The term RACE in Fantasy
- Race is used to describe differences in appearance, culture and geographical origin for characters.
- In fantasy the range of traits for different ‘races’ can be so great that they would be different species (dwarf – orgs).
- Players do not define races: races come prelabeled and identified in the game itself.
Elves as Other
Elves as cultural trope in the West, represent the other and fears associated with otherness. Both hope and fear are represented in their embodiment as near-human. Three types, all of which do cultural work as ‘the other’:
- In fantasy world elves are usually almost humans but more in tune with nature. High elves are usually concerned with ‘racial’ purity and use magic.
- Half-elves. They are typical mixed race, viewed as not ‘pure’ by both elves and humans. Half-elves do not fit in with either humans or elves.
- Dark elves. Given their dark skin, they are the black people of the fantasy world. Dark elves are evil, use magic and poisons, and may own slaves (odd through a Western lens given that they are ‘Black’)
In the game world
Today’s elves are typically presented as magical, human-like with pointy ears, and as adept users of bows and arrows.
Fantasy games are based on earlier fantasy tropes, which, for English speakers in the United States and the United Kingdom, are based on European history and historical fantasy. It is predominantly a world of White people.
Having elf slaves is acceptable, but human ones (especially if black or brown) would be difficult or impossible for a Western game company.
The practice of gold farming, or selling in-game currency to players for real money, usually through resellers such as IGE or EBay, is especially disliked. Leisure players have been joined by worker players from poorer nations such as China and Korea who are often subject to oppression as both a racio-linguistic minority, and as undesirable underclassed social bodies in the context of game play and game culture.
These ‘farmers’ produce and sell virtual goods to other players for real money:
- Their own levelled-up avatars
Many gold farmers are Chinese and there are anti-Asian protests which construct Chinese identity at MMO’s as undesirable. The real world problems such as racism, classism -> social inequality.
The economics of gold farming are discussed in terms of their negative impact upon the leisure players. The player workers position in gamic economy is understand as immigrant groups who cross national borders in order to work, but unlike them they are ‘virtual migrants’.
Early social environments enable users to adopt avatars in order to experience pleasure while MMO’s put users to work to create profit. Polarization: leisure players-worker players, virtual property buyers-virtual property sellers, Asian-non-Asian.
Though not all farmers, or for-profit workers, are Asian by any means, the image of the farmer has come to include race as part of the package. Asian farmers – unwanted, illegal, anti-social workers.
Gold farmers, or workers who are paid to ‘‘play online all day, every day, gathering artificial gold coins and other virtual loot that, ‘as it turns out, can be transformed into real cash,’’’ were the topic of a New York Times story on December 9, 2005 (Barboza, 2005).
In the same time there are homemade clips on YouTube of players documenting their farmer-killing expeditions. Hatred of Chinese gold farmers drives users to produce anti-Asian visual and textual media which they share with other users.
Machinima as User-Generated Racial Narrative: The Media Campaign Against Chinese Player-Workers in WoW. Many American players fail to see Asian players as ‘people’, specifically those suspected of being ‘farmers’.
Nathaniel Poor, Digital Elves as a Racial Other in Video Games: Acknowledgment and Avoidance, Games and Culture 2012 7: 375
Lisa Nakamura, Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft, Critical Studies in Media Communication Vol. 26, No. 2, June 2009, pp. 128144