Creating a story about the oppressed by the privileged. also David Cage


#1

I am wondering what you think about making a narrative premise about liberating an oppressed group of people, whether it’s focused on race, class, both or…androids, from an author who is not a part of said groups.

Detroit: Become Human is very clearly drawing on analogies of slavery, from a white french man, and setting aside Cage’s writing prowess, that’s already an eyebrow raiser.

I’m bringing this up–placing trust in the Waypoint community not to plagiarize ideas–because this premise that I’m working on with my own game incorporates a large class divide on a corrupt space station, there are current issues at play like expensive and highly privileged health care, set in a contrast between corporate “high society” and impoverished slums.

As a privileged sort of middle-class white male I feel hesitant in developing a story about a oppressed society standing against an oppressive upper class, but I want to hear what thoughts you have on that issue, I’d rather not be another David Cage.


#2

I think its certainly possible for someone from a priviledged group to make something about opression they don’t themselves experience, but to avoid being David Cage or so many others, I think its important to include marginalized people in the creation and have that real perspective. Otherwise you are just going to be able to draw on what you know from other works and media. Maybe that’s overly simplistic though.


#3

My thoughts are that you absolutely must consult voices of the people whose story you want to tell. If you haven’t had these sort of experiences, your story isn’t going to be the proper commentary you may want it to be, because it’ll just be what you already know. But if you allow other people’s stories to come through yours, it will make the experience far more authentic.

Find people from marginalized groups who are willing to volunteer and provide their experiences. Maybe bring them on the creative team, or just show them what you have and allow them to critique. And when looking for those voices, be careful not to tokenize them purely based on their identity. Remember that everyone has a different experience, even when they share identities, and one person can’t speak for an entire group.

I do encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Privileged people like us tend to ignore oppression or paint it in a wrong light. Avoid a savior complex and lift up the voices of marginalized folks through your work, and I think you can create something great.


#5

Very helpful advice, I suppose without the certainty of having marginalized groups as part of the dev team due to the real possibility of a very small indie team size, but reaching out to consult members of marginalized groups to learn from their experiences would be helpful indeed.
(reposted because it didn’t reply to you (I thought))


#6

I think it is difficult to do and you need to accept a burden of responsibility to do it well and to be respectful to the people actually living your story, but I also think it can be important, it requires a certain amount of privilege to even get to a place where you can reach a large number of people with your story.


#7

One of David Cage’s problems is that he is staunchly against making statements of any kind in his work, or examining his work for what statements he might be making. One of the most important things as a creator, beyond listening to other people and accepting criticism as previously suggested, is to be introspective about your work. To understand what statement you are making from the offset, if you are making one, and understand it as best you can. This helps you not only focus your project, but can help avoid common pitfalls.

As a writer, I also often think firstly “should I, personally be the one to tell this story?” It takes humility to understand that not every story is yours to tell. And once you decide that, you should always ask the question, as you are making your story “what does this say?” What implications are you making when X happens, etc. What does it say when a black character is illiterate in this setting, what does it say when a woman’s anger is punished or dismissed, what does it say when state violence is depicted as just?

So I guess my advice is to a) plan what you’re doing (generally) and understand it from the offset and b) step back from your work every once in a while and consider it in a broader outside context. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your story is special somehow, that it doesn’t perpetuate harmful tropes or stereotypes because x,y and z reason, and really, you had a very good reason for doing what you did at the time. (It’s natural to do that! It’s your work! Of course you can’t be totally objective about it.) But when it all shakes out, a bad story beat or problematic mechanic will still be seen as they are.

(Ground rules also help me when I write to make sure I’m not always checking over my shoulder every sentence: Like I won’t depict slavery, or I won’t kill my LGBT cast, etc. It’s not a perfect system and sometimes a story beat might demand a rule get broken, but I keep those rules in mind when planning, just to make sure that every action I take involving real groups of people is given extra thought.)


#8

Research and reaching out to marginalized groups has already been covered so I won’t repeat that, but I think a good question every creator needs to ask themselves is “do I need to be the one to tell this story?”

This doesn’t mean there are stories that can only be told by certain people, or even once a story has been told it can’t be told again. You aren’t the first to write about liberating an oppressed group, you certainly won’t be the last. So ask yourself why.

Why is this the story you want to tell? And are you potentially telling a story that should be told by someone else?

On a related note, here is a post from Writing with Color worth reading.


#9

I’ll check it out, thank you :slight_smile: