- Digging this one out before the weekend hits, Clive Thompson's excellent Wired News column has taken on a pretty touchy subject - race in RPG games, under the title 'Playing The Master Race', and explaining: "it suddenly hits me that this is a really weird, yet central part of online gaming: obsessing about your racial identity and appearance."

This was in relevance to an MMO based on a certain Oxford don's imaginary world, of course: "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."

And yes, it gets odder: "Races inside games often seem to reflect, in a creepy way, some of our most regrettable biases about race in real life. For example, when World of Warcraft first came out, players were amused, stunned or both to discover that the evil trolls spoke in ... Jamaican accents. Aaron Delwiche, a game academic at Trinity University, asked his student Beth Cox to analyze all the "emotes" in World of Warcraft -- the spoken greetings or hand gestures Blizzard pre-programmed into each race. She found that Trolls were "disproportionately more likely to make violent or sexual statements," Delwiche notes." I have enough trouble spelling Tolkien, let alone ruminating on things like this.