Historical context and cultural sensitivity in my game

Stattick

Electronic Thing
Validated User
#31
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.



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.
In your place, this is what I'd do. However, that doesn't meant that it's the right answer for you, or even at all.

I'd hue as close to the historical reality as possible. You're looking to write a game of historical fiction. The fiction part is the one big thing that you've changed about the setting. With everything else, I'd try to historically accurate.

However... that doesn't mean that everyone in your audience is going to want to engage with some of those historical accuracies.

A sidebar addressing that is fine, saying that there's nothing wrong with playing the setting while also removing some or all of the prejudice/xenophobia inherent in the setting. Maybe include a simple tracking system that GMs can use to show how accurately they intend to portray the prejudice.

It would also be appropriate to include passages that make it clear that just because there is a lot of prejudice in the setting, and reflected in the laws of the day, that there are a lot of people that turn a blind eye to it, especially when dealing with people that are of a higher social caste then they are. So the norm might be that ladies don't go anywhere unescorted, but that some women do it anyway, to hell with the rules. The rules and law say that gay clubs should be shut down, but as soon as one is shut down, another opens up, and when the police go in to bust heads and arrest people, some people invariably escape, and many police aren't above turning a blind eye to celebrities or people of the upper class that happen to get rounded up. And many coppers aren't above bribes either. You want to make sure that the GM understands that the setting shouldn't be played in a way to where it's all fucked up, all the time, if you're playing the wrong kind of person.

Last thing I'd do, is that for anyone that wants to play anyone that isn't a white Christian cishet male, there's a place on the character sheet for them to opt in or opt out of the prejudice inherent in the game setting. Why? Because despite the fact that prejudice against people that aren't white Christian cishet males in English society has been around for centuries, there have always been a number of people that ALWAYS got away with flagrantly breaking the rules without consequence. And there have always been a much greater number of people that got away with breaking the rules with very few consequences. These are the exceptions. These are the women that served in the military openly, the lesbians that lived as men and no one cared, the Muslims or Jews that everyone liked and were never bothered by the bigots, the people of color that weren't harassed or limited because they looked different. There have ALWAYS been exceptions. And what are PCs? They are the ones that are exceptional. So if you have a player that wants to play a gay man and face all the problems and consequences typical of the day for it, he can. But if you want to play a gay man (or a black woman, or a Muslim, or whatever) and face only a little bit of that, or none at all, LET THEM. And hard code it in the game. And don't charge them any character creation points or whatever. It isn't a freebie. It's the player deciding to play a character that isn't a white Christian cishet male, and being allowed to decide how much bullshit to take because of it.
 

Greg 1

Some Guy
Validated User
#32
With what that I said?

That there's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game setting (or work of art) that includes historically accurate wrongs?

That 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?

That 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?

There's nothing immoral, per se, about producing a game settiing (or work of art) that doesn't appeal to everyone?

Or the conclusion from these that there's no relevant moral duty contraining an author here?
 

estrogenesys

socially engineered
Validated User
#33
It would also be appropriate to include passages that make it clear that just because there is a lot of prejudice in the setting, and reflected in the laws of the day, that there are a lot of people that turn a blind eye to it, especially when dealing with people that are of a higher social caste then they are. So the norm might be that ladies don't go anywhere unescorted, but that some women do it anyway, to hell with the rules. The rules and law say that gay clubs should be shut down, but as soon as one is shut down, another opens up, and when the police go in to bust heads and arrest people, some people invariably escape, and many police aren't above turning a blind eye to celebrities or people of the upper class that happen to get rounded up. And many coppers aren't above bribes either. You want to make sure that the GM understands that the setting shouldn't be played in a way to where it's all fucked up, all the time, if you're playing the wrong kind of person.
I would need to research the actual historical validity of this. As soon as Oscar Wilde took Queensbury to court for slander, Queensbury was able to get Private Investigators to to find the homosexual social clubs and blackmail the men into testifying against Wilde, esp since they were on the hook for the crime of "male homosexual acts".

Last thing I'd do, is that for anyone that wants to play anyone that isn't a white Christian cishet male, there's a place on the character sheet for them to opt in or opt out of the prejudice inherent in the game setting. Why? Because despite the fact that prejudice against people that aren't white Christian cishet males in English society has been around for centuries, there have always been a number of people that ALWAYS got away with flagrantly breaking the rules without consequence. And there have always been a much greater number of people that got away with breaking the rules with very few consequences. These are the exceptions. These are the women that served in the military openly, the lesbians that lived as men and no one cared, the Muslims or Jews that everyone liked and were never bothered by the bigots, the people of color that weren't harassed or limited because they looked different. There have ALWAYS been exceptions. And what are PCs? They are the ones that are exceptional. So if you have a player that wants to play a gay man and face all the problems and consequences typical of the day for it, he can. But if you want to play a gay man (or a black woman, or a Muslim, or whatever) and face only a little bit of that, or none at all, LET THEM. And hard code it in the game. And don't charge them any character creation points or whatever. It isn't a freebie. It's the player deciding to play a character that isn't a white Christian cishet male, and being allowed to decide how much bullshit to take because of it.
I had been toying with this idea, but the PC's belong to social clubs that are secret from the "muggle" world, and keeping a low profile is desired. But of course I could always subvert that.

The (fictional) social clubs could be more egalitarian than the "muggle" world. However, balancing muggle life with the secret life is a theme I am interested in exploring.
 
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