Historical context and cultural sensitivity in my game

estrogenesys

socially engineered
Validated User
#11
That sounds like it'd be great advice for individual gaming groups when it comes to the question of what they want to do with an established system and the freedom to customize the setting to their enjoyment. When the game designer is asking about portraying historical figures respectfully (a word with very different meaning than "accurately"), there certainly are wrong answers.

One wrong answer is to claim that any resemblance between a character based on a real-world figure and that real world figure themselves is "purely coincidental". That's a lie, because the resemblance between the two is entirely deliberate. It's being done by design, and with purpose. Lying to your audience just to dodge the potential criticism that they don't match up doesn't equate to being respectful, nor does a boilerplate disclaimer automatically negate that criticism.

If you have changed the characters to the point where they no longer resemble their inspiration except in entirely coincidental ways, then you have for all intents and purposes removed those people from the game.
Agreed, plus I want to make sure I pay as much respect as possible to those who deserve it. There were people in that time period who were taken advantage of (and that continues today in the same traditions). I do not want to trivialize the victimization of people who were given false hope and lies.

And there are people from the time (and today) who have authentic religious beliefs surrounding Spiritualism. I want to be as respectful as possible to those who are able to practice Spiritualism without harming others.
 

Stattick

Electronic Thing
Validated User
#12
I think it's acceptable to get things wrong or offend people, so long as you've done your due diligence of research. List what you read, your sources, keep your research notes, and be willing to defend your choices, while also being willing to accept that you might make some mistakes. That's really all you can do. You're a writer/game designer, not a historian, hence not an expert.
 

g33k

Registered User
Validated User
#13
Hmmm.

A question: have you reached out to any wiccan / neopagan / etc groups? Those are AFAIK the ones most likely to hold firm opinions on how to treat occultists of the era, some of whom may have been pivotal within their own faith tradition.

Plus, descendants I guess. Folks who hold their famous ancestor's memory dear...
 

PaladinAuPoivre

I'm totally keeping this pink 'P' avatar.
Validated User
#14
Hey. New guy here (lurked for a while, though). As to your original question, why not incorporate BOTH frauds and real mystics into your setting? Perhaps one in a million people are born with actual psychic powers, but that doesn't stop people from trying to fake it, too. One truly real mystic comes to the public's attention, and suddenly half of England is claiming to be a mentalist.

Even if you're going for realism or near-realism, adding a small element of mystery and the supernatural to a realistic game is an elegant story telling choice.

It all depends on the theme you are trying to build in your game, as well. If the theme is "the world is dark and mysterious", yeah, keep a little subtle supernatural horror around. But if the purpose is the triumph of advancement over superstition, then you'll want to pull those elements back.

If I were at a store reading the back of this game, however, the setting would be enough for me to get me to open it. Very intriguing.
 

estrogenesys

socially engineered
Validated User
#15
As to your original question, why not incorporate BOTH frauds and real mystics into your setting?
O that's def an idea in my design doc I'm kicking around.

If I were at a store reading the back of this game, however, the setting would be enough for me to get me to open it. Very intriguing.
Wow, thank you. That's not even the most interesting part of the game, so this means a lot!
 

Greg 1

Some Guy
Validated User
#16
I also chose 1901 because the Spiritualism movement is on the rise, providing a good historical and cultural context for my setting. Without getting into too much purple prose, my game is about magical warfare happening in the shadows, unbeknownst to most everyday people in the "real" world. Original, I know.
Sounds like fun! :)

I was looking at historical figures in the Spiritualism and Occult movements of the time and wondering what the ethics would be of including them in my game and presenting them as NPC practitioners and leaders of real, provable, magic and spiritualism. Or should I leave them be as "frauds" that provide a natural layer of diversion? I know that historical figures have been presented in media as more or less than what they actually were for the purposes of dramatization and entertainment, but as a creator I want to make sure I am on the proper and respectful side of this.
In my homebrew setting, The World of Kung Fu, https://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/The_World_of_Kung_Fu:Main_Page, I went ahead and turned real martial artists like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris into fantasy versions of themselves. I also misrepresent groups like the monks of Shaolin, the American Tae Kwon Do Association., and McDonald's restaurants. I even presented practioners of Wushu as being servants of evil. It seemed more fun that way, and I don't see disrespect, since nobody is going to take it seriously, and it's unlikely I'll actually offend anyone.

Using real people in your setting has the advantage of reinforcing the setting, by anchoring the game on familiar things. The downside is that real spiritualists can come accross as too mundane, being too rooted in ordinary silliness and failure.

I'll note that Call of Cthulhu's Golden Dawn supplement turns real occult figures into wizards, to good effect.
 
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estrogenesys

socially engineered
Validated User
#17
Sounds like fun! :)
Thanks! That's only the setting before I inject the plot and themes, so I'm glad at least the setting sounds interesting and fun.

In my homebrew setting, The World of Kung Fu, https://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/The_World_of_Kung_Fu:Main_Page, I went ahead and turned real martial artists like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris into fantasy versions of themselves. I also misrepresent groups like the monks of Shaolin, the American Tae Kwon Do Association., and McDonald's restaurants. I even presented practioners of Wushu as being servants of evil. It seemed more fun that way, and I don't see disrespect, since nobody is going to take it seriously, and it's unlikely I'll actually offend anyone.
And this is where I want to be careful, especially in my representation of marginalized groups. Women's Suffrage was still underway in England, immigrants and POC still don't have full civil rights, The Second Boer War is underway to see which colonizers would be in control of the gold in South Africa, any "male homosexual act" is illegal and punishable by 10 years in prison, etc.

Some of those things fit the theme of the game. Some of those things might be personally upsetting for people to engage with in their game because it is too close a reflection of a marginalization they experience daily. But I feel that leaving certain things out may be seen as whitewashing and attempting to portray an idealized version of 1901 London, which deserves criticism. If I don't belong to a particular group, it is not for me to say if the representation I give of it is or isn't respectful.
 

Greg 1

Some Guy
Validated User
#18
Why not write the game world that you think would best support your game, and then stick a warning label on it if you think it might disturb some folks?
 

PaladinAuPoivre

I'm totally keeping this pink 'P' avatar.
Validated User
#19
Why not write the game world that you think would best support your game, and then stick a warning label on it if you think it might disturb some folks?
Putting a warning may cause people to turn away. It also may cause people to become instantly offended. I remember being a teenager buying CDs with parental advisory labels and having to hide them from my parents. Warnings tend to instantly incense people, and could greatly decrease the marketability of the game.

I'd go the route of mentioning that the game is "dark, gritty, and realistic", thus communicating to potential buyers the potential for them to be offended or "triggered" while at the same time drawing in a specific crowd.
 

estrogenesys

socially engineered
Validated User
#20
I'd go the route of mentioning that the game is "dark, gritty, and realistic", thus communicating to potential buyers the potential for them to be offended or "triggered" while at the same time drawing in a specific crowd.
Hm, that's not the story I'm trying to tell or experience I'm trying to emulate. I def don't want that to be anyone's first contact with it.
 
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