Dungeons, Dragons and Discrimination
What the world’s longest-running RPG tells us about the world’s longest-running holocaust
Dungeons and Dragons, the longest-running RPG (role-playing game) has announced it will no longer refer to the different characters as races.
Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien first published The Hobbit way back in 1937, the fantasy genre has pretty much universally referred to humans, elves, dwarves, goblins, orcs, and the like as different races. It’s standard terminology across the genre.
But that’s about to change.
On D&D Beyond, the game’s official blog, they give the following reason for the change:
“race” is a problematic term that has had prejudiced links between real world people and the fantasy peoples of D&D worlds.
They say this is part of an effort “to be more diligent in extracting past prejudices, stereotypes, and unconscious biases.” Instead, they’re going to replace the term race with the term species.
Players and commentators have applauded the move as a small but important step in making the game, and by extension, society itself, more inclusive of all people. On the face of it, anything which fosters equality, inclusivity and harmony, and reduces racism, discrimination and hate crime must, surely be a good thing.
But when I heard this, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of unease.
As a teenager and young adult, I enjoyed playing D&D with friends, much like countless other nerds all over the world (and I mean this in an affectionate way, fellow nerds). I’ve had a love of fantasy literature, movies and art ever since I first came across it.
I’ve also detested any form of oppression, racism, or discrimination based on gender, age, sexuality, disability or any other arbitrary characteristics… such as species.
Racism, sexism, ageism, ablism, gender discrimination — all are talked about a lot, all are frequently called out and condemned whenever and wherever they rear their ugly heads. And rightly so. We absolutely need to call this shit out when we come across it.