Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.


  • Coder

    @surreality

    I would know the kind of game that I want to make and make it.

    I would enforce that game.

    I would learn from my mistakes.

    I would ask the question: Is it a compromise to change theme or setting to make it more approachable by a wider audience?

    There's no wrong answer. Don't be ashamed of making a smaller game. Make the game you want to see played by the people you want to see playing it.


  • Pitcrew

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to fight the same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.


  • Pitcrew

    @Sunny said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.

    Yeah. I don't see why it's exactly hard to understand. People can like all different aspects of a historical time period that are unrelated to specific discriminations that also existed then.



  • @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Sunny said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.

    Yeah. I don't see why it's exactly hard to understand. People can like all different aspects of a historical time period that are unrelated to specific discriminations that also existed then.

    But the point is, they exist whether they are pleasant or not. Pretends fun times doesn't necessarily take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the fact that there are horrible things in the world. Any world.


  • Pitcrew

    @Derp said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Sunny said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.

    Yeah. I don't see why it's exactly hard to understand. People can like all different aspects of a historical time period that are unrelated to specific discriminations that also existed then.

    But the point is, they exist whether they are pleasant or not. Pretends fun times doesn't necessarily take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the fact that there are horrible things in the world. Any world.

    No, they don't necessarily. But some people would indeed like to take a magic eraser to them in their hobby time. You don't have to be 100% historically accurate for fun to exist. Like, are you objecting to the purity of people's RP experience or something? People who bend settings are generally fully aware of those unpleasant things. They just maybe prefer making a space -- or playing in spaces -- without them.


  • Pitcrew

    @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Derp said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Sunny said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.

    Yeah. I don't see why it's exactly hard to understand. People can like all different aspects of a historical time period that are unrelated to specific discriminations that also existed then.

    But the point is, they exist whether they are pleasant or not. Pretends fun times doesn't necessarily take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the fact that there are horrible things in the world. Any world.

    No, they don't necessarily. But some people would indeed like to take a magic eraser to them in their hobby time. You don't have to be 100% historically accurate for fun to exist. Like, are you objecting to the purity of people's RP experience or something? People who bend settings are generally fully aware of those unpleasant things. They just maybe prefer making a space -- or playing in spaces -- without them.

    It's worth noting that people also exist for whom these sorts of cultural restrictions and flaws provide an interesting set of constraints and conflicts to drive RP. Neither of these positions is a wrong one - and in fact, many people (like myself) fall in different places on the scale depending on what mood they're in and what the specific game is. Like, if I'm playing a game set ostensibly in the 1800s, then I want there to be acknowledgement of the mores of the time /even if those mores are not a major part of the gameplay and plot/. If I'm playing, say, a politically-oriented game, then I'm going to want those mores and customs and taboos to be a much larger part of the game, because those are many of the things that drive and complicate politics. On the other hand, if I'm playing a game where the premise is "we're cowpokes putting down a zombie apocalypse with our six-shooters" then I am not going to want racism or sexism to get involved in my pretendy fun times.

    Like a lot of things with MU*s, it's not that any one position along the continuum is unreasonable, it's just that getting a group together who are on entirely different places on that line can be...complicated.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pyrephox said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Derp said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Roz said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Sunny said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Kestrel said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    I happen to think that rape, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the like make for great storytelling — this coming from someone frequently derided as a SJW — so I tend not to understand why anyone would want to exclude these themes from their story where they should realistically apply.

    Some people do not enjoy having to same fight they have to fight in their everyday lives in their pretendy-fun-time games, don't enjoy exploring trauma that they have personally experienced. It's not really a hard concept to grasp even if you don't feel the same way. Empathy is awesome.

    Yeah. I don't see why it's exactly hard to understand. People can like all different aspects of a historical time period that are unrelated to specific discriminations that also existed then.

    But the point is, they exist whether they are pleasant or not. Pretends fun times doesn't necessarily take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the fact that there are horrible things in the world. Any world.

    No, they don't necessarily. But some people would indeed like to take a magic eraser to them in their hobby time. You don't have to be 100% historically accurate for fun to exist. Like, are you objecting to the purity of people's RP experience or something? People who bend settings are generally fully aware of those unpleasant things. They just maybe prefer making a space -- or playing in spaces -- without them.

    It's worth noting that people also exist for whom these sorts of cultural restrictions and flaws provide an interesting set of constraints and conflicts to drive RP. Neither of these positions is a wrong one - and in fact, many people (like myself) fall in different places on the scale depending on what mood they're in and what the specific game is. Like, if I'm playing a game set ostensibly in the 1800s, then I want there to be acknowledgement of the mores of the time /even if those mores are not a major part of the gameplay and plot/. If I'm playing, say, a politically-oriented game, then I'm going to want those mores and customs and taboos to be a much larger part of the game, because those are many of the things that drive and complicate politics. On the other hand, if I'm playing a game where the premise is "we're cowpokes putting down a zombie apocalypse with our six-shooters" then I am not going to want racism or sexism to get involved in my pretendy fun times.

    Like a lot of things with MU*s, it's not that any one position along the continuum is unreasonable, it's just that getting a group together who are on entirely different places on that line can be...complicated.

    Yeah. I don't object -- and I don't really think anyone on this thread was objecting -- to people who enjoy exploring these kinds of tensions. What I don't really get is the idea of like -- "How can you not even enjoy not playing these specific issues?" or "What's the point in this setting if you don't have sexism or racism or whatever?" Different people like different things, some people like all the realistic issues, some people like none of them, some people like only some, some people like the ones they don't have to deal with in RL, etc. But I get irritated at the notion of "You shouldn't ever play in these settings unless you play all the issues."

    People should make the games they want to make, and if people don't like the inclusion or exclusion of real world sensitive issues, they can move on.


  • Pitcrew

    @Roz @Pyrephox

    Yeah, I'm not at all suggesting that there's any problem with people that DO enjoy this stuff -- I happen to like the challenge of the -isms in my own play, much of the time. I was objecting to the idea that there was something wrong with people who did not. I object to it being stated that it is such a foreign idea that it could not be understood, when all it takes -- at all -- is a little bit of empathy to understand why exploring trauma someone has experienced RL may not be something they want to do in their pretendy fun time. I object to the thought that there is something wrong with someone wanting to explore some aspects of the Victorian age (pretty dresses!) and not others.


  • Coder

    Open Secret: I hate the game Shangri-La. I hate the concept, I hate the outcome, and while I absolutely do not hate people for playing there, I hate the things that go on there. It pushes back against what I think is "okay" and I find it crass to the point of disgust. The kinks people want to get into, and are encouraged to get into, curdle my stomach. While people can bring their own sensitivity there, this is in spite of, not because of, the game or its owners.

    I am 100% okay with Shangri-La existing, and people playing there, and even people enjoying playing there. Nobody has to flip out when theme gets under their skin or runs into their sensitivities. People don't have to mock the sensitive for flinching about things that get past their guard. "But I'm tired of..." yeah, we all are, sweetness. Sometimes we're sensitive about having to have our guard up all the time.

    This is called "life", and how you deal with what bugs you says everything about you.

    When a game tries to get as wide an audience as possible, it shares some ownership over what people have to deal with. It's still on their shoulders to deal with it, but how the game creators approach the topic and informs on the topic, treating their potential players with respect.

    And this is why I'm okay with Shang. I don't think I've heard anyone who runs Shang mock anyone for not liking Shang, or if I have it was such a silly or minor incident that I've put it out of my memory as a flash in the pan and, over time, forgivable. This is why games like Firan are treated like a stain on Mu*ing history, because at the end it treated its players' concerns with such damning disrespect and mocking hatred.

    Both of them games with themes that can hit quite sensitive areas. Both of them insanely popular games.

    Just a thought.


  • Pitcrew

    Let's be completely fair to Shang here, though. I'd wager the majority of players there ignore the actual theme and sandbox or talk shit in the OOC rooms. I used to be very active and popular on Shang's grid years ago and, even then, a lot of the stuff existed in a grey area of 'said to be theme but no one actually adheres to it unless someone loudly insists'. But otherwise, I do agree with you, @Thenomain, and a big reason I left was the outcry over people being incredibly upset that the character minimum age was raised. That shitstorm was exploding on every MU* I was active on back then, except the ones who were smart enough to ban all discussion of it.

    But now, PenDes - there's a game I truly hate.

    Anyway, as far as cultural/political/religious aspects goes... I teach history. It's probably why I take these things seriously. If you're going to set a game in the 40s, then I better see the cultural context. If you're going to set a game in the 40s and tiptoe around issues of race and gender then, hey, don't bother. Set it in modern times. One of the things that does actually aggravate me about games is when theme and 'reality' don't match up, like what @faraday points out with the exceptional becoming mainstream.

    At the same time, I do find it a bit distasteful when games sort of treat historical events either too seriously or too insipidly. For the former, see the ridiculous comic where Marvel supervillains weep over September 11. For the latter, see things like Assassin's Creed where World War 2 was a front for some age old conspiracy war. You've gotta handle these things with care.

    I'm also of the mind that I'd rather a game put a blanket rule on things like 'no rape, sexual assault, racism, sexism in public areas/channels'. This is mainly because I don't trust MU* players to handle these things delicately enough (or to not lead to a dramabomb when someone who can't stand those things being even mentioned gets wind of them). If you've got a good group then, sure, you can do it in private. But nothing gets me more than feeling like someone is using theme-related -isms to get around their own behavior. Like the argument how Game Of Thrones uses the 'but it's just like history!' to show a lot of tits and misogyny. Don't bullshit me, you just like tits.

    A MU* rule where you must be prepared to engage with those aspects is just as weird to me as a rule where those things have no place on the MU or in the setting (particularly if it is, say, a historical setting that maps to IRL history). I don't think either one would stop me from looking at a game to see if I'd enjoy it, but it'd definitely have me wondering what their deal is.


  • Pitcrew

    @Gilette said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    Anyway, as far as cultural/political/religious aspects goes... I teach history. It's probably why I take these things seriously. If you're going to set a game in the 40s, then I better see the cultural context. If you're going to set a game in the 40s and tiptoe around issues of race and gender then, hey, don't bother.

    Or you can just not bother playing that game because it's not for you.



  • @Gilette said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    Anyway, as far as cultural/political/religious aspects goes... I teach history. It's probably why I take these things seriously. If you're going to set a game in the 40s, then I better see the cultural context. If you're going to set a game in the 40s and tiptoe around issues of race and gender then, hey, don't bother. Set it in modern times.

    While I empathize a lot with 'this grates because I teach history', we all have things like that on games that ruffle our feathers. (Every seamstress with a perfect manicure ever, every fancy embroidered gown turned out from scratch overnight by a single person... I could go on here.)

    The best you're really going to be able to hope for on most games is 'TV grade accuracy' -- which, yeah, varies in quality, but for a lot of things, that's going to be the most immersive understanding the average player is going to have of any given specific period they haven't personally lived through.

    For the specific example of the 1940s, take a look at something like Agent Carter. They certainly don't address all the issues of the day and they don't cram the ones that do arise down the viewers' throats at every possible opportunity. Regardless, that story would not be that story if it was set in the modern day... at all. It does not suddenly become a story not worth telling without every horrible reality of that era being front and center in its most extreme form every moment.

    One of the things that does actually aggravate me about games is when theme and 'reality' don't match up, like what @faraday points out with the exceptional becoming mainstream.

    This isn't really theme and reality, though. Theme has nothing to do with it, really; it's a setting issue, specifically 'the percentage of atypical folks among PCs is higher than in the general population'. I'm with @ThatGuyThere on this one, however: PCs tend to be the exceptional folk in any given game world anyway. Provided they aren't taking it to a crazy snowflake place, it's not a huge issue to me.


  • Pitcrew

    @Gilette said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    Anyway, as far as cultural/political/religious aspects goes... I teach history. It's probably why I take these things seriously. If you're going to set a game in the 40s, then I better see the cultural context. If you're going to set a game in the 40s and tiptoe around issues of race and gender then, hey, don't bother. Set it in modern times. One of the things that does actually aggravate me about games is when theme and 'reality' don't match up, like what @faraday points out with the exceptional becoming mainstream.

    Hey you have a job. I guess that's cool.

    But how about people do what the fuck they want with games they are spending their time and effort to make, and you just keep your pedantic self off them if historical inaccuracies bother you?


  • Pitcrew

    @Kanye-Qwest That seems like a bit of an excessive and unwarranted response, you know.

    And it's not just pedantics, either. It's important for a roleplaying setting (yes, even a fantasy setting set in a non-Earth world) to have some sense of cultural realism and weight to it, not just to unrustle people's jimmies, but also to facilitate actually playing in that world. And the more arbitrary unrealities that you set in a world, the less possible it is for people to play in that world, at least without trying to wrap their mind around some fundamentally alien viewpoints. And no, cultural unrealities aren't the same thing as fantastical unrealities - it's a lot easier to accept a world like the world we know, but with magic, than it is to accept a world like the world we know, that somehow lacks, say, marriage as a societal construct. The latter is going to cause /even people who like and want your game to succeed/ to recoil a bit, especially if the premise is "this world is a lot like the world you know, except that no one has ever thought about getting married or spending their lives with just one person in a faithful romantic/domestic relationship".

    It's one of the reasons that I don't play Pern games, and often recoiled from Pern as a setting, even if some elements were cool. Dragons? Fine. Time travel and teleportation? Cool. A setting filled with humans without any sort of /religion/? That's just bizarre. And I say that as an atheist. (And yes, there are other bizarre and ill-thought-out bits of that setting, that's just the one that gets me /every time I think about it/, because it flies in the face of what we know about human beings in a weird and gratuitous sort of way.) At the same time, McCaffery's other works, which have just as little religiosity in them, for the most part, but take place in universes where religion exists but is just never talked about or factors into plots or personalities of protagonists? Don't bother me as much. Because the idea is not so much "I want to play a super religious PC and have all my characterization revolve around religion" as it is, "I want to know that human beings in this setting work in approximately the same ways as they work in real life, so that I can play my character appropriate and interact with other characters in appropriate and genuine ways".

    Although, for that matter, just admitting that something is arbitrary, and not having a meltdown every time someone points out that it's weird and arbitrary is fine, too. I've run evil campaigns where I've said up front, "Yes, you're playing evil. It's going to be four-color evil, with grand schemes, betrayals, and Taking Over the World, not war crimes and torture, even if your character is written as to not have any problems with those. We're just not going to do it." And then all you have to do whenever it comes up is, "Yep, it's a bit weird, but it facilitates the game we want to play." And say nothing more about it. Because that at least acknowledges the unreality of it - and, as an aside, established the GM as an adult who knows it's unrealistic and is totally okay with that being pointed out, but is just setting parameters for the game, not feeling the urge to start temper tantruming at people for being bewildered.



  • tbh if someone logs into Hello Kitty, Island Adventure and says that the lack of rape and sexual assault themes just ruins their immersion, maybe the problem isn't the game.


  • Pitcrew

    @Apos said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    tbh if someone logs into Hello Kitty, Island Adventure and says that the lack of rape and sexual assault themes just ruins their immersion, maybe the problem isn't the game.

    Sure. And if the game is WWII, and the game says, "By the way, there's no antisemitism in this setting," and that breaks people's immersion, maybe the problem isn't the players.


  • Pitcrew

    I am fine with people having settings that avoid certain themes, even historical fantasy settings. As long as everything makes enough sense not to break my suspension of disbelief. Slavery can be removed for a good portion of American history from sometime between 1800 and 1850 on by delaying the creation of the cotton gin. Without the increased efficiency, cotton never became king, and slavery eventually phased out like it had in the North. You also don't end up with the Civil War or a very different Civil War at least.

    In general, I think as long as at least some sort of effort is put into the logic of how something would change or develop differently, people can swallow the change without much argument.



  • @Pyrephox said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Apos said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    tbh if someone logs into Hello Kitty, Island Adventure and says that the lack of rape and sexual assault themes just ruins their immersion, maybe the problem isn't the game.

    Sure. And if the game is WWII, and the game says, "By the way, there's no antisemitism in this setting," and that breaks people's immersion, maybe the problem isn't the players.

    If that's in their intended scope, sure. But It doesn't have to be the absurd example I used. If someone wants to have a game intending to run for a few months just about the Battle of the Bulge and nothing but the battle of the bulge, and a player wants to tell a story about auschwitz, then the problem still isn't the setting. It can just be a matter of not wanting to tell those stories at all, and whether they say, 'this is an alternate world history where there was no holocaust' or just refuse to address it doesn't really matter if that's not in the scope of their focus.


  • Pitcrew

    @Apos said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Pyrephox said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    @Apos said in Sensitive cultural/political/religious aspects of game themes.:

    tbh if someone logs into Hello Kitty, Island Adventure and says that the lack of rape and sexual assault themes just ruins their immersion, maybe the problem isn't the game.

    Sure. And if the game is WWII, and the game says, "By the way, there's no antisemitism in this setting," and that breaks people's immersion, maybe the problem isn't the players.

    If that's in their intended scope, sure. But It doesn't have to be the absurd example I used. If someone wants to have a game intending to run for a few months just about the Battle of the Bulge and nothing but the battle of the bulge, and a player wants to tell a story about auschwitz, then the problem still isn't the setting. It can just be a matter of not wanting to tell those stories at all, and whether they say, 'this is an alternate world history where there was no holocaust' or just refuse to address it doesn't really matter if that's not in the scope of their focus.

    Here's the thing, though - antisemitism isn't just "stories about Auschwitz" in the context of WWII. It's an underlying societal factor that influences every part of the war, from beginning to end - /not just the places where it's on explicit display/. Saying, "In this game, we're not going to focus on antisemitism because we're playing /here/," is actually acutely different from saying, "In this setting, antisemitism doesn't exist, but everything else plays out exactly as it did in the real world because...reasons."

    What I'm trying to get at is that there's a difference between a declaration of game focus, i.e. What We Are/Are Not Going to Play In This Game, and a declaration of game /setting/, which is the assumptions that the IC society and world run on. And those two things have a very different effect on people's play and suspensions of disbelief. It's like - if I'm running a superhero game, and I say, "Our focus is going to be on global level play - you guys stop world-ending supervillain threats, not street crime and you don't get involved in national/regional political disputes, so don't worry about someone asking you why, if you're a telepath, you didn't stop their mother from being mugged and beaten up a couple of blocks down from your apartment," that's a declaration of game focus. I'm telling you what we, as a game, are going to focus on, and it's not going to be gritty street crime or the political ramifications of superpowered people. On the other hand, if I say, "In this world, there is no street crime, so as superheroes, you guys are free to focus on global level supervillain threats," that's a declaration of game setting that raises some serious questions, and I would be surprised if my players didn't stop right there and have to spend some time processing what the hell that even means. No street crime? How does that work? Do people just not WANT stuff? Are there unstoppable robot cops? Are there cops? What does that mean for the character I wanted to make who came from a family of Irish cops in New York? Yes, as far as /actual play/ goes, both have the same outcome (superheros don't have to focus on the street level crime), but one changes the world of play into something pretty alien for most people, while the other just says, "Yeah, it's out there, but it's /not what we're playing/."

    Which most people find easier to swallow.


  • Pitcrew

    It's a similar approach to games that say 'No rape stories.' Most games agree that rape is a thing and probably exists in the setting, but they're simply not exploring it. In the battle of the bulge example, it's much the same. Anti-Semitism was definitely an issue at this time, but we're not exploring it here, so don't venture into that topic.

    Removing it from a wider setting of WWII is a bit trickier, but the Third Reich's litany of crimes aren't limited to just the Holocaust. Still with the issue of Holocaust denial as well as America's tendency to have amnesia about the Japanese internment, I think it would be appropriate for some sort of statement on the game's policy files stating that they accept that the Holocaust happened and do not wish to whitewash that particular bit of history. They just don't want those themes explored.