The General Question of Postcolonialism
From the series of hypothetical postcolonial interventions posted above (Monster Hunter, Stardew Valley, Breath of the Wild) and the design of Syphilisation, we can isolate some approaches that you can adopt if you want to try this lens. This is obviously by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s enough to help you find some starting points. Also note that this comes from an Indian perspective towards postcolonialism and other perspectives will give you other results.
- History From Below: Does your game only present the perspective of a few Great Men or does it include that of common people?
- Cooperation: Is your game entirely the competition between forces? Is there space for cooperation instead?
- Connecting Ends to Means: There is a difference in the real world between doing something the right way and doing it the wrong way. Does your game reflect this?
- Quiet the Core Fantasy: Choosing lower stakes allows you more space for humanity and much of a postcolonial intervention is humanizing a game.
- Attack the Authority of the Author: Show people that there is a person behind the game and a fallible one at that. Add whimsical elements and parts of your own personality. Encourage players to think about what alternative systems would look like.
- Pollution: Most of what you do in the real life involves some form of waste. Abstracting that away quite naturally pushes a game into capitalist and colonial logic.
- Unclassifiable Elements: Colonial enterprises relied on broad classifications and replicating those broad classifications easily moves into colonial logic. Allow for complication here and your game becomes resistant to colonial simplifications. After all, two people can share a nationality and be different in every other way.
- Worlds, not Game Boards: If your world is just a space on which to project power, that’s all that players will do on it. Find ways for them to treat the land with more respect.
- Against Determinism: Having only one route to a tech, or craftable element, or plot point encourages determinism. Help people imagine alternate paths in your game and so in the outside world.
- Space for Meditation: Does your game only have space for productive activity? Do you want your play experience to be purely focused on the bottom line?
- Ecosystems: When all of your resources are infinitely renewable, your player cannot respect them. Allow for overharvesting and ecological impacts.
- Permanent, Unfixable Damage: The colonial project always promises that it can fix the damage it causes, whether to the colonized or to the world itself. Show that some damage can never be reversed.
You can and should use the principles listed above to help decolonize your narrative. In addition, consider the following approaches:
- Subaltern Characters: Do you have major characters who have been structurally disempowered? Are they more than pieces to be manipulated by those in power?
- No Savages: It’s hard to imagine using this trope well, whether or not you make them noble.
- Don’t Ignore the Revolution: The Revolution is everywhere and imagining a space where it doesn’t exist helps people ignore its existence.