(Written by Martha S.)
This is a topic I would like to see us devote a whole episode to, if we can make it work, because it is a vast, rich vein to mine and has a lot of useful information for us to impart. But as an introduction to the idea, let me say: games and gaming are an incredibly useful tool in one’s educational repertoire. I have spoken myself at conferences on the benefits to having RPG resources and programming in the public library; others have written at length on the benefits of gamifying learning. I hope we will be able to add our voices and experiences to the conversation.
I am thinking about this at the moment because I spent the previous weekend at GenCon, the largest gaming convention in North America and the longest-running gaming convention in the world (this year marks its 50th anniversary). It is a celebration of gaming of all kinds, from board games to tabletop RPGs to miniatures and more. When I attend, I play as much of the Pathfinder RPG as possible, in addition to a handful of other tournament games over the years (I have played in WarMachine, Conquest, and Imperial Assault events). It is INCREDIBLY fun and I imagine my husband and I will continue attending until we’re physically unable to do so.
Look, I’ve given you two introductions to justify the fact that I want to tell you how amazingly inclusive Paizo is as a gaming company, and now I can’t figure out a way to transition easily into that, so I’m just going to say it: Paizo works really hard to make their “iconic” characters really, really diverse and I love it. (An iconic character is the example character for a particular class, that usually participates in the fluff or art in some way. Merisiel, for example, is the iconic rogue, and she is a gay elf who is in a relationship with Kyra, the iconic cleric, who is a gay brown human.) Additionally, the adventure paths that Paizo publishes (pre-constructed campaigns designed to get you from level 1 to level 20) are full of LGBT+ characters, frequently included without any kind of fanfare or controversy. The world of Pathfinder is rich and diverse, and while the writers are nowhere near perfect in representation (adventure paths are frequently weighted with hot women the players can romance and much fewer, less attractive men), it never feels exploitative or gross.
I’m sure that using RPGs as a way to teach empathy and compassion will come up if we are ever able to do an episode on games in the educational space. For now, I just wanted to say that I appreciate what tabletop gaming is doing to increase empathy in geeky circles, since there are so many other geek subcultures where it is lacking. I’m gonna go write my android space priest multi-personality collective now, for Paizo’s brand new science fantasy game Starfinder.