Primitive and Icy

November 6, 2009

Ganakagok is, “a quasi-Inuit Silmarillion as seen from the inside looking out”. A bunch of folks had recommended it as a great game. It uses a sort of tarot-system to set up the situation, the characters, and play out the game. I picked up a copy yesterday, as I’ve been meaning to check it out for sometime.

Skimming through, my first big twitch was the images of the example cards, using Pacific Northwest NDN artwork… UM. And then stuff like character names: “The name should be primitive and icy, vaguely Inuit in sound and form.” WTF is “icy”? Then there’s “Shaman”, “Good Medicine” and “Bad Medicine” …

For a game that claims to be a look from the inside-out, it’s chock full of exotification.

This brings us back to the larger media issue- we’re forced to either only indulge in things where we’re invisible (“Look, we don’t show up, so no problematic imagery… uh, yay, I guess?”) or things where we show up distorted and stereotypes (“At least I get to have media with people who look vaguely like me… I’ll just imagine there’s scenes and spaces where we get to see them as normal”). Which pretty much sums up my love/hate relationship of L5R.

And beyond that, the bigger social issue of why us telling stories, about ourselves, is absolutely required in the face of cultural genocide.

I suppose that’s also why roleplaying as a hobby, is where it is.

Who gets to tell your story? Right?

One comment

  1. I had this moment in the development of Beast Hunters where I first decided to have tattoos as artwork in the game instead of creature illos. I initially considered the tattoos to look like Haida artwork. Then I thought about it and realized that I really had no business appropriating their cultural expression–and so the tattoos that ended up in the game are purposefully modeled after “modern” tattoo art, which from what I could find isn’t tied to anyone’s cultural heritage.

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