Ganakagok, Cultural Appropriation, and the New World

124»

Comments

  • Posted By: ValamirYes all of that...just not forever. I'm not dismissing any of it...just suggesting that there should be a time limit on it after which...there are no stakeholders to consult. And I tried to avoid simply being arbitrary in the time limit, I actually outlined above exactly how I arrived at that limit...when no one is left alive who was actually born into the culture while it was being practiced, and no one is left alive who knew such a person. That's pretty hard to track directly, but 180-200 years should be long enough to cover even the outlier cases.
    Anthropologists will say that there's no such thing as "pure" culture: that cultures are transformed by contact with each other--some in little ways, accreting over time; some dramatically, in huge and rapid shifts. But even in such instances, there will be those who are attempting to "practice" a culture, or "revive" it, or otherwise take an interest in or feel some stake in its representation, preservation, transmission, or dissemination. Thus my Monty Python reference above: "I'm not dead yet!" Who gets to decide that a culture is dead, in pursuit of the standard of objectivity you're seeking? This is why I think the attempt at objectivity in this instance is ultimately arbitrary and authoritarian; instead of saying in every instance, we should consider our obligations to those from whose culture we want to take bits and pieces to incorporate in our work, you're saying we should only do it some of the time.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenIn the meantime, it has been often said in this discussion that you cannot be the judge of your own action, you need to use certified minority voices to discover what is the moral course. I can see how this latter idea seems very close to "everything's OK as long as no native will complain", but I don't myself accept the equivalency: the reason for listening to a native voice, insofar as there is one, needs to be my own moral need to do right, not my own social need to avoid bad press. The latter is an empty principle.
    Sure, I gotcha. Here's the thing: If nobody tells you that your work is offensive, how will you know? I'm certainly not saying "everything's OK as long as nobody complains," nor am I trying to say you need to "placate" stakeholders and somehow make them go away. I'm also not here to tell you what is right, or moral, or ethical. How you sleep at night is your own business (although if my advise can help you, cool beans).

    But people getting mad or simply telling you your work is hurtful is a manifestation and a demonstration of that hurt. That's how you know whether you have fulfilled your own moral need, assuming you want to "do right" by at least somebody, other than your own need for expression. If you want to capture somebody else's perspective, you need feedback from them to know whether you have achieved your goal or not.

    And when I advise you to identify the stakeholders and address them, I don't mean you need to pacify or mollify them or cater to their whims. I'm saying you should address them, and their concerns. Make the effort to understand their position and state your case in a clear and direct manner that demonstrates that you have considered the situation and are informed enough about it that you have something meaningful to say.


    Like, say for example you make a game about 14th-century Serbia. Probably you don't care about offending Balkan nationalists who promote ethnic cleansing. That's cool, I'm not saying you should. But when the issue eventually comes up, what happens when you say "what? This is still an issue? I don't understand what you guys are talking about"? It makes you look like a guy writing about something he doesn't know much about. Or maybe you simply say "fuck those rapist motherfuckers, I'll write whatever I damn well please and if they don't like it they can suck it!" That makes you look like an asshole who is too lazy to know what is going on. You may not care about what nationalists think, but the ignorance and the flippant attitude of these responses will probably also offend people who experienced ethnic cleansing, people concerned about it, and other people you were hoping to communicate a different message to.

    If, on the other hand, you address those concerns by saying "no, no, I did my research, here is what I think is going on with the historical situation of the Battle of Kosovo, and why I think it is important and interesting," and you lay that all out, and then you say why the nationalists have got it wrong, and why it has become politically poisonous, then you have done exactly what I have advised you to do (or that was my intent, anyway, apologies if that wasn't clear). That's addressing the stakeholders. It also demonstrates that you are a mature and informed author who has considered the issue and has something important to say about the subject matter.

    Does that make sense?
  • Also, in the interests of clarifying my thoughts:

    Ralph, I want to say that I respect the fact that you've considered this and spent time thinking about solutions. I think that trying to make the people who's natural reaction is the "fuck off" more aware and conscientious is a worthy goal, and I want to support that impulse. I don't agree with this particular idea of yours, but at the same time, if you can make something of it and do some good, I'm not going to complain. However, I do wish you would take some more time to consider Lee's perspective here, because I think your presentation is alarming in ways that are unnecessary, and I think perhaps in ways that are contrary to your intentions.
  • Posted By: Bill_WhiteWho gets to decide that a culture is dead, in pursuit of the standard of objectivity you're seeking?
    Mmmhm. This. All the talk about the death of cultures brought me to the thought: can cultures die? I'm not an anthropologist/sociologist, but my money is on no. When I googled it, this is the first thing that came up. The Hollow Men
  • Posted By: JohnstoneDoes that make sense?
    It does, and I didn't think that you would particularly disagree. It just occurred to me that you'd started to talk about what to me seemed about a point besides the point. It's probably because you've been criticizing Ralph's heuristic because it doesn't ensure that everybody will be mollified. Ralph's own idea, as I understood it, was not that waiting 200 years would ensure that everybody who might complain would be dead, but rather that anybody who might complain would not have a valid stake (from Ralph's viewpoint, I mean) on your work. In other words, it seems to me that he's taking a stand where your distress over a work of art is not in itself proof that something's wrong with the work. If I understand this correctly, then saying that his heuristic does not help you avoid public chastisement is meaningless - he's not trying to do that, he's trying to figure out a moral stand he's happy with himself.

    For what it's worth, I'm not convinced by Ralph's formulation either. Not only is the cut-off point of "when a culture dies" really hard to pin down, but also it has not been shown to my satisfaction that personal experience of a culture is somehow relevant in a person's right to be a stakeholder (in Johnstone's sense, a person who gets to expect that you'll engage him when making your work). I guess we could fix the first problem by declaring self-identification as sufficient, but then that standard is never going to be satisfied - I can't name a single ancient culture where there wouldn't be people out there who will quite sincerely name themselves as the living continuation and propagation of that culture.

    As has been discussed, I'm not personally satisfied about cultural appropriation as a moral issue in the first place, but in the interest of considering the hypothetical, I'd say that it's not credible to build a set of standards on the age and supposed moribundness of culture. By all means prove me wrong, but to me it seems likely that the true moral duty on this issue is found in either caring about our fellow man as Liam's been arguing, or in some sort of duty towards truth and constructive progressive thinking, as has been hinted at here and there. Neither of these standards actually cares about the age and supposed moribundity of a culture: if somebody's hurt by your depiction of ancient Greek polis-dwellers, then that's an emotional fact, and if your goal was to avoid such hurt, the age of the culture in question doesn't come into it as far as I can see.

    A standard that turns on the validity of a given person's self-identification as a member of a given culture (such as Ralph's), or one that gauges cultures on the basis of their political high-score (as suggested by those who think it's OK to bash on Christianity) - both of those seem to me pretty incredible, as I don't see off-hand how a moral imperative follows from either kinds of evaluation. If somebody's really rooting for either of these, I'd be interested in seeing the train of thought sketched out in simple terms.
  • edited May 2012
    Posted By: Eero Tuovinento me it seems likely that the true moral duty on this issue is found in either caring about our fellow man as Liam's been arguing, or in some sort of duty towards truth and constructive progressive thinking, as has been hinted at here and there. Neither of these standards actually cares about the age and supposed moribundity of a culture: if somebody's hurt by your depiction of ancient Greek polis-dwellers, then that's an emotional fact, and if your goal was to avoid such hurt, the age of the culture in question doesn't come into it as far as I can see.
    Yeah, well put.

    I'd add that I think truth and constructive progressive thinking are also social constructions, and that a sense of duty towards those ideals can also be seen as caring about other people, whether that's a sense of responsibility towards historical people who are now dead and don't have a voice anymore, or, as in Ralph's caravel example, a duty to present the audience with something accurate and well-informed. And with that in mind, it's amusing you mention polis dwellers. My Ancient Greek is pretty bad, but I did spend the time and effort to learn it, to study the literature, the history, and the historiography, and even travel to Greece to do so. I wouldn't say I'm offended by like, the use of Greek gods for even crass commercialization or ass-fucking jokes or anything, but I definitely appreciate when the subject matter's done right. But I don't feel that as an abstract principle or anything, it feels like a connection to other people, both living and dead.
  • Posted By: Eero Tuovinento me it seems likely that the true moral duty on this issue is found in either caring about our fellow man as Liam's been arguing,.
    In the interests of full disclosure, I will say that I didn't originally come up with this idea. I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenA standard that turns on the validity of a given person's self-identification as a member of a given culture (such as Ralph's), or one that gauges cultures on the basis of their political high-score (as suggested by those who think it's OK to bash on Christianity) - both of those seem to me pretty incredible, as I don't see off-hand how a moral imperative follows from either kinds of evaluation. If somebody's really rooting for either of these, I'd be interested in seeing the train of thought sketched out in simple terms.
    I think I've established my position to the extent it has value to do so. I'll add this comment only because Eero has specifically requested my train of thought.

    I don't consider self-identification in a culture to have any validity. Having ownership rights in a culture is not something IMO one can just choose to have because they feel like it, any more than a person can self-identify as the owner of a tree, or a car, or a bag of chips. Ownership rights have rules, you either are or aren't an owner, and there are specific ways to become an owner. And just like you can't simply wake up one day and decide you own my car, I can't simply wake up one day and decide I have an ownership stake in 15th century Finnish Culture.

    To me a culture exists in a specific time and a specific geography and is closely tied to the families (or family proxies) who lived in that time and that place and passed down the elements of that culture. If you lived in that time and in that place you have an ownership interest in that culture. If you didn't, you don't, and self identifying that you do IMO doesn't make it so.

    I also don't accept that culture is a long extended thing that exists continuously throughout time (see my earlier evolution example). I grew up in North East, Pennsylvania; USA in the 70s and 80s. That's my culture. My culture was built on the culture of North East, Pennsylvania; USA from the 50s and 60s...but that's not my culture. That culture was the culture of the 50s and 60s...I wasn't alive then, it doesn't belong to me...it belongs to my parents. Because of the role my parents had in my life their culture was essential to mine, and so one can argue I have a stake in it...and a lesser stake in my grandparents' culture...and a lesser stake yet in my great grandmother's culture (but I only ever knew 1 of my great parents and none of my great great grandparents...so no...IMO I don't have a stake in those.

    The idea that this is somehow all part of the same culture...that somehow I have ownership rights on the whole history of North East, Pennsylvania going back to its founding in 1794 I think is Ludicrous with a capital L. The demographics were not the same, the industry was not the same, how people spent their time was not the same, how they worshiped was not the same...that's not even touching on technology and politics. Sure we have plaques commemorating old historical events, and old maps in the court house and old dates on old buildings and streets named after old families (and some of those family names can still be found in the phone book). But no...that's not the same culture. Maybe my culture is descended from that culture...but its not the same culture, and trying to claim it is would be ridiculous.

    So that's my train of thought. You own what you actually own...you don't have a right to claim ownership to something that existed and was gone before you were ever born, or your parents were born, or your grandparents were born. If you don't even know anyone who'd been born in that culture...it's no longer your culture. And once its no longer your culture...you can self identify all you want and make all kinds of grandiose claims...but to me...such claims hold pretty much no weight...and nor should they. I can't even comprehend the idea that some have expressed above that cultures don't die...of course they die. And at the pace of the modern world they die faster than ever. American culture has changed so dramatically in just the last 12 years that I'd argue its very damn near a completely different culture today than it was in just the year 2000. Maybe that's a bit of hyperbole...but it damn sure is a completely different culture today than it was in 1984 when I was 13. In 1984 we were worried about the Soviets and Cold War and terrorism. Terrorism was something that happened in Europe and making a phone call away from home involved feeding dimes into a phone booth with a rotary dial.

    Why I think this is important is because I don't think a person has the right to control or exert pressure on how art should be created on a culture that isn't theirs...no matter how much they self identify that it IS. Self identifying means nothing to me. People are still going to do it...they're still going to try to exert such pressure...but that doesn't mean they have the right to do so...and IMO when they don't have the right to do so then what they are expressing is no more than their personal opinion and preference. And it can be accepted and accounted for exactly the same as accepting and accounting for any personal opinion and preference...acted on...or ignored as the artist chooses.

    So the outline that I've been discussing in this thread is my current working model on how to establish when someone actually has the right to talk about a culture and exert influence on how art depicts that culture because they are a legitimate owner/stakeholder in it, and when such efforts are just their personal opinion and can be acted on or ignored freely without the additional gravity of larger cultural issues.
  • edited May 2012
    How do y'all think this would work? Check it:

    1) Make your game's culturally sensitive material publicly available prior to commercial release.

    2) See who gets offended, talk to them, and try to understand their position(s) as well as you can.

    3) Judge for yourself whether they're being reasonable or unreasonable.

    4) Edit as you see fit, then publish.

    5) Be disliked or resented by (mostly, hopefully) people you consider unreasonable.

    Is Step 1 practical? If so, then I imagine that "the best way to go about it" would be a productive topic for discussion here.
  • edited May 2012
    Ralph,

    If there was a need for a really simple rule, I confess I can't come up with anything better than your "anyone who knew a member of the culture, ballpark 180yrs" thing.

    I don't think such a need exists, though. It's not too hard for us to talk to all the people we offend, and assess what's reasonable or not on a case by case basis.

    Where a simple rule isn't absolutely necessary, I'd much rather be free to use my own judgment.
  • It just seems weird/wrong that it's easier under the rule to appropriate from a culture that has suffered intentional erasure and destruction over the years than one that is promoted and expanded dramatically over the years, because the population will last longer, stomp harder, and so on.
  • Posted By: ValamirIn terms of respect, accurate portrayal, and not misrepresenting I think we owe exactly the same consideration to the strong as to the weak. It is just as important for the weak to not demonize the strong with misrepresentation as it is for the strong to not demonize the weak. The use of dominant vs. marginalized language blurs that truth as it has done here.
    "The law, in its majesty, forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges and begging for bread."
  • JDCorley's last two posts are really on point.

    Appropriating a mainstream dominant culture does not hurt it, no matter how sloppy and poorly researched the appropriation. Appropriating a marginalized culture does hurt it and its members.
  • edited May 2012
    I think that if you're looking for a simple rule, assume that someone from culture X is a friend of yours. How would you talk to them about it? What would you need to do to feel right with yourself, if a friend of yours with a tie to the culture was paying attention to what you're doing? Isn't that one of the things that got Bill modifying Ganakagok in the first place? Thinking about how a friend felt about the game?
    Posted By: ValamirWhy I think this is important is because I don't think a person has the right to control or exert pressure on how art should be created on a culture that isn't theirs...no matter how much they self identify that it IS. Self identifying means nothing to me. People are still going to do it...they're still going to try to exert such pressure...but that doesn't mean they have the right to do so...and IMO when they don't have the right to do so then what they are expressing is no more than their personal opinion and preference. And it can be accepted and accounted for exactly the same as accepting and accounting for any personal opinion and preference...acted on...or ignored as the artist chooses.
    I have a curiousity about this - whose opinion would matter to you? If you were writing a game about, say, the American Revolution in the 18th century, what are the criteria that you would use for yourself to know that you'd done a good job in the game? Would your criteria change if your game was about the Middle Passage instead? Are they different criteria from if you wanted to write a game about being an American in Pennsylvania in 1975?
  • So having read through this entire huge thread, I feel like saying some things.

    1: I think that Ralph's point that the culture I live in today is not the same culture that my forefathers lived in is central to his viewpoint and has been misunderstood by many in this thread. I think it has some validity if you attempt to be objective. There is a danger in going for a "whoever is most offended wins" morality. That said, not wanting to offend people is an entirely different argument and a lot of great stuff has been said about it here. You guys are awesome.

    2: I think something that needs to be pointed out here is that if you're being respectful and trying to do it right, incorporating things from marginalized cultures is a good thing. It's easy to get the impression from these discussions that I'm better off just making a safe game and not include anything from these cultures. But if you're trying to make it right, what you're doing is popularizing, spreading awareness and informing people about the marginalized culture, and that's a good thing. These cultures are often small in number and if they were the only ones who could incorporate their culture in art, they'd pretty much disappear in the flood of mainstream culture from the masses. And because of assimilation, many of the members of the culture don't feel much pride in their heritage, either, which makes it even more threatened with exclusion. So when I see stuff like "I was gonna include this stuff in my game but decided not to because I don't want to appropriate culture", it makes me sad, because excluding isn't a good thing, either. As long as you try to do it right and you're honest about it, including elements of marginalized cultures in your game is a good thing.
  • Posted By: David Berg1) Make your game's culturally sensitive material publicly available prior to commercial release.
    I don't think I would know what is "culturally sensitive". Is it just any material that relates to cultures that are or have been (non-white heterosexual male) minorities in the USA at some point in the country's history? (I'm not trying to be clever here, that's the best heuristic I can compose out of the things that make you guys uncomfortable vs. the things that don't.) Or would it be better to just pre-publish everything and let people tell you what they think is offensive?

    Aside from that, that procedure is a reasonable application of Johnstone's position, as far as I can see. You're relying on your stakeholders to step up and come forward, though, and I've seen some people claim that it's not the responsibility of the stakeholder to stand watch - you should seek them out, instead.
  • Posted By: StephaniePeggI have a curiousity about this - whose opinion would matter to you? If you were writing a game about, say, the American Revolution in the 18th century, what are the criteria that you would use for yourself to know that you'd done a good job in the game? Would your criteria change if your game was about the Middle Passage instead? Are they different criteria from if you wanted to write a game about being an American in Pennsylvania in 1975?
    That would depend on what my design goal for the game was. If I was doing a silly Sons of Liberty-esque game ala Josh Roby, no ones opinion would really matter in respect of this thread...because doing a good job in the sense of getting it right isn't really a goal...and the period is well outside the window. If I was doing a serious historical game on the American Revolution I'd consult historical sources that a) I felt were historically accurate and b) provided the information I needed for the specific agenda of the game...which may emphasize some aspects and deemphasize others. If Eero wanted to design such a game, my hope (as an appreciator of historical accuracy) would be that he'd consult similar sources in an effort to get it right. If he didn't and was sloppy about it I would criticize him on those grounds, but I would not criticize him on the grounds of cultural appropriation because the culture of the American Revolution now belongs as much to him in Finland as it does to me in America.

    The Middle Passage would still be within my current working window definition, at least for another few decades, so I wouldn't be doing a Sons of Liberty-esque game around it, as its not my culture to approach from a silly perspective. A game designer wanting to take such an approach today, would be well served by following the advice on this thread and being well aware of the sensitive nature of the ground they were treading on.

    But if a game designer 100 years from now wanted to do a gonzo action silly romp of a game where the Amistad was a giant Steam Mecha and the slaves took it over and went stomping around the Caribbean...they should be able to do so with no more effort to research than consulting the future equivalent of wikipedia. People could still criticize it as a crappy game (personal opinion) but it would be unjust IMO to criticize it on the grounds of Cultural Appropriation or Insensitivity because enough time had passed that that period of history would then be owned by the entire world to be spindled folded and mutilated as desired.

    If I were doing a game set in WASP Pennsylvania in 1975, to some extent I could rely on myself as a source or people I know, although I'd have much better direct knowledge of 1985. But again, who's opinion would depend on what I was trying to do. If I were just doing a silly little riff on Dazed and Confused, I would feel free to spindle, mutilate, and fold as desired because though its within the window...its MY culture and as such I have the right to treat it as I please.
    Posted By: Simon Pettersson1: I think that Ralph's point that the culture I live in today is not the same culture that my forefathers lived in is central to his viewpoint and has been misunderstood by many in this thread. I think it has some validity if you attempt to be objective. There is a danger in going for a "whoever is most offended wins" morality. That said, not wanting to offend people is an entirely different argument and a lot of great stuff has been said about it here. You guys are awesome.
    Yes, this. Whatever culture a person is living in today, and however dedicated they are to preserving yesterday, reenacting yesterday, remembering yesterday...its not yesterday. Standing in 2012 and trying to preserve the culture of ones ancestors from 1832, is not the same as the culture those ancestors lived in 1832. Its different. The 2012 culture of remembering 1832 is its own thing...separate and distinct from the 2012 culture of not giving a shit about 1832, and valuable in and of itself. But it is not the culture of 1832. The culture of 1832 is dead and gone and lives on only in memory...which is NOT the same thing as living on. The people in 1832 weren't trying to remember or preserve 1832...they were living it...as casually and as naturally as we live 2012. There is no one alive today who lives 1832 as casually and as naturally as the people of 1832 lived it...or (I highly suspect) knows anyone who lived that way in 1832...thus the culture of 1832 is gone...dead...past...no longer here.

    Standing in 2012 and claiming that a culture from 1832 is being maintained today...by typing that claim on a keyboard over the internet...sorry...I'm not buying that for a second. No culture that actively uses cell phones and the internet can make a legitimate claim to being the same culture as a pre cell/internet culture. The transformative effects of those technologies have changed culture far too dramatically for any such claim to hold any merit. Similarly...automobiles and the interstate system (and its global counter parts), the printing press, steam power...are all technologies that bright line separate one culture from another. The post technology cultures may be descendants from and inheritors of pre technology cultures...but they are NOT the same culture. Period. Such a model would probably provide a degree more precision and accuracy than my simpler time limit, but not enough so in most applications that its worth the extra effort, although I'm open to the possibility.
  • I have a very specific example, I was born on Barrabool nation, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shire_of_Barrabool) over a hundred years after the last national of Barabool died. Some of the neighboring nations are very active, and there is an indigenous cultural center across town, and another down the road, but they are focused on an existing and living culture. Personally I can hold a good conversation about a lot of aspects of indigenous culture, though I am *not* recognized as a member. I have been asked my opinion by a lot of well respected persons, either traditional land owners, or representatives of cultural practice. I have even been known to help with a right answer or two (usually just mentioning whom could answer the question better).

    PS Wikipedia is not 100% correct here, as they are talking about a white shire not the traditional boundries.

    Since the Barrabool traded culture and mixed bloodlines, are the neighboring nations considered to be the authority? Or is it free to use as I wish? Could I claim to be "King of Barrabool"? Could I lie, or profit from this?

    :/ Snake_Eyes
  • David, looks like a good plan to me.
    I'd also suggest trying to directly contact knowledgeable and experienced people first, as a step 0, I guess, but that's not always fast, easy, or reliable and whatnot.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenPosted By: David Berg1) Make your game's culturally sensitive material publicly available prior to commercial release.
    I don't think I would know what is "culturally sensitive".I sure don't. What I meant was, "Within the zone of what you're comfortable releasing for free, include as much of your fictional content as possible." The whole setting but none of the rules, for example.

    ...but people do sell setting books. So maybe releasing your setting for free is commercially stupid. That's a large part of why I asked, "Is this practical?"
  • edited May 2012
    Johnstone, yeah. I mean, if I was making a game that was about some other culture in some way that I was actually aware of, and I wanted to get it right or get their input, I'd reach out during the concept and design stage. Once it's time for publication, I'd feel kind of stupid mailing out my game to strangers with an "I didn't want your input before, but now please let me know if you're offended" note.

    I suspect any offense I give will be unexpected, and thus I wouldn't know who to contact about it preemptively.

    Separately: I think this has been mentioned already, but links to sources are an awesome thing. How We Came to Live Here is very clear on how the game relates to its inspirations, but it doesn't make it any easier for my lazy ass to go check out those inspirations. There's gotta be some Hopi mythology online somewhere, right?
  • Posted By: David BergPosted By: Eero TuovinenPosted By: David Berg1) Make your game's culturally sensitive material publicly available prior to commercial release.
    I don't think I would know what is "culturally sensitive".I sure don't. What I meant was, "Within the zone of what you're comfortable releasing for free, include as much of your fictional content as possible." The whole setting but none of the rules, for example.

    ...but people do sell setting books. So maybe releasing your setting for free is commercially stupid. That's a large part of why I asked, "Is this practical?"

    Honestly, I think that if you just posted something like "Hey, I'm doing a game about X culture and I'd be really interested in comments from gamers who are members of or well-versed in X culture to make sure I'm doing it justice" in a bunch of forums you'd be very likely to find some people who were interested in games, well-informed about the culture, and probably excited to help somebody do a thoughtful portrayal of a culture that probably doesn't show up very well in games. If I didn't know somebody already who knew about the culture in question, that's almost certainly what I'd do.
  • Posted By: pigeon
    Honestly, I think that if you just posted something like "Hey, I'm doing a game about X culture and I'd be really interested in comments from gamers who are members of or well-versed in X culture to make sure I'm doing it justice" in a bunch of forums you'd be very likely to find some people who were interested in games, well-informed about the culture, and probably excited to help somebody do a thoughtful portrayal of a culture that probably doesn't show up very well in games. If I didn't know somebody already who knew about the culture in question, that's almost certainly what I'd do.
    This can happen even after some research. "Hey, I've done this, this and this. My thought is to focus more on this part of the culture because there's no way I can encompass everything in a game. Is there something I'm missing in this area?"
  • edited May 2012
    Posted By: ValamirYes, this. Whatever culture a person is living in today, and however dedicated they are to preserving yesterday, reenacting yesterday, remembering yesterday...its not yesterday. Standing in 2012 and trying to preserve the culture of ones ancestors from 1832, is not the same as the culture those ancestors lived in 1832. Its different. The 2012 culture of remembering 1832 is its own thing...separate and distinct from the 2012 culture of not giving a shit about 1832, and valuable in and of itself. But it is not the culture of 1832. The culture of 1832 is dead and gone and lives on only in memory...which is NOT the same thing as living on. The people in 1832 weren't trying to remember or preserve 1832...they were living it...as casually and as naturally as we live 2012. There is no one alive today who lives 1832 as casually and as naturally as the people of 1832 lived it...or (I highly suspect) knows anyone who lived that way in 1832...thus the culture of 1832 is gone...dead...past...no longer here.
    I get the impression -- and please, correct me if I'm wrong -- that you yourself do not feel particularly strongly about or self-identify deeply with any specific culture beyond your own, immediate, personal life experience. That is, you think of yourself as a modern individual, and that while your beliefs and customs were influenced and shaped by your childhood, the real importance of those beliefs and customs are that they are the ones you personally have right now, today, in your actual life. You don't feel any need to define yourself by or shape your identity around something that happened before you were born.

    That's kind of how I feel about my own cultural background -- I'm aware of my family history going back a few generations, but I don't have any allegiance to or affinity for the countries my ancestors came from, or feel like I need to observe the same holidays as they did, or cook the same food, or learn my ancestors' languages or even identify myself to other people as a descendant of the half-dozen European countries I could claim heritage from, or whatever. That sort of thing has no real appeal to me, so I don't make it part of my own sense of identity. And that's pretty easy for me to do, since all my connections to that family history are indirect and somewhere around a century ago, and so as far as I'm concerned, it's got nothing at all to do with my life or who I am. My culture looks like the mainstream, modern American culture, and I fit into it just fine. I don't feel like anyone cares where I came from or where my parents' parents came from, and so I am free from having to care about that, too: no one is going to look at me and think, "Oh, he's German/Irish/Bulgarian/whatever, how exotic," no one is going to ask me what race I am or what nationality I am, no one is going to give me a weird look when they ask where my family came from and I say, "Michigan."

    One of the interesting things about this thread to me is getting to see the other side of that coin, and get an inkling of why someone who is NOT like me would have excellent, compelling reasons to care about where their family came from, and why they would want to feel connected to it, and especially why they would want to protect and preserve it. I feel like I can get away with not giving a shit about my great-grandparents, because everything about the culture I'm immersed in makes it easy for me to feel that way...but that's so clearly not true for everyone, and it shouldn't be: people preserving, observing, honoring, and defending their cultural identities is important. Also admirable, and enriching, and -- here is where I think you and I differ -- not something that has anything at all to do with what year it is. If you're invested in your family history, you are invested in it; it doesn't have to be 1832 and you don't have to live like it is for you to value and feel connected to the way your 19th-century relatives lived. And if someone from outside your culture dismisses not only your connection to that heritage, but actually tells you that you have no right to claim that connection or to complain if they do some damage to it through misrepresentation or outright disrespect? Even I, the mainstreamiest member of the American mainstream, can disagree with that argument.
  • Yeah, in general, it's a lot easier to feel relaxed about your culture being misappropriated when it's all over the place, often being treated respectfully or being held up as normal or normative. No-one is going to draw conclusions about all white people from Paris Hilton or Bill Gates, because they get to see lots of complicating counterexamples on a daily basis in all forms of mainstream media and culture. But if you're Native American, odds are there are a lot fewer people out there representing your culture, so every misuse is that much more significant.
  • Posted By: JDCorley"The law, in its majesty, forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges and begging for bread."
    This cuts to the core. The circumstances faced by each are not the same, so a rule will affect them differently, even though each COULD be affected, if their circumstances were the same.
    Posted By: Simon PetterssonSo when I see stuff like "I was gonna include this stuff in my game but decided not to because I don't want to appropriate culture", it makes me sad, because excluding isn't a good thing, either. As long as you try to do it right and you're honest about it, including elements of marginalized cultures in your game is a good thing.
    This is true. I would never have a blanket "hands off" rule. I am more than happy to share, as can be seen in my history here. I think most people who have the potential to become offended by these sorts of situations would be happy to share. And I will even be civil and respectful in my criticism of those I feel are misrepresenting or perpetuating hurtful memes should the need arise. Most hurtful memes are a result of ignorance, and I prefer to work on helping people to overcome ignorance. That only happens in a climate of respect.
    Posted By: ValamirWhatever culture a person is living in today, and however dedicated they are to preserving yesterday, reenacting yesterday, remembering yesterday...its not yesterday. Standing in 2012 and trying to preserve the culture of ones ancestors from 1832, is not the same as the culture those ancestors lived in 1832.
    This has a high potential to be wrong. I will not say with absolute certainty that it is, but there is a really good chance that it is wrong. If this idea has no room for the reality that my eagle feathers mean the same thing to me as they did to my great grandfather who passed them down to me, if this idea has no room for the reality that my sweats and my vision quest have the same meaning to me as it did to my father, and his father, and the unnamed great-great-great grandfather in my ancestry, if this idea has no room for the fact that the stories I tell my children mean the same thing to me as they did to my ancestors when they told them to each other in Mississippi prior to the Trail of Tears, if this idea has no room for the fact that the reverence I feel for the corn I grow or the deer I shoot or the fish I catch as my ancestors felt in Indian Territory, then it is totally wrong.

    This idea seems to assume that "culture" has to always include every aspect of life of every person alive at a certain time. This is not true. There are things that are maintained, not for history's sake, but for the intrinsic value in them. They are maintained because that is how people do things. My ancestors danced because that is what they did, AND for the sake of their ancestors. I dance for my ancestors, and this can be likened to some sort of historical preservation, but this is not why I do it. I do it because that is what I do, what my family does, as part of my culture, my living culture. This is not historical preservation for preservations' sake. Preservation is a byproduct of the fact that this is something that we do. I do it for the spiritual connection I get from knowing that I come from this direct line, this thing that is bigger than just me, this thing that transcends time. This thing makes me immortal in a sense, as I am but a part of a much larger whole. It is the very fact that you try to separate a person from their history that is the huge disconnect for me. You may not feel the connection to your past that I do, but denying that there is no connection, no present and important element of lineage and the past in anyone, and that there is no need to respect this connection will leave me unable to agree with you. It is also the reason that the Yakima are offended that a museum holds the bones of a man dug up on Yakima land. The Yakima are not the only ones offended. Many people will be offended when historical context is ignored. To disrespect someones history is disrespectful of all who value their own history. This is the morass and mire that you will encounter should this rule ever come into play.

    Any model that cannot account for the fact that some people do the same things that their ancestors did more than 180+ years ago is not accounting for reality, and any model that ignores the importance that many people hold for their own history and ancestry is not accounting for reality.

    And again, even if this model did work the way it is intended, I have yet to hear of an example where it could be applied. So, what is the point? At this point it just seems like a model without possible practical application that is an insult to people who are not disconnected from their past.
Sign In or Register to comment.