Island World: Cultural Appropriation?

EDIT: I wrote this during a heated controversy. Since then, I’ve decided that I am going forward in good faith, trying to avoid being exploitative or disrespectful. Any time someone creates something and puts it out for the world to pick apart, one has to be ready to accept harsh words. I’m gonna brave those waters.

The recent controversy over Monte Cook’s the Strange RPG (they’ve been accused of cultural insensitivity about indigenous people) has led me to a decision:

My pet project, Koru (Island World) will no longer contain any inspiration from actual real-world Polynesian and Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes.

Why? Because I don’t know who to consult with to ensure that my research isn’t unintentionally racist. Even if I did, I do not think that I could handle the negative attention from critics accusing me of making a buck off of the culture of another ethnicity than my own.

Where does that leave me? What IS my ethnicity, my culture? Northern European, sadly, which already occupies the vast majority of the gaming hobby. So much for originality.

So Island World (no longer Koru, because the religious and cultural significance of that term does not come from mine) will be composed of made-up people without a cultural identity based on any from Earth.

Yep, I’m disappointed and heartbroken. I don’t have the time, energy or resources to commit to proper research and interviews with the right people. So I will spend that time making something up from scratch.

Hopefully that will work. Recent controversies on the internet have scared me from wanting to risk being doxxed or harassed over my creative work. It’s bad enough to be told that I’m a lackluster designer: to be told that I’m also a bigot or worse would probably make me quit social media indefinitely.

So that’s the end of that. My original intention to include material from those cultures was purely from the “I’ve been fascinated with them my whole life” angle and wasn’t meant to be malicious or exploitative. But I won’t even bother to open that can of worms anymore.