[history of gaming] Confessions of a Dungeon Master

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Comments

  • edited February 2012
    Boss: I don't want to upset you. But I'll answer the question.

    I think Luke's reaction to the article is very interesting, and there are elements of the text that support that reaction (If reactions were allowed which THEY'RE NOT). I don't think we can claim to know what happened, back then. We can only claim to know how we are reacting to the text, now. I think Luke's reaction is the latter, but I can see how you might think it's the former.

    Normally, I'd be very curious about how a variety of people might react to the article and I'd want to encourage everyone to say whatever they wanted about it, because that would mean there would be more interesting reactions to read.

    But, you know, you're the Boss. There really should be only ONE reaction to the article (complete and utter respectful silence), and everyone who didn't have that reaction is not only wrong, they're wasting our time! And they're probably taking a shit right in Holmes' mouth right now.

    Okay, whew, I got caught up in the moment, there. I'm not the Boss. You are.

    I think we can agree that everyone who dared to draw any conclusions from this text are idiots for even trying, and super-assholes for actually writing it out on a discussion forum. Please, please keep telling them that you hold a different viewpoint, as Bossily as you possibly can. They need to understand how they've failed.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak S@john harper

    If you go

    "I, John Harper ate a meatball sub on a bench in Connecticut"

    And four people go:

    "Clearly, you ate it in order to taunt the workers who used to work at the submarine factory that recently closed there"

    Then I am gonna go "WTF guys? Can you explain this? All John said was he was eating a meatball sandwich"

    And I am not only going to register surprise, I am going to be curious about how anybody could get there.
    Listen here, fucker. I work at the only submarine factory in Connecticut, and it is NOT closing down. But I was recently laid off from it for three months. So awesome example there. Your hypotheticality-sense needs calibration.

    And I'm not even kidding.

    Oh. And Fuck you, Harper, for not at least offering a down-on-his-luck machinist a bite of your goddamn sandwich.
  • Posted By: Zak S"Holmes repeated asking her about his sexual advances is jerky because repeatedly asking her this question is jerky because..." ...there is, in your mind, no other likely explanation of why he'd ask those questions despite the fact that there's one sitting right in front of you?
    What? I accepted his explanation. He was trying to make the game fun for everyone. That's why he did everything he did in the article.

    Your proposed addition, that he was somehow trying to protect her point of view by demanding, repeatedly, that she change it, is the one that doesn't make sense.

    I still don't even get why we're arguing about stuff that isn't even in the article!
  • Posted By: Zak S@PeterBB

    So my Scenario B seems way less likely than the two egregious horrible atrocities you just outlined because why exactly?
    Because:

    a) It's the straightforward reading of the text. Your interpretation requires interpreting "I don't think so" as meaning the opposite of its plain meaning.

    b) The phrase "exercising my prejudice in favor of females", which is problematic on its own in that it means he's treating players differently based on gender, and also it's phrased in a dehumanizing way. This increases the possibility that he is, in fact, not an enlightened being free of sexism.

    c) The above phrase again, which in context implies that even giving her the ability to set the target number was a gift given to her by him, not what it was in your story (where it was a last-ditch effort to salvage a deeply problematic situation.)

    and perhaps most importantly:

    d) I have seen way more examples of that sort of "atrocity" than I've seen clever DMing tricks to enforce feminism. The prior probability of rape culture is way higher than the prior probability of clever feminist social engineering.

    Also... your scenario B is not that much better than my account, because it presents a situation where one man was bullying her into accepting sexual advances, and the other was wimpishly trying to avoid a mess. That's still pretty bad, in my mind.
  • @John Harper

    Thank you, Employee, now:

    QUESTION 2:
    Do you think that this Bullying and Abetting Unwanted Sexual Advances reading is more likely what actually happened than some more innocuous reading?

    QUESTION 3:
    Do you hold, as a general principle, that the best thing to do when someone posts about an event is to write about stereotypical behaviors that event resembles?
  • @JDCorley

    "that he was somehow trying to protect her point of view by demanding, repeatedly, that she change it, "

    You misread what I wrote. If you want to have a conversation about that, I suggest you re-read it.
  • @PeterBB

    a) Your nterpretation (requiring motive) is no more "straightforward" than mine

    b) You said he could be being ironic. He could be. Irony has existed for quite some time.

    c) See answer to b

    d) This is just saying this matches Your Experience. Which is just another way of saying you have baggage from games you've seen that you are bringing to this issue. Of course you could accuse me of the same, but I'm not the one saying one scenario is more likely than the other. You are. That's an important difference. If you want to check my baggage, I have never played with anybody who acted like Jackass--but I am not stupid enough to claim that this means that my experience is typical.
  • edited February 2012
    No, that's what he wrote. That's what he said he did. She said her character never had sex. He said what, really? She said yes, really. He said not good enough, give me a percentage.

    I get that it's very important to you that Holmes not have done what he said he did, but it's not important to me, I'm perfectly okay with a world in which he did do exactly what he said he did.
  • edited February 2012
    Oh man, I made it to round two! I feel like this interview is going well, Boss.

    2. I have no idea. I don't see how anyone could determine that a more innocuous reading was more likely. There's really know way to know much about the actual events, so weighting them by likelihood would be silly. Which is why we should discuss the text and what the text might mean, since that's what we can actually know about.

    3. The best thing to do? That's a very loaded way to ask the question, Boss! It seems like you have an agenda with this question, which, as the Boss, is totally your job I guess.

    I have to say: sometimes? When the event resembles stereotypical behaviors that are associated with horrible things, I guess it's better to be vocal than to be silent? Especially since we're all adults discussing a text and we're capable of hearing viewpoints different from our own and possibly learning something about the person with the viewpoint, or about the text itself.

    Dang, I feel like I really flubbed #3. I bet it's not what you're looking for. I want to do things your way, Boss, honest. I just need to be corrected. I'll go ahead and punch myself just in case.
  • @JDCorley

    You just added "Not good enough"

    That is you adding stuff again.
  • edited February 2012
    @John Harper

    alright, so

    QUESTION 4:
    So, Employee, if there's an article from someone up for discussion and the person mentions that they are from West Virginia and play RPGs and love the internet, is it appropriate or reasonable to then assume that person has a terrible weight problem and use their post as a starting point for a discussion of proper exercise and eating habits?
  • edited February 2012
    Hooray! I thought maybe I was done for in that last round.

    4. Did we skip over a bunch of questions? This one doesn't follow from the other two. Maybe it's supposed to be question 40, and there was a cut and paste error. I'll answer it anyway.

    "No."

    (What a silly question, Boss! Hahaha. West Virginia. You have a weird sense of humor that I didn't expect.)
  • edited February 2012
    @John Harper

    QUESTION 5:

    But wait, Employee, you just said "When the event resembles stereotypical behaviors that are associated with horrible things, I guess it's better to be vocal than to be silent?"

    Why would we be silent on the probable heart attack this rpg-loving, internet-loving,semi-Southerner may have coming? (Or those like him, since, to be parallel, we'll assume he died already)
  • Posted By: John HarperHooray! I thought maybe I was done for in that last round.

    4. Did we skip over a bunch of questions? This one doesn't follow from the other two. Maybe it's supposed to be question 40, and there was a cut and paste error. I'll answer it anyway.

    "No."

    (What a silly question, Boss! Hahaha. West Virginia. You have a weird sense of humor that I didn't expect.)
    WRONG. The answer was supposed to be "Oh noes! I'm caught in a catch-22...somehow! Fuck, how did I not see it before? Holmes was actually an awesome guy AT ALL TIMES, and is thus incapable of anything resembling abuse or neglect."

    Now hit yourself with the meatball sub.
  • edited February 2012
    5. Oh, shit, Boss! I must have misread you. MY BAD.

    I guess the article about the West Virginia guy included passages that he wrote himself about what he eats and how the food makes him feel? If so, yeah, sure, let's talk about diet choices and nutrition, why not? Seems like it's related to the article. I mean, WV has horrible nutrition health statistics. It's a real problem. Maybe not 100% connected to the point of the article, but still...

    Oh shit, Boss! I think I just realized what you're trying to teach me. If we had a Boss, the Boss could keep anyone from trying to talk about anything not 100% connected to the point of the article!!!! That would be awesome! Then... then we wouldn't need to analyze texts AT ALL. We could just take them at face value and stroll right along, la dee da, happy as can be.

    I understand now. It's all so simple.

    (I really need to call every Lit., Psych, and Journalism department on Earth right now. Hang on.)
  • @Zak:

    I think you're being overly skeptical about the meaning of the text. I feel like it requires more contortions to say, "It was all ironic!" than to say "He said that he required her to set a target number after she said it wouldn't happen. I bet he did what he said he did."

    But let's say the text is exactly as much a blank slate as you want to say it is, because I think perhaps the most interesting bit is that last part.
    This is just saying this matches Your Experience. Which is just another way of saying you have baggage from games you've seen that you are bringing to this issue. Of course you could accuse me of the same, but I'm not the one saying one scenario is more likely than the other. You are. That's an important difference. If you want to check my baggage, I have never played with anybody who acted like Jackass--but I am not stupid enough to claim that this means that my experience is typical.
    First off, I never limited this to games. Rape culture is everywhere. I would be very surprised if you've never encountered it. Just read the comments on any youtube video or reddit post where a woman is even peripherally involved. If you disagree with this point, then we have a much more fundamental disagreement than our interpretation of this particular article.

    Secondly, both of the women who have posted in this thread (limiting it to people who have identified their gender, I obvious can't be sure of people's gender over the internet) have pointed out that, in their experience, this matches the description of the bad experiences they've had in RPGs. I'm having trouble getting comment links to work, but see StephaniePegg and Anansigirl's posts. Admittedly this is a small sample size, but I tend to think it's more likely for men to miss sexism than for women to think they've experienced it when they haven't. So I feel like I'm on pretty solid empirical ground here, even limiting it to the context of gaming.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SYou just added "Not good enough"

    That is you adding stuffagain.
    True, ya got me. It doesn't change anything to omit it, though.

    After all, if her "no", and then her repeated "no" were good enough, why ask for a percentage?
  • @PeterBB

    You are now in West Virginia territory.

    You are saying because the slim facts of a case resemble a stereotype we should assume that is the most reasonable assumption.

    That seems like an extremely disturbing thing to do to another person.

    Like, if Dr Holmes was a woman do we get to assume she had 6.5 children (the average for a woman in 1980), was married and did most of the housework then have a long discussion about her triple role as mother, GM, and game designer?

    Or do we go: hold on, we don't even know if she had one kid, let alone 6.5, let's do that somewhere else? Do we go: let's respect the fact that we are dealing with an actual real individual here with an actual biography not a nexus of statistics?
  • @JDCorley

    I wrote a whole explanation on the last page about why you'd ask for a percentage without being an ass. If you read it and don't see it as plausible, say that.
  • @John Harper

    Employee:

    same question

    QUESTION 6:
    Like, if Dr Holmes was a woman do we get to assume she had 6.5 children (the average for a woman in 1980), was married and did most of the housework then have a long discussion about her triple role as mother, GM, and game designer?

    Or do we go: hold on, we don't even know if she had one kid, let alone 6.5, let's do that somewhere else? Do we go: let's respect the fact that we are dealing with an actual real individual here with an actual biography not a nexus of statistics?
  • @Zak:

    But it's really not a blank slate. All of the facts of the story line up with this incredibly common thing, and there is nothing in the story that makes us suspect that there's something else going on.

    I'm going to defer to anasigirl on this one:
    Gonna pull my girl card. I've had this happen to me in games. And I've played with a variety of genders (and transgenders, and queers, and sexually liberated folk) over the years. The account in Holmes' article is exactly how it happens. Uncomfortable pushing about sexual situations (you're the girl, why don't you just flash them your tits as a distraction? I'm totally seducing your character right now cause that's the only way I'm interested in interacting with a girl at the table. I'm pretty sure our characters have had sex at some point, even though you're saying you're a virgin) come up all the time. Actual accounts from women gamers should kinda be enough to show that yea, this kind of pushing is a thing that happens.

    I think it would be a different story if she laughed and said, yea, you're probably right, my character's a total slut. She's totally slept with you. So, who's gonna capture that unicorn then? But there was insistent refusal on her part, and then even negotiation in an attempt to save her character from being seduced. Yea, that makes me pretty uncomfortable. That's pushing.
  • edited February 2012
    @PeterBB

    Are you really really asking to have a contest of female gamer testimonials about sexual situations in games?

    Because it would be really easy to pull up people who have ovaries and would say that they way I wrote was "exactly how it happens".

    I could offer a stereotyped explanation of Story-Gamer reaction to this whole thread that would be extremely uncharitable--but typical. But I don't want to do that. That would be unfair, ungenerous, and disrespectful to the fact that you are an actual person, not a representative of a statistical hivemind.

    In other words: no matter how common being a dick is, you need a lot more evidence and a lot better reasons to call someone a dick than what I've gotten so far, which amounts to "Well he's a witch, Well he looks like one, Well we dressed him up that way, Well if he is and we don't say it someone somewhere might read this thread and doubt our dedication to female empowerment so better to err on the side of saying he fucked up than just say what is actually true which is: fuck if we know"
  • Posted By: Zak SI wrote a whole explanation on the last page about why you'd ask for a percentage without being an ass. If you read it and don't see it as plausible, say that.
    But he didn't write that, he wrote what he wrote.

    And plus, the motive you theorized he might have had doesn't match his actions, so in addition to being irrelevant, what you wrote is also implausible. Unless you meant to write that he mistakenly did what he did.
  • Zak. He fucked up. Relax, it's okay. It won't undo the fabric of the universe.
  • @JDCorley

    Implausible how? The only people who responded to that version (which, like yours, requires adding motive) said it was plausible.
  • @UserClone

    Your condescending weirdness is meant to help us understand what exactly?
  • edited February 2012
    @Zak: The specifics of this specific account set off all of my red flags. A lot of other people agree with me that the specifics of this specific account also set off their red flags. Those red flags come from their (and my) ability as thinking human beings to categorize similar experiences as similar. No, this isn't enough to get someone arrested, but no one wanted it to be in the first place. We're just saying, "Hey, huge red flags." If you really can find people who say, "Yeah, that's exactly how I've experienced the positive and uplifting sexual situations in games before", then that would be interesting data. Maybe my red flags need some calibration. But all you've offered is, "But you have no proof", which is something you can always say about any text.

    EDIT: Also, for the record, I specifically denied that your account fit the text. I said it was plausible on its own, but it doesn't mesh well with the details of the text.
  • edited February 2012
    @The Boss:

    Same question. Neat! I like answering the same question. Fils me with confidence, Boss.

    6. Wait! You're definitely trying to trick me, Boss!! We already said that we're not assuming things about the person that they didn't write about in the article. See? I'm learning! I can totally spot a trick. Also, the average number of children for women in America in 1980 wasn't even close* to 6.5! Hahaha. Silly.

    So, my answer is... "No, we don't get to assume those things*."

    (*The average family in America in 1980 was 3.29 people.)
  • Ok, here's Mandy:

    First I don't want to join that forum just to get whaled on, I'll let you do it since you're already a member.

    But that guy saying ""I read two men bullying a young woman to accept sexual advances. " seems extremely sexist to me.

    He's casually assuming that just because she got asked a question a few times she'd say something she didn't mean because women are like delicate flowers who cave in to the slightest pressure. Casually assuming that is a totally misogynistic way to read that story--as if she's not capable of maybe having an opinion that changes or having any control over how she talks to people because she's just a girl and girls do what boys want them to. Are there people like that? Sure, but lots and lots of women would never act like that and assuming this girl is some delicate stereotype is insulting to me as a woman.

    You're probably going to have to edit that, they'll probably kick you off for saying that.
  • @John Harper

    Employee!!!!!, you made a mistake: I didn't say "in America".

    Employee, it's extremely important that you only react to what's written, not what you assume is written.

    QUESTION 7

    So where do you draw the line about when you get to assume a person is like a stereotype and when is that disrespectful?
  • Employee Mandy is spot on, Boss!

    I hope she writes a note to Anansigirl and Stephanie, too, to explain to them how they don't know what the fuck they're talking about when it comes to sexist behavior!

    Maybe Mandy can be, like, the Boss of How You Can React to Sexism in This Thread! We need one of those, too.
  • edited February 2012
    @John Harper

    No, we have 2 Bosses of How You Can React To Sexism already.

    Do try to keep up with the organizational hierarchy, Employee.
  • edited February 2012
    @The Boss:

    OH SHIT I'm sorry, Boss. I totally fucked up. Please don't be too mad at me. I punched my arm this time, since my face is terrible sore.

    7. I totally don't have to! I have you, Boss.


    Sorry about the organizational mix up, too! I need so much correction.

    But I sure hope we see those educational notes to Anansigirl and Stephanie real soon, Boss!!!
  • @john Harper

    QUESTION 7

    Not a helpful answer.Nobody gets smarter when you answer like that,

    Try to answer again, Remember, Employee, this is a question about you.
  • Well, this got weird.
  • Was it not weird at some point?
  • edited February 2012
    It occurs to me that not everyone will understand why "saving throw to avoid seduction" strikes me and others as inherently rapey. So a bit more context/analysis.

    Society regularly portrays (hetero-)sexuality as a competition between genders. Specifically, men are supposed to choose women to pursue, and then attempt to seduce them. Women are supposed to take a more passive role, where they are the recipients of this seduction. There are a number of ways women can "fail" at meeting societal expectations: they can choose not to sleep with men who pursue them (this is known as being "frigid", "stuck up", "full of herself", "prudish", etc.). They can choose to sleep with too many of the men who pursue them, or make the wrong choices of which men to sleep with (this is called being a "slut", "whore", "easy", "loose"). They can take too active a role in the process ("pushy", "unfeminine", "shameless").

    This division of labor includes the following expectations: men will choose on which terms flirting happens; women should be flattered when they are hit on; women need to decide when sex is not going to happen, because men are going to take any chance they can get; being uncomfortable with any of the above makes women some combination of "prudish" and "not a good sport".

    This model, where men push at women's boundaries, and women just defend them, leads to one of the serious problems with our culture, which feminists like to call the "rape culture" aspect. (Part of) rape culture is that men will naturally walk all over women's boundaries if they get the chance, and that women are responsible for ensuring this doesn't happen to them.

    Thus: the idea that the natural way to adjudicate a sexual situation is "a saving throw against seduction" fits right into this deeply problematic paradigm. It's based on the idea that women have to actively defend against having sex, and that a gap in the defenses is implied consent.

    Sure, there are other ways the same mechanic could be used in non-problematic ways, but the way he talks about it in the text makes me suspect he's using this model.

    @Zak: First off, I'm sorry Mandy doesn't feel comfortable here. :( That speaks pretty poorly to this community. Her perspective is interesting and welcome. (EDIT: As is yours, Zak. Your blog is one of my favorite things on the internet, even though I don't play old-school games.)

    That said, I don't think the analysis requires that the woman in question be a delicate flower. What's problematic about the situation is not her reaction, but the situation itself. Women shouldn't have to constantly be sticking up for themselves (any more than men should). Even if her reaction had been, "Fuck you! Or rather, never fuck you! My character slaps your character for being a boor," it would still be a problem because she shouldn't have had to be in that situation in the first place.

    Thisis a good blog post that addresses this topic.
  • @The Boss:

    I have to admit, QUESTION 7 confuses me!!!!

    We're talking about a text, not a person, so I can't fathom how the question fits in. Or maybe we are talking about a person? I know we shouldn't try to understand things by reading what someone writes (which is a good thing for you, Boss! You're totally in the clear!) but now there's this question about assuming things again, and it makes my head swim.

    If I try really hard I think I can parse it all out. Here is my answer:

    "I can assume a person is 'like a stereotype' when they write down in plain English that they are exactly like that stereotype, and I have every reason to believe they're telling the truth. Otherwise, I should give them the benefit of the doubt until I learn more."
  • Posted By: Zak SWas it not weird at some point?
    No. Just degrees of weirdness.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SImplausible how? The only people who responded to that version (which, like yours, requires adding motive) said it was plausible.
    Not based on the motivation you ascribed to it, which was "protecting" her point of view. The characters in your screenplay did not act on the motivations you ascribed to them, unless they were mistaken. Anyway, like I say, I'm not an expert on fanfic about early D&D, I was more interested in the original article. The people in that DEFINITELY did not act like they were protecting her point of view.
  • edited February 2012
    @PeteBB

    1. If (and this is a big "If" Cicely identifies 100% with her character as pawn. (which is common, no doubt), then Holmes did not put her in that situation, Jackass did.

    2. If you would like to have a conversation about the perceptions that cause many people who play trad games but are also into new games & experimental gaming tecniques to not feel welcome in this community, I can talk about that. but I am not going to bring it out unless you say "Yeah, let's talk about that"
  • @JDCorley

    Your description includes the judgment that Cicely was forced, coerced or intimidated into her "25%". Would that be fair to assume?

    @John Harper

    Employee:

    Same question.
  • edited February 2012
    @Zak:

    1. I agree. Which is why the main interpretation I've been defending is that Jackass was being a bully, and Holmes did not see the problem with this. If he saw a problem with it, he should have acted to stop it, rather than facilitate it. EDIT: And I think it's pretty clear that we're meant to assume they identified with their characters. Holmes introduces that section by talking about how sexual tension between people translated into sexual tension between characters.

    2. I would be interested to hear it, but I don't know if this environment is the safest place to have that conversation. (Plus it might just be threadjacking, although I think this thread is pretty jacked already.) If you want to talk about it, go for it, but if you would rather not (or want to make a new thread or something), that's cool too.
  • @PeterBB

    I explained one way in which he could have been doing just that (acting to mitigate the bullying). It required zero interpolation of the text beyond what YOU would have to interpolate in order to assume he was abetting sexual bullying.
  • edited February 2012
    @Zak: And I've explained why I think your interpretation stretches the text more than mine does. I simply don't think it's plausible to hold that your interpretation and mine are equally likely. But maybe that's just an irreconcilable difference.

    But it's still a deeply problematic situation, even if we go all the way to "one dude being an ass, and another dude being pretty cool". I know you're concerned with the moral judgment of Holmes, but I'm really not. The situation is problematic, regardless of who is at fault.
  • edited February 2012
    @PeterBB

    2. Note: I am talking about a perception, not necessarily a reality:

    Basically, while this community is seen as very helpful and nice about indie games, when it comes to trad games, the perception (aggregate from the community as gleaned by me largely from people going "Man, why are you even bothering talking to those people?") is one of 3 things happens:

    A. An interesting discussion from a different point of view

    B. Someone explains in unnecessarily academic language truths most of us take for granted about trad games but it's kinda sweet and nothing's wrong with that

    C. A sizable chunk reacts as if Story-Games is a support group for people who were abused by Dungeons and Dragons as a child and any mention of how maybe some people enjoy orcbabykilling, PvP, pickpocketing, antisocial behavior etc, and that this enjoyment has nothing remotely suspicious about it etc etc is met by aggressive incredulity, condescension, or flight from the forum or, at the very least, a lotta people making extremely exaggerated claims but only being called on or told to Chill Out Mannnn it if they make them from the pro-D&D side.

    I can tell you right now that any of my players who reads this thread and pretty much everyone in my G+ circle would point to this thread as a shining example of Exhibit C.

    (I am hoping that is not fair and there is actually some rhyme or reason to this and I'm trying to excavate that.)
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SYour description includes the judgment that Cicely was forced, coerced or intimidated into her "25%". Would that be fair to assume?
    I donno, at least "hassled" or "bothered". Her other answers were flat ignored, so what would you call it? "Celebrated"?

    And it's weird that this would be somehow put at D&D's doorstep, nothing in the article says "this is how D&D says to handle this situation", so that seems like unneeded sensitivity. Nobody in the thread has accused D&D of causing the situation or making it worse or anything, so pretty much all your friends who would theoretically pick "C" on account of this thread would be doing something dumb and wrong, I suggest you improve your opinion of them, it will help your friendships last.
  • @JDCorley

    So that is an interpolation. I am not saying it is wrong, but you are not just "reading what it says" you are adding a judgment. Admit that.
  • @Zak: Interesting! Obviously I'm not going to try to talk you out of your perspective, because that's silly. But I am curious why you include this specific thread as an example of C? I thought the argument was about sexism in gaming (and specifically this particular account of gaming), not about how D&D was problematic.
  • Posted By: Zak SSo that is an interpolation. I am not saying it is wrong, but you are not just "reading what it says" you are adding a judgment. Admit that.
    You're the one that asked me to characterize it and now I'm being blamed for doing what you ask?! What the fuck?
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