Binti Question 9 - Play

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Do you think setting a game in the Binti setting would be interesting? Fun? Are there things you could take from the Binti setting for your own game? Did Binti inspire you to explore something special? Was reading Binti a net gain or loss as far as gaming went?

Comments

  • 1
    edited December 2021

    It's not a world I would try to emulate in a game. There wasn't really a lot of world to interact with outside of Binti's homeland. But I did appreciate how Okorafor managed to bring the 'African-ness right to the front and make it once alien (to us as readers) but normalize it (in the setting), and that's definitely something I try to do in gaming all the time. That was pretty inspiring.

    Overall, I appreciated the book for the African cultural elements, which I found quite intriguing, but the Sci-Fi elements were not that interesting and a little too generic for my taste.

  • 1

    Yes - it felt very African. That I liked a lot - like with the Black Panther movie. I like the extreme biotech concept and think it could be done more consistently and thoroughly.

  • 1

    I don't really do much SF gaming, but there are a few things I think I might keep: 1) I thought the bio-engineering of a co-operative was an interesting idea; 2) While the direct mixing of genetic material was a little too rapid for my taste, the hybridity which would permeate a society where bio-engineering becomes the norm would be interesting to explore; 3) The idea that societies rather than individuals keep secrets is something that might be of use. I also liked the level of technology being graded by what is made available within a society due to individual skill might be a counter-weight to industrial homogenity, which I find uninteresting.

  • 1

    All interesting points!

  • 0

    Not really doing gaming at present so my thoughts are theoretical, but I agree with @BarnerCobblewood that the mixing of attributes by biological infusion rather than magical prowess or technological implant was intriguing.

  • 2

    @Apocryphal said:
    It's not a world I would try to emulate in a game. There wasn't really a lot of world to interact with outside of Binti's homeland. But I did appreciate how Okorafor managed to bring the 'African-ness right to the front and make it once alien (to us as readers) but normalize it (in the setting), and that's definitely something I try to do in gaming all the time. That was pretty inspiring.

    Did she? Or did she just write the Himba and Khoush exactly as they are, and that comes across as alien and strange to us blinkered Western readers? I think it's a mistake to exoticise the setting, to treat it as something novel that's shown to us just because it's "different".

    I think Okorafor is showing us an everyday culture that's unfamiliar to us. The fact that we find it exotic says more about us than it does about the book.

    As for gaming, it brings up that perennial question of how to encourage play in a different culture from ours. The Himba have different priorities and different instincts from me, and bringing that into play isn't always easy. One approach I like is Bulldogs!, a Fate-based SF game with lots of playable species (and no "default human"). Each species has a few Aspects that represent it. Each character must have at least one Aspect that's drawn from the species. In play, it gives a flavour of the species as the Aspects get used, but without forcing all members of a particular species to be the same.

  • 2
    edited December 2021
    We’ll, it seems reasonable to assume she wrote this in English for a NA/UK audience, which is why all the Yoruba (etc.) words are italicized, and none of the English ones are. I’m pretty sure she knew that a need to spread soil on ones skin would seem exotic to us, else why explain it to us in such depth? She chose to highlight this cultural element and a few others from many hundreds she could have chosen. Im quite sure she picked this for a reason. She’s not herself Himba, so why choose Himba at all? They are a stand-in for African culture, and I believe she intentionally chose them for traits that were quite different from those of her audience. There isn’t much room in a short story to be subtle.

    Btw, apparently the Yoush are meant to be ‘obviously arabs’ - and if readers don’t get that it’s their fault (see screenshot).
    (I suspect none of us got that, btw)
  • 1

    The Himba in Binti are not the real Himba. I was actually familiar with the Himba before I read Binti. Okorafor took some aspects of them - Otjize, mixed matrilineal and patrilineal authority, the Namibian desert location - and mixed in things from other African peoples to make her own stew. So I agree with Apocryphal here, that Okorafor used the Himba to recenter us and challenge our habitual mindset. Remember, her parents were Nigerian (Igbo), but she was born here in the US and still lives here.

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