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Demographics Musings
Bar Harbor
Saw an ad in a magazine today for the forthcoming Lord of the Rings: Online game. The main image was of a vast crowd of gamers, encompassed by a giant One Ring. I took a few minutes to survey the distribution of these people, which I presume to be representative of what the advertisers think their players will be.

Majority white male, no surprise. Maybe 20-25% women. Interestingly, many of the women were all in one clump, as if huddled together for protection. A significant number of Asian faces.

At first, I thought that there were *no* black faces. But then I spotted a lone black female, quite near the front, as befits a token.

Kind of reminded me of a moment at Arisia. During a panel discussion, the point was raised of, "If fandom is so 'welcoming' and 'inclusive', how come there are so very few black people here?"

Are there fewer black fantasy gamers, also? Or is LotR unpopular with them? I've heard academic discussions of "Tolkien's racism", but never met anyone who took it personally. But then again, I don't know very many black people, do I?

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Reflecting on Patri's comments, it occurs to me that I think that he and I are saying the same thing, inasmuch as I believe that IQ scores are in fact a cultural identifier: The most common use of IQ (historically and currently) is to justify the superiority of one culture over another.

Which makes me long for the Victorians, who never felt the need to justify the superiority of their culture: they just KNEW it to be true.
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There's also the money issue; you need disposable cash, and black people are less well represented in that slot than whites. Ditto the SCA, for that matter.

I have one good black friend, also in the SCA, also much into WoW. He's a programmer.
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As someone who works with urban teens, I'd say that LotR is simply not on most of their cultural radar. Its not that they would object to it, its just that it's not something they're into (because, well, nobody they know is into it, and it's not being "pitched" at them).

Black kids (even those who you'd think can't afford a gaming console) play plenty of video games, with the same fervor and excitement for their brands and products that fanboys have for LotR. But, most of the games that they're playing are street-racers (Need for Speed, Project Gotham and the like) and modern/sci-fi FPS (Ghost Recon, Gears of War, FEAR).

And, in my personal experience, their reaction to LotR is about like my reaction to Snoop Dog: "Meh, that's great and all, but it's not really my thing."
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I remember a moment when I was at Wellesley when Ordovician mentioned to me that she had an Asian friend who was reluctant to get involved in LARP because she had the sense that everyone who LARPs is white. I think the fact that it was an Asian who felt this way that really made it stick in my head. I'm not sure if the LARP community attracts fewer Asians than does the rest of fandom, or merely that the community is so small that would-be minority presence is lost in the noise.

I wonder whether the women were clustered together to make it clear that they aren't just "gamers' girlfriends."
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I think that in most of my time as a gamer, I've known maybe one black gamer. Jokes were inevitably made at the larp that he was our token black guy, but I never got the slightest impression that anyone was in any way bothered by his presence or anything.
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Yaas. I honestly don't think that the various activities I'm in are especially racist, at least in this area. But I *do* think we're seeing an interesting network-effects play. People tend to do the same things as the other people in their social network, and tend to avoid activities that *don't* have any representatives of their social network. That's a *powerful* pair of self-reinforcing effects, and really not especially easy to overcome even if there is no racism present at all.

And let's get real: racism is with us in the form of those network effects. Even if an *individual* has no racism in him at all, it takes only a statistically smallish amount of it in others near him to have a disproportionately unbalancing effect on his social network. (I think -- it would be interesting to see a formal study of this.) Does that make the network racist, or simply an unfortunate side-effect of a few peoples' racism?

Or to put it in the terms that started the conversation, there aren't many black people in fandom because there aren't many black people in fandom. I'm honestly not sure that there's anything more complicated to it than that...
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