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Do orcs in gaming display parallels to colonialist propaganda?

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Bedrockgames

Villager
I'm not questioning your character or your good faith. I do think that there is a lot of value into looking inward and asking why we question things.
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Can you understand why it appears that way to me? A lot of the questions and responses I am getting (including your's) are an awful lot like "Maybe you should ask yourself why you don't care as much about babies dying as having evil orcs in your game."
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
So, the argument is that it was cool language, so we should forgive the fact that it would add to the unfortunate sexual objectifying of women that thousands of 12 years olds were exposed to?

And how about the women well over 12, for whom that was just one more element of objectification that kept them out of an awesome hobby? For whom it added to the cultural bias of gamers against women? You want to tell them "You aren't 12, so all the talk of prostitutes in the game is something you should ignore, 'cause the language is neat-o!"

'Cause Gygax couldn't have put his cool language into *something else*?
Or we can recognize that adult material (in this case prostitution) is something that might realistically appear in a fantasy town, that a few words of description can substantially change the nature of the character encountered, and humor can target adults even in works a 12 year old might read. Aside from the use of description, it’s not like the random harlot table runs throughout the book like slavery and southern apologetics do in Gone with the Wind
 

S'mon

Hero
I don't think everything needs to be boiled down to the suitability of a 12 year old - whether boy or girl.
When my sister was 12 she was reading those 'teen' magazines - with vastly more explicit sexual content than even the most lurid of pulps, never mind the 1e DMG! I think that what we dads are comfy with is more the issue.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
When my sister was 12 she was reading those 'teen' magazines - with vastly more explicit sexual content than even the most lurid of pulps, never mind the 1e DMG!
And, there's a strong argument that, historically, those have also been damaging to our culture's approach to women. "My 12 year old read worse stuff," doesn't actually say that any of it is okay! The presence of something worse does not justify the presence of something that isn't good.

I mean, would you say... "There's a bowl of cyanide. Since that is on the table, it is okay for me to eat this salad contaminated with E. coli!" Probably not.
 

S'mon

Hero
And, there's a strong argument that, historically, those have also been damaging to our culture's approach to women. "My 12 year old read worse stuff," doesn't actually say that any of it is okay! The presence of something worse does not justify the presence of something that isn't good.

I mean, would you say... "There's a bowl of cyanide. Since that is on the table, it is okay for me to eat this salad contaminated with E. coli!" Probably not.
I'm sure they are worse. I just doubt the harlot table will do any harm, other than embarrass her dad.
 
In the end, you have to make peace with certain things. I remain a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan,* and I always will be.

<snip>

But I start by listening and acknowledging the issues (whether its in the text, with the author, or both)
I agree with this. In my case it's not HPL, who I find has some interesting ideas but whose writing I find almost unreadable.

But I have 4 volumes of REH Conan and Kull on my shelves, and I re-read them from time to time; and I re-read JRRT quit often. They shape my thinking about the fantasy genre. But there can be no denying the racist etc elements.

For what it's worth, I also love Wagner's Ring Cycle.
 
Or we can recognize that adult material (in this case prostitution) is something that might realistically appear in a fantasy town, that a few words of description can substantially change the nature of the character encountered, and humor can target adults even in works a 12 year old might read. Aside from the use of description, it’s not like the random harlot table runs throughout the book like slavery and southern apologetics do in Gone with the Wind
When my sister was 12 she was reading those 'teen' magazines - with vastly more explicit sexual content than even the most lurid of pulps, never mind the 1e DMG! I think that what we dads are comfy with is more the issue.
I think it's not just comfort of dads. There are things to be said about teen magazines (is it still Dolly?), but they're different from the harlot table.

Is it humorous to distignuish Saucy Tarts from Wanton Wenches from Brazen Strumpets from Slovenly Trolls? And who's in on the joke, and who's being made fun of?

This goes back to my comment up thread about romance and sex in games - I've got nothing against it, but does it have to involve primarily, or even exclusively, harlots and evil clerics with specially modified plate mail? I assert that that is a somewhat distorted presentation of the issue, particularly oriented to cater to a certain male fantasy (I'll say tentatively along the lines of "they want it, but they won't give it to us, but we'll take it from them" - I'm going to flag [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] for this because he may want to moderate it for board rules reasons).

I'm sure they are worse. I just doubt the harlot table will do any harm, other than embarrass her dad.
For me it's not so much about harm - although internatlisation of certain self-conceptions is a real thing - but about what it suggests about the work and those who enjoy/expound it. (Which I guess is what you are calling embarrassment.)

It suggest the work is puerile and prurient pandering to the male fantasy I've just described.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I feel like you are putting words in my mouth. I am saying people disagree on what tropes are racist or colonialist, and I am wary of where that bar is being set. Further I think some of what people are identifying as colonialist or racist is only so under a deep microscope. I think those kinds of tropes are very different from more pronounced and clear examples of racism. It is like when critics used to call all kinds of movies fascist (just because the hero used a gun or something). To me it feels like we can lose tropes that are not really a problem and in the process diminish the power of important words like Racism.
It seems to me that you want people to be able to present a clear cut dividing line. "If the work has X, Y or Z, then it is unacceptable, anything else is fair game".

That's unrealistic. Judgement will always be fuzzy, messy and ultimately subjective. Judgement will change from person to person, year to year, sometimes day to day. Things that were culturally acceptable even a year or two ago will no longer be. It happens. It's constantly changing.

I mean, I'm running my first 5e adventure path - Dragon Heist. Now, DH is more a setting guide than adventure, to be fair (180+ named NPC's in a 5 level adventure :uhoh: ) . But, as an older gamer who is perhaps a bit behind the times, I did find the rather large number of non-binary and LGBT characters in the module to be a bit surprising. I'm just not used to seeing that in a module.

Does that mean that all the modules I used in the past were "bad"? No, of course not. There is very little "bad". There is only "doing better".
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
It seems to me that you want people to be able to present a clear cut dividing line. "If the work has X, Y or Z, then it is unacceptable, anything else is fair game".
No, I am not saying that. I am saying that is what we are in danger of doing. I am trying to emphasize that people will have reasonable disagreements over this stuff.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'd also like to say that I wish you folks would stop saying stuff that I agree with so much or is very well thought out. I'm getting tired of refreshing my browser so I can posrep more posts per page.

You folks suck. ((Heh, does authorial intent matter here? ))
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I agree with this. In my case it's not HPL, who I find has some interesting ideas but whose writing I find almost unreadable.

But I have 4 volumes of REH Conan and Kull on my shelves, and I re-read them from time to time; and I re-read JRRT quit often. They shape my thinking about the fantasy genre. But there can be no denying the racist etc elements.

For what it's worth, I also love Wagner's Ring Cycle.
FWIW, let me say that I am from NOLA and because of that, I am Human Gumbo. AKA Crayola 64. A mix of al kinds of stuff from at least 4 continents. My DNA report would probably match my hat (see below):
yf5dAvP.jpg

In the USA, that makes me black.*

I say all of that to say this: while I recognize racist tropes & stereotypes in creative works of the past- even fairly recent ones- I have never and hopefull will never seek to have those works sanitized. I’m committed enough to this that when I found out that a publisher was going to release revised editions of certain classics from authors like Mark Twain (and others) sans offensive words like...well...you know, I went out and bought new copies of my favorites in their unaltered original forms.

Supporting the altered editions seemed too 1984/Fahrenheit 451 to me.






* the term I grew up with and still use, because I don’t really care for “African American”.
 
A friend of mine, who is Black, discovered a copy of Little Black Sambo at her local library, in the children's section. She spoke to the librarian, and explained how much hurt she had suffered from that book as a child. She told the librarian that she didn't want it removed from the library but wanted it shelved differently, so that a new generation wouldn't accidentally stumble across it and have the experience she did. (The bigger context for this being that, when my friend was a child she was one of the few Black people in her Australian suburb, whereas today there are many.)

The librarian saw her point and arranged for it to be so.

What I am trying to get at is that the notion that care and respect = censorship is in my view far too narrow. This is what I understand [MENTION=19675]Dannyalcatraz[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6799753]lowkey13[/MENTION] to be saying also.

That's not to say that people of good will can always agree on how to go forward and how to engage with the past and the artefacts that it has left us. This is culture, and politics, and so of course there will be passion and disagreement and sometimes harsh words. Even among the like-minded.

What I'm trying to get at is that a response of "censorship" or "loss of creatitivy" or "erasure" is one that more often derials than furthers our human endeavours.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Sambo is one of those tough ones. For those who don’t know- the story itself is actually positive: a small black child outwits a group of tigers, and comes home with the butter they transmogrified into in their efforts to catch him.

The ISSUE is that many times, the story has been portrayed using pickaninny/blackface caricatures. The copy I had as a child was depicted in beautiful, colorful illustrations on a par with some of the best books of the era.

Wish I still had it. I have many of my best children’s books to this day except two: this one, and my early edition of Where the Wild Things Are. Wild Things was chewed up by one of our puppies- pages scattered all over the yard. The other simply disappeared.

Replacing it would cost $90 or so...
https://ergodebooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=217075&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6LeAiIf04AIVgkBpCh28RgxrEAQYASABEgKDUvD_BwE
 
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Hussar

Legend
And, this brings up a good point as it relates to D&D.

D&D is advertised for 12 and up (or thereabouts, depends on the edition). So, the target audience certainly includes 12 year old girls. If we're going to go all in on an edition that is ... hmm.... how to put this ... based on the tropes and concepts common in the past, then shouldn't it be made clear that this isn't for a younger audience?

Just like shelving Sambo in a different area means that 5 year old kids aren't going to be slapped in the face with clearly racist imagery.
 

S'mon

Hero
For me it's not so much about harm - although internatlisation of certain self-conceptions is a real thing - but about what it suggests about the work and those who enjoy/expound it. (Which I guess is what you are calling embarrassment.)

It suggest the work is puerile and prurient pandering to the male fantasy I've just described.
Yes. The 1970s had a lot of works that were puerile and prurient in pandering to male fantasy. More than before or since. I'm always struck by how much more mature - non-puerile - the attitudes of 1930s swords & sorcery are, when compared to the 1970s revival.

The adventures in BOWDS 1 definitely have a 'sniggering teenage boys' tone about them. At the same time Fiore's Licheway & Tizun Thane are incredibly atmospheric and have well deserved reputations as classics of the genre (Standing Stones doesn't).

I guess it's the same with the orcs - works of merit can have problematic elements. Cultural context is also important; I see a lot of reactions from US and Australian etc readers of British-authored works where there is a different cultural context and readers in bringing their own cultural baggage have a different reaction than a British reader would. I find this particularly noticeable around the possibiloty of racist depiction towards east-Asians. The US especially has a history of racism towards east-Asians which colours American reactions towards certain tropes. A tangential example would be Edward Said's "Orientalism" - Said cared about European depictions of Middle Eastern cultures, but Americans typically see the concept as about cultural & racial depiction of east-Asians.
 
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Hussar

Legend
S'mon said:
The US especially has a history of racism towards east-Asians which colours American reactions towards certain tropes.
Not really sure I'll buy that one.

See Sax Rohmer and Fu Manchu for a pretty clear example.

/editted to change to Sax Rohmer, which has led to a rather odd quoting by [MENTION=463]S'mon[/MENTION]. Totally my fault.
 
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S'mon

Hero
Not really sure I'll buy that one.

See Arthur Conan Doyle for numerous examples of quite blatant east-Asian racism.
Or Fu Manchu. But Chinese people in Britain have not suffered from racial discrimination in the same way the Chinese in the USA once did.
 

Hussar

Legend
I was reading the Tor.com site and came across the following quote as it relates to the remake of the Dune movie that is apparently in the works:

All works of art, especially ones that we hold in high esteem, should be so carefully considered. Not because we need to tear them down or, conversely, enshrine them, but because we should all want to be more knowledgeable and thoughtful about how the stories we love contribute to our world, and the ways in which they choose to reflect it.
From here

I think that quote, right there, says it all.

Continued reading the article and there's another fantastic quote about world building that I think is very apropos:

Dune’s worldbuilding is complex, but that doesn’t make it beyond reproach. Personal bias is a difficult thing to avoid, and how you construct a universe from scratch says a lot about how you personally view the world. Author and editor Mimi Mondal breaks this concept down beautifully in her recent article about the inherently political nature of worldbuilding:

In a world where all fundamental laws can be rewritten, it is also illuminating which of them aren’t. The author’s priorities are more openly on display when a culture of non-humans is still patriarchal, there are no queer people in a far-future society, or in an alternate universe the heroes and saviours are still white. Is the villain in the story a repulsively depicted fat person? Is a disabled or disfigured character the monster? Are darker-skinned, non-Western characters either absent or irrelevant, or worse, portrayed with condescension? It’s not sufficient to say that these stereotypes still exist in the real world. In a speculative world, where it is possible to rewrite them, leaving them unchanged is also political.
 
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