Thursday, February 19, 2015

Groan All You Want, But I Still Don't Care Who You're Rubbing Your Crotch On

Yesterday I was reading a post by Ari on the ConTessa blog titled, Why the Hood Matters, when something Ari wrote struck me as getting the debate completely wrong - at least as far as it applies to people like me. Ari wrote:
'I don’t want to be PC during my games!'

'I don’t see why race is an issue in games, it’s FANTASY!'

Those two awful things come from the mouths of role players along with list of other things that I will not mention because I don’t want to depress myself or the reader. As a person of color, it is kind of disheartening when people say things like that that. We can play in a world where werewolves, fae and goblins exist, but if I want to play a black person or a queer character, then, I am just being a social justice warrior, feminist killjoy. 
As someone who is adamantly against being politically correct in my role-playing games, or making race/gender/sexuality an issue, I would like to address why I am that way, and why not agreeing with me doesn't mean you're being a social justice warrior or feminist killjoy. For me, being politically correct does not mean that I am going to be exploring some controversial topic, instead it means that I'm not going to be talking about some things or using certain words because they might offend other people. So being politically correct means that I am limiting my games away from things that might bother someone. Now that isn't to say that I go out of my way to find things that make my friends uncomfortable either. We don't do child molestation or rape at my table because those are things that none of us want to discuss or are comfortable exploring (if you are, that's great for you, but I'm not going to join you). Other than those two 'third rails' my campaign is pretty much open to whatever the players want to discuss or explore and I don't place artificial limits on where they can go.

Let's talk about making the race/gender/sexuality an issue at the table. 

I've had Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, and Mixed players at my tables. I've had gay, straight, and bi-sexual players at my table. I've had men, women, women who look like men, and men who look like women (though no transvestites) at my table. Not surprisingly we've had all those types of people, including transvestites, represented as characters in the game. It's never an issue and it's not going to be because no one at my table want's it to be. I have no problem with anyone wanting to play any race or sexual preference that tickles their fancy as long as everyone involved in the sexual side of the discussion is an adult and consenting. The people I play with are the same way. At the table such things don't define you as a person and aren't how we judge you. If Stacy wants to play a gay, transvestite, gnome thief who likes to dress flamboyantly and call everyone "Darling" no one cares. But is she forgets her god-damned thieves tools then there will be hell to pay. At my table, on this blog, and in my life I don't care about your race or sexuality - I care about what you do.


  1. I read that same article and was left with mixed feelings.
    I think I'm allot like you in that I don't care who lays of what they play as log as the players are cool and having a good time.
    What it boils down to is I don't think that I'm that deep a thinker when it comes to games when it comes to social issues.
    That might be a personal weakness of mine, I don't think its a weakness of games.

    1. I don't think it's so much a matter of you being or not being a deep thinker Mark. I think it's far more about whether or not you want to make something an issue. For example I could play a green skinned human from Xanzabar Prime but unless I keep talking about being green no one is going to remember it two minutes after I introduce my character because we're all to busy running for our lives and killing monsters to care about the fact that I'm green. To me you have to want to make it an issue before it becomes one.

  2. You can run a game with elements of Social Justice, though, and if you do it right, it's fascinating. As an example, I once ran a game where the party was a bunch of amoral mercenaries. They got hired by a gang leader--a slave dealer--who wanted them to recover some of his "merchandise". I expected them to balk, leading to a gang war, but they didn't. They killed the members of Luskan's Underground Railroad and forced the slaves back into bondage. To be honest, I was a little shocked, but what can you do? I started pushing the boundaries, seeing how evil they were willing to go, and what was interesting was the way they rebounded. As a group, they eventually realized that their evil was making the city worse, that if they ever wanted things to get better, they were the ones who would have to lead the change. It was, to say the least, an interestin campaign.

    1. You're absolutely right about when it's done correctly, but I have no interest in exploring the social justice questions on sexuality and gender - which I guess is why I just devoted another post to the topic? You know, Dan, the thing is that while I care very little about someone's gender or sexuality there are people out there who want to act like my disinterest is not only an impossibility but actually a veiled form of antagonism towards them. Which I suppose is why I keep writing about it when I see people saying such things.

      All that said, I would love to play in a campaign where the slavery thing was done in a really interesting way.

  3. Interesting post.....I've encountered this a bit in my games, but it's sort of a weird and uncomfortable gray area for most groups I've been with, something best ignored or overlooked. I've been in groups where these issues could arise, but weirdly what I've found is that gamers I've played with who maybe express themselves through their characters are doing so as a form of liberation and rarely seem to require much more than acceptance from the other players and GM at the table. I've never had someone, say, play a dwarf male who wants to be female and then get upset that we don't immediately shift the campaign to gender exploration. I have had a transgender woman in my games who loved playing male fighter types....and she never expressed any interest in pushing boundaries, she just wanted the table to accept her for who she was, and let her play male characters without question (which of course we did).

    1. Yeah, I've never encountered it beyond the internet either. It makes me wonder if it isn't just an internet phenomenon that occurs in online games only.

  4. I've run into this quite a bit from both sides of the political spectrum. At my table, it's never been an issue. I'm honestly unsure if there are players / GMs out there who actually have an issue with LGBT or ethnically specific characters existing. I've never met any that did. I've never seen it happen. I can't say I've ever seen anyone have an issue even with exploring those themes if they are done well. Morality is one of the most interesting questions to explore in a game, when done correctly.

    What I have seen is that the people who complain about "social justice" as a topic generally have no problem with any of the above. The objection usually stems from how it enters the game, usually due to someone hamfisting the subject as a major plot point, or a player creating such a character and trying to force the groups attention constantly back to whatever identity it is that they belong to.

    Both of these are undesirable for the exact same reason that a DM hamfisting the players into any plot is bad, or that a PC trying to hog the attention for any reason is bad. The problem arises that if when someone's imaginary character is criticized for trying too hard to be "edgy" or "random" (or any other trait that can be played poorly) then that's one thing. If one criticizes them for trying to push any identity trait that falls under the umbrella of social justice, then it is entirely possible you will instead be labeled as a bigot, homophobe, racist, or some other thing rather than the effects that they are having on group play.

    I've never actually met anyone in my gaming who has a problem with equality in any form. It's specifically the subject of social justice that tends to make people twitchy - either because they are the kind of people who are looking for an excuse to bring it up, or they are the kinds of people for whom the phrase is synonymous with conflict.

    The quoted section in your post actually highlights this fairly well. "I don't see why race is an issue in games, it's FANTASY!" This is "awful thing" isn't a cry of racism. Too often, it's someone who wants to simply play the game without worrying about the political implications of it.

    I think this was actually the source of much of the response to D&D 5e's "inclusiveness" conversation. Not because people actively wanted to see races / genders / sexual orientations excluded from the game, but because there was a perception of pandering to political interests. Some people seem to have actually taken offense to the idea that they needed WotC's permission to play a character with a certain sexual persuasion. After all, role-playing games are by definition the most inclusive possible form of media. You can do literally anything you can imagine.

    That's kind of the point.


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