No Dear, This Is What Happens When You Engage.
Yesterday I wrote a post, Another Example of Things I Don't Understand, where I got a bit indignant about a RPGnet forum thread where a large group of posters were arguing that a white man can't and shouldn't attempt to create a game set in a world that draws on another culture besides the traditional pseudo-European setting. The reasoning that really struck a nerve with me was that by attempting to do so the white man (and it was always a white man, never a woman) was insulting the culture that he attempted to emulate. I find that line of thought and the reasoning supporting it to be absolutely repulsive.
Like every good boy with a blog I went online and ranted about it. And you know what? I wasn't alone in finding that line of thinking worthless as I had a lot of people come by the blog and leave me notes there and on Google+ expressing their dislike of it as well. I also had some people come along who wanted to express their support for that view which was . . . interesting. The guys who were into the whole thing seemed to be striking at targets that I wasn't presenting and arguing against lines of reasoning that I wasn't expressing. It was as though they had been through this discussion numerous times with others before me and had a set way that they discussed it.
It's fascinating how differently our approaches in discussing the whole thing were. I, and I think long time readers of this blog can attest to this, am very plainspoken and have no problem expressing my distaste for needless hand wringing and projecting personal issues onto my games. Which led to me dismissing arguments like +Kevin Farnworth's where he attempted to argue that ". . . going through a forest slaughtering orcs because they're inherently evil and savage is pretty much the exact reasoning colonists used invading Africa and the Americas. The games we're playing don't come out of nowhere, and they don't really stop existing when we leave the gaming table."
This line of reasoning expects me to feel guilty to work. I'm supposed to have guilt over my ancestors killing and enslaving people, as though I were participating in the events. Even worse it argues that my games are just a reenactment of these past atrocities with orc skins draped over African and Native American bodies.
That is such an insulting position to take.
Look I understand that there are people in this world who have issues with everything that has happened in the history of man and they want to feel guilty, and have you feel that way too, for every past transgression that has been made. The thing is that I can only be held responsible for my own actions in this life and asking me to feel guilt for the misdeeds of people I've never known and had no impact on is just not going to happen.
But that doesn't mean that my mind wasn't changed about some things in this debate. +Dan Head, who writes the blog Dan & Sally's Digital Domain, really cut away at my indignation when he wrote:
"There's a lot going on in the Real World right now that has scared people into self-censorship. For example, my wife & I wanted to go see The Interview in a theater, but we mutually decided -- back when it was scheduled for theatrical release -- to wait until it had been out a day of two before heading out.
"People are a little afraid of offending certain groups right now, especially in Europe. There's a move to make it 'liberal' and sensitive, but still... Even owners of websites get drug into it because they don't want to be hacked, attacked, etc. they wind up saying things like, 'we shouldn't even be gaming. We should all work at a soup kitchen.'
"But really, people should stand up for free expression."
Reading that kind of put a different spin on the discussion for me. While I still believe that the whole debate over cultural appropriation in role-playing games is complete bullshit this idea that people are scared and are self-censoring is true. It's really hard keep being outraged when you realize that some of the things playing behind these comments might be coming from a place of fear.
Then while I was discussing a variety of topics with +John Theli, John made a comment that essentially over inflated the importance of games in the world. Which is when +Mark Van Vlack, who writes the blog Dust_Pan_Games (which everyone should read), came along and put everything into perspective.
"I would say in the context of the greater world, and it's myriad of real problems. Role playing games do not matter. I will use those exact words and mean them exactly as stated. None of this matters a lick.
"The idea that opinions about this niche hobby (RPG's) has any thrift in a world where real evil, bad intent, racism, murder, and all the rest thrive holds little water in my personal world view.
"I highly respect anyone opinion who thinks differently. It's your right and your view is equally valid. My feeling is that we have these discussions because intelligent creative people gravitate to this hobby and intelligent creative people are more likely to have opinions, and a willingness to defend them.
"So people at RPGnet and in threads like this one will continue to argue. The world will continue to spin. And somewhere someone who has never seen anything close to an RPG will cause real harm to real people for their own rationalized reasons."
Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
I love having a blog where people feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and openly. It's rewarding to have people who have helped me reshape my own understanding of where I stand, who get worked up about different things than me, who passionately argue for their position, and who bring a different perspective into this blog.
I never thought when I started it that I would find an audience. So indulge me for a moment because I want to take this opportunity to tell all of you who read me that I thank you for coming along, reading, sharing, liking, plus 1ing, and commenting. Because this blog has steadily become a testament to what actually happens when you engage with the people who read you and the wider community as a whole. Don't let others fool you into believing that it has to be a terrible experience because it doesn't have to be. There are great people, and there are trolls, but in the end it is an excellent experience to engage.