People of color in Wesnoth

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Gambit
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People of color in Wesnoth

Post by Gambit »

Moderator note: This thread was (awkwardly) split from this one. Awkward because many of us had been discussing two tangentially related topics in each of our posts.
lipk wrote:
Well there are persons that are almost white (like some nordics), but also others that are almost black (for example certain africans).
IIRC there aren't any black people in Wesnoth canon.
Yeah this is one area that Wesnoth falls short in, and it's kind of embarrassing.

We have so many dozens of hours of campaign content. There's no reason a few of these characters can't be people of color. We're in the middle of overhauling a lot of portraits for mainline campaign characters, I'm going to talk to Jetrel (the art director) and zookeeper (campaign maintainer extraordinaire) and see if there's anything that can be done.

Hopefully the Khalifate faction also alleviates this problem somewhat. Though, I imagine it will be many years before they get a campaign.

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Re: Correction in human race description, pls.

Post by Gambit »

Unfortunately, I haven't been keeping up with the news around here and it turns out the portrait overhaul is nearly complete. The only campaigns left are Under the Burning Suns, Northern Rebirth, and Son of the Black Eye.

Fortunately, UtBS and NR are pretty much the perfect places to slip in a few non-white characters! :D

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Re: Correction in human race description, pls.

Post by Dugi »

n the other hand "they were a wicked, brutal, and dirty lot" so let's not go there.
I believe that it is also the reason why there are 5 human subraces in D&D and neither of them is black - they must be the same as whites in all aspects or it would be racism. Accusations of racism would be risked if these blacks were any different from whites except skin colour, and it would be hard to achieve. I believe it's the best to put no blacks there - in times of old, they lived in distant areas behind the grand desert of Sahara and were completely unknown to our ancestors (that was pretty good for them) and the darkest men the medieval society knew were the Moors, who were, biologically, still white race.

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Re: Correction in human race description, pls.

Post by Groggy_Dice »

I believe that in the old story images of TRoW, the one showing the Prince of Southbay landing on a distant shore includes a black man in the party on the boat behind him.
zookeeper wrote:The Wesfolk would be a possible group who could be predominantly black ... but on the other hand "they were a wicked, brutal, and dirty lot" so let's not go there. :doh:
I've always thought of that passage as representing the Green Isler prejudices, rather than being an objective assessment. On the other hand, I'm not crazy about making changes to satisfy political correctness.
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Re: Correction in human race description, pls.

Post by Gambit »

Dugi wrote:they must be the same as whites in all aspects or it would be racism
Good thing we're just changing portraits for a few existing characters then!
Dugi wrote:Accusations of racism would be risked if these blacks were any different from whites except skin colour
Wesnoth already has this problem. Every once in a while someone brings up the fact that our humans, who typically portrayed as the good guys, are all white. Meanwhile our orcs, typically portrayed as evil or animal-like even, are dark of skin.

We have a campaign featuring a race of elves that live their lives in a desert wasteland under the heat of two suns and they're white as snow.
Dugi wrote:and it would be hard to achieve
I don't see how it is more difficult to draw a character as non-white than white.
Dugi wrote:in times of old, they lived in distant areas behind the grand desert of Sahara
There's no reason to believe that Irdya is entirely white (look at all these non-human races even!). There's no reason to believe a few of them didn't travel to Wesnoth, settle down, and do something prominent enough to have a portrait shown in a campaign. Especially when one of the two campaigns left concerns the fringes of Wesnoth territory and the other a post-apocalyptic desert.
Dugi wrote:and were completely unknown to our ancestors
This is just flat-out untrue.
Dugi wrote:and the darkest men the medieval society knew were the Moors, who were, biologically, still white race
Emphasis mine.

Oh good! Now that we've erased their identity, there's no problem with us having an analog for them. Glad to hear you're on board.
Groggy_Dice wrote:On the other hand, I'm not crazy about making changes to satisfy political correctness.
I'm not happy about not making changes to satisfy a backlash against inclusivity. Inclusivity — otherwise known to the internet (and humorously, politicians) as "political correctness [gone wild]". Especially given that we're actually already making changes and it's a simple matter of picking an option B over the default option A. I've asked him about it, and it costs us nothing for the art director to insist to our art contributors that a handful of characters they already need to redraw aren't white.

It was also pointed out to me during that conversation that this can be a first step towards something that would rather enrich our lore later on. Perhaps we'll finally see more content that doesn't take place in the country of Wesnoth and its immediate surroundings. Perhaps more stories of arriving there from other lands (its founding aside). How did this guy get there? What was it like to come to a place so unlike home? It creates a jumping off point for add-ons to eventually expand our canon.

But in the meantime, it's more about having some positive representation for those non-white members of our audience. It also immediately stops our participation in an utterly white washed fantasy misrepresentation of medieval times.




zookeeper, hopefully I can catch you on IRC this weekend. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on it.

And lastly, Yomar, I apologize. I'm going to split this thread because I seem to have accidentally taken it completely off the rails.

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Re: Correction in human race description, pls.

Post by johndh »

Gambit wrote: There's no reason to believe that Irdya is entirely white (look at all these non-human races even!). There's no reason to believe a few of them didn't travel to Wesnoth, settle down, and do something prominent enough to have a portrait shown in a campaign. Especially when one of the two campaigns left concerns the fringes of Wesnoth territory and the other a post-apocalyptic desert.

[snip/]

It was also pointed out to me during that conversation that this can be a first step towards something that would rather enrich our lore later on. Perhaps we'll finally see more content that doesn't take place in the country of Wesnoth and its immediate surroundings. Perhaps more stories of arriving there from other lands (its founding aside). How did this guy get there? What was it like to come to a place so unlike home? It creates a jumping off point for add-ons to eventually expand our canon.
So far, most of what we've seen of Irdya has been somewhat analogous to northern Europe or perhaps North America in terms of climate, so I wouldn't mind leaving the Wesnothian humans as white, especially since we only know of humans arriving there from one particular place. If you leave a population of humans in a somewhat cold place without a whole lot of sunshine, they're likely to develop fair skin and a variety of light eye and hair colors. However, as you said, including other races, ethnicities, and origins of humanity in Wesnoth is a great opportunity to introduce a lot more perspectives, backgrounds, and stories. If there are non-white people in Wesnoth, where did they all come from? How did they there? Do they have any contact back home? Do they fit in with the established society, or do they have to create their own communities? How do their values compare and contrast with whites, and what conflicts might arise from this? How does racism between the human races compare to racism against non-humans? There are countless stories waiting to be told if we introduce more races.

Of course, as it has been pointed out, there might be a lot of "walking on egg shells", as authors always have to be careful not to seem/be racist when portraying such. This is actually something I've been thinking about a lot with some of my own fictional worlds. When your characters are human, they have to be one race or another (or a mix), but if you're showing a group of people as "a wicked, brutal, and dirty lot", what race should you choose? I've studied anthropology, so that helps when inventing fictional culture groups, but I'm just waiting for someone to say, "hey, why did you make the bloodthirsty cannibals X and the enlightened scholars Y?"
It's spelled "definitely", not "definately". "Defiantly" is a different word entirely.

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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by tekelili »

If we dont want be offenssive towards all human races for not been represented, just wanted to point that would be offensive for darves, elves, orcs and drakes, considering them as unable to develope differences due to genetic isolation for a long time in a different terrain with different clima and different threats.

Edit: I just realized my irony wont be understand, so will explain it better: Fantasy is a product of European culture, and even would say is mostly North-European or Normandic based. I dont see a problem in Lord of the Rings movie showing mostly white people, because is "what I expect to see". I just propose this mental experiment: ask a person of any race, imagine a scene of a human killing an orc, and then ask him what race had the human he imagined. I am Spanish, with a Mediterranean looking skin. When I imagine a human killing an orc, I imagine a "Viking".

Mythology as religion, use symbols to explain world. Difference among human races (and behaviors) is represented in Nordic Mythology with different races of beings. If all elves are cut for the same pattern, is because they are symbol. Where´s problem in all humans be cut for the same pattern? I dont see any problem in add characters of any race to Wesnoth, but really dont see a point in be worried about characters mostly representing culture that created their world. Sigfrid and King Arthur were white, I dont think I am racist for expect a white man as hero when I see a battle versus a dragon, because dragons are not real, and surrond a dragon with a world similar to culture that created them, makes that dragon more real. Of course are dragons in eastern culture, but they have different looking. When I see a dagron of eastern-looking, then I expect a samurai killing him, and wont ask myself why are so few white people in that world.
Last edited by tekelili on August 22nd, 2013, 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Be aware English is not my first language and I could have explained bad myself using wrong or just invented words.
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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by Dugi »

Gambit wrote:Every once in a while someone brings up the fact that our humans, who typically portrayed as the good guys, are all white. Meanwhile our orcs, typically portrayed as evil or animal-like even, are dark of skin.
In my opinion, orcs look rather like homo erectus than like the people of non-white race.
Gambit wrote:There's no reason to believe a few of them didn't travel to Wesnoth, settle down, and do something prominent enough to have a portrait shown in a campaign.
Communities with dark skin are not too likely to settle down voluntarily in mild climate (like in wesnoth), because their skin is adopted for large amounts of sunlight, and they would lack vitamin D in places where the sun does not shine so badly. If there were some blacks, they would have to be travellers from distant lands or something like that.
Gambit wrote:I don't see how it is more difficult to draw a character as non-white than white.
I'd say that most of artists here are used to draw white-skinned people rather than dark-skinned... But I wasn't writing about that. But I was writing about the problem with their properties regarding behaviour, in-game properties and so on (for example: Let us make them stronger -> You think that the blacks were brutes? You make no black wizards there, only shamans -> You think blacks can't be scholars? You make them advance slower -> You think blacks are stupid? You make them advance faster -> Damn you with your irony. I've been a moderator elsewhere and I saw how sensible some people can be, it's better to stay off from this as far as possible).
Gambit wrote:This is just flat-out untrue.
According to that article, it is a common misconception, a popular belief. Wesnoth is based on myths rather than facts... but you're right, I've made a mistake.
Gambit wrote:Oh good! Now that we've erased their identity, there's no problem with us having an analog for them. Glad to hear you're on board.
You completely missed the point. The old question was whether there should be 'almost black' instead of 'dark brown'. The Moors were rather dark brown than nearly black (like the people in Central Aftica). Actually some of the nations described as Moors were actually of black race, those who lived south from Sahara, but still, wesnoth campaigns are situated north from the Great Desert, and making the evil humans in UtBS black would scream with racism.

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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by Elfarion »

It seems a bit odd to me to implement black humans in a society that is supposed to resemble a mid-european medieval kingdom. (Because of the reasons tekelili mentioned) Would'nt it be better to expand the world and make a new faction of black people, rather than to change the skin colour of a handful of Wesnothians?
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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by 8680 »

I recommend expanding the acronym “PoC” in the thread title for clarity’s sake. I assume it means “people of color”, given Gambit’s use of that phrase, but, were it not for that, I would assume it means “point of contact” — perhaps a potentially interesting discussion, but not the one taking place in this thread.
Elfarion wrote:Would'nt it be better to expand the world and make a new faction of black people, rather than to change the skin colour of a handful of Wesnothians?
I believe some such expansion has been under discussion:
Gambit wrote:It was also pointed out to me during that conversation that this can be a first step towards something that would rather enrich our lore later on. Perhaps we'll finally see more content that doesn't take place in the country of Wesnoth and its immediate surroundings.
[url=http://forums.wesnoth.org/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=258]Jetrel[/url], during that conversation, wrote:so here's my mind on the subject: […] "wesnoth" proper is a small country in a larger world [Irdya]. The vast majority of people in this country are white, mostly because we've already drawn the graphics for them, and aren't going to redo them, and it's also fine-and-good to have a europeanish locale in a fantasy setting. so, for the long-term goal, I'm strongly in favor of adding to [Irdya’s] geography, and adding some equatorial regions (or even non-equatorial regions) where people are predominantly non-white. I'm also in favor of having groups of humanoids who are themselves non-white - I think it would be very cool to have pan-racial elves and dwarves, especially since functional equivalents exist in all human cultures.
Also, it was mentioned that the inclusion of points of contact “people of color” in Wesnoth would be, within limits, historically accurate:
skyfaller wrote:Wikipedia says in Roman times there were significant black people in the military [in Britain]: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Bri ... an_Britain]
naturally the military is all we really care about in Wesnoth :P
I think if there were black people in England in the military in Roman times it's perfectly reasonable for there to be a sprinkling in the human military if nothing else
it would be weird for them to be common though, black people were rare in that time period no matter how you slice it
I am well aware that historical accuracy is generally not of concern; however, multiple senior developers appear to be in favor to some extent.

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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by Gambit »

Dugi wrote:(for example: Let us make them stronger -> You think that the blacks were brutes? You make no black wizards there, only shamans -> You think blacks can't be scholars? You make them advance slower -> You think blacks are stupid? You make them advance faster -> Damn you with your irony. I've been a moderator elsewhere and I saw how sensible some people can be, it's better to stay off from this as far as possible)
As I said, we're just talking about artwork for now.

The argument of "better to stay off from this as far as possible" is essentially "I don't think the team can be not-racist. Let's just have all white people." as if that is also not an issue.
tekelili wrote:Fantasy is a product of European culture, and even would say is mostly North-European or Normandic based. I dont see a problem in Lord of the Rings movie showing mostly white people, because is "what I expect to see".
johndh wrote:So far, most of what we've seen of Irdya has been somewhat analogous to northern Europe or perhaps North America in terms of climate, so I wouldn't mind leaving the Wesnothian humans as white, especially since we only know of humans arriving there from one particular place.
Elfarion wrote:It seems a bit odd to me to implement black humans in a society that is supposed to resemble a mid-european medieval kingdom.
Again, the all-white medieval Europe is a fabrication.

There's also the issue that when you take a look at popular culture; movies, television, video games, there's plenty of content not in this European mythology, and people are still "expecting" this whitewashing. People make your argument, tekelili, that "that's just the way the culture/mythology is", but then at the same time, we keep on creating that culture/mythology. There have to be a few breaks in that cycle or you wind up with people of color permanently excluded. That's the status quo right now. White heroes forever and in everything.

I'm wondering if you all found... say... A Song of Ice and Fire or... The Elder Scrolls made worse by the inclusion of people of color. What are you all arguing against and why? What downside is there to this change? You're all just arguing and I can't see any clear conclusion or aim. The people handling the actual work, mind you, are already on board. They're just mulling over specifics.

My proposal to Jetrel and Zookeeper was "Let's have a few characters sprinkled among the humans that aren't white." What is the downside?
8680 wrote:I believe some such expansion has been under discussion:
Yep. At some ill-defined future date. You know how it is. :P

This proposal is part hotfix, part stop-gap, part springboard.

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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by Pentarctagon »

Will the portrait changes also get some explanation in the characters' lore as to where they came from? Or are there just going to be a few random black people now?
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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by Gambit »

For now, the latter, as to have minimal impact. They don't necessarily need to all be black either. Hence my use of the phrase "people of color".

Hopefully having them inspires some explanation from writers and fans. Our campaigns are selected from high quality user content, after all.

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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by revansurik »

Just throwing my two cents...
So far, most of what we've seen of Irdya has been somewhat analogous to northern Europe or perhaps North America in terms of climate, so I wouldn't mind leaving the Wesnothian humans as white, especially since we only know of humans arriving there from one particular place. If you leave a population of humans in a somewhat cold place without a whole lot of sunshine, they're likely to develop fair skin and a variety of light eye and hair colors.
Not necessarily; Inuits live in a latitude similar to the Scandinavians, but have darker skin, hair and eyes.
Communities with dark skin are not too likely to settle down voluntarily in mild climate (like in wesnoth), because their skin is adopted for large amounts of sunlight, and they would lack vitamin D in places where the sun does not shine so badly. If there were some blacks, they would have to be travellers from distant lands or something like that.
By this same logic, one could conclude that people of light skin are unlikely to voluntarily settle in hotter, sunnier regions, and yet I see lots of white people in this tropical, very sunny land of mine... Furthermore, if that was true, the Huns (who, as far as it's known, were a mix of Turkic/Altaic people) and the Moors would never have settled in Europe.
Sigfrid and King Arthur were white, I dont think I am racist for expect a white man as hero when I see a battle versus a dragon, because dragons are not real, and surrond a dragon with a world similar to culture that created them, makes that dragon more real
I may have misunderstood it, but for what I read Siegfried was part Hun (a Central-East Asian people); besides, Attila is thought to be a somewhat recurring character in Norse Sagas, where he's known as Atli. So I don't think that the presence of dark-skinned people in an European-folklore-themed story would be so alien - though I'm talking about Asians here, not only blacks.
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Re: PoC in Wesnoth

Post by tekelili »

I am not arguing against solution, I arguad against "there is a problem". When I see a history with evil genius and djinns, I am just not worried about how many blond or Japannesse people it showed. Yep, I am a pop culture victim :wink:
Be aware English is not my first language and I could have explained bad myself using wrong or just invented words.
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