Playing the Master Race

When I log into the beta of the new Lord of the Rings game, the first thing I do is pick my race. I decide I’m going to be a dwarf: stolid, not so great with magic, but a superb brawler. The idea of being a slightly hotheaded man of the earth appeals to me. And pretty soon I’m engrossed in the task of trying out various big, honking noses.
That’s when it suddenly hits me that this is a really weird, yet central part of online gaming: obsessing about your racial identity and appearance.
I don’t mean “weird” in that it’s unusual. Indeed, every online game begins with you carefully poring over a bouquet of races and picking your favorite. It’s completely normal. No, what’s weird is that this is crazily, dementedly out of step with how I act in my everyday world. In the real world, defining someone by his or her race is considered a classically illiberal act. But in games, racism — making snap judgments about someone based solely on their skin and ethnic identity — is absolutely central to gameplay.
Wired News: Playing the Master Race