ART / MUSIC / ARCHITECTURE / FASHION / IN GAMES
August 6, '11 - Added sexuality, morality, and drugs - credit Ceiling_cat
August 2, '11 - Added a history section, removed a remark
..........A GLORIOIUS THING
| culture effects everything in our lives. So it only makes sense it should do the same in your game (if it is an rpg). Structured countries make good games. And detailed and thought out cultures make a realistic and structured country. Culture is a wide topic... so let's wikipedia do the explaining.
Culture is a term that has many different meanings
There, that pretty much explains it.
The definition I use for culture in this is as goes: The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group...
Now I'm going to emphasize a few things for youThe set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group
Now let's try and define practices that fit into rpg worlds:
- Arts (Painting, Dance, Folk music, Pop music, Fashion)
- Human Interaction/Activity (Body language, Accents, Gatherings, Hobbies, Sexuality)
- Institutions (Architecture, Education, Markets)
- Technology (Transportation, Medicine)
- Government (Republic vs Direct Democracy vs Anarchy, Laws)
- Armory (Weapons, Armor, War machines)
- Foods (Foods)
All of these (and more) are what is affected by culture.
..........EVEN THE MASTER HAS A MASTER
| The major thing that influences culture is location. Location location. While just location can mean a coordinate, that's not what I'm getting at. So I want you to do me a favor. When I say location, you say place, weather, terrain, and water. Now, location! ... good enough.
Again. Place, weather, terrain, and water. All of these affect culture. Think extremes - the Eskimos of the north. Their culture is affect by all of these. The place
affects their human interaction (because of sparse food, they are often spread out. Also because they are so far north, they can't make daily trips to the local walmart for some donuts.) The weather
affects their fashion (heavy coats for protection from those unrelenting artic winds). The terrain
affects their transportation (sled, because of snow/ice), and also their architecture (those.. ice things, because there's, well, ice). Water
doesn't affect them quite as much as the other 3, although I'm sure they have ways of returning water to their homes through long trips through the snow, and that it affects food (fish, anyone?).
Now this is just one example. There are millions of other ways location affects culture. In the right weather, corn grows best, and it being a major resource could affect their food, and even possibly their architecture (corn houses!). In a town that has a major deposit of coal underneath, mining could be a large part of life for everyone. Living under a active volcano may mean you need ways of escaping the danger of basaltic doom; but the rich nutrients of volcano rock could mean a great harvest. And so much more!
..........TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPIN
| Another big thing that influences culture is history
. While not quite as directly, it is still a considerable influence.
Now while making your world, you're going to have to have a history. That's an obvious thing. But while making your culture, you should keep the country's history in mind. If the country has had a history of poverty, oppression, etc, how has it's adapted it's cultures? If the earlier in the country's history there was a sudden technological advancement, how has the country struggled to keep it's culture alive while mixing it with a new one?
Wars can be another reason for a paradigm shift. If because of a war, a city had to up it's forces, what sort of propaganda posters for the draft would there be? Or what sort of new jobs? Then think about the anti-war movements (artistically).
..........WHY CULTURE/ PREPRODUCTION
| Inevitably the suckiest, and longest part of making a game. However keeping a good plan can keep you ahead of the game in production. Now, my favorite guide to preproduction can be found [here]
. In it's list of definitions needed for a Game Desing Doc, it puts Define: World Structure and Environments
at the top of the list. Now you wonder why it did that... well because it's culture, silly! Culture is the most important thing in game design because it influences everything
. Yes everything. Windowskins, character babble, maps, battle systems, bgm, etc..
| Let's start basic. Lord of the Rings. Ever read it? I heard it's a pretty good book, more of a cult hit really. But what makes it so important is Tolkein's effort to create a living, breathing world
by creating a culture. Now it only seems fit to use this as an example, because the book was the father of all contemporary fantasy. But if you dig deaper than the elves, the dragons, and the castles, you'll find that the book actually has a world that you could literally jump
into. It's world seems real, relatable, even if it is so different from our own. That's because he's created a culture - or, in fact, multiple cultures. So lets make things simple and start with hobbits.
Now, let me pull out one of my Lord of the Rings guides... Ah here, hobbits. "Friendly, peace-loving folk, more interested in farming good earth and smoking good weed than making war upon their neighbors." Now let's put them into my matrix:
HOBBITS: THE CULTURE
- Arts: Quite similar to celtic music and art. The dances are jigs
- Human Interaction/Activity: "fond of an unadventurous bucolic life of farming, eating, and socializing"
- Institutions: "Some Hobbits live in "hobbit-holes" or Smials, traditional underground homes found in hillsides, downs, and banks. Like all Hobbit architecture, they are notable for their round doors and windows."
- Technology: "The Hobbits had a distinct calendar: every year started on a Saturday and ended on a Friday, with each of the twelve months consisting of thirty days."
- Government: Not quite sure about this one.
- Armory: Although peace-loving, the Hobbits have had their share of warfare. They fit daggers; but during the fight against the Witch King, they sent numerous archers to help out.
- Foods: Think classic farmland harvest. Wheat, apples, corn, pumpkins, etc.
..........A MORE DETAILED LIST TO USE
| Use this list for creating your own cultures in your game. I've added more examples.
- Arts (Painting, Dance, Folk music, Pop music, Fashion, Instruments, Singing styles, Literature, Media, Carving styles)
- Human Interaction/Activity (Body language, Accents, Gatherings, Hobbies, Popular activities, Religion, Population, Classes, Sexuality, Morality)
- Institutions (Architecture, Education, Markets, City Centers, Dance Halls, Music Venues, Churches)
- Technology (Transportation, Medicine, Photography, Electricity, Lighting, Jobs)
- Government (Republic vs Direct Democracy vs Anarchy, Monarchy, Banking, Laws)
- Armory (Weapons, Armor, War machines, Strategies, Militia)
- Foods (Foods)
And special sections...
Clothing: If a country has fur as a abundant resource, than furred clothing should be more popular. Same applies to hides, cotton, and possibly other plants. Certain styles should be looked into, as well. Bright colors might be popular in your world. Or just the village's colors. Special clothing for different jobs? Do the children wear special outfits? Are there military uniforms? What do the aristocratic wear? How do your people protect themselves from the weather with their special clothing? Are special shoes needed for the rugged terrain?
Art: Is your world sophisticated, or barbaric? Do they have a refined taste for the arts? Is realism popular, or something more gothic? Are special symbols or crests popular in this world? What sort of techniques are used in art? Is wood carving popular because of abundance in wood? Or stone? What theme does the art of your world represent? Is art a popular media for relieving the rants of revolutionaries? Are books a widely available media? Or are books rare and only found in the libraries of the rich? How long has refined art been around?
Music: What sort of music is popular in your world? What instruments are most common? Are there orchestral performances, or operas, or other types of musical events? How widespread is music? Does everyone sing during everyday chores? Is it banned by law? Are there special anthems for cities and countries? Are there popular folk songs? Are words or lyrics even used in songs? Are songs sung in church?
Activity: Are the people of your world fun-loving? Are festivals and feasts common? Or are they antisocial because of the restraints of government? Do people of your world have weekly meetings to catch up on town news? Or is there a different way of spreading the word? What sort of hobbies are most popular in this world?
Architecture: Is architecture a form of art in your world? Are buildings built for endurance, or for looks? Or both? What are common features of buildings in your world? Are doors and windows even used in buildings? Stairs? Or is there a different way of moving around a building? How close are buildings? Are building underground? Are they built in trees? What sort of adaptations have the people made for buildings?
Religion: How many gods? No gods? Are there sub-deities in your religion? Are there conflicting religions? Are there messaiahs/messengers of the word? Is church a popular thing? Is it required to attend mass by law? How many masses are there a week? Is religion banned by law?
Transportation: How to people get around? Are horses a common sight? Have carraiges been invented? Automobiles? Have your people harnessed the power of flight? Are airships, or possibly gliders popular? What sort of land/water do they need to get across, and how have they adapted? Is there an underground tunnel leading to places? Are there highways or roads for travel? Or do you have to traverse mountains and canyons? Are there different animals used for transportation?
Jobs/Careers: What sort of jobs are available in your world? What positions are most popular? What positions are most crucial? Are there travel guides for transportation? Do most people live on farms? Are there cities full of shops full of jobs? Are there unwanted jobs that the lowest of the people are forced to do? What sort of tools (technology) have been made to ease the workload?
Classes: What sort of classes are in your game? Is there a basic High, Middle, and Low class structure and your demography? Or is there a much simpler Rich and Poor? Or are all people of a certain city of the same class? Are the lowest classes forced to serve the high class? Or are the high class people hard working to keep life happy for the lower class?
Sexuality: how are families formed? Which sex makes the first move, and what are they expected to do to gain the other's attention? How is homo/bisexuality treated? What is the age of consent? What's the general attitude towards mixed-species families, if applicable? Can those reproduce? Are couples sometimes arranged? Do people become couples only for the sake of reproduction, maybe take it to an extreme of growing people in tubes as opposed to doing it naturally? Or maybe the opposite - they hold deep respect for the bond between two people, and consider procreation just a side effect? How tolerant are they towards deviations from that pattern? (Promiscuity, celibacy, etc.) Do they care about gene combinations, maybe they mix genes to achieve specific results? (like Dune's Bene Gesserit)
Morality/Laws: What is considered right or wrong, and what's the source of those beliefs? (economy, religion, conditions, etc.) How well organized is law enforcement, does it rely on the existence of a lawkeeping force like the police, or on the inhabitants' vigilance? How many people have access to weapons, and how many are trained and willing to use them to defend themselves? How are criminals treated, do they face a fair trial or an angry mob with pitchforks? Is crime organized (thieves' guilds, mafia, etc.) or not?
Drugs: How is using substances viewed? Do they use alcohol or smoke tobacco, and how often? Do they have some other kinds of substances they use, perhaps something world-specific? Do those substances alter their lives in some way? How well is alchemy/science developed? How reliant on those substances is their economy? Are they legal or not?
Goverment: What form of government is used in your world? It'd be best to look up some forms on wikipedia, but some of the more common are: Democracy, Direct Democracy, Republic, and Socialist. Is the government corrupt? Or are they a perfect government? Is there a simpler city board set in place? Is there a single village leader, like a village elder? What sort of banking system is in place? Is the country currently in it's knees with different groups trying to take control of the country, and trying to become the country's main government?
Food: What edible resources are most abundant in your world? What foods make up most of a daily meal? Is eating a popular activity in your world? Has fine dining become a refined taste?
Armory: What sort of weapons do your people use? Have guns been invented yet? Has your country been at war yet? Is your country war loving or peace-loving? Or seperate views? What sort of take does art have on weapons and armor? Are there fancy engravings in armor? Is armor/weapons made of wood or metal or stone? Are stones, axes, bows, or something else most common? Is there a sacred weapon or suit of armor that has a place in your country's heart?
Symbols: Does your country have a flag? Do individual cities have their own emblems? Is there a mascot for your country? Is there a figurehead of sorts (king/queen)? Is there a symbol of hope for the people under oppression? Is the church a symbol? Is there a building in town that is a symbol? What motivates your people to continue on with life? What sort of aspirations do they have? Is there a certain symbol that keeps them going? Are your people nationalists? Is there a symbol that, if destroyed or stolen, would not only spiritually, but also physically affect the lives of your people?
..........A FINAL NOTE
| Now I hope I've gotten my point across to you about the importance of culture in RPGs. This guideline was built to not only apply to games, but other forms of media as well.
Culture is a real thing. We see it every day. Although modern life threatens to make us give up what makes us unique, we have continued to hold onto the culture from years ago somehow. So the next time you go to an oktoberfest, the next time you drink some green tea, the next time you admire a piece of art, or the next time you listen to a piece of music - remember - it's culture.