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1E About the Asian contributors to Oriental Adventures, or Who even were these guys?

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I just can't picture the folks at TSR going out of their way to mail a manuscript to Japan in the pre-internet days unless they were looking for cultural insight. If all they wanted was playtesters or editors, surely there were plenty of those available without the expense and hassle of sending international packages.
okay, if you actually read what I posted you'd see that D&D was first published in Japanese in 1985, the same year OA came out. publishing a book in a foreign country in a foreign language usually involves a lot of correspondence, so it's not like they didn't have the means necessary to ask "hey could you have some Japanese players take a look at this stuff and see what they think?" while they're at it. though now that I think about it, that makes the level of input look even worse.
They probably didn't have the same level of expertise for other Asian cultures, in fact, being Japanese is no guarantee that they were even experts on Japanese history or culture any more than your average American is an expert on their history and culture.
🙄

this also doesn't address the fact they're still just a Japanese group of players. as everyone has said before "Asian people aren't a monolith!". I know it sounds cynical, but while this group may have had a decent to surprisingly amazing level of expertise on Japanese history I don't expect the same level of expertise for other Asian cultures.


Oriental Adventures was produced for entertainment purposes and wasn't designed to stand up to any sort of academic rigor.

So why does it matter whether or not they were experts? And what is the minimum standard to be considered an expert in this context?
if it's bad, then why bend over backwards to defend it? there's a lot of material now that is probably not only better but coincidentally stands up better to academic rigor. you can still buy OA second hand, but it's just a curiosity at best at this point.

also I don't think you understand the level of influence a product made for entertainment purposes can have. if this was someone's only view into Asian culture it's going to skew how they view Asian culture. this isn't to say it's wrong to gain knowledge or insight via entertainment, but to do so without realizing the context of it can lead to skewed results.
 

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jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
okay, if you actually read what I posted you'd see that D&D was first published in Japanese in 1985, the same year OA came out.
I did miss the date, sorry.

publishing a book in a foreign country in a foreign language usually involves a lot of correspondence, so it's not like they didn't have the means necessary to ask "hey could you have some Japanese players take a look at this stuff and see what they think?"
I assumed that was exactly what they did. Are you saying you think that probably isn't what happened?
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Cook's forward to OA does a bit to address why so much of the focus was on Japan, and why some others didn't get as much. In part it was the sources available apparently, and in part it was how interesting he could make them seem for a game given the sources. (The intro by Gygax also seemed interesting.) WotC - Dungeons & Dragons Fans Seek Removal of Oriental Adventures From Online Marketplace

In a pre-internet age, for a company the size of TSR, it doesn't feel reasonable to me to expect them to have gathered a bunch of expert opinions on all of the different cultures. Maybe other game publishers were doing far more in the early 1980s, but it feels like they did quite a bit more than would have been expected as far as being aware and sensitive about the issues for the time.

Of course, even if true, having done more at the time than expected doesn't make a book useful or appropriate by today's standards.
yeah, I know the book is the way it is partially due to how it was rushed, I get that. but apparently getting a bunch of expert opinions is what Gygax was going for? idk, if they couldn't get the resources they needed then they should've just scrapped everything but the part they knew was good and published a book about a Japanese setting. it'd probably be seen as just a dated, but kinda cool artifact of it's time and not be anywhere near controversial.

...that is unless they took this book about a Japanese setting and slapped the name "Oriental Adventures" on to it anyway! I'm looking at you 3rd ed. OA ):<
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I did miss the date, sorry.


I assumed that was exactly what they did. Are you saying you think that probably isn't what happened?
no, I'm saying that's probably is what happened, they probably said "hey we have correspondence in Japan, maybe we can get some advice from Japanese people?" and then decided a playtest group was good enough. I know they were under time constraints, but getting a book translation done takes time, they could also have tried to ask "hey we want to make a book about a Japanese setting, do you think you can reach out to a professor of Japanese history for advice?"

and it might have happened! we don't know, and again they were on schedule, and also a budget so asking a Japanese professor for help might have ended up being more than they could pay*. I'm just pointing out that despite circumstances, when it comes down to it these 5 players being the only Asian contributors to D&D is kinda sad.

*actually, now that I think about it, were these players even paid for their work??!
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
*actually, now that I think about it, were these players even paid for their work??!
I'm guessing no one at the time would have thought about it. We're how many years later and finally looking down on asking artists to contribute art for free for exposure? Were any of the folks in Arneson and Gygax's gaming groups paid for all of their vital work? Do playtesters ever get paid.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I'm guessing no one at the time would have thought about it. We're how many years later and finally looking down on asking artists to contribute art for free for exposure? Were any of the folks in Arneson and Gygax's gaming groups paid for all of their vital work? Do playtesters ever get paid.
I mean QA testers get paid, but like I said in my post these guys got more credit than a QA tester could ever hope for 😭
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
okay, if you actually read what I posted you'd see that D&D was first published in Japanese in 1985, the same year OA came out. publishing a book in a foreign country in a foreign language usually involves a lot of correspondence, so it's not like they didn't have the means necessary to ask "hey could you have some Japanese players take a look at this stuff and see what they think?" while they're at it. though now that I think about it, that makes the level of input look even worse.

Would it have been as useful to have Japanese players from Japan look at it as Japanese or Japanese-American players in the US?

yo, okay, there's a huge difference between Asians in Asia and Asians, like me and Kwan, who didn't grow up in a primarily Asian country. an average Korean person living in Korea can go to work with almost entirely other Korean people. their day to day interactions are almost entirely with other Korean people. they'll watch TV and hey! mostly Korean people are on TV. they might watch some fantasy show that has a lot of tropes that people here might find contentious, but that's okay because virtually everyone they know understands that it's just a fantasy and nothing real.

that's not the case for me. I'm an Asian (and Latino!) person living in America, a lot of work teams I've been on I'm the only visible minority, I mostly interact with other white people in my day to day interactions, and if I see an Asian person on TV they're usually gonna be a weird stereotype and not at all a regular cast member. keep in mind I also live in a part of this country with a noticeable Asian American population.

the fact that you're trying to point to Asians from Asia as proof OA is okay says that you don't really understand the underlying issues here. I'd suggest reading about the "perpetual foreigner" stereotype to understand why it's messed up for you try and invalidate my opinion because those Asians don't take issue with it.
----

And I completely agree with your sad reply on my post right above this one :-(
 

MGibster

Legend
if it's bad, then why bend over backwards to defend it? there's a lot of material now that is probably not only better but coincidentally stands up better to academic rigor. you can still buy OA second hand, but it's just a curiosity at best at this point.
I didn't say OA was bad. In fact, OA was very well received upon release and I enjoyed the heck out of it back in the day. What I said it was OA was not designed to stand up to the rigors of academic standards. And when it comes to entertainment, I'm not all that concerned about academic rigor. The very fact that I play in any D&D setting is proof positive that academic rigor is not a primary concern.

also I don't think you understand the level of influence a product made for entertainment purposes can have. if this was someone's only view into Asian culture it's going to skew how they view Asian culture. this isn't to say it's wrong to gain knowledge or insight via entertainment, but to do so without realizing the context of it can lead to skewed results.
Even in 1985, the idea that OA would have been anyone's only view of Asian cultures is a bit of a stretch.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Even in 1985, the idea that OA would have been anyone's only view of Asian cultures is a bit of a stretch.
I'm trying to think what 14 year old me knew about it - Sign of the Chrysanthemum, a few comics with Sunfire and Silver Samurai, flipping through Deities and Demigods, Karate Kid, Shogun, and an occasional scene on M*A*S*H? And now I'm googling what I forgot about those to see how problematic they were.
 
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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I'm guessing no one at the time would have thought about it. We're how many years later and finally looking down on asking artists to contribute art for free for exposure? Were any of the folks in Arneson and Gygax's gaming groups paid for all of their vital work? Do playtesters ever get paid.
There were 1.5 million "playtesters" for D&D Next. I don't think any of them got paid. I sure didn't. And I was ok with that.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Would it have been as useful to have Japanese players from Japan look at it as Japanese or Japanese-American players in the US?
this is a valid question, and like I also said it's not like Asian Americans are fully deprived of their heritage. that being said, anyone from neither group is necessarily an expert on their culture. I'm far (far...) from an expert on Korean culture, but I can at least speak on the Asian American experience.
I didn't say OA was bad. In fact, OA was very well received upon release and I enjoyed the heck out of it back in the day. What I said it was OA was not designed to stand up to the rigors of academic standards. And when it comes to entertainment, I'm not all that concerned about academic rigor. The very fact that I play in any D&D setting is proof positive that academic rigor is not a primary concern.



Even in 1985, the idea that OA would have been anyone's only view of Asian cultures is a bit of a stretch.
I'm not saying it wasn't enjoyable, but it is still dated and has bad stereotypes. you can enjoy things that are dated and problematic, I mean I still play D&D despite all these controversies going on right now.

also, think about other entertainment products involving Asian culture around that time. I know Shogun was a big deal in the early 80's, but like OA is largely considered incredibly dated and full of stereotypes, and yet for many Americans it was their introduction to Japanese history. even audiences in Japan didn't like it at the time because they thought it wasn't faithful to history.

I even have an anecdotal story: my own dad was a consultant in Japan in the 80's. he told me how one time he suggested the name "Pilot" for a product and they rejected it because of the association with the show.
 
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Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
There were 1.5 million "playtesters" for D&D Next. I don't think any of them got paid. I sure didn't. And I was ok with that.
most of them weren't credited either. and that's fine. but there is a difference between "hey gamers, come try out our new game and tell us what you think!" and reaching out to a specific group of people to see what they think about the game. even focus testers get some sort of non-monetary compensation for their time.
 

FireLance

Legend
no, I'm saying that's probably is what happened, they probably said "hey we have correspondence in Japan, maybe we can get some advice from Japanese people?" and then decided a playtest group was good enough. I know they were under time constraints, but getting a book translation done takes time, they could also have tried to ask "hey we want to make a book about a Japanese setting, do you think you can reach out to a professor of Japanese history for advice?"

and it might have happened! we don't know, and again they were on schedule, and also a budget so asking a Japanese professor for help might have ended up being more than they could pay*. I'm just pointing out that despite circumstances, when it comes down to it these 5 players being the only Asian contributors to D&D is kinda sad.

*actually, now that I think about it, were these players even paid for their work??!
I think that may have helped if the intent was to correct any factual errors or misunderstandings, but not if the intent was to avoid giving offense to Asian Americans.

I think it's been pointed out before that the experience of being Asian in an Asian majority country is quite different from being Asian in an Asian minority country. The same word has different meanings. I wouldn't blink at being called "oriental". To me, it's a statement of fact.

So, if you want to avoid offending Asian Americans, ask Asians living in America, not Japanese living in Japan or Chinese living in China.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Addendum: I do want to ask in this separate thread: who are the other Asian contributors to D&D? are there any? it's not like there's a lack of players like me either, and I want to believe even in the early days there were at least a few Asian American players rolling up elves and fighting-men. the now much maligned Daniel Kwan is very much into RPGs, and even wrote unofficial material for 5e, and makes an actual play podcast about a 5e game, though I guess he's dropped that system (and hell I can't blame him). point being there are Asian people who are into D&D enough to write and sell their own original material. hell I remember in a thread a few weeks back someone brought up the thriving gaming scene in Malaysia and Indonesia, and this of course includes playing D&D.

as I mentioned before D&D was released in Japan, and still is to this day (though I imagine it's not the most popular RPG anymore). TSR had to have had an officially sanctioned magazine in Japan, or at least given some hobby magazine rights to publish official content, I can't imagine no Japanese player didn't author something for such a magazine, and it's not hard to believe that they could possibly translate something like that for the American Dragon magazine, though to my knowledge this never happened (though probably doesn't help that no version of AD&D ever saw a Japanese release) .
At some point Emi Tanji's name was brought up as an Asian working on D&D. She is an Art Director at WotC; and she was credited as a designer in the DMG (I just happened to look at the credits yesterday for another reason).

I have wanted to say that in the 80's - Japan was IT in nerd culture. There's a reason Shadowrun early editions basically posited a future where Japanese culture and corporations had taken over the world. The currency is called the "nuyen" for heck's sake. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers based on Super Sentai. Frank Miller's Daredevil. It came out that Star Wars was based roughly on Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress. Gibson's Neuromancer takes place mostly in Chiba City. Akira was released on the big screen in the US. Japan-love at a cultural/nerd level was at an all-time high. I'm not surprised that OA '85 was almost entirely about Japan.

As someone with Japanese heritage, I had been playing since '77. But I went to college in 84, and that's when I stopped playing. So I didn't encounter OA "in the wild". 1985 me would probably be pretty chuffed to have an entire book about Japanese culture for my RPG. I only have started to think more deeply about race in the last several years. I'd blame that on my own privilege.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
most of them weren't credited either. and that's fine. but there is a difference between "hey gamers, come try out our new game and tell us what you think!" and reaching out to a specific group of people to see what they think about the game. even focus testers get some sort of non-monetary compensation for their time.
Fair. I'm not arguing with you - I imagine they got paid peanuts, if at all. They may have gotten a copy of the book itself.
 

teitan

Hero
So my question is... how many people of color apply for these sorts of jobs? While in recent years the hobby has greatly expanded for a long time it was a very niche hobby, played by social outliers in suburban communities. In Japan itself there was a big market for RPGs as seen in the ongoing success of the LOdoss War RPGs and the overall popularity of the genre in console & computer games in ways that still have yet to really crack the US market beyond a few outliers. How much of this is actually cultural vs systemic racism in the industry? I think it's a question that should be analyzed while we also become more inclusive because without that connection or understanding it makes things far uglier than they need to be and some of the misunderstanding these days with all these "controversies". EVen without systemic issues conflating matters we do still lean towards tribalism and cultural similarities, cliques etc.
 

It wasn't just the culture from Japan, I graduated high school in 1982 and the thought was the Japan was going to become the world leader in business. So many popular consumer items came from Japan that people were just naturally curious. I switched playing AD&D to Runequest before OA came out, but I guess I would have been the target market back then. Not 100% sure, I never bought into the whole Japanese craze then, even though I really liked Star Wars and that was heavily influenced by Japanese Samurai films.

I think the big thing for Japan was that local RPG sprang up and still thrive today. Local Japanese that were interested probably worked for local Japanese gaming companies around the time that OA came out.

Other threads have hashed out the Chinese in China vs. Chinese American themes and I doubt there is such a thing as one Asian that can be an Asian sensitivity reader or editor for all Asian cultures. I know even Oriental is just thought to be somewhat silly in China as they view themselves as the middle but it does not make anyone there mad that I noticed, whereas it does get viewed different elsewhere.

As for the playtesters listed in the OA book, "for critiquing and improving the manuscript on short notice." is pretty clear what they did. Improving is not ambiguous. The Monster Manual (1st AD&D book) has some thanks, but no credits like this. I would tend to give the benefit of the doubt there.
 

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