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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 04:49:10 AM

Title: Re: Twisted Sicken: An RPG of mind-bending depravity
Post by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 04:49:10 AM
Quote from: ethan_greer

If someone cries or vomits, the game is over. Jesus Christ, what is the matter with you people?

This is a very boring game.  I doubt that it provides any kind of useful insight into one's inner character flaws.  I think it is a shallow game of emotional provocation.  I think the post defending it deserves refutation in a separate reply.

The easy way to break the attempt at emotional provocation is to rate everything a 1 and demonstrate no facial reaction to any of the torture described.   In this way, you deny anyone the satisfaction of provoking a visible reaction.

The biggest problem with this game is that you will get bad publicity.

Gamers are frequently people who envision violence without getting close to performing it.

The real world, outside of the gaming hobby, is full of people who respond with proactive violence to anyone in the vicinity who mentions violence.

In the original post, the rules only envision two really disruptive contingencies -- someone could cry or someone could kick someone else in the crotch to general approval.

Real life violence is seldom that neat and tidy.  Real life violence could start with four friends and end with a two-against-two brawl with broken teeth, hospitalization, aggravated assault convictions, etc.

There are a *lot* of people in the world who go through life looking for excuses to beat people up and afterwards (if they are caught, which doesn't always happen) claim to be justified.

So suppose you get one non-gaming vigilante type who knows damn well it is a game but pretends he doesn't know.  He doesn't join the game.  He waits for a horror to be described that sounds like a good excuse, and then he beats the stuffing out of the person describing the atrocity.  If the other people fight him, he has an excuse to hit them.  And if he is dragged in front of a court, he can plead ignorance.  "But your honor, they were talking about terrorism!  I can't believe they're innocent gamers!"

Also if the gaming group loses the fight, they can be accused of committing crimes they didn't.  If the gaming group is beaten badly enough in real life, their legal defense might be poorly organized.

I doubt that the publishing company could be held legally liable -- but it's a great way to get bad publicity.

If you have a tightly controlled gaming environment, then this might be safe.  If you game within earshot of outsiders, this game could provoke physical injury.  A gaming convention would be an interesting test case.  Security might not make it in time to prevent some blood on walls.

There is another suboptimal strategy for disrupting this game.  That is to use the trivial break strategy -- rating everything a 1 -- but internalize emotional tension.  At this point, real-life violence is subject to real-life legal reprisals, since the participant cannot claim ignorance.  However, if you maintain any contact with the gaming group outside the game, you can continually talk about their plans for torture to them and hound them with the gory details.  Refuse to forgive them for playing that game.  Revise your estimates of their personal character to match your estimate of their torturer persona.  Refuse to play any other game with them and refuse to drop the subject.

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 05:06:00 AM
Quote from: Doctor Xero

One thing I would like to emphasize : please make it clear in your content warning that this RPG is genuinely emotionally disturbing.

I would also point out that other emotionally disturbing games make a point of constructing a more elaborate and impressive facade of fantasy.  It is hard for disruptive vigilantes to claim ignorance when people are talking about how Silverleaf the Elf Lord tortured an orc.  The parlor-game format of the game, deprived of the rudimentary rules of LARPing, makes this ideal for disruption.

I would add a disclaimer:  the company specifically disclaims liability if your gaming group gets attacked by someone in real life, or charged with civil or criminal offenses.  I am not a lawyer, but I have seen cops beat people down for talking theoretically about violence.  You can beat the charges, but you can't beat the ride.  (I.e., you might defend yourself successfully in court, but the legal system can still compel you to spend your money and time defending yourself.)

Quote from: Doctor Xero

Quote from: John Harper
My torturer-character shows me stripped of my moral center, my compassion.

Actually, I've read studies of professional torturers, made during the overthrow of several police states in South America and Africa, and the studies show that professional torturers are trained through peer pressure and experiencing torture themselves to steadfastly dehumanize and "thingify" their victims.  (The most recent study occurred under Bishop Desmond Tutu, in part out of a desire to understand torturers rather than vilify them as he and his people had been vilified -- the Bishop is an uncommonly noble man.)  When those former professional torturers were confronted with the fact that they had tortured human beings, without the system to distort and dehumanize their victims for them, many of them had nervous breakdowns and such.  Once they lost the capacity for dehumanizing these people, they lost the capacity for torturing these people.

As I understand it, this is not unlike the dehumanization process done in some militaries (or all?) to enable soldiers to commit atrocities again "the enemy", dehumanized and objectified and therefore removed from considerations of compassion and conscience.

Doctor Xero

Doctor Xero, thank you for mentioning Tutu's role in examining this matter.  I will seek Tutu's comments, or the comments of those who worked with him.  

I think that a lot of people in the modern world are dehumanized just by civilian life.  For example, some people really have been physically and sexually abused, resulting in a loss of empathy.  Very often the motivation for performance of anti-social violence is the memory of having suffered anti-social violence.

I personally know many, many people who have gone through various kinds of anti-social violence and who have *not* successfully gotten over their experiences.  I will examine Tutu's example with them in mind.  Perhaps I will learn something that will help my real-life friends.  They have been dehumanized, and they often dehumanize others in their thoughts and actions.

I am somewhat pessimistic about the probability of abuse survivors' full recovery.  I think that a lot of people who have had abusive childhoods will never recover the capacity to trust or to form lasting emotional relationships.  Whether it is theoretically possible for them to find the "courage to heal" is immaterial:  in practice it seems that most of them do not heal.  On a hopeful note, however, perhaps the information associated with Tutu will help some to heal who otherwise would not have healed.

As a rose can sometimes grow from mud, sometimes I can only discover useful information by examining a repulsive topic.  Thank you, Doctor Xero, for providing the seed of a rose.

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 05:40:40 AM
Quote from: John Harper
There is a terrible beauty in all of this that I find very attractive. It goes like this: "Look at what I am capable of imagining. Look at the horrors I can conceive of. Look at all of this inspiration for evil inside of me. Now. Watch as I never, ever actually do any of them." It's a powerful argument for mankind as something more than an animal. Something more than a sum of our desires and urges.

We have such powerful choices in life. The decision to never harm another human being means a lot in the context of such potential for evil. My torturer-character shows me stripped of my moral center, my compassion. The acts he describes highlight just exactly why I need that center, why compassion must be an active choice. In short, the torturer is the signpost, pointing at something greater and good.

Cool game, Ethan.

In my experience, people who have dreams but never do anything about them are not exercising restraint.  They are simply incapable of doing anything to realize their dreams.

I disagree that the capacity to form morbid fantasies and then fail to act on them proves that one has mastered one's urges.  It might only prove that one would act them out if only one had the strength and courage to do so.  (Tavris might argue so -- but I disagree with Tavris on most topics -- see more on Tavris below.)

The capacity to imagine evil is not the same as the potential for evil.  

A weak and deluded person might go around saying that he has "powerful choices in life," when in fact he cannot quit smoking, focus his mind for thirty seconds,etc.  He might be a powerless wretch who is commanded by his daydreams instead of the other way around.  He might distract himself from reminders of his incompetence by flattering himself with his allegedly significant life choices.  He might flatter himself by saying that he has potential for evil when in fact he has no potential for good or evil.

A deluded and weak person might be incapable of torture, simply because he is incapable of any demanding exertion, whether anti-social or not.  But that deluded and weak person might entertain morbid fantasies of torture because he was too weak-willed to control his own morbid imaginings.  Further, his morbid inclination might be deepened because he might be too weak-willed to resist intimidation by others when they polluted his emotions with their morbid images.

This deluded and weak person might be fascinated and delighted by his morbid imaginings.  He might say that the imaginings are proof of an active capacity, and that his abstention from the action was an active choice of compassion.  He would only be deluding himself further if he believed that.  

There are some humans who demonstrate altruistic behavior -- who give up their own comfort to feed the hungry, cure the sick, etc.  If any of them had words of wisdom on the nature of active choices of compassion, I would lend them a degree of credence.

I am not a saint, but I have some small erudition in the science of psychology.  In particular I think the writings of Tavris in her small and over-rated book "Anger" have credence in the psychological community.  

Tavris claims that fantasies of violence do not provide catharsis or provide a safety valve of any kind.  Tavris claims that fantasies of violence, if they have any effect, only promote violent behavior.  

So if we consider Tavris an authority, your claims are pretty much dead in the water.  For the record, I do *not* consider Tavris to be an authority.  Many Ph.D.'s in psychology would disagree with me.  I think the psychological journals are full of trash that doesn't deserve to be called "science."  Many Ph. D.'s would disagree with me on that as well.

But I digress from my theme -- namely your alleged "active choice of compassion."

Unless you can prove that you really go outside your real-life comfort zone to feed the hungry, heal the sick, etc. I am not going to give any credence to your notion that you know about compassion.  

You may well have genuine compassion, whatever that might be.  I will note, however, that many soldiers of totalitarian regimes believed themselves to have compassion.  Belief that compassion is one's moral center is not the same thing as proof of that claim.

Some of the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church, under certain circumstances, sincerely believed that they were being compassionate by executing borderline sinners who would enter Purgatory and eventually enter Heaven.  Of course the Inquisitors acted out their idea of compassion by burning those sinners at the stake.

The Inquisitors of the Catholic Church had  incorrectly formed consciences, and so thought burning certain persons at the stake was cool.

To sum up, in my opinion you have given an argument that I would expect from a weak-willed, deluded person with a poorly formed conscience.  That does not prove that you are such a person.  My judgement might be wrong.  Even if my judgement is right, your argument may be a rare stumbling on your part.  You might turn around and devastate my critique, or unleash a vastly better argument.  I know almost nothing about you.  In fact, I don't even know that I have interpreted your post correctly: perhaps my entire critique might be dismissed as a "straw man fallacy."

If you want to pay $0.75 plus shipping for Tavris' book, it is at:

But in my opinion, it worth less than nothing.  I think I should have been paid to read the book and then send it back to her with a lot of red ink on the manuscript.  It baffles me that the psychology profession can celebrate writers like Tavris and yet retain their credibility.

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 05:56:12 AM
Quote from: JamesSterrett
I'd suggest dropping the story rule; any tortures that are wimpy are going to get low scores anyway, and it seems to me that in the quest to gross/chill/disgust/squeam the other players, we may as well plumb the depths of human ingenuity already well demonstrated throughout history.  The probability that players will be able to come up with something that hasn't already been done is infinitesimal until you hit the realms of fantasy/SF and thus acts that are physically impossible given current tech limitations and the non-functionality of magic.

The game is particularly boring if one is both emotionally distant from all humans, including one's gaming circle, and academically versed in the history of torture.  In that event, one would give all torture stories a 1 or 0, because they are of no emotional interest:  one's capacity to react emotionally to such narratives has been conditioned down to nothing.

I personally have taken a small interest in torture throughout history because I have little emotional or practical connection to most historical narratives.

I have taken a great interest in torture as practiced in the United States of America (and by its citizens) because I am personally acquainted with a number of gross abuses of government authority.  For example, in one small city, the police routinely raped women in the back seats of their squad cars.  American torture is of interest to me because I am American, and the prevalence of torture in American society motivates me to ameliorate American society.  

In its current state, American society has almost no sense of community and connectedness.  That is why proposals like this game can arise.

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 11, 2004, 06:14:42 AM
Quote from: ethan_greer
Admittedly the game is not for everyone. Knowing that it exists isn't for everyone. Hence the content warning. Like I said, sometimes I alarm people.

...Basically, I have an internal reservoir of darkness that was pretty much untapped before I wrote this. So I figured, why not go "all the way" and let the darkness out a little? That, and I spend a lot of time in howling crippling agony for no reason. I am one of the victims in this game.

If you are saying that you have undergone physical abuse, then you are a textbook example of how an already dehumanized culture tends to amplify its own dehumanization.  If you deal with your experience of having been physically abused by provoking others, then you might be dealing with your abuse and you might be perpetuating it.  I would advise you to consult someone who can help, but I suspect that no one can help.

America started off with the tradition of confrontation, especially verbal confrontation.  Various historical factors weakened the social safety net that prevented confrontation from spiralling out of control.  Currently America is fragmented into mutually incompatible subcultures.  And now the gaming subculture has spawned a game of emotional confrontation and provocation.

America is not a tolerant, cosmopolitan culture that can tolerate shocking ideas.  America is a big hole where the culture used to be, with a few narrow-minded little subcultures crawling around in the space and biting each other when they bump into each other.  

In this cultural power vacuum, psychologically crippling abuse continues to reduce potentially functional members of society into relatively anti-social misfits with no realistic chance of functioning in any society.

I have no idea whether the proposed game is part of the solution.  Apparently it is a reaction to the problem.

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 11, 2004, 08:48:35 PM
The above posts were all split from the older thread Twisted Sicken: a game of mind-bending depravity (

Discussion can continue here if anyone sees fit.


Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 19, 2004, 04:39:21 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The above posts were all split from the older thread Twisted Sicken: a game of mind-bending depravity (

Discussion can continue here if anyone sees fit.


I'm digesting some of the information from Tutu's life, the anti-psychiatry movement, and the Infamous Five.  It will take some time, but I will post the results.

I really liked one list I ran across:



a) paraphasing others' points without confirmation that your paraphrase accurately reflects them

b) citing one's expertise in other fields as a validator of a point in a current debate

c) shifting ground, which is to say, changing one's position in the middle of an intellectual exchange without acknowledging it, thus forcing the other person to guess what they're arguing against

d) (related to c) adopting the position that the other person is taking, thus forcing them to argue against themselves

e) inventing novel terms in the midst of a discussion about something else

The issue of catharsis and the anti-psychiatry movement is IMHO important for gamers, but the Forge is not necessarily the right place to talk about it.  

I know this thread has a lot of stuff worth spilling ink over, but in fact I'm not sure if the Forge is the right place for any of that ink-spilling...

Title: Twisted Sicken II (split)
Post by: redwalker on September 25, 2004, 08:09:36 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Discussion can continue here if anyone sees fit.

I think I could discuss a lot of disorders, particularly PTSD, but it would be most useful to discuss RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, which often has consequences in later life.

I think that the survivors of abusive childhoods are being noticed as having an effect on society, at least by the psychiatric profession:

I think the consequences of Reactive Attachment Disorder are going to keep cropping up everywhere in society.

I think the current consumers of games are already motivated by relevant considerations and that such motivation will only increase as time goes on.