they were included as an afterthought, as an attempt to discourage criticism and not in an active attempt to have a more inclusive set of tools.  The message is clear: white player characters are thought to be all one needs to have to create a traditional fantasy RPG.  People of color may be included, but are non-essential.  Or, perhaps more accurately, they are specialty characters, niche characters, as opposed to the traditional types of characters one finds in these games.  Thus, they need not be included in the default pre-made batch.

Other users of the program have noticed this problem as well, and there are some fan-made re-colored resources that anyone can download and use for free.  And while this speaks well for the community of users of this program, it would be nice for tool’s developers to take notice and include these items from the word go.  It is really important to me that my game not repeat many of the problems with the gaming community that I am critiquing, namely its tendency to forget about (or, sometimes, purposefully ignore the presence of) women, queer gamers, and gamers of color.

I plan to keep a development journal here chronicling the process of gamifying my dissertation.  Watch this space!

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2 thoughts on “Game Development Journal Part I: RPG Maker and Character Creation

  1. I agree. I thought it was kind of odd the RTP characters had almost no ethnic differences. Then i remembered the program was made in Japan (which isn’t as culturally diverse as NA), and that the graphics were of an anime/manga nature, and if you look at most anime or manga, the white characters and Asian characters are almost indistinguishable, while other ethnicities are almost nonexistent (and are usually crude stereotypes when they do show up).

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