[SLOW DOWN] Annual "Bigotry in RPGs" Thread - eventually to History/Fantasy discussion maybe?

edited July 2013 in Story Games
So before I talk at all about this subject I'm gonna talk about my elementary school art teachers. (An endless stream of deal with it sunglasses falls from the sky onto every dog in the world.)

At my elementary school the art teachers were a team of two and they were very cool, relaxed, chill, and at the same time very serious about what they were teaching. When you're in elementary school and the teacher is joking around and being hilarious, you will relax and have fun. When the teacher is serious but chill, you will relax and really think about what you're doing. So that's what happened. Art class was not considered a "fun" class at our school. It was a real class!

Here's what I learned from my elementary school art teachers:

Everyone should be an artist - everyone can and should create art all the time. If you give a presentation to a committee at your workplace, and you pay attention to the aesthetics and effect of your choice of words and explanation, then you are being an artist (the art of rhetoric to be specific). Doodling idly isn't art not because doodles can't be art, but because you're just doing it idly. If you're doodling to try to represent something or express something, if you're conscious of your work in any way, your doodle is art. If you write down a dream you had and give it to a friend, that can be art if you are trying to convey your experience in the dream. If you draw a picture of someone and you're trying to get across anything other than just remembering how they look, that is art. Basically if you do anything for any expressive reason whatsoever (as opposed to, say, taking notes for class so you remember it or doing your taxes so you don't go to jail) then that is art.

As a direct result of this incredibly expansive definition, you are responsible for your art. If you draw a mean picture of a classmate, even if you never intend for them to find it, you are responsible for the hurt it might cause if someone else sees it - or, they pointed out, the hurt you might do to them because your own thoughts and feelings in creating your mean picture will stay with you, and even if you change your mind, you can't change the picture. If you draw a picture and 20 of your friends are fine with it and 1 is hurt by it, you are still responsible for the hurt. Of course in elementary school we were taught we never should hurt people. But this lesson, like the best lessons, took on a new meaning as we grew up and realized that we did have the capacity to hurt people, and would, inevitably, in our time on this earth, hurt people.

The second thing we learned was that because everyone can and should be an artist every day, virtually all of what they create will be garbage. Believe me, this was a hard lesson for a fifth grader to learn. I didn't actually absorb it until I was over 20. My mom said I was really smart and talented! Why is this art teacher telling me that maybe I need to practice to get good at drawing? (This is why I am bad at drawing.)

And just as your amazing robot monster sculpture may turn out looking like trash, your supposedly innocent creation may hurt someone without you meaning to. Your intent doesn't make your robot monster sculpture good - not even your imagination makes it good! Only your work will make it good. Your ideas can't save you, your work is what counts. So if you hurt someone, and you didn't mean to, it will almost always be because you didn't work hard enough on it. You didn't understand something about the world or the situation. (Just to allay anyone's school/kid/youthful esteem-related upset, art class was primarily about improvement under this model. "Compare this drawing to the one you did just two months ago, see how much better it is? Show it to your partner and talk about how each other have improved. Okay, let's talk about our next project.") Sensitive people are doing you a favor if they react badly to your work, because insensitive people will miss parts of what you're doing, overlook some things or not think them all the way through. Sensitive people show you where you need to work. Similarly if you did something that all your friends like because they get the in-jokes or have all watched the same dumb cartoon or whatever, that's fine, but lazy, and the first non-friend person who says "I don't get it, that seems horrible/stupid" is actually helping you far more than your backslapping jackass friends, IF you are interested in improving your work.

I think virtually all of what RPG players (of all kinds) and designers do is art by this very expansive definition. It's art, but art is no big deal - kids fingerpaints put up on the fridge are art, an 8th graders mix tape for their secret boyfriend (OKAY, WHATEVER THE KIDS ARE DOING THESE DAYS) is art. RPG participants create not just for purely administrative or intellectual purposes, but for our own aesthetic pleasure, whether that be in a well-turned strategy, a fun portrayal of a character, a satisfying plotline, or even just something we will enjoy with our pals together (sum that up and that's Creative Agenda, BTW.) As a result, our RPG play and design carries responsibility, and the way to carry the responsibility has nothing whatsoever to do with our intent, but instead, with our work.

Even if you don't agree with this definition of art, and there are certain things about it that I don't agree with nowadays, I do agree very strongly with the allocation of responsibility for expression.

Or, as I might say if I was a 1950s boss who drinks two martinis every day for lunch and smokes a cigar, "fuck your pure heart, get back to work."

I'll get more specific on RPG stuff in the next post.
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Comments

  • So in RPGs there's designers, and art director, and artists, and sometimes (often) these jobs overlap. Then there's a GM, and players, and sometimes these jobs overlap. All of these people bring to the table their own prejudices, they live in their own society with their own cultures, they have their own unique experiences, and they each contribute to the final outcome of RPGs: improvisational play of characters in fictional situations.

    So when we talk about harm in RPGs, whether through racism, gender stereotyping, misogyny, religious bigotry, or whatnot, we have to determine who has what responsibility to who. Designers are insensante, unresponsive, distant creators of texts that communicate primarily in an oblique way about an event that the players may or may not experience. So we should be able to hold them to the standard of creators of other texts, like novels.

    But that is not the whole story. The vastly more powerful and, frankly, effective, participant in RPGs is the player. Whereas the designer must make their intent known through whatever godawful text they happen to be selling, the player is a physical person saying and doing things at a table. So we should hold them to the standard of physical people saying and doing things at a table.

    This is where things like the Pathfinder map start people talking past each other.

    Some people are saying "hm, this seems pretty shit when I look at it on the wall", and others are saying "well, at the table it's not like that", but they are not talking about the same things. The first group of people is concerned about the designer/company as creator of text and images. The second group of people is concerned about the players of the game as fellow improvisers.

    This is a really unique thing about RPGs - a thing that is true for us that isn't really true for any other medium (or maybe it is true for all other media but we don't consume those in the same way).

    Is a player who plays a game with racist material in it, but whose game and play do not include references to the racist material responsible? For what are they responsible? Obviously the game's creators have more work to do if they want to improve their material and not harm people. They are responsible for the hurt their work causes. But is it possible to play such a game in a way that means you, the player, are not responsible for the harm of "the game"? In the end, what is the game - the text, or the play?

    Did everyone who played AD&D1, which contained crappy attribute caps for women that many groups discarded, bear responsibility for that stupid, hurtful rule?

    Does every Vampire player bear responsibility for World of Darkness: Gypsies?

    This is a real live question, remember my answer is based on the idea that we each bear responsibility for the harm we do.

    I think there are things AD&D1 players could do that could express ratification of that rule even if they didn't actually use it - say they loaned their book to a friend saying "hey, check out this game we play on Tuesdays", or recommended it to a friend on the Compuserves. Similarly with Vampire players who bought Gypsies not fully understanding what it was but didn't dispose of it once they got it, so that others would see it on their shelf or in their collection and see it as legitimate. I did this and it was harmful. (I may have even defended that damn thing on alt.games.whitewolf at some point - please don't do a search and prove exactly how awful I was in college.) We can adopt horrible things as our own - and hurt people through our words like we can with any other words.

    I told you all that so that when I get to what's next there's no question that I'm not talking about design. I know nothing about design or business or all the horrible compromises that go into everything I buy (but go to slaveryfootprint.org for some thoughts). What I want to talk about is what we do at the table, because that's what I'm unquestionably responsible for as a player/GM.
  • Someone is probably rewarding the designers and publishers with money (if not a vote of agreement then at least some kind of positive reinforcement). A lot happens on the way to the table.

    But fine. In the bubble of "what happens at the table," if you're not hurting anyone at your table, actively or passively, then keep on keeping on. Fantastic.

    That doesn't mean that I won't find what you do at your table to be unethical or gross or hurtful, if you tell me about it. But again, you're talking about just stuff "at the table." That forces me into some bizarre argument where I'm theoretically hurt by some activity you might be doing at your table but not telling me about. Silliness. I won't go there.

    So imagine some group is playing AD&D and they're all REALLY INTO the crappy attribute caps for women. In fact, they treat women (characters) really, really poorly in the game, and it's not done out of some kind of moral statement. If any of us were to secretly watch their game, we'd be pretty sure that the players themselves have something against women. Is that problematic? Yeah, I think so. But they're not hurting anyone, so carry on, bigots!

    It's probably not even a matter of harm or no-harm. I think what matters is actual harm to non-consenting people. A group is free to play whatever they want as long as they all consent to it and they don't harm anyone who doesn't consent to it. I can get behind any behavior as long as it's "safe, sane, and consensual," to borrow an old phrase from elsewhere.

    Play doesn't bother me at all. It's when play reflects something ugly about the person itself, that I get edgy. I'm not concerned that Bob and Jo are playing racists. I'm concerned that Bob and Jo might actually be racists. /Being a racist/ doesn't harm anyone, but it's indicative that they will harm someone or make it easy for other people to harm someone. ("Harm" in the most general sense.)
  • Adam, I'd say that within the bubble there's plenty of room for one player to impact another. One needn't apply JD's thoughts about artistic expression only to The Game As Played at the Table as a whole. I'd say they actually apply more meaningfully to how a given player expresses themself to their group. My contributions to this game are my art, and my art can improve or erode or help or harm etc.
  • I guess to me, how the game looks "On the Wall" is important in that it's how our hobby is marketed, and the behavior and attention it attracts. It's the same reason I don't want games covered with "half naked women chained to posts", it gives us a bad rap.

    As for "On the Table" the setting and the mechanics will influence play. Play influences the narrative, narrative influences perspective, perspective influences how we interact with the real world.

    Back in the day I used to play board games at a local game store on monday nights. We shared the room with a loud D&D group. I often overhead very racist, sexist, misogynistic comments coming from that table, and it made me some combination of uncomfortable and offended. These guys were reinforcing to each other their views and beliefs and giving the hobby a VERY bad reputation. Now, I couldn't "blame" the game at all, but if the game did have these elements baked into the setting or mechanics, it would have shared the blame, as it "encouraged" the behavior.
  • I agree with @Jacob! Design influences play. I don't think you can divorce the two entirely, you'd be playing something different if so.

    So, both designs and players hold responsibility for problematic content, because they're both responsible for creating it in different ways.
  • edited July 2013
    These are some good points. That said, I don't think RPGs are as unique as we are describing in the distinction between "the product as designed" versus "the product as experienced by those who use it." And this is a problematic distinction, as it does describe something real, but it creates a false "out" for defensive people to hide behind, incorrectly claiming that what happens in private stays in private.

    Do you remember that old show All in the Family, the one about a lovable bigot named Archie Bunker? Ostensibly, the show was poking fun at the main character for his prejudices, showing that he wasn't a bad guy, but he had some bad ideas he needed to get over. Research of TV viewers found something kind of dismaying, though: People with more progressive views on race got the intended purpose of the comedy, while people with more conservative views on race loved the show and appreciated Archie Bunker as an everyman hero telling the hard truths about the world that others needed to hear.

    I'm not pointing this out to blame the creators of All in the Family. You can encourage people to interpret your messages in one way over others, but at the end of the day, it's out of your hands. Rather, I point this out for two reasons: first, because I think that for any form of entertainment, RPGs or TV or whatever, there's always going to be a certain disconnect between "what they put into it" and "what we got out of it." And second, I point this out because I hope it points out that there is still a party involved here who is not absolved of responsibility: we, the audience, even when consuming things in the privacy of own homes.

    The fact that media are open to interpretation does not mean that media have no capacity to influence us; it means that we have even greater personal responsibility to think critically about what we consume and how we interpret it. (I arguably come from a biased perspective on this, having once been a Communication professor; that last sentence could've been etched above my office door as the Official Departmental Credo.) Some messages are subtler than others, of course. Companies spend so much on advertising, and governments spend so much on propaganda, because years of scientific research have demonstrated pretty clearly that media can influence people's behavior – maybe not all people, maybe not all the time, maybe not even in huge ways, but even a little bit of influence can add up over time when you think about how much entertainment we consume on a daily basis. But while an ad is trying to nudge our behavior a wee bit in a specific way – pick this fizzy drink over THAT fizzy drink next time you want some sugar water – entertainment media have the capacity to subtly our very beliefs about how the world works without even trying.

    Maybe this sounds kind of abstract, so let me give one more example. I once read a fascinating study in which participants were asked to estimate the number of doctors and lawyers in the population at large. One group estimated way higher than expected: people who regularly watch daytime soap operas. It's (probably) a totally harmless belief, but the study was conducted as an apolitical demonstration that our entertainment habits can color the way we see the world.

    For this reason, I don't think that gives anybody a free pass for what goes on in the comfort of their own homes, alone in front of the TV or among close friends around the gaming table. I'm not saying that we need to feel guilty all the time for possible insults against people who will never hear them. I'm saying we need to be mindful of the stories we consume, and the stories we tell, because certain tropes have been so ingrained in our pop culture already that it's sometimes easy to miss how problematic they can be until you take the time to really think about what we're doing. Yes, we have more freedom to determine what content actually goes into our stories than TV viewers have over their stories. I encourage us to use that freedom to actually think about and discuss the material we play with, as we're doing here – not necessarily to blame or to condemn those who err, and not even to constantly self-censor out of a constant paranoia that we might hurt someone who may or may not ever be hurt. Rather, thinking about and discussing these things critically helps us fix ourselves, and fix our cultures, so that the problematic elements are hopefully less problematic in the future.
  • edited July 2013
    I realize I didn't answer JD's questions about 'who is responsible'... but I guess it's because I have trouble placing blame or responsibility. I really just want to acknowledge content (either in the book, or on the table) that is problematic, and avoid it in the future.
    "Designers are insensante, unresponsive, distant creators"
    Is this really true? Seems to me the hobby is small enough that Designers and players are pretty closely intertwined, even for the 'big' players in the industry. Seems to me it's pretty easy for the community to express what the like and want out of the product, and for the designer to take that into consideration (if they choose).

    (EDIT: As I read the quote again, did I miss sarcasm there? I just can't wrap my head around that statement being made with a straight face)
  • I guess to me, how the game looks "On the Wall" is important in that it's how our hobby is marketed, and the behavior and attention it attracts. It's the same reason I don't want games covered with "half naked women chained to posts", it gives us a bad rap.

    As for "On the Table" the setting and the mechanics will influence play. Play influences the narrative, narrative influences perspective, perspective influences how we interact with the real world.

    Back in the day I used to play board games at a local game store on monday nights. We shared the room with a loud D&D group. I often overhead very racist, sexist, misogynistic comments coming from that table, and it made me some combination of uncomfortable and offended. These guys were reinforcing to each other their views and beliefs and giving the hobby a VERY bad reputation. Now, I couldn't "blame" the game at all, but if the game did have these elements baked into the setting or mechanics, it would have shared the blame, as it "encouraged" the behavior.
    Great examples, Jacob. Jackasses may be jackasses no matter what they play, but there's no reason we should give them tools that make it even easier to be jackasses. And even if these guys were playing in private, not representing our hobby in public, you hit the nail on the head in pointing out that they are reinforcing these beliefs among themselves.
  • "Designers are insensante, unresponsive, distant creators"
    (EDIT: As I read the quote again, did I miss sarcasm there? I just can't wrap my head around that statement being made with a straight face)
    Your means of communication with the designer, in this case, is the rulebook.
  • edited July 2013
    As a direct result of this incredibly expansive definition, you are responsible for your art. If you draw a mean picture of a classmate, even if you never intend for them to find it, you are responsible for the hurt it might cause if someone else sees it - or, they pointed out, the hurt you might do to them because your own thoughts and feelings in creating your mean picture will stay with you, and even if you change your mind, you can't change the picture. If you draw a picture and 20 of your friends are fine with it and 1 is hurt by it, you are still responsible for the hurt. Of course in elementary school we were taught we never should hurt people. But this lesson, like the best lessons, took on a new meaning as we grew up and realized that we did have the capacity to hurt people, and would, inevitably, in our time on this earth, hurt people.
    the player is a physical person saying and doing things at a table. So we should hold them to the standard of physical people saying and doing things at a table.
    But fine. In the bubble of "what happens at the table," if you're not hurting anyone at your table, actively or passively, then keep on keeping on. Fantastic.
    I'm pretty sure that anyone who read JD as saying "What players do on their own time is between themselves and not hurting anyone" read him wrong. He pretty explicitly says otherwise.

    He even goes into the responsibility you bear as a consumer for tacitly condoning negative texts just by having them on your bookshelf. That's pretty heavy stuff. And now that I have an 11 year old, it's making me think about some of the crap I have around the house that my son might pick up and read at any time. What messages am I giving to his developing sense of morality and personhood with the texts that I condone through their presence? I think I need to do a sweep soon - I think some stuff might need to go to the trash or at least the garage.

    I know JD's posts were long, but please give them the attention and study they deserve. They are art, and far less garbage than most art.

    Thank you, JD. These are some of the most impressive and meaningful forum posts I have read from you. Too often you come off as dismissive and snarky. Here, you are at your expressive best. I thank you for taking the time and energy to lay out your thoughts on this. I read them closely and found them insightful.
  • I totally agree we bear responsibility as players, I just think the games themselves influence the behaviors that go on at the table.

    And the hobby is small and intimate enough that the rulebook isn't the only way to communicate with the developers. We have forums, email, polls and blogs. A open dialog is important.
  • I'm rereading Jason's posts (and I did give them my full attention the first time, ahem). I don't see that I misinterpreted him. I'm not sure how five people role-playing at a table can have any affect on people outside that group. I'm not saying that people can't hurt each other at a table. I'm saying that if they're not hurting each other, I don't really care what they do.
  • Adam, I think the issue is players don't play in a vacuum, they mix and mingle groups, go to cons and game stores, and participate in online discussion. Social trends and patterns of behavior are contagious.

    Also, as the negative behavior becomes accepted at the table, it runs the risk of bleeding over into non game interactions. Some of most racist misogynistic people I know are gamers, and that makes me ashamed to associate with a hobby I love.

    I don't wanna tell anyone not to do anything, but if we are responsible with game design, I hope we can mitigate the behavior within the culture.
  • JD, I'm following ya until I'm not.

    People should make art.

    Gotcha.

    If they do, they will sometimes, if not often-times, make bad art.

    Gotcha.

    People don't like racist/sexist/shitty bits of text in games.

    Yes.

    People don't have to play with that bits of the text that are racist/sexist/shitty, aren't responsible for it and can make it better through play.

    You lost me.

    It is by calling out lazy world-building (I'm not pointing any fingers; I haven't read the text in question and have not seen the poster) that we can let the artist know that they have made a mistake and please do better next time.

    Yes, I can edit out racist elements of a game but I shouldn't have to spend the energy to do so. I shouldn't have to go to a con game and worry that the GM is going to play the setting as-written and bring shittiness to the table ("But it is in the book!").

    I know that I can edit these parts out. I don't need any of this shit.
  • edited July 2013
    I'm not sure how five people role-playing at a table can have any affect on people outside that group. I'm not saying that people can't hurt each other at a table. I'm saying that if they're not hurting each other, I don't really care what they do.
    I think it's good to avoid condemning people. I don't know how much good we'd do by kicking in people's doors and shouting at them for being asses in their own homes.

    However, I'd humbly point out that there's more going on here than hurting people's feelings in the immediate sense. The entertainment we enjoy can potentially influence the way we see the world in general. If our games reinforce problematic ideas, then we increase the likelihood that we'll take those ideas with us even after we leave the gaming table.

    If I can offer an admittedly imperfect analogy: There's a lot of interesting (and troubling) research about the effects of watching a LOT of porn. And we're not just talking about unrealistic laboratory measures here – one study found that both men and women who were paid to watch tons of porn were WAY more lenient in suggesting prison sentences for convicted rapists. Over time, the porn slowly changed the way people thought about how big a deal it is to have sex with someone who's unwilling (because after all, in porn, women are only "unwilling" until they realize that they're really into it after all). That is a really telling and disturbing effect with significant, real-world consequences.

    Does that mean people should be disallowed from enjoying porn in the comfort of their own homes? Nah, not necessarily. But still, it helps illustrate that what people do in private still has the potential to "hurt" somebody – even themselves – in other contexts.
  • edited July 2013
    [crossposted a bit cause I was long winded]
    I'm rereading Jason's posts (and I did give them my full attention the first time, ahem). I don't see that I misinterpreted him. I'm not sure how five people role-playing at a table can have any affect on people outside that group. I'm not saying that people can't hurt each other at a table. I'm saying that if they're not hurting each other, I don't really care what they do.
    If they're not hurting each other, was the problematic game content they were engaging with actually hurtful and problematic? If you don't care what they do outside of the narrow context of "hurting each other at the table", then how was the problematic game content problematic in the first place?

    JD is saying (or I should say "What I'm getting from what JD is saying is...") that by engaging with the content in a way that accepts and reinforces the negative stereotypes and then bringing those stereotypes away from the table with you into how you interact with the rest of the world, you bear full responsibility for your actions as a player and person. That's where the real potential for hurt lies, and the player bears the brunt of responsibility for it.

    [edited to add - Also at the table hurting each other too. That's also bad.]

    Furthermore, what I am seeing in what he is saying is that these choices and creations made by players at the table are more important than the material they are engaging with in the first place.

    I'm not quite 100% on board with that statement, (I think there is room for both improving the content as well as for players improving themselves as people) but it has some interesting outcomes.

    Say, for example, that as a game text creator you create The Birth Of A Nation playset. It's full of KKK dudes and Northern carpetbaggers and recently freed slaves trying to establish themselves as sharecroppers and all that contentious stuff. As a text creator, you are definitely responsible for what you put in and don't put in and how you present it, yes.

    But as a playgroup picking up The Birth Of A Nation playset, the players are also creators. They are responsible for their own actions and choices and creations.

    If one group has their characters put sheets on their heads and run around lynching the black folks and the Northern sympathizers and spouting out negative stereotypes left and right, then that group of players is responsible for their actions. They are also responsible for any ways in which those choices spill out away from the table and into the rest of the world. If they go forth and commit hate crimes after having played several sessions with The Birth Of A Nation playset, the people, not the playset, are responsible for those crimes.

    If another group plays out a Django Unchained style campaign using The Birth Of A Nation playset, having a freed slave and a white sympathizer work together to kick some bigot ass, then they are also fully responsible for the choices they have made for how they interact with the playset and the world. If they go forth and kick bigot ass in the real world, the people, not the playset, are responsible for those outcomes.

    Personally, I'm all on board with the idea that consumers are responsible for their choices. And this is extra true in RPGs, where consumers are heavily positioned as co-creators as they consume. It is not really possible to fully consume and utilize an RPG text (ie. actually play the game) without creating art while you are doing so. And, as he says, you are responsible for your art.

    And I think JD is also subtly suggesting a course of action in the face of problematic content, and one that makes a lot of sense. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    If you do buy it before you realize how bad it is, get rid of it when you do.

    Or, alternately, choose to engage with it in a positive constructive way. And when you talk about it with others, let them know what sort of efforts you felt you needed to go through in order to get at the positive potential in the product (Ignore chapter 3, it's horribly racist and almost makes you a worse person just by reading it, but use chapter 4 cause it's great stuff, for example).

    All this is not to say that content can't and shouldn't be improved. Content creators are responsible for their creations and choices and omissions and all that. But RPG players are co-creators as well. They bear a level of responsibility as well. And, if they choose, RPG players are fully capable of engaging with problematic content in a way that is positive.

    But yeah, sometimes it's harder with subtly problematic stuff. That's totally true. Better content is easier to have positive interactions with.
  • JasonT:

    I'm starting to feel like you're misrepresenting me (not intentionally, but gah, this is frustrating).

    I was trying to take Jason's (JD's) given frame and engage him as he asked: people at the table. Not people after they left the table, or people buying games before they came to the table. Just people at the table. Maybe I misunderstood what he was asking, but that's what I was doing.

    I didn't say that people's behavior in private can't have later consequences in public. Of course it can.

    I didn't use the term "hurting people's feelings." I said /hurt/ people. Your argument there is a total straw man. Furthermore, if people want to let someone else hurt them in a safe, sane, and consensual way, I'm behind it. Go for it.

    When people's behaviors spill out into greater society and hurt people who don't consent to it, that's a problem. I made that point in my first post. "A group is free to play whatever they want as long as they all consent to it and they don't harm anyone who doesn't consent to it. I can get behind any behavior as long as it's 'safe, sane, and consensual,' to borrow an old phrase from elsewhere," I said.

    If people want to watch a lot of porn, good for them. If they allow it to change them so that they become desensitized to rape and suggest more lenient prison sentences for convicted rapists, that's a problem. (And maybe they're watching the wrong porn.)

    You said: "I think it's good to avoid condemning people. I don't know how much good we'd do by kicking in people's doors and shouting at them for being asses in their own homes." I have no idea why you told me that. It's as if you told me it's good to avoid lighting people on fire. I'm not advocating kicking in doors anywhere. That aside, if people are actually racists and that seeps into their game play, then I feel right in condemning them for being racists. I can't condemn them for doing racist things in their game without a deeper understanding of what's going on, though.

    Most of the time I've ever posted stuff about racism in D&D, with one or two exceptions, I've done so from the point of view of my own table. Stuff that personally makes me uncomfortable. In one case where I called out other people, it was calling out privileged white dudes who were telling minorities that the issues the minorities perceived were not real. Mostly though, I'm concerned about my own table. I don't want to be an asshole, and I already have a few strikes against me (only in terms of being aware of minority issues!), having grown up as a privileged, white, middle-class male. That means I have to work harder not to be an insensitive asshole.
  • Adam, I think we're all in agreement here, that there is responsibility at the table. A lot of it. I don't see anyone arguing against that. I think we're all arguing the same side of the fence here, the difference is you have said (or at least seemed to, sorry if someone misinterpreted you) you don't think what goes on in a private game can affect anyone else, and JasonT thinks it can.

    "If people want to watch a lot of porn, good for them. If they allow it to change them..."

    We don't always 'allow' things to affect us, they just DO. We can't always control it. As players, we have the responsibility to play games that aren't gonna mess us up, but as DESIGNERS we have the responsibility to write games that provide tools that make good games, and don't reinforce destructive behavior.

    "And maybe they're watching the wrong porn"

    That's the point... some games are the 'wrong porn'. Let's strive to not make bad porn.
  • [crossposted a bit cause I was long winded]
    If they're not hurting each other, was the problematic game content they were engaging with actually hurtful and problematic? If you don't care what they do outside of the narrow context of "hurting each other at the table", then how was the problematic game content problematic in the first place?
    That first question is a frame shift. The content was "problematic" only axiomatically because we started with that as a definition in our outside, theoretical frame. Here's some problematic content. Let's imagine some players engaging it. By definition, we accept it as problematic. Then once it's inside the frame of the players at the table, they don't find it problematic. That's fine. They play with the content. Maybe they don't have a problem with it, maybe they do. No one at the table gets hurt. Was it problematic to begin with? Yes, because we picked content that we agreed was problematic. If it wasn't, we would have chosen other content that was. If there's no content that we can agree is problematic to begin with, that's a different argument.
    JD is saying (or I should say "What I'm getting from what JD is saying is...") that by engaging with the content in a way that accepts and reinforces the negative stereotypes and then bringing those stereotypes away from the table with you into how you interact with the rest of the world, you bear full responsibility for your actions as a player and person. That's where the real potential for hurt lies, and the player bears the brunt of responsibility for it.
    Guns don't kill people; people kill people?
    Cigarettes don't kill people; people smoking kills people?

    I'm afraid this boils down into a libertarian argument that is going to have a handful of pretty polarized sides, and none with a monopoly on the ultimate truth.

    I think that if people have responsibility for what they do, then that has to include everyone, otherwise the blame can be shifted to the victim. If designers aren't responsible at all for how they represent women and rape, then why are players responsible at all for how they act towards women? Let's just blame the women. It doesn't work for me. If a player is responsible for his actions outside the game, then a designer is responsible for his actions, too. It's obviously a completely different class of responsibility, but it's there.

    At the very least, I get to criticize designers for making stuff that I find morally lacking. And that's what started this thread. Someone asked, "Hey, is this thing here morally lacking?" (okay, "ethically problematic"). And some people think it is, and some people think it isn't, and some people don't know. Basically, the consequence that may result is some criticism and maybe some loss of sales. That's what is at stake here.

    The subtext of what people are asking seems to be, "If game designers produce material that expresses racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted views, what's the harm?" My answer is that game design art is no different than other art. If it's expressing racism or sexism or hatred, it's still art, and I have to figure out how I want to engage with it. I might go to a museum and look at a painting I find "ethically problematic," and just move on. I can enjoy it for what it is. However, I won't buy it and hang it on my wall, because the subtext there is "Hey, everyone who visits my living room, I endorse this artist's message of racism." If I buy a game that seems to treat women as second-class citizens, from art to setting to character to pronoun choices in the text, and I tell my friends, "You have to play this awesome game!" and we all play it every week for a year and never say, "You know, this is pretty messed up," then that's something like my racist painting on the living room wall, especially if other people know about it.

    [snip]

    And I think JD is also subtly suggesting a course of action in the face of problematic content, and one that makes a lot of sense. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    If you do buy it before you realize how bad it is, get rid of it when you do.

    Or, alternately, choose to engage with it in a positive constructive way. And when you talk about it with others, let them know what sort of efforts you felt you needed to go through in order to get at the positive potential in the product (Ignore chapter 3, it's horribly racist and almost makes you a worse person just by reading it, but use chapter 4 cause it's great stuff, for example).
    All the stuff I snipped is good stuff. We're in agreement about how you engage with a game being important. I think we're probably in agreement with all this stuff.

    Right. Giving people money for their art is how society encourages artists to do their thing. We can engage with "problematic" art and not endorse every view they have. See the hoopla about Orson Scott Card's homophobia and whatnot. Nonetheless, if you eat at Chik-fil-A, know that they're gonna spend the money you give them actively trying to hurt gay people. There's a moral issue there for me.

    Does that mean I don't buy a book just because it has a chainmail bikini on its cover? No, but the cover probably gives me pause. It means that I'll probably apologize to my friends when they see it on my table. "The rest of the book is okay," I'll say, if that's true. I think you have to call out bad behavior, even if it's the behavior of a bunch of game designers and artists and editors that you've never met.


  • (I wonder if SLOW DOWN should be pre-emptively established for this thread. This is a super-difficult subject, and also this is a weighty conversation that is happening too quickly for slower readers [me] to keep up.)
  • @Mcdaldno: I agree, this is moving too quickly.
    @Adam_Drey:
    The subtext of what people are asking seems to be, "If game designers produce material that expresses racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted views, what's the harm?"
    Woah who said that?? I think we're all saying the opposite of that. I'm placing responsibility FIRST on designers.
  • edited July 2013
    I'm starting to feel like you're misrepresenting me (not intentionally, but gah, this is frustrating).
    First, let me say that I am pretty confident that we agree about more things we disagree about in this discussion. I don't think I misrepresented you, but I did communicate some things poorly, and I think you misunderstood my intentions. I certainly don't mean to be antagonistic. I'm just trying to broaden the scope of what we're discussing in here.
    I was trying to take Jason's (JD's) given frame and engage him as he asked: people at the table. Not people after they left the table, or people buying games before they came to the table. Just people at the table. Maybe I misunderstood what he was asking, but that's what I was doing.

    I didn't say that people's behavior in private can't have later consequences in public. Of course it can.
    You said: "I'm not sure how five people role-playing at a table can have any affect on people outside that group." I was trying to explain how five people role-playing at a table can affect people outside their group.

    You said: "I'm not saying that people can't hurt each other at a table. I'm saying that if they're not hurting each other, I don't really care what they do." I was trying to suggest that there are ways things can go wrong without directly "hurting each other."
    I didn't use the term "hurting people's feelings." I said /hurt/ people. Your argument there is a total straw man.
    My apologies for my poor word choice. I wish I'd written instead, "I'd humbly point out that there's more going on here than hurting people in the immediate sense." Again, I was trying to broaden this discussion to argue that "hurting people" is not the only negative effect that we need to worry about here. It is not clear to me why you would call this a "straw man."
    If people want to watch a lot of porn, good for them. If they allow it to change them so that they become desensitized to rape and suggest more lenient prison sentences for convicted rapists, that's a problem. (And maybe they're watching the wrong porn.)
    The specifics of porn effects is a tangent for another day. The real takeaway I was hoping to communicate here was that it's not that we "allow" media to change us – it's that these kinds of effects can be so small and subtle that we don't even realize when they're happening, and they happen to us all the time. The best we can do is mitigate that effect by talking intelligently about such effects, as we're doing right now.
    You said: "I think it's good to avoid condemning people. I don't know how much good we'd do by kicking in people's doors and shouting at them for being asses in their own homes." I have no idea why you told me that.
    This was an unfortunate miscommunication (or misunderstanding). I was trying to open my post by saying, "I agree with you that we should not come down harshly on people for what they do in private, particularly when they aren't being actively harmful." As a rhetorical technique, the intent was to establish some common ground with you before suggesting a point I thought you might be overlooking, but might still be receptive to. Apparently, my phrasing was so ambiguous that it backfired.
    Most of the time I've ever posted stuff about racism in D&D, with one or two exceptions, I've done so from the point of view of my own table. Stuff that personally makes me uncomfortable. In one case where I called out other people, it was calling out privileged white dudes who were telling minorities that the issues the minorities perceived were not real. Mostly though, I'm concerned about my own table. I don't want to be an asshole, and I already have a few strikes against me (only in terms of being aware of minority issues!), having grown up as a privileged, white, middle-class male. That means I have to work harder not to be an insensitive asshole.
    We are coming from the same perspective and we seem to have pretty much the same politically progressive beliefs (or at least aspirations), so I'm not really sure what you think we're disagreeing about. Maybe it got lost in the way I phrased things, but all I'm really saying here is this:

    1) Sometimes, people say and do problematic things even when they're not obviously "hurting" anybody.

    2) Doing or saying something problematic doesn't make a person "the enemy." We're all susceptible to absorbing problematic cultural myths (especially us privileged white dudes, considering that all the oppression that doesn't happen to us is far too easy to miss entirely). Whenever possible, it's better to educate ourselves and one another than to place blame and attack people.

    I'm pretty sure we're on the same page with that stuff, right?
  • I'm not trying to justify PF creators, though as a creator I'd like to add that no creator actually wants to be racist, mysogynist, etc. It's just that we have an opinion, which can easily be (besides of wrong, biased, uninformed, etc) just poorly communicated, misunderstood or misinterpretated. It happens sometimes.

    Some other times, it's just plain racism, homofobia, etc and everybody should react to it, I agree. Stating your opinions, documenting and defending them is important. But judging others isn't. Judging others isn't the point of it all. Take that material and use it as you want, ask the creators to change anything you find offensive for you, it's your right as consumers.

    But whenever a discussion about bigotry arises I feel more offended by the people who singles out every small prejudiced detail only to end up condemning the whole. If the whole game is meant to be prejudiced and offensive, laugh about it, since it obvious nobody will stand it enough to take it seriously If small portions of it are offensive, ok, point it out, the creators probably didn't meant it but they are still responsible and should change it.

    The other thing that offends me the most is when somebody picks up a fight in someone elses's name withouth bothering to ask if they are actually offended and want to fight for it.

    I mean, I'm Peruvian, I know, I respect and I love my culture, and I'm not offended when somebody uses it in their game. I'm sad when they use it poorly because I know it's richier than that and the feeling they are getting from it is limited to a narrow experience of it. But for all I see, that person isn't commiting a crime nor I'd call it Cultural Appropiation. If a designer creates a fantasy world where my country is habited by stupid chickens (which is the term people from other countries in south america use despectively for Peruvians), I wouldn't be offended, I'd be sad that their vision is so limited by their prejudice that they ended up making an unispiring game. Perhaps I'd point that to the author and hope he corrects it, and most probably I won't buy that supplement or the game.

    But what I wouldn't stand is having other people who are not peruvians put words in my mouth and saying all peruvians are or should be offended by that game. That would be our fight if we choose it and I would be glad for the support if it comes, but having other people start a preemptive war in my name because there is a chance I might be offended feels like that people is patronizing me by thinking I don't have an opinion or a voice of my own. Their assumptions might be right but acting violently based on assumptions is just the stupid old reason the world keeps going wrong all the time.

    So please, by all means, tell those PF guys their map looks stupid and it's ruining their marketing strategy and image of a non-prejudiced RPG. But let the people who may or may not actually be offended by it know about it before you pick up your torches and congregate a mob on Paizo's door. Us minorities have a voice, and we aren't always offended.

    BTW, do you wannna know what Cultural Appropiation is really all about? There's an old town here in Peru called Pisco, which makes a wonderful liquor from grapes, which recives the name of the town. A few years ago, a town in Chile changed it's name to Pisco and the Chinenian government started to spread information at international level that the liquor they made there, also called Pisco, was the original one and the peruvian Pisco was a bad copy. Now that's Cultural Appropiation, an actual crime and something that we peruvians really find offensive.
  • The subtext of what people are asking seems to be, "If game designers produce material that expresses racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted views, what's the harm?"
    Woah who said that?? I think we're all saying the opposite of that. I'm placing responsibility FIRST on designers.
    Yeah, agreed with Jacob here. I think we're mostly agreeing with one another here. I'm really unclear on where the tension is coming from.
  • Adam, I think we're all in agreement here, that there is responsibility at the table. A lot of it. I don't see anyone arguing against that. I think we're all arguing the same side of the fence here, the difference is you have said (or at least seemed to, sorry if someone misinterpreted you) you don't think what goes on in a private game can affect anyone else, and JasonT thinks it can.
    No, I know it can. I said as much. I'm just trying to buy into Corley's bizarre theoretical logic puzzle where we only talk about what's happening at the table. That means we can't talk about what happened getting to the table or what happens after we leave the table.

    This bit. Maybe I'm reading too much into it:
    I told you all that so that when I get to what's next there's no question that I'm not talking about design. I know nothing about design or business or all the horrible compromises that go into everything I buy (but go to slaveryfootprint.org for some thoughts). What I want to talk about is what we do at the table, because that's what I'm unquestionably responsible for as a player/GM.

    "If people want to watch a lot of porn, good for them. If they allow it to change them..."

    We don't always 'allow' things to affect us, they just DO. We can't always control it. As players, we have the responsibility to play games that aren't gonna mess us up, but as DESIGNERS we have the responsibility to write games that provide tools that make good games, and don't reinforce destructive behavior.

    "And maybe they're watching the wrong porn"

    That's the point... some games are the 'wrong porn'. Let's strive to not make bad porn.
    It doesn't matter if we allow things to change us or not. We're responsible for our own actions, regardless of how we got there. We may not always be able to control how things affect us, but we always are responsible for our own actions afterwards. I think we're in agreement here, too.
  • edited July 2013
    If you are all getting something out of the discussion I don't mind you zooming on, but as you can see I"m taking my time with this so please don't expect a line by line reply until I've gotten through my thoughts. :)

    Here are a couple of...maybe course corrections, I'd call them?

    1 - I am not saying "don't criticize RPG designers/creators for fucking things up and hurting people", or even that what they do isn't important in some sense - though they may exist only on some far distant shore with their only fumbling means of communication in the form of RPG rulebooks, what they do DOES contribute to the hobby (or detract from it) just as any other part of written and visual art does. What I'm saying is "don't criticize RPG players for the hurt RPG creators do, and don't criticize RPG creators for the hurt RPG players do". Don't let one try to get the other off the hook either. And furthermore, don't defend one when someone is criticizing the other.

    In fact, defending something from criticism is not even really an appropriate response, because criticism - real criticism expressed in a way that you can engage with, is a GIFT. It is an unmitigated positive to the creator, assuming that the creator wants to improve their work and you want them to, even if the criticism has race or gender or religion or some other "hot button issue" (ugh) at its core.

    There's some weird outliers that may come up from time to time - maybe you don't care if Paizo (or whoever) improves their work or not, so you don't write your criticism in a way that can be engaged, so you're not really contributing, even if you're right (this is how I normally mess up threads, by the way, I say something unquestionably correct that nobody can do anything with). But in general I think people who engage with RPG stuff enough to really be interested in whether it perpetuates racism or sexism or whatnot are people who really want RPG stuff to be better, and not hurt people, and should write their criticisms accordingly. Or maybe Paizo (or whoever) doesn't care to improve their work, they are like the fifth grader who is drawing stupid cartoons for their stupid fifth grade friends and they get everything they need from their friends' admiration, in which case the criticism is useless because they have no reason to ever change. But in general I think RPG creators even at the Most Biggest Non Indie Companies (tm) want their stuff to be better and not hurt people, and should read criticisms accordingly. But under no circumstances is a criticism of a Paizo decision (like the map in the other thread) a criticism leveled at a player of Pathfinder, so the player really has no dog in the fight, no skin in the game, and, most important, no reason to defend the decisions that went into creating the map.

    Again, as I say above, there's some ways that a player can adopt what a game creator does - hang the map on your wall, point it out as being awesome, use hurtful mechanics, etc. So that behavior can be evaluated and criticized, but it ought to be evaluated and criticized on its own merit, not as part of a critique of game design or game-art design. Maybe you lay the map out on your table and say 'this part of it is really cool, this stuff over here isn't right and is kinda racist, so we're not using this'. And that behavior can be evaluated and criticized too. (It could still be shocking or harmful. "Am I playing this game with a guy who buys racist stuff?")

    What I am trying to say is that what I personally feel qualified to talk about in some kind of depth is not game design or commercial decisions because, in my inestimable purity, the whole concept of designing and selling a game seems insane and ludicrous to me. So for me when I weigh in on these discussions (and what I'm going to talk about more in the thread), I am talking about players and GMs and their respective responsibility.

    2 - I think the theoretical 'table full of bigots' example is a bit of a red herring. It's not really what I was talking about. If you handcuffed me to a radiator and demanded I identify the harm done by such play, I would say that the reinforcement of bigoted beliefs is harmful even to those who carry the beliefs, but that's not what I'm getting at. I'm (going to be) getting at portrayals that actually hurt people, make them feel unwelcome, belittle them, threaten them. It's not always limited to your table (consider a convention scenario, or an online game played "in public", or when discussing games, or choosing a game to play, or any number of other social connections that are part of play), but even if it is, as I say in my first post, even if you never actually hurt anyone except one person, you are still responsible for that hurt.

    I feel like I'm spending a long time getting out of the blocks on this one so thanks for your patience and sorry for any miscommunication. Next big post will not be as much preface, I promise.
  • edited July 2013
    Okay, I totally apologize for my role in misunderstanding everything, JD. I've been tilting at windmills, it seems. Don't bother responding to it line by line. I was just really way off base with what you wanted, I think. As far as I can tell, you and I agree on most of this stuff.

    That said, I thought you were asking us some questions, and at this point in time, I have no idea how (or if) you want us to engage with you. Should I just sit quietly and wait for your next big post?

    If you want my input, what questions are you asking?
    Is a player who plays a game with racist material in it, but whose game and play do not include references to the racist material responsible? For what are they responsible? Obviously the game's creators have more work to do if they want to improve their material and not harm people. They are responsible for the hurt their work causes. But is it possible to play such a game in a way that means you, the player, are not responsible for the harm of "the game"? In the end, what is the game - the text, or the play?

    Did everyone who played AD&D1, which contained crappy attribute caps for women that many groups discarded, bear responsibility for that stupid, hurtful rule?

    Does every Vampire player bear responsibility for World of Darkness: Gypsies?

    This is a real live question, remember my answer is based on the idea that we each bear responsibility for the harm we do.
    Those are your original questions, but I'm not sure how you want us to answer it in the context of your last bit, "What I want to talk about is what we do at the table, because that's what I'm unquestionably responsible for as a player/GM."


    Once you're at the table, you've swept past the design process, the marketing and selling process, the purchasing process, the group's game selection process, and a lot of other things. I think the places where you're "unquestionably responsible" start much earlier than "at the table," though, at the point of purchase. If you know AD&D is horribly sexist, and you go and give Wizards of the Coast a bunch of dollars for the reprints, what's your culpability?

    I think I answered that question earlier. You just rewarded the artist/producer/distributor for their content. It's a vote of confidence. If someone says something racist and you /clap/, you're an asshole too. If a street performer sings songs about raping women and you drop a dollar in his hat, you're an asshole too, even if the guy is a really good singer. I know some people disagree. I think some RPG folks believe that art is just art and it doesn't say anything, but I could be misrepresenting a more nuanced argument.


    I think the responsibility of a gaming group for the materials they select for play is pretty damned small. Added up over thousands of gaming groups, that's a fair amount of responsibility. If all of them stopped buying racist content, maybe people would stop selling racist content. I think consumers have to change their market; don't wait for producers to do it. Artists should produce whatever the fuck they want to make, though. If they want my dollars, though, they should avoid offending me. Maybe they don't care about me, because there are plenty of purchasers who aren't offended, or maybe they want to offend people. Art is weird. I get that.

    I'm also not sure what assigning responsibility for anything really means here. What changes as a result? Some twunts on Story Games have determined that players (or designers) are (or are not) responsible for game content. So what? =) Where does this go?
  • edited July 2013
    Adam, I'm cool with everything you posted....my "real question" does indeed sweep past quite a lot that is important, that is my own misstatement. It's just what I'm going to talk about. Feel free to engage with anything I went past, take the discussion anywhere you want it to go. I grew up on Usenet, I don't care about thread integrity.

    I'll even ask another question about responsibility for purchases, try to get things moving in that direction too if that's what you want to talk about...how about this one? I bought another White Wolf product after World of Darkness: Gypsies came out. I even bought a World of Darkness product after I realized World of Darkness: Gypsies was racist garbage and I should get rid of it. I bought a White Wolf product last week!

    I bought a TSR product after AD&D1, too.

    Am I putting a dollar in a racist busker's hat?
  • edited July 2013
    So is TSR gonna think that your dollars mean all their stuff is awesome, or are they gonna say, "Oh, we make more money on non-sexist products"? That's how you ethically determine how to reward them with your money.

    Truth is--and I remember flinching when I read this--Dragon Magazine sold more copies when they put female cheesecake on the front. When they put a dude on the front, they sold fewer copies. One of the editors or art directors knew this. It was a hard fact for him. So what does that mean? It means, even if he wants to avoid cheesecake, he has a fiduciary duty to his employer to put the cheesecake on the cover. We can wait for him to rebel against his employer (and get fired and get replaced with someone who will choose the more profitable art option), or we can use our purchasing power to influence the publisher.

    And all of that preceding paragraph avoids the question of whether any women are harmed by cheesecake covers, naturally.






    EDIT: Oops! Missed the [SLOW DOWN] flag on the thread. I am done until tomorrow.
  • edited July 2013
    I'll even ask another question about responsibility for purchases, try to get things moving in that direction too if that's what you want to talk about...how about this one? I bought another White Wolf product after World of Darkness: Gypsies came out - I even bought one after I realized World of Darkness: Gypsies was racist garbage and I should get rid of it.

    I bought a TSR product after AD&D1, too.
    I know some folks would prefer to not know how their sausage is made, but authorial intent sometimes really informs what I feel comfortable buying. Personally, I'll buy entertainment that has some really problematic elements when (a) the problematic stuff is just ignorant bits and pieces here and there that don't overwhelm the good stuff for me, (b) I don't think the product was knowingly or purposefully doing stuff that I find extremely disagreeable, and especially (c) when the creator is open to correcting their own mistakes.

    So, for instance, I have bought a lot of comic books, video games, and RPGs with some pretty crappy representations of race and gender. I criticize them for it, but I'll still give them my money if they're otherwise great products. But I've stopped buying certain creators' products when their racial/gender portrayals have gotten so over the top that I can't even enjoy them without going, "Dude, have you ever even SEEN a woman's body before? Do you even KNOW any black people? Come ON." And I've actively avoided products by certain creators with politics I strongly disagree with even if I rather liked their earlier work (e.g., Orson Scott Card).

    That's just entertainment, though. I feel a lot guiltier when I stop to think about how my smartphone was made, and I don't stop to think about it that often.

    EDIT: Erg, sorry, "SLOW DOWN" wasn't there when I started replying, and I don't think I'd ever seen it on a thread before, so I missed the significance of the reference earlier. I'll shut up now.
  • edited July 2013
    It seems that folks are seeing eye to eye more, but still: It's a difficult, sensitive topic, and it's moving pretty fast. Backing Joe's suggestion, this is a good time for SLOW DOWN.

    Here's the rules for Slow Down, as a refresher:
    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/379951#Comment_379951

    In short, Everyone Gets One Post Per Day until retracted.

    Feel free to reply to others in that one post, but a storm of Quotation might not be the best way to go about that in slow down responses.

    An important addendum to the above rule, which we will edit soon: If you feel like you have something further important to contribute, and that the rule of Everyone --> One Post stifles that for some reason, please contact us (click "Flag" somewhere on this page), tell us why and we'll consider it. Not that such concerns apply to this thread specifically (I'm thinking more the scenario where one woman and 20 guys are talking about feminism; Slow Down would then enforce an environment where the woman has by ratio 1/20th the voice; the "Slow Down rule" can be more fluid than that, and we may give exceptions on a case-by-case; just stating this just in case).

    Thanks for your time.

    SLOW DOWN BEGINS HERE
    ======================================================================================
    EDIT: Sorry, yeah I edited the thread title in the 10 minutes before composing this post, sorry for the confusion; it starts at this line right here, so if you have something more to say in a single new post, or want to edit your last post to include more, that's totally fine.
  • edited July 2013
    Adam, to quickly answer your question before we take a break for a day, the only thing I can reply is "I just don't know, and can't ever know, and no human on earth will ever know what TSR and White Wolf 'thought' about my purchases" because:

    * organizations don't think things like human beings,
    * if I thought that RPG rulebooks were clumsy methods of communication, dollars are even clumsier (also more likely to distort a person's normal means of thinking),
    * even if those organizations did, in some weird way, directly say something to me about what they thought about my dollars, what they say isn't trustworthy because of those same dollars, and the desire for more, always gnawing at our human hearts like a rat eternally keeping its teeth from growing too long.

    If what those companies/creators think of my modest cash is what determines my responsibility, then we're all fucked. No amount of diligence or work on my behalf will permit me to fulfill my responsibility.

    I think that the art-teacher view of "who did you hurt" is better. It means that although I bought a DVD of "Birth of a Nation", and someone made money from selling it to me, the harm of that should be measured differently if I project it on a sheet I hang on the side of a NAACP building or if I discuss it with my historical movie club after screening it in my house. The latter could still be damaging, of course, and I could still be responsible if my discussion and presentation is filled with slurs and praise for the "studied realism" of the film, but the former is a whole different world of awful.

    But just buying it didn't hurt anyone.....or did it? The DVD company didn't tell me their opinion of the movie when I bought it, and if they had, why should I trust what they told me any more than your typical beer commercial?

    All right, see you tomorrow with another megapost. :)
  • So, two sorts of ethical hazard in creating art:
    1) Your creation offends somebody or makes them sad; they hurt from the knowledge (or aesthetic experience, more generally) that you've imparted. Maybe they're hurt because they find it painful to think about somebody else thinking in some way, or their identity is being questioned by the art. In an extreme case the art could actually be physically hurtful, like music played too loud or dehumanizing visualizations force-fed upon an audience, although I think that this fringe case might as well be forgotten for all the practical impact it's had on modern society.
    2) Your creation causes people to adopt evil (or undesired, whatever) thoughts and actions. You are, in a word, influencing the world towards ill nature.

    Are there other ways for an act of creation (communicating your creation included) to be harmful?

    For my own part, I'm willing to discount that first scenario for practical purposes, it's not a valid criticism of anything that it offends somebody. It's just not. Saying otherwise is basically just giving up on freedom of expression as a social principle; either you accept that saying things is always better than having them be unsaid, or you set up somebody (maybe everybody) to determine what things are acceptable to be said. Sure, allow people also the right to determine what they desire to hear, but merely calling the expression of a message a wrong is something I'd expect from a person who hasn't thought through the alternatives, which have all generally been worse. I'm especially not fond of the chilling and dehumanizing effect you get when a society determines that certain thoughts are offensive and not proper to bring up to discourse; this goes for e.g. radical feminism as much as white power racism, I think that advocates of both should be treated humanely in civil discourse as a first basis for a society ruled by reason and individual rights.

    (I should note here that Jason's scenario of writing something specifically to hurt somebody comes under the second heading there, at least when you use your art to cause public shame upon your victim. And I fully agree with Jason that a person engaging in such dark practices is doing mental harm to themselves, twisting their skills towards ill deeds.)

    Scenario number 2, on the other hand, seems to me like a solid case: given that we're desirous of virtue, and given that we believe in the power of art to move people, it seems that we have a responsibility towards contributing to a cultural environment that encourages virtue. However, even here I have to say that I object to the simple school-marm way of going about this: disallowing wrongful messages and encouraging rightful ones. The problem in this seemingly sensible approach is that it begs the question awfully hard: the school-marm who decides for you which RPG texts you should boycott is unfortunately not omniscient, so how can they know a priori which texts are worthless and harmful, and which aren't, without perfect knowledge of the past and the future on which to base their judgement? Furthermore, on what strength of pedagogy has it been established that virtue grows on a soil of ready-made answers devoid of all history and variety of thought?

    (An important secondary point on the pedagogy of culture, and philosophy of knowledge in general: do you believe that truth will out, given means of exploration, or do you believe that truth is just like lies, and people cannot really distinguish between the two without a greater power telling them? I believe the former, which belief makes me not really worry too much about e.g. people learning to be racists by reading a lot. If you read a 100 racist books and a 100 anti-racist books, the one thing I believe is that you're likely to form an opinion that's close to the truth on the matter. I don't need to determine the truth for you in advance, in other words, I only need to give you the means and the motive to think for yourself.)
  • (Continuing my post due to the character limit, here.)

    Due to these misgivings, I tend to advocate for cultural liberalism when it comes to the responsibilities of artists and the culture industry in general: support people's self-fulfillment and growth, and you're doing what you're supposed to do. This can be achieved with an amazing range of means, given the wide variety of human needs we are serving with culture (our own included). It can range from introducing people to new ideas, to undermining the old, to elevating their appreciation of what they already know, to reminding them of what they've somehow lost, to allowing them to work through their own thinking in various ways. Also, we are none of us the gatekeepers of ultimate wisdom; I think that it's the height of arrogance when people not only determine that they disagree with a message, but also decide that nobody should hear it, for it has nothing anybody should need to hear. How do you know that?

    As for practical conclusions from these tenets: I will listen to your message, even when it is one that I disagree with. If your thinking is interesting and your craft good, I'll advocate for others to check it out, even if the message is one I disagree with. I routinely recommend many types of culture to people, very much regardless of whether it agrees with their worldview. I've smuggled pornography to teenagers, read massive amounts of Christian literature, debated with Hare Krishna, visited Stormfront, read through the entire Capital (and Atlas Shrugged), and so on; these experiences are enrichment, not scars upon my being.

    Being more specific to roleplaying, I think that it is, indeed, difficult to achieve a depth of iniquity where dealing with stuff with your friends could actually be said to be harmful. I mean, we can speculate about a gaming group that gets together weekly to reaffirm their mutual misogyny or racism, but is that actually harmful? I mean, it could also be that these hypothetical bigot gamers need this social outlet in their lives - lives no doubt pretty scarred and hard otherwise, to be cursed with these sorts of coping mechanisms. (In case it's not clear, my currently favoured view on bigotry is that it seems to be a way people cope with circumstances beyond their own control; secure people seem to rarely rely on these modes of thinking.) One might speculate that gaming with same-minded peers in an environment friendly to their thinking might indeed reaffirm and bolster their convictions, but to me it seems equally likely that such a group is in a bad place to begin with, and nothing would change if you took away their game. Besides, it is always possible that, should their craft be true, they'll explore themselves out of bigotry. Why should active, intelligent gaming lead only to reaffirming beliefs you already hold? I think that the only way to ensure you're stuck in your current place is to stop the seeking.

    (Anybody finding it ludicrous that deeply bigoted people would seek to better themselves: I recommend getting to know a few troubled people. Read the aforementioned racist website Stormfront for a while. I think you'll find out that people hold onto beliefs because they work for them, but regardless of their worldview they seek virtue the best they can, even in the most macabre pits of self-affirming ideology. My experience on these basketcases - to put it frankly - is that even they do their very best to work around their chosen modes of thought, and towards a better and more human world. Immense contortions are attempted to portray e.g. a white power worldview as egalitarian, just and spiritually meaningful, even towards people of supposedly lesser races.)

    With all this in the background, I suppose it's not difficult to see why I might find it annoying when people get all moralistic about somebody publishing wrong ideas. What if some rpg book depicts a retrograde attitude towards e.g. women? It's far from given that you're reading the author's actual thoughts, as they might merely be true to the shape of the thought they're exploring. Even if the author were actually advocating misogyny intentionally, did you ever ask whether they're actually making a good case? (Or a better case, at least - presumably, if misogyny is ultimately wrong, there is no truly good case for it.) Even if they were merely exploiting an ignoble marketplace, shouldn't you be more angry with the degenerate customers than the author? Is it really your social philosophy that ideas should not compete freely, but rather be shut down by social activists pressuring the publishers and authors to only publish what the lobby group deems worthwhile? Stamp out bigotry (however defined) by preventing the bigots from publishing?

    I guess what I'm saying, when it comes down to it, is that you should hate bigotry (insofar as is expedient with the proviso that emerging conditions might make you change your mind later), and maybe even hate the bigot if you have to, but don't hate on the culture industry for publishing bigoted culture alongside everything else. Without the bad ideas to compare to, how do you know that your ideas are any good? Test your truth bravely against the truths of others, if you truly have faith in it.
  • edited July 2013
    It still boggles me how hand-wringy this topic always turns out. I just don't get it.

    Art can be insulting or in poor taste. It can say things about categories of people---expressly and deliberately, or by implication, carelessly. If you're not the target of the insult, you might not notice it. Doesn't mean it's not there. Even if the creator didn't intend it to be!

    We can criticize something for its problematic aspects without hating it, abandoning it, or wanting to censor it. And we can play games, read books, and enjoy art without defending their problematic aspects.

    If creators make a problematic game, and players play out those problematic aspects to the full, uncritically---well, sure, the players are responsible for their part of that, for choosing to play that way, for replicating and enacting insults and wallowing in the poor taste. Heck, they might do that for the most innocent game. But just the same, the creator is responsible for their part, for offering a product with aspects that are insulting or in poor taste, if that's what they've done.

    Asking creators to be more sensitive, voluntarily, isn't a grievous infringement of their free speech. Neither is choosing not to support their work financially when they don't make any effort to do so.

    Nobody is asking for anything more than that: for creators to be more sensitive and more responsible, voluntarily, to the implications, connotations, and context of their words and imagery. Why is that so offensive? I mean, I know it's a challenge for creators, but it's not, you know, a massive burden or impossible puzzle. Why do creators need these wordy exculpations letting them off the hook from just, you know, being less casually dickish?
  • creases, your post is great and I agree with like, basically all of it.

    You can like problematic things. You can call things out as problematic and still like them. The goal is to continue to acknowledge where content is problematic, where our mistakes lie, and to improve. It's about fixing the future. It's about improving over time. It's about not replicating injustice unnecessarily.
  • Not to mention that oppressive normative bullshit is soooooooo boring and lazy.

    That same content that is problematic is also cliched and tedious as fuck.

    I mean, from the entirety of our history of imaginations all we can do is shitty metaphorical slurs for imaginary elves and, like, Tolkien and Heavy Metal knock-offs?

    Joe's right: we can do better.
  • edited July 2013
    Orlando, if doing better is the goal, I have to agree with creases on "criticize without hating". I don't think I've ever seen condemnation lead to better art.

    "Bullshit/boring/lazy/cliched/tedious as fuck/shitty" sounds like hating to me.

    Is anyone familiar with Fortune's Fool? Its setting is, among other things, a mash-up of real world cultures and religions with fantasy races. If you read it, I have no idea what impression you'll get of the creators. It wouldn't surprise me if you spot some problematic stuff! But please, don't assume they're evil, and that the evil has been done, and that's the end, and all you can do is vent and stand up for your values. None of that is true. I know the game's creators, and they do care, and they do listen seriously to critical feedback, and they are publishing adventure modules, and they are totally down to improve their art.

    Separately, I'd like to point out that while too much cliche is boring, a complete lack of familiarity is disorienting. World-building is a juggling act on this score, and not every failure is evidence of laziness or bigotry. (I mean, I'm sure some are, but I'm not gonna assume I can always tell the difference.)
  • I don't have much to add to the thread, save on two points...

    One, I really like the Slow Down rule.

    Two, it'd be interesting to consider Dogs in the Vineyard as a lens to view this question as well. (Though I know it operates with a heavy self-awareness, it still very explicitly draws on material that to progressive social mores is offensive or provocative.) A poster/advertisement for Dogs would be all "free the people from their sins" and "be the hand of God's judgement" in a way that would cause offense to some people.
  • edited July 2013
    @creases I love your succinct response. Wonderful.

    Some more thoughts: Oppression is hate, my frustrated reaction to oppression is not hate.

    This is not an old vs. new argument. Old things are good, new things are good. Often, older things have cultural things in them our contemporary culture no longer agrees with, for humanist reasons. Changing those cultural things to reflect our new cultural things, especially on the behalf of people who have historically been oppressed, IS GOOD.

    I love old things. I love Conan, and Tolkien. Do I think they have some major problematic issues? Yes! Do I think it would be more useful and progressive for these genres to abandon those problematic issues, and keep the rest of the genre we love? YES. Do I think this is in any way harmful to that genre? FUCK NO. In fact, the more problematic issues we can remove, the more we're doing to help that genre grow and be better and more accessible to the people that care about it. If a genre relies on problematic issues to exist, it's not that great to begin with! But none of these genres do rely on those things! They're rich, and full of other stuff that we can keep intact once those problematic things are removed. SOMETIMES, we can take those problematic issues and wield them ironically, FOR GOOD. Subverting genre tropes is fabulously fun and often eye opening! ALSO, why keep telling the same story in the same genre over and over again? MAKE THINGS NEW AND BETTER. All good art does this. It steals from the old, and recombines it to create something new.

    I mean, but don't take my word for it. Listen to all these famous professionals: http://austinkleon.com/2010/02/10/25-quotes-to-help-you-steal-like-an-artist/

    Actually, even better, listen to this Ted Talk for the basics on how artists and designers take old ideas and make them new:

    Essentially: There is no good art or bad art, there's just art that's worth stealing. Copying something is plagiarism. Taking something old and transforming it into something new is art.

    Check out how Kara Walker uses old techniques in paper cut silhouettes to address issues of race, gender, and power: http://learn.walkerart.org/karawalker/Main/TechniquesAndMedia
  • edited July 2013
    All right, so I'm back! Creases and anansigirl definitely have some good insights into what I am about to talk about, I may be slow getting there but here we go.

    The reason I responded in the Pathfinder thread with "but what about 1923 America" is because I think referring to real historical settings and play is probably the clearest way to handle these types of questions. The veil of fantasy can be used to erase many things for good or for ill. I'll talk about that later. But let's talk about "real world gaming". I fully understand that historical RPG play is fairly rare (all RPG play other than D&D play does not exist, except within the margin of error) but it's something I've always loved and it's where I've done the most harm, so it's where my mind always goes when I think about these things.

    Everyone in the other thread who said "well, it all depends on how you present 1923 America" was right on target, but I think the implications of this are under-examined. It can be just as damaging to omit depiction of prejudice from a presentation as it can be to include it too uncritically. Some people can even be harmed by any portrayal of certain things.

    I accidentally learned this and put some of it to use in late high school/early college when I did a Vampire game set in the late 1800s. A young woman was portraying a woman character and I portrayed some pretty aggressive anti-woman sentiments through various NPCs.

    (Is it indicative of how pervasive this issue is in the hobby that I feel compelled to add "but not rape! she didn't get raped everyone, not even back then would I go that far, christ".)

    Like a lot of people, she was playing a character that was basically an extension/fantasy about certain aspects of her real life self, so this hit a lot of buttons. She got freaked and she told me about it. And my first instinct was to get defensive. But that's how it waaaaas, I'm the GMMMMM, what about ~my unmatchable vision~...

    Then I remembered my elementary school art teachers. I hurt her, so it's my responsibility. If I want to improve, the solution is more work. I wanted to improve and she was here to criticize what I was doing, so she was here to help me. I gave her some open-ended questions, let her discuss how she felt about everything, how she responded to everything. (I say "let her" because of my first, ultra-defensive, instinct described below...)

    It turned out she decided she actually quite liked having prejudices in the game, because she felt that the dark-fantasy theme was aided by having people look down on what they thought was "just a foolish, weak woman, but I repeat myself, right guyz??!" which turned out to be a cunning, blood-drinking, supernatural beast in human form. But to get that benefit, I didn't need to be so aggressive in portraying those prejudices. I started to come up with ideas: Maybe not using actual words or slurs, but instead describing the statements made by NPCs.

    Also, I was standing up when I portrayed the NPCs, and I was super-tall and she was not at all, so there was a physicality to the portrayal that went too far for her. She knew I wouldn't actually hit her, but the threatening feeling of some of these NPCs was shading too far into the real world.

    I had to do some work to improve my GMing. And it was improved, we really created some good energy together as the game continued. It would not have happened if she hadn't criticized me or if I had been standing there defending myself and my best efforts as blameless.

    Now let's be clear - even when she criticized me, I didn't feel that anything I was doing was "wrong". In other words, I had an absolute justification for every decision I made in every portrayal I made, even standing up when I played an NPC (body language, etc.) If I had wanted, I could respond the way a lot of people respond when they're accused of racism/misogyny - I could just start listing the reasons I did things the way I did them. "Well, these attitudes were prevalent in the place and time I'm portraying them, and it's not me saying those things, it's an NPC, and, and and..."

    That isn't work, that's the avoidance of work. That's justifying the lack of work. That's just putting your feet up and saying "well, it's good enough".

    And maybe it is good enough! I could have just said "it's not going to change, see you later" and asked her to leave the game. (This is the approximate equivalent of the 5th grader saying 'my stupid cartoons make my stupid friends laugh and that's good enough'.) But that means I would be throwing away an opportunity to change, improve, adjust the tools in my toolbox, develop more skill with other tools. Even in high school I took my gaming at least seriously enough to want to do it better.

    So this is why I think a lot of the discussions of bigotry in gaming go awry, because criticism isn't seen as a chance to improve offered by someone who has an emotional stake in the quality of your performance or creation, it's seen as an attack that must be defended against. As if I have to defend every action I ever take in my life as "not racist", "not misogynist", etc. rather than thinking, "well, maybe something I did was racist or based on racist ideas, or perpetuated a racist stereotype...what can I do about that? What's my plan?" In the historical RPG context, maybe I wasn't clear enough that a noxious idea was being expressed "at arm's length", that I did not subscribe to them, or maybe I didn't give sufficient room for players to respond to them. Maybe I thought I did but it wasn't perceived because my performance wasn't good enough or clear enough.

    (There are many reasons this model doesn't work/apply as clearly to designers/consumers as it does to relations between players. Imagine the young woman in my story above was paying me to be in my game, or I was paying her to be in my game, or we were both paying a third party to be in the game, and think how that would completely change the meaning of absolutely everything we said to each other. But there may be some insights there too.)

    In a later game set in a semi-fantastic early 20th century, I portrayed a racist, said some racist things, and one of the players blurted out "Oh shit, this guy's an asshole!" Completely ruined the in-character mood, flow of in-character conversation, etc., and was absolutely the best thing that could have happened at that point in the game. Everyone re-affirmed and agreed in this modern day real world that those attitudes had no place or validity. There was a tension that was relaxed. Dropping out of the portrayal of history for a few minutes actually made us feel the weight and significance of the history more. That player did me a huge favor. I'll always be grateful to her for that.

    So next I'm going to talk about some techniques, still staying within that historical RPG context, that I've found useful in different ways to decrease the risk of hurt that players might suffer from those portrayals. After that, maybe I'll weigh in a little on the role of fantasy in this.
  • @JDCorley: Thanks for taking the time to bring this all together. Looking forward to your next post.

    @creases: Well said. Your comments remind me of a short and insightful piece by Alyssa Rosenberg about the tension (or it-doesn't-have-to-be-tension) around consuming entertainment media with elements of misogyny. If I could adapt a few of her points to this conversation:

    1. Just because the people of oppressed groups buy problematic products does not mean that those products aren't problematic.

    4. Feminists/progressives/liberals are not always looking for something to be angry about. But it’s hard to overstate the sexism/racism/homophobia/inequalities in American popular culture.

    5. Demanding better isn’t trolling.

    6. Liking art that is misogynist, racist, sexist, or homophobic doesn’t necessarily make you those things, and indictment of that art doesn’t have to be an indictment of you.

    It's a failure to recognize that last point in particular, I think, that leads people to be so defensive about this sort of thing. Many (but thankfully not all) people were extremely dismissive and rude when Willow asked on the Paizo message boards whether Pathfinder's setting (or at least one poster) is ethically problematic. Despite the defensiveness and verbal abuse, however, the question finally got (what I read as, anyway) a sensible and sincere response, with a pledge to always try to do better, from somebody at Paizo. Demanding better isn't trolling; as Jason points out, it's a gift to those who are wise enough to listen to criticism.
  • edited July 2013
    I figure maybe it's worth linking to the thread that took place the last time this stuff came up, which was in January ("Annual"! I wish!), and occasioned by Blade of the Iron Throne. A lot of what was said then is also relevant to this week's Pathfinder discussion.

    story-games.com/forums/discussion/17817/slow-down-racism-and-sexism-in-the-genre-of-pulp-fantasy/p1
  • From another relevant post.

    As a designer and publisher, I can produce whatever I want. I could write the next version of F.A.T.A.L if I wanted to, and it would not be censored. The government wouldn't stop me from publishing a work.

    As a customer, I am also free to support or badmouth any product based on any basis. If I hate the colour yellow, I can insult all games with yellow covers. Also, no censorship. I can pump ungodly amounts of money into blue-cover books if I want to.

    As a fellow publisher, I can also be pissed off if someone else's work alienates a group of potential customers and dissuades them from joining gaming. If I was a designer focussing on family-friendly games to get more people into the hobby, I would be directly hurt if the latest marketing push was illustrated flyers of F.A.T.A.L the Roleplaying Game in the schools and community centres.

    Art and speech has power. That's why governments have censored it in the past. That's also why I have to be cogniscent of what impact my own art and my own speech will have on individuals, on culture, on society, and on games. If I cause psychological harm to someone who has been traumautized or oppressed, it's my responsibility. They also have the freedom to respond to any problematic work with their own art and their own speech.
  • I largely agree with JD's thrust, especially about useful criticism being useful (I'd argue there is such a thing as useless criticism, but if you reflect on it for long enough you can probably parse some reasoning out of it, but it requires a lot more thought and effort than the kind of constructive criticism I'd rather get and give). A lot of the time, and in a lot of situations, not just within design, I see a lot of people take commentary as a personal assault, and I think this can be a problem.
    Within group committees, for example, I have seen "It might be great if you guys could take a few things off my hands because I am quite busy at the minute" interpreted as "I do all the work and you lazy bums should get up and do something." There is clearly a communication problem here. In this case it is on the part of the receiver, but I have seen just as many of the part of the speaker too, where their intention to communicate criticism has felt worded as a personal attack on the individual, which naturally evokes a defensive response. In this respect, actually, psychological manuals on dealing with marital/relationship problems are ofte very good at teaching some basic communication lessons to avoid those pitfalls ('I feel...' rather than 'You are being...' is a particularly great piece of advice to make someone not feel under threat)

    And then there are two levels of responsibility, that of the designer and that of the GM/facilitor/organiser.
    For example, if you pitch a game of Dog Eat Dog and everyone at the table goes 'Cool!', it is pretty clear they are OK with exploring issues of racism and colonialism etc.
    If you pitch a game of Spirit of the Century and then delve into the racial politics of 1920s withut prior warning, even if you do it respectfully and really well, that might not really be what the payers signed up for, and thats OK. Not every game has to explore issues to be fun (I'm sure we all know this I just wanted to make sure that it was stated).
    In regards to that the GM and players have a responsibility to create good art with the tools they have been given. If there are bits that folks at the table find problematic, then leaving or pulling them out is really what veils and 'X Cards' were invented for and everyone at the table has an obligation to accept that.

    From a design level, the designer has a responsibility just to think about what they are writing (If, we assume, they are wanting to be progressive and not offensive, though they actually have all right to air their personal views about whatever). Often discussing these issues, asking for cultural advice and information from those heavily involved within that culture, doing some good old school book research and thinking critically about your sources can avoid pitfalls with regards to race. And if you do slip up? Accept it, take it on board, and consider if the commentary is valid on a very deep level. Deconstruct it, examine it. You will probably find it is and it is an unintentional misstep.

    Again it all comes down to communication. We live in a culture at the minute where people like to throw around a lot of -ists at people, but in doing so we judge and label them, perhaps inappropriately. Not everybody who makes a comment that is racist is a racist and for the most part, they often don't realise that what they have said is offensive and can be terribly embarrassed when they realise it is. A very good example of this is the term 'Half-caste' in the UK. A lot of, especially our older population, don't realise that this term might offend the people they refer to with it because that was just the used term they were brought up around. Indeed, they probably grew up using it to refer to friends in the 1960s. That doesn't make the term not offensive, but it doesn't make the speaker racist, just unaware of the intent it now implies. On a broader scale this can apply to exotification and stereotyping which are a bit more insidious are easily missed/harder to avoid, especially with cultures individuals have had little interaction with.
  • edited July 2013
    JDCorley wrote:
    so that others would see it on their shelf or in their collection and see it as legitimate
    Seeing a book on someone's shelf and assuming that says anything about their attitude to the book, or whether they think any of the positions espoused by the book have value, is unreasonable.

    I do not, in fact, stand with most of the books on my shelf. Aristotle talks about slavery as natural. I have some left wing books that promote armed insurrection and violence against property holders. I have a shelf full of economics books that advocate the various extreme postions of a number of different ideologies. I read books because they are influential, important, or eloquent much more frequently than because I agree with them. Even (especially?) fiction. American Psycho is on my shelf. Bret Eason Ellis is even one of my favorite writers. That doesn't mean that I enjoy (or see as legitimate, whatever that might mean) every paragraph of that book. Yukio Mishima, who was an unrepentant Japanese imperialist. Etc.

    The same thing is true of RPG texts. I have 4E D&D on my shelves, and though it does have a few interesting ideas in it, I hope no one would get the idea that I approve of the overall design just because I own it.

    Even World of Darkness Gypsies (which I've never read, so I'm not sure why it's being called out) could be on someone's shelf because they want to show someone else how ridiculous it is. Or maybe they're writing a history of RPGs in the 90s. Or maybe a relative did art for it.

    If you see a book on someone's shelf, you shouldn't take much away from that without more context. The books on your shelves are not identity markers or ways to stake out a position. They are information containers.
  • In this context I'm fine with being labeled a "hater".

    This little mermaid is totally fine with being understood as "getting in people's faces about oppressive shit."

    Ie: fuck the social peace that preserves injustice and oppression.

    That said, I'm not up for harshing the zen of this forum.
  • So, creating art can hurt people and you are responsible for that hurt. It seems that the only safe course of action is to not create art.

    Well, that kind of sucks. Fortunately, I'm comfortable hurting people that don't like my art. ... That didn't come out right.
  • Slippery slope sarcastic hollow statements don't tend to promote a conversation in any direction, other than straight to the gutter... Just sayin'.
  • edited July 2013
    So, creating art can hurt people and you are responsible for that hurt. It seems that the only safe course of action is to not create art.

    Well, that kind of sucks. Fortunately, I'm comfortable hurting people that don't like my art. ... That didn't come out right.
    Zircher, I don't know how to interpret this post as productive or constructive. It doesn't seem to be.

    Your art can hurt people.
    You are responsible for what you create.
    There is no safe course of action.
    If you believed that there were safe courses of action previously, you were misguided by privilege.
    Speaking is dangerous. Silence is dangerous. Ignoring the problem is dangerous. Addressing the problem is dangerous.
    The goal is to navigate a dangerous course of action with integrity.
    This has always been a goal of (some) artists and the nature of (some) art.

    Flippancy and cynicism is useless. If you don't understand someone's position, ask questions. If you disagree with someone's position, be constructive in your responses, if you decide it's useful to respond.
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