4 Reasons Black People Don't Play Tabletop RPGs


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Dire Bare

Legend
Thanks for posting that video, it was a good discussion on the topic from the perspective of a black man. If you read through the comments for a bit, and you should, there are a lot of positive comments from other black gamers and also from a lot of Hispanic gamers with similar experiences to RPGElite. It was also nice to see a few comments claiming they've played with majority black tables for decades!

I'm white, so going in I assumed he would talk about representation in RPGs . . . and he didn't really. I do think that the fantasy genre, and D&D-style games definitely have a representation problem, but . . . that isn't one of the main reasons black people don't play RPGs according to RPGElite.

While watching, I found myself thinking that while RPGs are not big within the African-American community, Star Wars and comics are more widely accepted . . . why is that? Again, I'm white, so this is from an outsider perspective, but . . . I think its representation. Comics made a push for more diversity decades ago and created a number of prominent black characters. Most of these characters were created by white writers/artists and were sometimes painfully stereotypical, but these characters opened the door. For Star Wars . . . it's Lando! Lando was, in a sense, the "token" black character in the original trilogy, but as played by Billy Dee Williams, his impact was greater than his screentime.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
Hm, not sure what to make of that
1+2 are universal. When you don't know it or are not interested in it you don't play. Nothing to do with skin color.
3: Not sure if there is a difference, but RPGs long had a nerd/weirdo stigma for whites, too. Not sure if the black culture he speaks of really exist and if its worse
4: Sounds a bit like stereotyping how important the church is for black prople (all/most of them). But no idea how close to the truth it is.

And if you want to "fix" that, just concentrate on 1+2. 3 and 4 will then follow.
 

Greg K

Hero
Leaving 1 and 2 aside, because as @Ixal wrote has nothing to do with skin color.
Number 3, I have long been aware of. I had seen directed at a friend back in the early 80's. After playing basketball during recess, some of the guys with whom we played (and bussed in from the inner city) pulled me aside and asked me why he did not act more "black". Among the things mentioned was his playing rpgs. In recent years, another friend has commented upon experiencing it from his own family which led him and other members of his group (whom were black and also experienced it) to keep it "on the DL".
 
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Mezuka

Adventurer
The point about ignorance still stands. I think what he means is that RPGs are (were) far more underground in the black community than in the white population. He seems to imply that black religious groups managed to thwart the natural growth of RPGs far more effectively. Hence the discrepancy in the number of players.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
3: Not sure if there is a difference, but RPGs long had a nerd/weirdo stigma for whites, too. Not sure if the black culture he speaks of really exist and if its worse
From my experience (having a mixed raced family), he's spot on with that. While yes, there was a negative stereotype for us when we were playing in the 70s and 80s, and it was pretty bad, we were just called "not cool" or "nerds". We were never called "not white" or inferred we were betraying our race. That does exist in parts of black culture. It's a lot more complex as to the causes of that (I believe a lot has to do with generations of pigeonholing black people into certain "categories" due to racist policies we've had for centuries. I.e., white America has tried to oppresses the identity of black people for so long, that reclamation of that identity as become a unifying part of modern black culture. But that's another topic).
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I wouldn't say that Points 1 and 2 have nothing to do with skin color, as some have suggested. But I'm a white person from the American South, so my view is clouded. I'm going to trust the speaker's assessment--if he says it is an issue for people of color, then I'm going to believe him.

I can speak to Point 4, though. Yes, religious stigma is a big deal in the American South. I grew up in a Protestant, charismatic church, and the attitudes and judgments that he speaks of are very real indeed. I've sat through sermons that compared D&D to witchcraft, I've had youth pastors show up at my house on game nights to "intervene," I've had players leave my gaming group because of social pressure from the clergy. "They said they'll kick me out of the choir if I don't stop playing D&D." When all that nonsense from Sean Sellers hit the news, parents in the church started burning their kids' gaming materials.

That was the late 1980s - early 1990s. I left in 2000 and I haven't been back for more than a day or two ever since, so I'm not sure if that stigma is still as strong as it was in my teenage years. But yeah, can confirm: Point 4 is a big one in the South.
 
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payn

Legend
Thanks for linking to this. I normally don't watch RPG videos, but I found this one really surprising and interesting.

One thing I found surprising is that he focused entirely on societal pressures rather than the history of RPGs. It's definitely a perspective I haven't seen represented often, and worth listening to!
Societal pressure used to be huge even for white folks. The satanic panic, nerd hate, etc..
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Societal pressure used to be huge even for white folks. The satanic panic, nerd hate, etc..
Oh definitely. I just expected the video to focus more on things D&D might have done to alienate people of color, rather than observing how culture and society have alienated people of color from D&D. I appreciated seeing a perspective that I hadn't thought about.

I also think perspectives like these can help bridge people of different cultures. Saying "oh yeah, I had a similar experience" despite not identifying as black can help build empathy and understanding.
 

Mallus

Legend
Thanks for posting this.

It really took me back to the days of my high school D&D group. For a while we were 2 Black kids and 3 other people of color (to use a term that didn't exist yet in the 1980s).
 

Hm, not sure what to make of that
1+2 are universal. When you don't know it or are not interested in it you don't play. Nothing to do with skin color.

He says it is universal at the start of that point but I think he is making a more involved point. I think what he is saying is D&D has less presence in the black community and in black culture so it isn't as widely known as in say, a mostly white suburb. So while there are plenty of white people who don't know the game, I think his point is black people are less likely to know about it. And he seems to be making a similar statement in point 2 (otherwise I don't think he would have made it).
 

And if you want to "fix" that, just concentrate on 1+2. 3 and 4 will then follow.

While I am sure this might have an impact on 3 and 4, I think it underestimates the importance of religion and culture. I can't speak to his experience, or what it is like to be black. But there are places in my life where RPGs are frowned on either for religious reasons or cultural ones. In those instances, the issue isn't awareness. Religious objections to D&D are predicated on awareness of D&D as a concept. And often times, the more you explain something like D&D to a person who objects to it on religion grounds, the more it confirms the things they fear about it. I grew up in a religious place during the Satanic panic, have very religious relatives, and when people think something as important as your soul is on the line, they can get pretty worried about RPGs. I think it is less common now, but I think his contention was he thinks it is still a very strong factor in the black community.
 


ruemere

Adventurer
It's not what you think. Before you comment WATCH the video. This is very illuminating.

RPG Elite:
Spoken from a position of a total outsider, I'd like to express my gratitude for posting the link. Youtube would have never recommended this to me, I get barely any City of Mist stuff, and that's it.

Regarding the points made in the clip, I would say they mirror the adoption of RPGs in my country (EU): lack of familiarity with the subject (the fandom is about S-F, Fantasy is the poor cousin, RPGs - what's that?), language barrier (basically, unless your GM does the translation, you're left in the cold), Church stuff (fortunately, the clergy were largely ignorant, and directed their ire mostly toward Pokemons, Hello Kitty, anime in general, and later Harry Potter).

I sympathize, and I hope it's just a matter of time.
 

MGibster

Legend
Sounds a bit like stereotyping how important the church is for black prople (all/most of them). But no idea how close to the truth it is.
Historically, churches have had a very important place in the African American history in that they were one of the few public spaces available to blacks where they could interact without interference from whites. We typically think of a church as where you go for religious services or community activities, but for blacks in the 19th and 20th century, the church was also where they went to discuss political issues and make plans. And black clergy were often one of the better educated members of their communities having gone to college in an era where even most whites didn't go. There's a reason the face of the Civil Rights Movement was The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Anecdotally speaking, none of my black friends are church goers. But, boy, their mothers are. And all of my black coworkers are church goers with one whose husband is a pastor.

I'm no defending RPG Elite's reasons here. But I'm just trying to put his belief into context.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Talking about RPG players and groups in general, and various different groups of people (POC, but also other groups of people) I will say he is DEAD ON about CR.

I saw part of one CR in the past, didn't really care for it...but you know, maybe it's because it's made by people with a culture that has NO INTRINSIC interest to me. They make things that only interest their groups and nothing that interests me or those in mine.

On 1&2, I have many POC in my groups, but I have to admit I am VERY CAREFUL on who I recruit to play RPGs. This is in general and not towards any group in particular, but it is STILL a thing these days for many to mock those who they feel play or do "nerdy" things. I suppose this sort of applies to #3, not necessarily a specific group, but again, in general, it CAN be a cultural thing. There are various groups that look down on those playing RPGs or things they do not feel is part of that culture that you and they are a part of. Its a reason why I don't point out that I play RPGs or do any of this stuff around certain people. I already know how they probably will react and it will not be good.

Also true, even if I have many POC in my groups, I have NEVER seen a group composed entirely of Black individuals around the table. The same would apply for me with any POC group to be honest.

#4 is also very relavent to many others groups. I don't most of my OWN family members know I play RPGs for exactly THIS reason.

It also is a reason why his resolution on how to solve it can be VERY hard. I don't want to be shunned by family or put down by others who I know would fall into areas of #3 and #4. Tough spot to be in.

I DO go over to co-workers and others to introduce them to RPGs if I think they would be receptive or enjoy that type of gaming. I'm still very careful around others though.
 

MGibster

Legend
I DO go over to co-workers and others to introduce them to RPGs if I think they would be receptive or enjoy that type of gaming. I'm still very careful around others though.
I don't usually talk about gaming with anyone at work. Thanks to Zoom meetings and COVID, they know I paint silly robots, dinosaurs, and other models. During new employee orientation, when I went over accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance I once made a joke along the lines of, "I thought this stood for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but it's actually accidental death & dismemberment. And it has to be accidental so don't get any funny thoughts." For most of my life, I have kept gaming a secret from most of the people I know.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I don't usually talk about gaming with anyone at work. Thanks to Zoom meetings and COVID, they know I paint silly robots, dinosaurs, and other models. During new employee orientation, when I went over accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance I once made a joke along the lines of, "I thought this stood for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but it's actually accidental death & dismemberment. And it has to be accidental so don't get any funny thoughts." For most of my life, I have kept gaming a secret from most of the people I know.
This is the view from my laptop camera. My office is also the spare bedroom, and if they can't figure out I'm a geek by now, well, ...😂
IMG_20220128_193511966.jpg
 

I don't usually talk about gaming with anyone at work. Thanks to Zoom meetings and COVID, they know I paint silly robots, dinosaurs, and other models. During new employee orientation, when I went over accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance I once made a joke along the lines of, "I thought this stood for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but it's actually accidental death & dismemberment. And it has to be accidental so don't get any funny thoughts." For most of my life, I have kept gaming a secret from most of the people I know.
To be honest, I've always felt that there is nothing more boring than someone telling me about a hobby I don't share, so I've never talked about mine, unless they bring it up first.

I've never encountered religious objections, even during the 80s, although I have always barred any religious themes or connections in my games
 

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