Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
Message
Author
User avatar
Hyraculon
Regular
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:46 am
Projects: Goetia Club
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#16 Post by Hyraculon » Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:07 am

Respect is the key thing, I think. If you approach it respectfully and do your research, I don't think you'll offend anyone.

However, I definitely suggest finding someone to help you out, because you will make mistakes in your authenticity, and people who know better than you will notice. I'm basically the jerk who's always complaining that so many EVNs are set in Japan by people who have never been there, because it feels like every time I play one, I notice something weird or just flat-out wrong, and it takes me out of the story. I'm not Japanese myself, but I speak Japanese (more or less) and live in Japan, and the mistakes people make can be pretty glaring.

I mean, if you're into manga/anime you've probably seen and laughed at some ridiculous Engrish and bizarre interpretations of Western culture, right? But what people don't seem to realize is they look just as silly when doing it in reverse.

User avatar
rainbowcascade
Regular
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:54 pm
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#17 Post by rainbowcascade » Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:26 am

qirien wrote:You could also make it Hong Kong of the future. That would allow you to use lots of flavor (I would spend a lot of time in Google Maps Street View to get ideas for BGs, architecture, signs, etc), but also have an explanation for not being completely true to modern Hong Kong.

But, if the exact location is not that important, it sounds like you would have fun making up your own world and language and culture. As long as it's not based completely off stereotypes and it makes sense with what exists in your world, you should be fine. (Pet peeve: worlds where magic exists and people use it to fight monsters, but they don't use it for practical everyday things, like traveling, farming, or crafting!)
I figured it might be better off if I make a fictional world with it's own rules that has the feel of Hong Kong. The tricky part is figuring out how the fantastical elements effect the social everyday lives in people and how they effect generations.

User avatar
rainbowcascade
Regular
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:54 pm
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#18 Post by rainbowcascade » Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:29 am

Hyraculon wrote:Respect is the key thing, I think. If you approach it respectfully and do your research, I don't think you'll offend anyone.

However, I definitely suggest finding someone to help you out, because you will make mistakes in your authenticity, and people who know better than you will notice. I'm basically the jerk who's always complaining that so many EVNs are set in Japan by people who have never been there, because it feels like every time I play one, I notice something weird or just flat-out wrong, and it takes me out of the story. I'm not Japanese myself, but I speak Japanese (more or less) and live in Japan, and the mistakes people make can be pretty glaring.

I mean, if you're into manga/anime you've probably seen and laughed at some ridiculous Engrish and bizarre interpretations of Western culture, right? But what people don't seem to realize is they look just as silly when doing it in reverse.
Again, the key problem to this is finding someone from the chosen destination who is willing to edit. Finding folks who live and breathe Japanese culture while also being into visual novels is a lot easier than finding someone from... say, Iran?

User avatar
qirien
Miko-Class Veteran
Posts: 507
Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2003 10:06 pm
Organization: Metasepia Games
Deviantart: qirien
Github: qirien
itch: qirien
Location: New Mexico, USA
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#19 Post by qirien » Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:24 am

rainbowcascade wrote: I figured it might be better off if I make a fictional world with it's own rules that has the feel of Hong Kong. The tricky part is figuring out how the fantastical elements effect the social everyday lives in people and how they effect generations.
Yes, exactly. What sort of fantastical elements are you considering? Is your world an island like Hong Kong (which might lead to a more insular culture), or with similar history (which might lead to tense relations between the island and the mainland, as well as a lot of cultural elements from another place in your world similar to Great Britain)?

http://china-nafsa.aief-usa.org/culture/differences.htm might also be a good place to start, whether you do a fictional world or the real world.

http://www.elfwood.com/farp/thewriting/ ... ksheet.pdf is another good starting place for making your own culture, though it's somewhat weighted towards fantasy cultures.

Also, this is a fairly international forum - even if there's not someone who lives there now, you could probably find someone who has at least visited there who could help you out. It might be worth asking around in the Recruitment forum?
Finished games:
Image
Image
Image
In progress: Our Personal Space 2: Space to Grow

User avatar
rainbowcascade
Regular
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:54 pm
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#20 Post by rainbowcascade » Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:02 am

qirien wrote:What sort of fantastical elements are you considering? Is your world an island like Hong Kong (which might lead to a more insular culture), or with similar history (which might lead to tense relations between the island and the mainland, as well as a lot of cultural elements from another place in your world similar to Great Britain)?
My fictional world is similar to Avatar in a way; a minority of the population can shapeshift into a powerful mythical creature or an extinct animal. The story takes place in an island like Hong Kong and the island is known as an international port where bigger and more powerful countries have diplomatic relationships over the people and its culture.
qirien wrote:Also, this is a fairly international forum - even if there's not someone who lives there now, you could probably find someone who has at least visited there who could help you out. It might be worth asking around in the Recruitment forum?
I have my doubts of finding a visual novel enthusiast who lives/knows Hong Kong AND is a good editor. Doesn't hurt to try I suppose.


Thanks for the links qirien!

User avatar
cuttlefish
Regular
Posts: 130
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:23 am
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#21 Post by cuttlefish » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:44 am

OokamiKasumi wrote:
rainbowcascade wrote:The problem with using fictional ideas is that they are inevitably going to be based on real life ideas. So for example, a writer plans a story that takes place in a fantastical 18th century Europe-like location but with fictional ideas that are noticeably influenced by modern day USA culture.
Or noticeably influenced by modern day Japanese culture, such as the anime series "Kurositsuji", "Black Butler."
-- The author clearly didn't know much about how an English manor house was actually run, what Victorian garb actually looked like or how it was worn, or how the British government actually functioned during the Victorian era. As someone who Does know these things (I lived in England for a few years, and studied the Victorian era pretty extensively,) the show made me wince -- a lot. However, that didn't stop me from watching Kurositsuji, (to the main ending,) or stop the show from being wildly popular.
I'm with the minority then. I eventually dropped the manga (around the cruise to NY or somewhere? chapter) and never bothered trying to watch the anime. I just remember that there were several problems set in England solved by Japanese culture, so after I left the series alone for a while I decided to never pick it up again.

For a different example,
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is a series which borrows religious beliefs, myths, and settings from the Middle East, Roman Empire, China, and other cultures, but which I still follow. In the very beginning, as I was reading the manga, I expected the main female character, Morgiana, to have light brown skin and black hair (i.e., be a POC) since her design reminded me of old Egyptian art. But in the end, she had fair skin and red hair. It was jarring when I first found out, but the shock wasn't enough for me to drop the series. However, this totally turned off a friend (IRL) I tried to introduce to the series, who saw the mangaka as disrespectful and wouldn't give the series a chance after that. And then, I made a friend from the Middle East (online) who was already a fan of the series and loved Morgiana despite what my IRL friend saw as cultural appropriation.

Their reactions can probably be attributed to their maturity (IRL friend older and wiser than online friend), and that the online friend saw the anime first, so probably had no previous expectations for hair and skin color. But yeah, I'm not sure it's a good thing that an Asian person could cosplay Morgiana easier than someone from the Middle East (possibly)? Sure, you find out later in the series that Morgiana
is not human, and that the fair skin and red hair of her race matches well
with the gold Roman Empire-like armor of the Reim Empire (I'm not sure this color coordination was on purpose).
Still, could her design have been handled more respectfully? Probably so.

Besides research and being as respectful as possible (by researching or having someone double-check you), I think another point that determines whether using the ideas of other cultures is appropriation or not is the expectations you set for your work. If you tell people that you are basing your setting on modern day Hong Kong, people will expect (probably, a fairly accurate) "modern day Hong Kong," and be disappointed or not based on that expectation. Avatar: The Last Airbender didn't say it's set in __th century China or anything, so although you can guess the series' influences, you know the show isn't saying, "This is what it means to be in China in the __th century," or "These are what Chinese people were like back then," and you don't get disappointed/offended.

User avatar
LRH
Regular
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon May 19, 2014 10:59 am
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#22 Post by LRH » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:30 am

cuttlefish wrote:
OokamiKasumi wrote:
rainbowcascade wrote:The problem with using fictional ideas is that they are inevitably going to be based on real life ideas. So for example, a writer plans a story that takes place in a fantastical 18th century Europe-like location but with fictional ideas that are noticeably influenced by modern day USA culture.
Or noticeably influenced by modern day Japanese culture, such as the anime series "Kurositsuji", "Black Butler."
-- The author clearly didn't know much about how an English manor house was actually run, what Victorian garb actually looked like or how it was worn, or how the British government actually functioned during the Victorian era. As someone who Does know these things (I lived in England for a few years, and studied the Victorian era pretty extensively,) the show made me wince -- a lot. However, that didn't stop me from watching Kurositsuji, (to the main ending,) or stop the show from being wildly popular.
I'm with the minority then. I eventually dropped the manga (around the cruise to NY or somewhere? chapter) and never bothered trying to watch the anime. I just remember that there were several problems set in England solved by Japanese culture, so after I left the series alone for a while I decided to never pick it up again.
I'm in that minority as well. Born, raised, and educated, in England, there were so many 'wtf, England isn't/wasn't like that' moments I just threw up my hands and gave up on Black Butler. I tried, I really did try to like it, but it wasn't going to happen. There does come a point where so many double facepalms in quick succession just plain hurts :lol:

If you're dead-set on a specific place and culture, my advice is to be very, very careful to do your research. In general, people will be forgiving of a small mistake here and there, but if your understanding of their culture is almost total fail with a few scattered moments of proper understanding, you won't get away with it. That's where Black Butler slipped up for me, there was so much fail it was painful when they finally got something right by sheer happenstance.

As mentioned by others, I think the best way to avoid that problem is to not get too specific, and base your setting very loosely on a location and culture, rather than getting into specifics. That's why my street racing VN has morphed from a very specific Los Angeles to a more vague Californian Generica. By being less specific, you're able to paint in broad strokes to evoke the feeling of a place rather than to accurately represent it, which actually might free your creative mind to play a bit with the setting too.

User avatar
Rousseau
Newbie
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:32 pm
Contact:

Re: Using real life cultures/locations is appropriation?

#23 Post by Rousseau » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:19 pm

I find that asking if something is appropriation is really the wrong question to be asking when you're examining if you should do something. Instead you should be asking "what does this say or add to my work?" If it doesn't add anything than why are you using it, if it does then you should use it. Claiming 'appropriation' for not using something is just a tad too close outright racism for my likings and is so full of tribalism that it makes me fear what the next logical step from those types of actions is.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users