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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 84 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Ideology and Games  (Read 5865 times)
Jasper
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Posts: 466


WWW
« Reply #30 on: September 24, 2005, 06:06:47 AM »

I'm coming in a little late here, but Eric, I understand exactly what you're talking about, and it's ben on my mind a lot with my more recent design projects. For me, it mostly comes from an interest in anthropology (specifically ethnography I suppose) which can demonstrate so clearly why our (western) way is not the only one. The individual/society dichotomy is a good one. Others that I've spent more time thinking about are:

- Selection of character stats. Frex, you might look to "big 5" personality tests, or Freudian psychology, or more recent evolutionayr psychology as a basis for your stats, but each choice requires trust a particular theory of mind and probably science in general. (Of course, you could have a game about Freud and thereby justify "id" and "superego" stats, but that's not what I'm talking about.)

- More generally, the urge to quantify characters at all. We have a collective kind of obsession with finding the "best," most descriptive stats stats, or at least the most useful ones for our particular game. But no matter what system we use, we're presupposing the utility of stats, specifically numerical stats, above some of method. To non-western people, using numbers to represent discreet human traits, and having discreet human traits at all, might seem very strange.


Other underlying "ideologies" might be

- Self-determination
- Linearity of time
- What kinds of story "arcs" are desirable or even possible, I guess including character growth, but more broadly as well


Good topic.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Joshua A.C. Newman
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Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


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« Reply #31 on: September 24, 2005, 07:05:31 AM »

I can't tell you how pleased it is that people are asking these questions as Shock: is taking form.

Where the first thing you do is define the society in which the story takes place.
Where the defining features of the society are the impact of radical change on the players' social issues.
Where stats have to do with the ways the society feels are appropriate to deal with problems.
Where the characters are there to show things about the society, not vice-versa.
Where, when a character dies, the issues of the society are still open for exploration by a new character.

I'll post back in this thread when there's an alpha for public consumption.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
tygertyger
Member

Posts: 45

Ever unscrewing the inscrutible


« Reply #32 on: September 28, 2005, 12:19:03 PM »

it seems to me that the vast majority of RPGs--and I would really like to hear about the exceptions to this--tend to reinforce a fairly classically bourgeois-liberal ideology, one that emphasizes the primacy of the individual and his or her personal improvement.

I concur.  I would add that most rpgs take a eurocentric approach to that bourgeois-liberal ideology (not surprising in light of the fact that the overwhelming majority of game writers and publishers are White).  As an African-American I am often offended by the basic assumptions that I see in many games -- it's clear that the authors had no input from people of color when they wrote some of that stuff.  White Wolf in particular gets on my nerves, though the new WoD is noticeably better than the old in that regard.

In defense of the individualist leanings in rpgs, I must point out that all individuals have a desire to feel important -- and that many if not most players get some of that need met through their characters.  It is therefore useful for rpgs to encourage a certain amount of PC aggrandizement.
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Currently working on: Alien Angels, Dreamguards, Immaculate
Joshua A.C. Newman
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the glyphpress


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« Reply #33 on: September 28, 2005, 01:39:34 PM »

Oh, man, Tyger^2, do I want to get in a game with you. Preferably a game of PTA (which, while totally, totally character-centric, is all about confronting issues).

Race issues are the kind of thing that RPG designers have been consistently cowardly about.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
tygertyger
Member

Posts: 45

Ever unscrewing the inscrutible


« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2005, 10:35:33 AM »

Other underlying "ideologies" might be

- Self-determination
- Linearity of time

Most games do indeed fail to explore variant perspectives on these issues, but there are exceptions.

In Nomine actually does a good job on the self-determination front; one of the basic in-character questions concerns the existence and nature of free will.  It's actually possible to play an angel who believes that angels don't have free will -- that they are in fact mere extensions of the divine will.  The contrast to this is the basic demonic assumption that all demons have free will to the extent that they can force their wills on their surroundings (the "personal Symphony" concept).  Canon IN also includes reincarnation as one of the options for what happens to a soul after death, and thus gives a nod to the non-Western idea of the cyclical nature of time.

The World of Darkness also did some interesting things with these issues.  In the WoD true self-determination is a quality possessed only by the Awakened; normal humans (often referred to by slurs such as "Sleepers" and "Kine") are at the mercy of beings whose powers exceed those of mere mortals and whose very existence is secret.  But the Awakened pay a terrible price for their enlightenment; vampires are damned, werewolves are subject to Rage, mages fall prey to Paradox and changelings eventually succumb to Banality.  To have self-determination in the WoD costs one's soul, either all at once or in installments.

Quote from: glyphmonkey
Race issues are the kind of thing that RPG designers have been consistently cowardly about.

Tell me about it!  I once started a huge argument on the IN mailing list by bringing up this kind of thing.  I said something to the effect of, "Give a celestial whose recently killed vessel was White a Black vessel, and give the player a taste of discrimination."  IN lends itself to that very thing (unintentionally, according to the line editor), but most GMs won't touch it and most players never think of it.  There's nothing about that sort of thing in any of the published IN books.

I've also brought a vampire larp to a complete standstill by bringing up this kind of issue.  While attending a Camarilla event my Gangrel character was at the Clan meeting.  One of the other characters there was a Ghoul who was blood-bound to his Gangrel mistress.  The player did an excellent job of role-playing the blood bond, and an Elder who was there praised him to the skies for his devotion.  My character stood nearby scowling.  When asked what he was upset about, the reply was, "I think you can see why I wouldn't like anything that looked like slavery."  Jaws dropped all over the room -- out of character.  None of the other players present -- and there were more than 30 -- had ever thought of the blood bond in those terms before -- and no published WW material, before or since, has ever talked about it in those terms, at least not with an eye toward race politics.

But I don't blame this omission on racism.  It's just that the policy makers in rpg companies are all White.  They don't live with the day-to-day consequences of racism like I do, and so they never really think about this stuff.  The fact that there are so few gamers of color also gives them little incentive to seek input from people of color.  It is one of my goals as a game publisher to increase awareness of these issues in the industry.
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Currently working on: Alien Angels, Dreamguards, Immaculate
Josh Roby
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Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #35 on: September 29, 2005, 11:12:44 AM »

What are you working on right now, tygertyger?  Anything we can glean from your design choices about how ideology might intentionally be embedded in game design?
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tygertyger
Member

Posts: 45

Ever unscrewing the inscrutible


« Reply #36 on: September 29, 2005, 12:13:37 PM »

Anything we can glean from your design choices about how ideology might intentionally be embedded in game design?

Glyphmonkey and I were continuing this in PM, but if the group wants to share, I'm all for it.

One of the things that I did in Alien Angels was to present a variety in how the aliens looked both in their natural forms and in Terran disguise.  I did this intentionally to avoid the stereotype that, "super-advanced = White."  In fact, the most technologically advanced race in the game looks like Terran Blacks in their natural form.  I also avoided making the races that resemble Caucasians out to be imperialists.  This sort of thing merely requires an awareness of stereotypes and conscious effort to avoid perpetuating them.  In this case the stereotypes were "the Black man as primitive savage" and "the White man as oppressor."  The ideology in this case is imbedded in the setting.

Immaculate, my first 24-hour rpg, has inherent ideology regarding religious issues.  The central point is that damnation and salvation aren't a matter of following rules but of making choices.  The game assumes (and I believe in rl) that God isn't a mean old man who sits up in Heaven waiting for chances to ruin people's fun.  Nor does the Devil waste his time on individuals.  One gets to Heaven or Hell by making good or bad choices, respectively, and one's ultimate fate is entirely one's own responsibility.  The game mechanics governing Corruption reinforce this; gaining Corruption is never the result of a bad die roll but a consequence of a character's choices.  The ideology here appears in the setting, but the rules reinforce it.
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Currently working on: Alien Angels, Dreamguards, Immaculate
Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #37 on: September 29, 2005, 12:28:40 PM »

I've also brought a vampire larp to a complete standstill by bringing up this kind of issue.  <snip>"I think you can see why I wouldn't like anything that looked like slavery."  Jaws dropped all over the room -- out of character.  None of the other players present -- and there were more than 30 -- had ever thought of the blood bond in those terms before -- and no published WW material, before or since, has ever talked about it in those terms, at least not with an eye toward race politics.

That's pretty startling. I can't imagine how anyone would approach the concept of bloodbond without thinking about slavery. My entirely white gaming group had lots of fun wrestling with the emotional and ethical issues caused by that in play.
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tygertyger
Member

Posts: 45

Ever unscrewing the inscrutible


« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2005, 12:08:38 PM »

That's pretty startling. I can't imagine how anyone would approach the concept of bloodbond without thinking about slavery.

It's seems pretty natural to me, too (for reasons which should now be obvious), but it had never occured most of the players present on that particular night.  I suspect that the principle got lost in a) players' romantic notions about the vampire, and b) the fact that there are so few people of color in the Camarilla.  I was the only African-American in attendance in that part of the game (Gangrel Clan meeting), and there were only about six others at the entire event.  Mind you, this was the annual regional game.  Of the Blacks present only two were women, and one of those was my wife.  So to say that interacting with Black players is something that Camarilla members in Texas are unaccustomed to is a massive understatement.

Swerving back to the original subject, this is why racial issues are so little addressed in rpgs.  Most game writers have no more experience with people of color than does the average Texas cammie.  Even fewer of them are]/i] people of color.  This leads directly to games being written by people whose perspective on racial issues is that of the majority.  It would be hopelessly naive to think that this has no effect on the ideology that finds its way into games.
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