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I posted the following comment at a blog that I read, which you may find interesting also. @Legate of Mineta, this is meant to be praise for the game. So, in recent weeks, I have been reading, during my spare time (to some degree) fiction either written by Chinese people or set in China. I really like the fiction written by Chinese people, but the fiction set in China written by non-Chinese people makes me cringe with disgust because of how exoticizing and orientatilizing it is. At least Jack Vance was progressive enough to use fictional cultures/locations for his stories, but the same attitudes - of "see how strange and interesting and difficult to deal with people from this culture are" - becomes deeply uncomfortable to me when applied to real people/cultures. Barry Hughart's distortions of genuine Chinese history - whose references are numerous enough to make me think that he knew more about the subject than the average person - in order to make China seem more amusing/interesting as a setting are very unworthy of praise - to say nothing of his distortions of Buddhism. Chinese history/culture are already interesting enough to serve as bases for interesting fiction - both realistic and fantastical - as is proven by modern and ancient Chinese writers. So there is little need to value white people's spewing out words that are stereotypically associated with China as they write exotic tales of whimsy. There are two advantages of using the setting of Academagia as a basis for stories about "the exotic East" (not that I have, nor may I - although I have added to the setting with the developers' approval a Polynesia-equivalent and am planning a Bactria-Equivalent): 1. The entire setting is faintly whimsical and magical - so portraying strange customs of a China-Equivalent can be placed alongside the game's strange customs of its italy-Equivalent and Britain-equivalent. 2. The game's only Japanese-equivalent character is a compulsive56 liar56/storyteller who delights in making herself seem exotic/strange to others, so such exoticism, coming from her, makes sense - and may not be true. The game's major character who is hinted to be from the setting's China-equivalent is not prone to such exoticizing stories - although she (and her "brothers") are genuinely mysterious and creepy in their own ways.
So, yesterday, in addition to writing more for my Academagia adventure with Zoe and Eliana (so difficult to write dancing scenes when I cannot even walk), I was playing a fascinating video game that I do not want to name unless @Legate of Mineta gives me permission. One of its characters is a dominating, drug-dealing, mercenary (I had almost called her Carian as a funny and obscure reference that maybe 100 other people might get) character who tricks people into crime/exploitation to whom love/benevolence is a strange concept. And yet, she is less frightening to me than Sima Venesico - because of reasons that I will place into the spoiler thread if any are interested. For this reason, I conceive of my PCs who end up with Sima as ally as either comically naive/love-besotten/honorable, haplessly dragged along by events, or ruthless in their own ways but not fully aware of Sima (by not doing her adventure or her brothers' adventures). I know not whether this was intended by the people in Black Chicken Studios, but it is a masterpiece of good writing in my mind.
I really like the fact that Black Chicken Studios has given Sima Venesico, a mysterious, manipulative student of unknown origins, the name Sima. This name is appropriate for her for three reasons. 1. Its Lack of Definite Origin: Sima is a Chinese, Sanskrit, and Persian name. Since Sima Venesico is of uncertain origins as far as the player knows, this name with multiple possible origins is appropriate. 2. Its Meanings, which are All Appropriate to Sima Venesico: The name Sima has three meanings. a. In Chinese Sima means Controller of Horses, and Sima Venesico is very interested, some might think dangerously interested, in controlling people even when they have been provoked by her - in a way similar to the attitude, some might say, that a a horse-controller feels over horses. b. In Persian, Sima means face or visage - and Sima Venesico certainly has a pretty and distinctive face, which she uses to her advantage in the game. But just as a person should not be assessed by the wise based solely upon his or her face, so Sima Venesico has a mysterious and much deeper background and set of goals than stereotypes about Hedi College and girls in general might suggest. c. In Sanskrit, Sima means boundary - and following Sima Venesico's adventures involves her leading the player character to the boundary of legal and accepted actions and knowledge - and over these boundaries. Now that these meanings have been set out, aspects of Sima Venesico's character become more relevant and interesting. There is a random event in which Sima Venesico claims to be trying to hide a piece of jewelry from her evil uncle. She may be lying or may not...but the Sima Clan of 3rd and 4th century CE China was notorious for its intrafamilial warfare (most notoriously the Eight Kings' Disorder - commonly translated as the War of the Eight Princes). The Sima Clan also usurped power through trickery and deceit and was ruthless in maintaining its grip upon this power - which is a fair way, it seems to me, of describing Sima Venesico within Y1 - and I and @Metis have in our Y2 adventures for her taken those traits and run with them. If Sima Venesico be connected more with the Indian associations of the name Sima, another suggestion arises from her name. During the medieval and Renaissance periods of European history that serve as the inspiration for Academagia (not that I am accusing it of being a generic medieval fantasy world!), the closest contact that most Europeans had with Indians was with Romani people (who are insultingly called Gypsies by the ignorant). Many Romani, due to their nomadic life-style, deep prejudice against them (even unto being executed under the laws of England for the "crime" of being a Romani person), and exotic origins to many Europeans, got involved in disreputable activities such as fortune-telling, entertaining, and most notoriously crime. Sima Vensico, if she be from the Cyvian equivalent of India, could be fulfilling a similar role. Certainly, her training as an actress would fit into the category of a mere entertainer. That having been said, I am confident that Black Chicken Studios, if it go this route, will not fall into racist tropes. Its writers have avoided portraying Malthezar Mhadi in a way that is obviously racist (although others may have different opinions), and goblins are portrayed as fulfilling multiple roles, some of which are law-abiding, during Y1. A question for @Legate of Mineta: Did the team put as much thought into Sima's name as I have? So, any thoughts?
@Metis has mentioned that some characters have strands of lores associated with them, and speculates that it was a scrapped mechanic to research characters. is this speculation true? And are there any plans to re-introduce a researching characters mechanic in Y2 or future years? It would be a nice way to represent in game and story PCs' growing more familiar with friends (or enemies) and could be used to unlock new options in dealing with them in adventures. I did something similar in a Y2 adventure dealing with Sima Venesico.