So I'm creating a character to try the new patch with, and something has come up that came up with the first character I created, but I moved past it.
All the options for female elf heads have Caucasian features.
There are other racial options for other races, but literally all the female elves look Caucasian -- even changing skin tone, it's not really possible to make a female elf have features common to people of African, East/Southeast Asian, Indigenous, or Latinx descent.
I know that to some this might seem like a nitpick, and honestly, I really hesitated before bringing this up. I thought of it with the first character I created, but I know that things like this can create static sometimes, and people can get defensive / offended.
And I'm not trying to make anyone feel any type of way.
It's just the fact that growing up a brown geek girl, I didn't get to see many heroes who looked like me. I felt lucky if I got to see a female protagonist in the books, movies, and TV shows I was interested in.
It's weird not to see yourself reflected anywhere.
There's this amazing quote by the Dominican-American author, Junot Diaz, about representation:
"You know how vampires have no reflections in the mirror?" the Pulitzer Prize-winning author asked. "If you want to make a human being a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.
"And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me?’ That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me was this deep desire, that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors, so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it."
This quote resonated with me so hard; as a weird kid from a messed up home who listened to weird music and was into weird things, it made me even weirder that I was brown. The stories I escaped in were almost always about kids like me -- isolated, broken, difficult homes, different than others, but they ended up being special in some way. They ended up finding magic in some way. They ended up escaping and growing and becoming magic themselves in some way.
They were always white.
It's different with books though -- most of the time, authors don't put so much emphasis on describing characters' physicalities in such exacting detail that you can't imagine them a little more how you want to see them. And in the end, you connect with the characters that someone else created because despite the cultural or racial differences, there's still this very deep, important, fundamental thread of connection that makes that character resonate with you on a level just as profound as race, as culture, as ethnicity.
And on TV and in movies, again, I was grateful to see girls start to kick butt sometimes, to wield swords, to save the day.
But again, they were mostly white.
Sometimes it feels hard to explain why this matters to people who haven't experienced it. When you've lived your whole life in a world where the heroes look like you, talk like you (or like your ancestors), sound like you, have similar cultural experiences to you, most likely, you've never considered what it might be like to live in the absence of those heroes. And that's natural; that's normal.
And this has been slowly changing over time, but for the most part, the heroes and heroines in high fantasy tend to be on the paler side of things.
And I'm not mad at that. I can invest just as fully in a white character with a posh British accent as any other (lol, I mean, some of my favorite characters are white with British accents :D).
But also, when playing a video game in the RPG genre, it's a unique opportunity to live out a certain type of fantasy -- to create and be the hero of your imagination, to inhabit a world made of magic in a body, with a face, that reflects whatever ideal (or anti-ideal!) you want.
Elves, in general, have always been a source of fascination to me. There are so many interpretations of them across so many texts and media, but one consistent theme is that they're these immortal, otherworldly, almost transcendent beings, made of magic, light of hand and foot, graceful, dexterous, with something elegant to them no matter how roguish or Drow-ish. At least, that's how they live in my imagination.
So rarely do people of color get to see themselves in such elegant roles.
I love playing elves -- I play other races, too, but elves are usually near the top of the list in terms of order.
So it's kind of disappointing and disheartening to see that it's not possible to play a female elf whose face isn't a reflection of Caucasian standards of beauty / Caucasian features, but rather shows someone who looks a little more like me -- Latinx, North African, a mix of ingredients that don't reflect the thin, petite noses and wide, round eyes of white female beauty, but rather a different kind of beauty... one just as capable of elven grace and dexterity and mastery of magic.
There are some gorgeous, diverse faces across the other races available for play, but those faces are not available for a female elf of any kind -- or even a half-elf. And that's really, really disappointing -- and I'm not sure why it is. Why can Tieflings, humans, dwarves, and halflings have features that resemble those of other races, but not elves?
I'm hoping that in the future, more options will be added to the female elven faces available to reflect greater diversity and allow everyone to be able to enjoy the fantasy of being an elven hero.
Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
This is a beautiful post. You got me with this one. I understand now more than ever before why this issue is important. I'm sure there are many, many people who feel as you do, so thanks for taking the time to give voice to their perspective.
Anyone who comes along with that "I don't see why it's a big deal anyway" or "hurr durr SJW agenda" or the usual crap that people post when someone kindly asks for some more representative appearance options for non-white people in video games is already pre-emptively shut down by this great original post.
Let's keep this on the first page.