An Analysis of the Literature Surrounding the Intersection of Role-Playing Games, Race, and Identity




role-playing games, race, media representation, World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, discourse analysis, literature review


Some of the most popular role-playing games (RPGs) limit the potential for diversity among play­er characters, link character abilities with their racial backgrounds, and provide platforms for real-life racism. This critical literature review examines a body of multidisciplinary scholarship and popular sources discussing race in fantasy RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft. Integrating interdisciplinary literature on the topic of race in RPGs provides an opportunity for exploring race, games, and identity discourse from a criti­cal perspective. This article's analysis engages with power dynamics in games and provides a framework for po­sitioning future scholarship. While progress toward correcting racial misrepresentation and under-representa­tion in existing RPGs are slow, that progress is meaningful and it can pave the way for more significant changes in new RPGs. Fantasy games have a great potential to step outside the issues of real life and engage with topics such as race in a way that undermines stereotypes and encourages nuanced representations. Though there is not al­ways a clear parallel between a real-world race and a fantasy race, the notion of "otherness" connects the two ideas.

RPGs are one of the most popular genres of game and fantasy RPGs impact real-world discourse. It is vital that schol­ars continue the work of the authors discussed in this paper by encouraging nuanced diversity ofrepresentation in games and advocating for"own voices" game designers. Only then can thepositivepotential of fantasy RPGs be more fully realized. As existing RPGs and new games work to reduce and correct racial stereotypes in digital and tabletop RPGs, scholars, design­ers, and players can worktogetherto move toward more nuanced, diverse representations and discourse surrounding RPGs.




How to Cite

Baker, M. (2022). An Analysis of the Literature Surrounding the Intersection of Role-Playing Games, Race, and Identity. International Journal of Role-Playing, (12), 22–39.