Friday, January 9, 2015

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. 


  1. Great post Charles Well put and very true.
    also thank you for the shout out.

    1. No Holmes, thank you for being awesome.

    2. Thank you, It's in my blood, my grandfather invented the first flue vaccine by eating a person with the flu...
      (ok that may have been an exaggeration)

    3. No I'm pretty sure I read that on Wikipedia so it must be true.

  2. +Charles Akins, wrote: "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." And there are primarily two responses to your fear: one is to face it and stand up to the situation and continue to be honest and forthright in dealing with things; the other response is the way of appeasement and giving in to fear, a response which has never worked in the entire history of the world. Thank you for speaking out and following the first path.

  3. You wrote: "Yesterday I wrote a post, Another Example of Things I Don't Understand, where I got a bit indigent about a RPGnet forum thread..."
    The word you're looking for is indignant, not indigent which means poor / needy.

    1. Thanks Anonymous! I spell checked at 4 am when my son got me up and completely missed that one. I went ahead and corrected it.

  4. I am only guilty for my actions and my actions alone. What my ancestors had done isn't my crime. It is their crime. The sins of the father does not pass down to the son. These social justice warriors should remember that.

    1. The problem isn't just with these pseudo-activists as there are lots of people out there who want to use your guilt over actions you had no hand in to punish you for crimes you never committed. It's a widespread problem that goes beyond simple labels and quasi-political agendas.

    2. Let's be fair though.
      It's worth distinguishing between "bad things that were done that you are not responsible for and do not benefit from" and "bad things that were done that you are not responsible for but are benefiting from". Modern US citizens, if they are not living on reservations, are benefiting from the genocide committed against Native Americans. White US citizens are benefiting from the exploitation of slaves. You don't have to feel guilty about the deeds but you do have to recognize the resulting benefits you are reaping. Admitting you have enjoyed these benefits is not being punished. Admitting these privileges are real is not saying everything you have done up to now is a result of them. Admitting they are real is not saying no other privileges exist.
      People in the forums and blogs seem to enjoy pretending these distinctions can't be made, and that admitting X does not lead to Y.

  5. Very timely post with all the recent events in Paris.

    I whole hardily agree. There is too much discussion being driven by righteous indignation. Common sense seems to be losing ground.

    Keep up the good fight!

  6. I used to struggle with keeping up with what I was supposed to feel guilty about according to current events. Since I gave it up I've been much less upset about things I really ought not feel upset or guilty about in the first place. Approaching middle-age has made this easier: rockingchairporchshotgun.

    Play your games as you see fit, and forget those negativist fun-haters on RPGnet.

    1. " rockingchairporchshotgun."

      I do believe that is actually the name of my first girlfriend's father. I never stayed around long enough to find out if it was something different after we shook hands and he started loading the gun. XD

  7. My ancestors cultural hero is Attila the Hun and I fully support them in this decision.

  8. >>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.

    This is a little harsh, so brace yourself. If we're going to real talk...

    "Coming from a place of fear" is coming from a place of cowardice and it doesn't make me feel sympathy, it makes me feel contempt.

    I don't even know anymore if right now we're talking about kowtowing to terrorists or the politically correct. That should be a bit of a red flag to anyone who's paying attention.

    1. "I don't even know anymore if right now we're talking about kowtowing to terrorists or the politically correct. That should be a bit of a red flag to anyone who's paying attention. "

      Ha! I like that line.

  9. Good to see you back and in the middle of things, Charles!

    As for the subject of the post, I really don't believe in a moral high ground either way. If I see people discussing things like you describe above, I don't feel the impulse to share my opinions. Maybe I read their arguments and talk about it with friends, but usually I just go away and read something worthwhile.

    The thing is, if the people bringing up those ideas had been able to see it otherwise or inform themselves and reflect the counter arguments of such ideas, they would have done so in the first place and such threads wouldn't exist. That those ideas are a reality nonetheless makes me believe that those people have other motives for writing about them (mostly, in my opinion, projecting their fears and insecurities unto others) and I really want no part in that, either.

    That being said, me being German might have a lot to do with that. We grow up inheriting the sins of our grandfathers. It's part of our general education system and very much part of our life until we are able to form a position towards it. So it is a sensitive matter. I came to believe that discussing politics (or even just political correctness, for that matter) with strangers is mostly futile and as such to be avoided.

    There might be those that'll scream now that such a thing is cowardice out of fear for social repression, but I believe that it's never about arguing an idea, but about living a good example. Instead of arguing what's "right" or "wrong", I'd rather try and show people how it could be done and give a positive example for honesty, integrity and tolerance (to give three examples) by creating something and giving folks that are interested the opportunity to find their own way. I might not always succeed (most of the time, in fact), but I try.

    A bit like that Sin Eater series you started.

    In other words, those mistakes have all been made in the past. If we want to, we can learn from them and be better for it. The game can be a place to bring up such issues, but only without bias or ulterior motives, maybe as part of a discourse in the story. But that's damn hard to achieve.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Other than that, what Mark said.


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