Cultural Sensitivity in Pirate101

Some thing happen in the games that might go completely unnoticed if you don't pay special attention to the forums and the far corners of the Spiral. This is one such example. Concerns raised about racism and stereotypes on the official Pirate101 forums sparked a discussion with some serious results.

Navigating Dangerous Waters

The Red Wall Mouse (one word on the forums) initially shared his concerns on the forums here. This was originally posted at the end of last year (2017), and the discussion has been ongoing. He summarized the difference between simple jokes and harmful stereotypes:

Kingisle pokes fun at all the cultures they portray, such as making the Monquista government vain, greedy and materialistic to reflect Spain's history with wealth. I understand this, Great Britain and Spain are not historically oppressed as far as I'm aware. The Aztecs, the Polynesians, and the Native Americans, though - are. 

The Red Wall Mouse then goes on to explain that they could be missing something and encourage an open and honest discussion on the forums... and plenty of people were happy to take up the offer.

This spiraled into a more in-depth question regarding other quests. Anecorbie shared her perspective as a Christian doing a side quest requiring her to make an offering to an idol, or a false God:

As a Christian, let me say that I was rather disturbed by the quest called "The Temple Round". For those who haven't done/read this side quest, it requires you to gather Harpy feathers, then visit a few Immortal's shrines and make an offering ... I came to terms with this quest by asking myself "Do I actually believe I am worshiping real Gods?" The answer, of course, was "No".

KingsIsle Responds

When it comes to these topics, KingsIsle often ignores them altogether, but that wasn't the case here. Tom, or One-Eyed Jack, was still the Community Manager at the time, and left his own response in the thread, encouraging people to remember the forum rules but also assuring them that the discussion was being reviewed:

Hey all! I just wanted to be sure you knew that we are reading the posts as they come in on this topic, and the discussion has been forwarded to Blind Mew for review (and hopefully future comment). ...

Thanks for your support!

It wasn't long after, in early January of this year, that Blind Mew weighed in on the thread. He noted that he replayed the entire beginning of the game and had one of KingsIsle's recent hires do the same to see the content "through fresh eyes." Here's part of what he had to say:

I'd like to thank TheRedWallMouse for making the original post, and for the civil and well-reasoned discussion that followed. We do research the cultures we depict in our games extensively, and we try to avoid any possible stigma at every turn – the age of our player base demands that every line of dialogue we write gets subjected to heavy analysis to ensure everything is appropriate.

The full response is multiple posts, and definitely worth taking a look at. Read it on page 3 of the thread here. One of the most notable pieces of his response was his concurrence with the original poster that the word "savage" was historically accurate but perhaps too denigrating to use. 

In a subsequent update, Blind Mew actually made a number of dialogue changes and story clarifications to these early quests. The game was actually changed as a result of this very important discussion.

My Response

I do think we have to consider the elements of humor and the integration of history in the game as Blind Mew suggests. On the other hand, we do have to be careful to remember that we're playing a game which is quite whimsical and completing quest goals and doing things which are not real. That's part of the reason I thought anecorbie's post was really worth paying attention to.

That said, I think it's important to take these topics seriously. Just because things are whimsical and fun doesn't mean there's a free pass for offensive content. What was great about this situation was that the original poster approached the topic in a very thoughtful and open-minded way. A (mostly) productive discussion ensued and KingsIsle paid attention and responded. 

What do you think?

Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

Did you enjoy this content?
Consider making a donation to Extra Life! Support the Children's Miracle Network and KingsIsle Gamers team with your donation! Check out my page here.

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.