Historical context and cultural sensitivity in my game

Zeea

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#23
I'm not an expert on the subject, but I can't really think of any likely situation where you'd need to worry about causing real harm with depictions of early 1900s Spiritualists. I mean, you'd really have to go out of your way to cause problems there.

Sensitivity is great, but you should focus your efforts on situations that could cause real harm or reasonable discomfort. Avoid racism, anti-semitism, and things like that. But don't feel obliged to worry about whether you're being too mean or not mean enough when describing mystics and hucksters from over a century ago.
 

estrogenesys

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#24
Then don't put a warning on it at all. Kind of a "buyer beware" situation. If they get offended, they can put the book down.
No matter what you do someone will be offended.
I know I can't "please all of the people all of the time" and that's not what I'm trying to do. I am trying to find a balance that portrays these groups and people in the most fair and most respectable ways while not exploiting them. If someone is "offended" and "puts down" the book because I acknowledge the existence of marginalized groups and they have representation, well, I'm less concerned with offending that sensibility.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but I can't really think of any likely situation where you'd need to worry about causing real harm with depictions of early 1900s Spiritualists. I mean, you'd really have to go out of your way to cause problems there.

Sensitivity is great, but you should focus your efforts on situations that could cause real harm or reasonable discomfort. Avoid racism, anti-semitism, and things like that. But don't feel obliged to worry about whether you're being too mean or not mean enough when describing mystics and hucksters from over a century ago.
Thank you. I think that's where I'm at with this. I need to do more research and talk to people who belong to the groups in question.

A more specific example I feel comfortable about:

In 1901 England "male homosexual acts" were punishable by 10 years in prison. Just a few years prior, in 1895, Oscar Wilde was defending himself in court against these charges. The charges were reduced to "gross indecency" and Wilde and one of his partner were sentenced to 2 years of hard labor.

Is it homophobic to include that as part of the setting and suggest that player's encounter it (at the very least in the text), or is it homophobic to ignore this detail of LGBTQIA history to make my game more "fun"? My decision will have a very real impact on LGBTQIA people who decide to pick up the book. As a member of that community, I would not be offended if it were left out and I were free to have an openly gay character. If it were left in, I would still play a gay character. I may be in the minority, however, and it can definitely be problematic to suggest that playing a gay character is dangerous or a disadvantage in a game. Many people play games to escape real life, and as a queer person games have been invaluable to me and my friends. I want people to feel safe being themselves, which has me leaning towards a "revisionist history" setting, but I also know that presenting a sanitized, family friendly version of a culture that is responsible for a lot of oppression is potentially problematic.

I know I can put "disclaimers" in the text and tell people "Rule 0" and whatnot, but players will still encounter it in the text, and it seems like lazy writing/game design.

Like I said, I need to do more research and talk to people who belong to the groups in question. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread.
 

Greg 1

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#25
In 1901 England "male homosexual acts" were punishable by 10 years in prison. Just a few years prior, in 1895, Oscar Wilde was defending himself in court against these charges. The charges were reduced to "gross indecency" and Wilde and one of his partner were sentenced to 2 years of hard labor.

Is it homophobic to include that as part of the setting and suggest that player's encounter it (at the very least in the text),
What do you mean by "include that as part of the setting"? Do you mean commenting on it when describing the setting. You could do that in passing, I guess, to paint the setting, but most likely it doesn't need to be pointed out, any more than any other point of 19th century law.

Is there any particular reason that laws on homosexuality are liable to come up in adventures in your setting?

or is it homophobic to ignore this detail of LGBTQIA history to make my game more "fun"?
There are lots of wrongs committed in the 19th century. There is no requirement that every document mentions all of them.

My decision will have a very real impact on LGBTQIA people who decide to pick up the book.
I think that is very unlikely. Just for starters, to be perfectly frank, the chances that the book will be read by many folks is tiny. I really would worry about developing the setting you want before I'd worry about how folk might take it.

I may be in the minority, however, and it can definitely be problematic to suggest that playing a gay character is dangerous or a disadvantage in a game.
Historical accuracy can be unpleasant. But first decide how historically accurate you want your setting to be. If someone's offended because the setting is realistic and they can't be openly gay without repurcussions, it means the setting is not for them, not that there's anything wrong with the setting.

Many people play games to escape real life, and as a queer person games have been invaluable to me and my friends. I want people to feel safe being themselves, which has me leaning towards a "revisionist history" setting, but I also know that presenting a sanitized, family friendly version of a culture that is responsible for a lot of oppression is potentially problematic.
If you are that worried, just use the disclaimer as suggested above, stating what the setting is like. I know you don't ideally want to use a disclaimer. If your desire not to use a disclaimer is greater than your concern here, leave out the disclaimer and let people decide for themselves if they like the setting.

I know I can put "disclaimers" in the text and tell people "Rule 0" and whatnot, but players will still encounter it in the text, and it seems like lazy writing/game design.
How so? The setting belongs to the people running it.

Like I said, I need to do more research and talk to people who belong to the groups in question. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread.
Can you think of cases where people have been offended by the inclusion of historica attitudes in historical games, or with the idealization of history in such a game?
 

estrogenesys

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#26
What do you mean by "include that as part of the setting"? Do you mean commenting on it when describing the setting. You could do that in passing, I guess, to paint the setting, but most likely it doesn't need to be pointed out, any more than any other point of 19th century law.

Is there any particular reason that laws on homosexuality are liable to come up in adventures in your setting?

There are lots of wrongs committed in the 19th century. There is no requirement that every document mentions all of them.

I think that is very unlikely. Just for starters, to be perfectly frank, the chances that the book will be read by many folks is tiny. I really would worry about developing the setting you want before I'd worry about how folk might take it.

Historical accuracy can be unpleasant. But first decide how historically accurate you want your setting to be. If someone's offended because the setting is realistic and they can't be openly gay without repurcussions, it means the setting is not for them, not that there's anything wrong with the setting.

If you are that worried, just use the disclaimer as suggested above, stating what the setting is like. I know you don't ideally want to use a disclaimer. If your desire not to use a disclaimer is greater than your concern here, leave out the disclaimer and let people decide for themselves if they like the setting.

How so? The setting belongs to the people running it.

Can you think of cases where people have been offended by the inclusion of historica attitudes in historical games, or with the idealization of history in such a game?
I'm not interested in engaging with these points and questions because they don't honor the view of cultural sensitivity I am looking to explore and present. I'm not looking for a loophole or a justification, I am looking for the best way to present my setting in such a way that respects victims of exploitation, marginalization, and oppression. Maybe it's my fault for being for being too nebulous with my criteria. In any case, I think the most insight I am looking for would come from those groups who would actually be affected by inclusion/exclusion from the work.
 
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Zeea

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#27
I'd point out to the million bazillion people who keep using the term "offended" that the original post never used that term. It doesn't really seem to describe what she's talking about trying to avoid. And it rather sucks to discover that a game is a miserable pile of shit after you've paid money and started reading it.

Anyway, as a fellow LGBTQ person, I'd say that sometimes I like to engage with my real-life difficulties through role-playing games, but usually I'm not in a mood for that and would avoid a game with that as the default assumption. Same goes for sexism. And I've seen a lot of other people in my position with the same opinion.

My recommendation would be to assume an alternate reality where the shitty oppression isn't really a thing, with sidebars mentioning that approach and allowing groups to include it if they feel comfortable. Because the last thing you want to do is drive away your target demographic, and there's a lot of LGBTQ folks in this hobby who don't want to have transphobia or homophobia or biphobia thrown in their face while they're trying to enjoy some escapist role-playing.
 

Greg 1

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#28
I'd point out to the million bazillion people who keep using the term "offended" that the original post never used that term.
Fair enough. If no issue of offense is involved, the issue gets morally simpler.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that includes historically accurate wrongs. Some of our greatest art has this form, including great political art that criticizes those wrongs.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that doesn't deny these wrongs exist, but doesn't mention them either. Again, some of our greatest art does this, including great political art. Orwell was good on class oppression but he never covered every social il of his day. Indeed, it would be impossible to mention every wrong.

There's nothing, immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that presents an alternate history that's better than this one. Again, a lof of our best art misrepresents reality for the better. Consider the Arthurian stories and the RPG Pendragon.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game settiing (or work of art) that doesn't appeal to everyone. Our best bet for appealing to everyone is to produce a variety of different types of art, for a variety of tastes. It's a good thing to try to make sure that eveyone gets appealing games to play, but each game need not appeal to eveyone. If someone doesn't want to play 1920's Call of Cthulhu because the racism is too awful, that makes perfect sense, and only a fool would give them grief for not waning to play, but 1920's Call of Cthulhu is still a great setting.

Without a moral duty, it comes down to whatever the author wants to do.
 
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estrogenesys

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#29
Fair enough. If no issue of offense is involved, the issue gets morally simpler.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that includes historically accurate wrongs. Some of our greatest art has this form, including great political art that criticizes those wrongs.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that doesn't deny these wrongs exist, but doesn't mention them either. Again, some of our greatest art does this, including great political art. Orwell was good on class oppression but he never covered every social il of his day. Indeed, it would be impossible to mention every wrong.

There's nothing, immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that presents an alternate history that's better than this one. Again, a lof of our best art misrepresents reality for the better. Consider the Arthurian stories and the RPG Pendragon.

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game settiing (or work of art) that doesn't appeal to everyone. Our best bet for appealing to everyone is to produce a variety of different types of art, for a variety of tastes. It's a good thing to try to make sure that eveyone gets appealing games to play, but each game need not appeal to eveyone. If someone doesn't want to play 1920's Call of Cthulhu because the racism is too awful, that makes perfect sense, and only a fool would give them grief for not waning to play, but 1920's Call of Cthulhu is still a great setting.

Without a moral duty, it comes down to whatever the author wants to do.
I fully disagree and feel a moral imperative to accurately portray and represent marginalized groups and their history in whichever way does them the least harm. Silence is erasure, and I'm not here for that.

Sometimes representing that history includes not letting oppressors off the hook for things they did like segregation, criminalizing homosexuality, making women second-class citizens, colonizing indigenous lands, etc. But taking it out might be safer for marginalized people who want an escape when they play the game in 2019- at which point 1901 London gets to be presented as far more progressive, tolerant, and egalitarian than it actually was.

And that's what I'm trying to navigate.

Maybe I should leave 1901 London in 1901 and create a new setting, just as long as that isn't me avoiding accountability.
 

estrogenesys

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#30
I'd point out to the million bazillion people who keep using the term "offended" that the original post never used that term. It doesn't really seem to describe what she's talking about trying to avoid. And it rather sucks to discover that a game is a miserable pile of shit after you've paid money and started reading it.

Anyway, as a fellow LGBTQ person, I'd say that sometimes I like to engage with my real-life difficulties through role-playing games, but usually I'm not in a mood for that and would avoid a game with that as the default assumption. Same goes for sexism. And I've seen a lot of other people in my position with the same opinion.

My recommendation would be to assume an alternate reality where the shitty oppression isn't really a thing, with sidebars mentioning that approach and allowing groups to include it if they feel comfortable. Because the last thing you want to do is drive away your target demographic, and there's a lot of LGBTQ folks in this hobby who don't want to have transphobia or homophobia or biphobia thrown in their face while they're trying to enjoy some escapist role-playing.
This is the direction I'm leaning, as well. I don't necessarily have a "target demographic" that I want to pander to, but I don't want to drive away any marginalized folks who play rpg's to escape. I'm gay gay gay so my game will be gay gay gay, but I don't see why I should stop there.
 
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