Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gaming and Truth

One of the topics on G+ in the circles I have been hanging with is 'Gaming Style'. Questions and opinions have abounded but the consensus that people have been willing to articulate are remarkably homogenous. I don't mean that the styles have been entirely the same but that on certain topics everyone is in agreement.

Our general agreement is not too surprising. We are all about the same age, social class, and have similar interests. We have all found the larger community on the internet. We are all people who want to be liked, our thoughts praised (or damned for the right reasons), and respected by the people we have encountered on the internet.

What is surprising is that no one is willing to go out on a limb, not one inch. Nobody is saying anything remotely controversial. Why? Are we so afraid of being outsiders even from our own ostracized 'nerd herd' that we'll parrot anything we hear or read? Sure we disagree on whether we roll dice 'in the open' or behind a screen but tougher questions always are answered the same way.

The question of whether we run 'an open and inclusive game that everyone will feel safe in' is much tougher to answer. Not because we don't know the answer. The 'right' answer is that we always run open and inclusive games. It is tougher because nobody is willing to say, "Well yeah, I set my games in historical Dark Age Europe." Or, "no, my current campaign is witches vs witch hunters in an alternate version of Europe." Or whatever.

No, everybody ran games set in the same fuzzy bunny universe where, men, women, transgendered, gay, every race, and every possible permutation thereof were entirely equal, welcome and with identical social standings. Except for an inventive guy who is trying to work out a social system where women are on top in a fashion similar to Republican/Early Empire Rome and they got there by having a monopoly on magic.

Only one or two people commented that the game might be well a little, 'fetish pronish'. Sort of like Gor but reversed.

Nobody I am aware of (except me) ever mentions that humans are entirely dimorphic. Expecting women to compete with equal success to men in physical combat is like expecting Oprah to beat Montel in a boxing match. I know it is fantasy but don't tell me your game is entirely 'historical' then make even a quarter of your military female. Unless it is modern combat and even then it simply doesn't reflect reality.

Games would simply rather make every ability score available to all genders. Which means that even a male elf is likely to be weaker than a female human. Really weird. I know that we don't want to discourage women from gaming too many of them are already turned off by the game and many of the women who do play really do believe women and men are physically equal or any inequality is entirely cultural. However, if you do have a historical viking game, how many women warriors would you expect to exist? How do ignore the gigantic slave trade endemic to the Norse world and economy?

Northern Europe is not the only racist, sexist, and culture. So how much truth do we include in our games? Do we play in a generic fantasy world that has no differences in sex, race, even species? Do we hide our cultural difference by designating our different fantasy species as the different races? Are halflings your Gypsies (I'd say Roma but I am talking about the stereotype not the reality)? Are your dwarves your drunken rednecks?

So where does that leave us? Sure I want to make my friends and players feel comfortable in my games and in my home. What kind jackass does not? But I also have players that want to play in real historical settings, I have players that want to play in gaming universes that are about seven kinds of unpleasant for some people. Do we just play forever in a 'fuzzy bunny' world or what do we do?

illustration, Frazetta's A Fighting Man of Mars

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