content by

Whitney Strix Beltrán

Fairy Tales through Gaming: The Ancient Arc of Modern Storytelling

What could Final Fantasy possibly have to do with cave paintings? At first glance they seem unrelated: myths, folktales, and fairy tales are our earliest forms of storytelling, while narrative video games and tabletop role-playing games are nascent art forms just coming into their own. The very old and the very new may not seem like they have much in common, but under the surface they both answer our species’ deepest desires for stories. Narrative games and the tales of our past are deeply entwined, and games can reap profound benefits from the relationship.

As a trained mythologist and a narrative designer and writer for games, I see firsthand the unique marriage between games and stories. In fact, it’s a union I occupy deeply in my own work.

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Gen Con 2016 Sends Clear Message that Gaming is for Everyone

Gen Con Indy, America’s largest tabletop gaming convention, has a storied history going as far back as 1968, and is perhaps the most influential event in the global tabletop gaming community. With over 61,000 attendees in 2015, Gen Con is both a barometer of taste and a precedent setter.

Every year, Gen Con selects a cohort of up to 25 Industry Insider Featured Speakers who represent the best and the brightest in the industry. These are designers, writers, artists, academics, activists, and other gaming professionals from all walks of life who have unique knowledge and insight to share with gamers. Each Featured Speaker gives talks and workshops aligned with their areas of expertise.

[For many years the Featured Speaker list has been very white and very male…]

Why Minority Settings in RPGs Matter

Role-playing games offer participants limitless opportunities to explore new places, characters, and ideas. Do you want to be a vampire pirate? Cool! A cyberpunk android? All right! Do you want your game to take place in a medieval fantasy kingdom, a post-apocalyptic dystopian wasteland, or even other galaxies? No problem! With imagination the only barrier for what can be created, there should be a vast field of narratives told through games. Yet, role-playing games are often more narrowly defined.

Role-playing games have an established history of leaving setting and characters a blank slate, while often loosely drawing inspiration from Western themes. For example, when I was a kid and I played Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, we came in with unexamined expectations—the city we saved was always filled with white people, the mayor of the town was always a man, the kingdom was always vaguely built around an imagined medieval Europe. As an adult, I still see these elements and themes repeated in games today.

This is a common pitfall that minority advocates in gaming have come to call “defaultism.”

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