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Thursday, August 7, 2014

When Did Gaming Become a Hotbed for Social Issues? (Rant Warning)


When did gaming, RPGs in particular, become a hotbed for social issues?

Everyone with an agenda is trying to use the RPG hobby to spread theirs. No, not the writers or the publishers. I'm talking about the talking heads, the social media big shots (or so they see themselves) and the big mouths.

Do I need a set of gaming rules to let me play a transexual vampire, bisexual hobbit or lesbian dwarf?

Do I need to be told I need to add more women, more trans-genders, more Venusians to my gaming table?

These are all things that are covered by a "code of conduct". Play what you want, they way you want with who you want and all this takes care of itself.

I don't need this spelled out in a rulebook. RPGs are by their very nature social. If you have issues socializing with different types of folks that don't reflect your norms, find a group that does reflect such.

Gaming is not a right. It is not an agenda. It is a hobby and a pastime.

When the noise from agendas drown out the rolls of the dice, it's time to reassess.

Or perhaps I just need to trim my G+ feed a bit more...

44 comments:

  1. Totalitarians and puritans, man. Lately the activist left has been worse than the religious right ever was.

    Just throw your dice and talk like a hobbit.

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  2. i think rpg as a hobby is behind other geek hobbies like comics that have made big strides to not be so honky and male - as a hobby still being condemned in press and perceived as by public as being too boysie so i think it does need to address issues. Still perceived as unwelcoming. Also it is a move to normalize diversity on as many cross cultural platforms as possible which is also a good thing. A few sentences in a game book shouldn't be a big deal even if you dont agree.

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    1. I think you make a great point.. its not the hobby itself, its the fact that the hobby is full of white males that makes it a target. But at my PFS game tonight I saw something that gives me hope..At another table I saw a) my daughter as the GM) and B) 2 of the 4 players were female..There is hope...

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    2. my issue isn't the message but the holier than tho messengers, where if you don't agree 100% you are deemed evil and yadda yadda.

      i'm all for inclusiveness in the hobby. I'm against the idea that not having a woman / specific race / specific gender preference in your gaming group makes you a sexist / racist / genderist.

      And yes, I've been told that not having a woman in my gaming group is sexist.

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    3. I don't know where this "white male" b.s. comes from. You have ethnographic data on all the players?

      I'm Latino and the last game I played we had a Cambodian male, a Eurasian female, and two Caucasian males at the table. Whether anyone was gay, I have no idea because who the hell cares and why would that even come up?

      As for the lack of women: most women I've met just have no interest in sitting at a table rolling dice and pretending to be elves and hobbits. So we should obviously force them to do so just like we force men to join knitting circles.

      What a crock of crap.

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    4. My main point is compared to my other geek hobbies of last 30 years diversity of gender and ethnicity has increased but less than anime (pretty much run by women in my circles compared to zero in 80's) and comics (which even my local papers have commented on increase of female fans to over 50%).

      I cant say ive seen over the top examples of inclusiveness.yet so i cant really comment on it.

      Most of sledging and trolling i get over game blogging uses homophobic so called slurs. People think im Chinese at least once a week. Im neither of these things and dont consider them insults to me personally no matter intention of troll. Bad stereotyping pretty thriving in scene so im always glad to have people find it untrue in their experience. Im happy to annoy people who think i should consider these things insults.

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  3. Wait...who would have sex with a Hobbit in the first place?

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    1. well, they would make your junk look bigger...

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  4. Lesbian dwarf. Per Pratchet, all dwarves have beards-how would you know? My mind has been blown for the night, of course it might have been the 18 year Laphroaig or the Hibiki. Thanks for that mental image, I'll tell my therapist to send you the bill.
    Of course your basic point is right, play the damn character however you see it and leave your political/social/religious agenda at home.

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  5. Or perhaps I just need to trim my G+ feed a bit more...

    That's what I did.

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  6. Maybe it is just a matter of trimming your G+ circles. Though Paizo just announced a transgender iconic character, I haven't seen a huge surge in online activism.



    "Do I need to be told I need to add more women, more trans-genders, more Venusians to my gaming table?"

    Probably not, but the target audience is as much women and trans people as you. A rulebook that includes/welcomes people who often feel excluded can be a powerful influence on the self-esteem of those people.

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  7. The problem I see isn't with inclusive language in rulebooks or LGBT characters in RPGs or outreach by publishers to marginalized gamers. Those are all good things. The problem is having two toxic members of the hobby making what should be a good thing into All About Them and their Big List of Enemies. If they're out of good gaming ideas maybe they should take a break from being Important RPG People and recharge.

    This hobby, man; what does it seem like it's always gonna be 12 years old?

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    1. http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/Age-12.aspx

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    2. so you understand what set me off i see ;)

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    3. You, right there, are the problem. They're not "toxic." They have opinions, and they may differ from yours, but that doesn't entitle you or anyone else to try to drive them out of the industry.

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    4. I've defended those "toxic" individuals in a previous post, as they were unjustly accused of holding positions they DO NOT hold.

      This post is about the social justice warriors that are pushing their agendas when and where it is not needed and attacking those that disagree with them.

      There are no shades of grey with social justice warriors.

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    5. Two toxic members of the hobby that just happened to be vetted alongside other luminaries like Jeff Grubb as consultants on the new edition?

      WOTC has made some epic blunders in the past, but they're not that dumb. And neither am I.

      Please focus your anger towards something that matters.

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    6. ^^that's for Eli, not you, Erik.

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    7. Really? I thought it was directed at Joe.

      Whatever. I'm not angry, just tired of all the talk about who is telling who about how to play what. Maybe someday this will all calm down, and we can all, you know, roll dice and shut up and all that.

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  8. I think it's more of a general Internet-wide phenomenon than anything specific to RPGs, though it's possible a certain crowd of people are drawn to the medium (though I think they're more attracted to STGs)

    The whole thing's stupid. I played tons of straight, gay and bisexual characters (and even a pedophile, at one point, though that elf was technically older than him), and I never needed a rulebook to tell me I could. The most outside influence I used was a table I found online to determine their sexuality randomly, 'cause I was all about random generation for everything

    Those people actually make me want to come up with some offensive rules like the stuff Lakofka developed for female characters, just to spite them—and I'm gay, so that should really say something!

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  9. At that, I think Erik's point is largely "how about everybody quits the pissyfighting and just get on the with the game?"

    Considering the people involved on both sides I see shitty behavior that has continued to escalate. There are reasons to like and dislike people on both sides of this mess, but a mess it is. Regardless of who is correct, regardless of the purported cause of complaint (which from what I can see appears to be false), it's gotten out of hand.

    Quit the pissyfighting, go back to your own corners, pick up some goddamn dice and play.

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  10. What I see going on isn't a social justice issue at all, but a series of personal grudges and people are using minorities as ammo. We're not being fought for, we're being harmed by further trivialization. BUT NOT BY THE GAME PRODUCERS. It's loud and all over the online community, but it's really just a vocal minority who use cries of "TRANSPHOBE!" the same as "RAPE!" just to get attention, but not because it actually means anything to them. And while that's very wrong and harmful behaviour, it has absolutely nothing to do with the hobby in reality. It's a personal smear campaign and has nothing to do with social justice issues.

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    1. What Syvlie said, and it aligns with Erik's position: take your personal pissyfighting somewhere else so grownups[1] can play.

      [1] for a small value of grownup...

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  11. The whole thing has been a spectacular train wreck. While it's made online surfing annoying, having to duck and dodge through the crapstorm, this whole mess has had zero impact on RL gaming in the actual world, thankfully.

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  12. Great post Erik. Everything you said is what I have been thinking but did not say publicly.

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  13. I dunno, I just make the games I want to play, and play the games I want to play, and if other people like that I play with them. If they don't, I don't play with them.

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  14. I agree with trimming the G+ feed. There are always people ready to use gaming and any other subject as a platform for their activism, politics, or religion, instead of actually talking about gaming itself.

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  15. I always have a problem with movements that support a "subtractive" approach to social issues - changing something that already exists, or attempting to remove it altogether instead of *adding to* what's already there. Don't like that there aren't enough realistic superheroes of a certain race/gender/sexuality/religion/etc.? Does a game not have adequate representation of something you find important? Do existing groups not have enough representation of a certain type of person? Don't demonize what's there. MAKE ONE. Set an example. If there's a stigma, show them how silly it is. People will follow good examples, and shun negative ones.

    We all create primarily based on our own experiences, desires and worldviews. It's going to be harder to change someone else's creation to match your ideals. A CIS White Male writer is probably not going to capture every. single. possible. viewpoint. out there, simply because they don't live those lives. No one should be trying to erase something/someone from the hobby; they should be branching out and adding to it, instead.

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    1. You've nailed it. For them it is about Exclusion isn't it, not Inclusion.

      They use the rhetoric of SJW to give the appearance of validity to their personal grudges against Zak S. & the Pundit because they prefer Old-School gaming sensibilities over Story-Game sensibilities.

      No one is stopping anyone from making an RPG or RPG Community that fits their view of how gaming should be. Go for it, knock yourself out. Just don't try to tell anyone else to change what they are playing or how they are playing it.

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  16. It doesn't need to be defined in a book, a player should just come up with it as their character and be allowed to play it. I play AD&D 1e and have since I picked it up. I am currently running a game, its been going on for at least 6 months now. I have player in the game, he decided his character was androgynous. Why? because he thought it would be interesting for a character concept. Is he androgynous himself? no, does he want to be? who knows, who cares. I had another player in my group, never touched a roleplaying game in her life, mostly played playstation games, pc games..etc.. Her first character was a female fighter who only liked women. Was she gay? I don't know. Did I care about her concept of character? nope. When that character died, she decided to play a male fighter who liked guys.

    Point of all this is, it doesn't need to written in a book for it to happen. This goes back to the whole argument that the newer editions feel its necessary to cover everything and give the people the feeling of, "if its not in the book, its not possible" mentality.

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  17. There are jerks on all sides, and persecution complexes, and so many p.o.v.s being expressed that I can't tell who/what *in particular* that you mean... but yeah, there is increasing polarization from what I've seen. I suppose part of it is that a certain segment of the gaming crowd is so into gaming that they want to take their activism here rather than other spheres where they are less engaged? But Vincent Florio is probably onto something with the mindset about 'it has to be in the rules or it is not allowed' mentality.
    I blame a lot of it on the etiquette of internet interaction (or lack thereof) and the rhetorical skills of most gamers (or lack thereof) ... way too much knee-jerk tribalism and way too little reasoned argument. It seems like very few even want to understand other points of view. It's toxic enough that I don't read forums, G+, or most blog comments areas any more.

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  18. I disagree with what Erik is saying here. Not really in a big way, but I think it is important that we all say that these groups have a place in gaming. We are targets. You notice no response started...as a black gamer....as a gay gamer... And it does not make one racist to say "we don't have to state the obvious, gaming is about inclusion", bit it does not sound good.

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    1. I may not have lead with that, but I did mention being gay in my comment

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    2. Have you ever considered that Identifying as a Gay Gamer or a Black Gamer or a Atheist Gamer (what have you) can have the opposite effect.

      That is not excluding you because of your statement but your in a way segregating yourself a bit making that distinction no?

      What does RPG Table-top Gaming, or Card Games, or Swimming for that matter have to do with being Gay, Black, Atheist? Nothing. By default it's inclusive, they are all, all encompassing inclusive hobbies.

      It's not the books that need to spell out every possible minority group is welcome to partake in said pastime, It's the people that you will be partaking in said pastime with that need to be inclusive.

      WotC could write a 10 page introduction covering every ethnicity, sexual gender identity and religious group and what would it achive? I mean really what? It doesn't matter what the text of the books say as long as they aren't explicitly exclusionary. The default is all inclusiveness.

      The issue is with individuals not the hobby or the books themselves.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Great comments Gwarth. I chimed in more but I don't think I could add much.

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    5. My apologies +ProfesserOats. I thought I read the thread better than that!

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  19. How come there are no iconic RPG characters with syphilis? An anti-syphilitic agenda? Would it be so hard to include a line or two in every book about how you can play a syphilitic character?

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    1. Given what adventurers spend their gold on, I just sort of assumed they *all* had syphilis.

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  20. Totally as a sort of related aside, the new 5E Player's Handbook is probably the most artistically inclusive book I've seen and in the RPG sphere that's a goal few have ever even attempted. It takes a while to spot the generic white males in this book, and so far, even after reading through twice I can't find even a cleavage shot. Every gal in the PHB is dressed for serious business.

    I not only could hand this book to my son when he's older without worry (though lets be honest he might not be as excited about it without a bit of cleavage somewhere inside by then) I could even hand this frickin book to my mother and she would be hard pressed to find anything offensive (not that my mother's actually easily offended like that).

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  21. Erik, thanks for posting this. I've noticed an uptick in politically correct fascism trying to assert itself in every area of life. When I roll dice and game it is about having fun and leaving the real world and all it's issues behind, for a little while. I don't need reminders of the culture war shoved in my face in my sanctuary. I think your idea of trimming your G+ circles is a good one. That is what I ended up doing. You want to be a little fascist go do it on someone else's feed was my response. I'm happier for doing so.

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    1. someone had to say it that wasn't actively involved in any of the current pissing matches.

      strangely enough, the reaction to this post was mostly the same, no matter gender, sexual orientation, race - whatever:

      stop making gaming, a naturally inclusionary activity, into a social issue battleground.

      well, except for a handful of self appointed male white social justice warriors who had to tell me I was all wrong because of the "male white privilege label" I apparently wear but need to accept and adjust my opinions to be more like theirs (and not those of the ones they claim to represent, mind you).

      yeah, ain't happening.

      i judge folks for who they are, not their labels which do nothing but divide anyway.

      well, except for the social justice warriors - they can go fuck themselves :)

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  22. Late to the party as usual. I considered responding to this post with a blog post of my own, but what I have to say won't really take very long.

    Everyone's got opinions, prejudices, and agendas of varying degrees. Humans swarm to conflict and make their nests in drama. At least people are talking about Dungeons & Dragons, even if tangentially. That's the most important thing... well, from my perspective, anyway.

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