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Kingdom Come and Related Debacles: Epilogue

medievalpoc:

A year ago, someone asked me a question about a Kickstarter for a video game that was set in medieval Bohemia. One of the purported selling points of the game was nigh-unprecedented attention to historical accuracy, and was touted by the developers to have "the ultimate character creation tool of all time". And yet the game developers had excluded the possibility of a female playable character, and the game had no characters of color, playable or NPC.

I answered the question honestly: there is nothing preventing this game from having characters of color OR female playable characters other than decisions made by its creators. “Historical accuracy” is not shorthand for “I was forced to make everyone white, my hands are tied! I had no choice because History!”. I showed some images from medieval Bohemian art, and told them that creators are responsible for their creative choices.

The Kickstarter for Kingdom Come: Deliverance raised well over a million dollars.

I received (and still do occasionally get) hate mail, death threats, and racial slurs spammed into my inbox, despite having said everything I had to say on the matter long ago. Apparently, pointing out simple facts about a video game and the creative choices made my its developers amounted to an “attack” on…something. Obviously this supposed “attack” must not have been very successful considering the sheer amount of money raised and the fact that the game is coming out sometime this year.

And yet, one of the developers, Daniel Vávra, cannot seem to get over the idea that anyone, anywhere, criticized this game for any reason whatsoever. Gaming site interviews proved to be yet another vehicle for speaking out about how “attacked” he feels and how the Big Mean Internets are crushing his artistic expression:

And they will never be happy. If you don’t have a gay character in your game, you are homophobic, if you do have gay character in your game, you are homophobic, because they don’t like the character. If women in your game look good, you are sexist, if they look bad, you are sexist, if you can fight with them, you are misogynistic, if you can’t fight with them, you are using them as objects, if you don’t have any women, because there is no correct way how to have them, you are misogynistic.

It’s a witch hunt and it’s affecting my artistic freedom.

I’ve read and listened to the same old sob story about how [insert marginalized group here] are ruining Everything for Everyone more times that I could possibly count. And yet I still marvel at the sheer gall it takes to imply that somehow, people should be unable to criticize something in several very specific ways, as opposed to criticizing something like the gameplay or graphics. This isn’t just about doing whatever you want to do, as the game was fully funded and will be released as planned. It’s about wanting to control what other people are and are not allowed to say about that creation-all the while claiming that it’s YOU who is somehow being silenced or stifled.

But even more astounding is the fact that  the people behind the game apparently can’t restrain themselves from taking cheap shots at people of color for daring to speak.

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 I feel compelled to point out that 1. this is specifically anti-Black, and during this whole garbage mess anti-Blackness has been the focus of the attacks on me, despite the fact that I am not Black, and 2. The entire concept of this research project (but more specifically, a Black person in Medieval Europe at all, ever) , is enough of a joke to him that it apparently stands on its own.

I don’t have to TELL anyone that people of color, including Black people, lived in medieval Europe, including Bohemia. You can go and read it for yourself in the Bohemia tag, or on JSTOR:

The second work is evidently a portrait of Johannes Maurus, a black who was Frederick’s chamberlain. The two blacks who appear in the Adoration of the Magi on Nicola Pisano’s Siena pulpit are undoubtedly based on African retainers at the Hohenstaufen court. Even after the fall of the Hohenstaufen, artists made repeated references to the family’s fondness for black people in art and in life.

Black Africans in Hohenstaufen Iconography. Paul H. D. Kaplan.
Source: Gesta, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1987), pp. 29-36
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the International Center of Medieval Art

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767077 .

I don’t have to TELL anyone that the artwork of medieval Bohemia, like that of Europe in general during that era, consisted almost entirely of religious works and symbolism-heavy imagery. And that the figures depicted were generally modeled after Europeans in their clothing, hair, arms and armor and activities.

Or that the greatest Bohemian artists of the Medieval era, like Theodoric of Prague and John of Oppova, regularly included people of color in medieval  artworks that survive to this day. I can just SHOW you:

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[Saint Jerome, Theodoric of Prague; c. 1360]

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[John of Oppava, St. Matthew Evangelistary, 1368.]

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[Theodoric of Prague, Saint Maurice in Karlštejn Castle, Chapel of the Holy Cross. Czech Republic c. 1367]

This intense focus on anti-Blackness, specifically the implication that Black people in a medieval European setting are so obviously ludicrous as to warrant a callback to a silly Martin Lawrence film from 15 or so years ago, also manages to completely ignore the fact that non-Black people of color are well-documented as having a strong presence in medieval era Central Europe.

For more on that try:

But, you know what?

None of this is relevant to the point that creators are responsible for what they have created. Game developers are accountable for their choice of setting, what their characters look like, and how they choose to tell a story.

The bottom line is that education is not a cure for racism. Individuals choose what stories they think are interesting, that they believe are worth telling, that are a reflection of themselves and how they see others. It doesn’t matter what I post here when the reader has already made up their mind. People will easily ignore facts and evidence when it opposes their fundamental belief systems. 

And society will applaud this when it adheres to the status quo. The belief that there “were no people of color back then” is so entrenched in Western culture that any assumption that supports it will stand on that premise to the casual onlooker. Based as it is in white entitlement and white supremacy, it will stand against any mountain of evidence to the contrary if the reader is emotionally invested in maintaining those systems. 

Until academic knowledge begins to permeate the popular consciousness, assumed whiteness will always be the trump card in historical media and cultural criticism. As long as this kind of thinking continues, people of color will continue to be mistreated and excluded by those who consider history theirs alone to do with what they like.

Reposted fromekelias ekelias

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