What We Lose When We Eliminate Controversial Content

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My understanding is that trigger warnings, in terms of helping people avoid reminders of trauma, are at best superfluous and at worst actually increase anxiety and negative emotional associations. Or at least, that's what I've gathered from reading up on several recent studies investigating them:

I remember, way back when in ancient times (i.e. the 1980's), when they started putting warning labels on albums with "questionable content." I know that myself and my circle of friends would almost always buy an album if it had one of those stickers on it.
 

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Why?

We "eliminate" things from history all the time in creating games - including unpleasant things or things we don't find interesting. And we create new things in our games all the time that never existed in the real world.
I'm not sure what more there is for me to answer. I've explained why I like what I like and even elaborated further on a few other real topics (controversial or otherwise) that I enjoy inputting into my table's games to build stories which seem more weighty and authentic to me and my players. I like where D&D gains its inspiration from - warts and all.

Ser Jorah Mormont in GoT/ASoIaF was an exiled slaver who fled Westeros and here he was in the story helping the many-titled Danaerys free Slavers Bay. That's an awesome character's arc IMO.
Perhaps you can tell me why you don't like it.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Answering the thread's question - I think eliminating something like slavery within a game that draws its inspiration from a period of humanity's history where slavery existed, would likely influence our storytelling and world-building to lose an aspect of gravitas and authenticity. That is how I feel.
One aspect of gravitas and authenticity... maybe, if you're actually treating it with the respect it deserves--and by respect, I mean to the actual people who were enslaved and who suffered, both in real life and in the game. And in my experience, most games don't. The game may say that the slavers are Always Evil Kill On Sight, but it still treats the slaves as just a checkpoint. If you freed the slaves, you get this many XP. Maybe. Assuming you're not playing a game where you only get XP for killing people, of course. There's no gravitas there, no meaning, and certainly no authenticity. You free the slaves, no biggie, everyone lives happily ever after, while ignoring all the effects that slavery has on both the slaves and the society. How many games actually deal with that? Very few of them do. D&D doesn't. Of the games I own and have read, only Spire does, because the entire game is about how broken, desperate, and ruthless the drow are because of how the aelfir have enslaved and abused them. You play as a drow fighting back against your slavers. But most games? Not so much.

Also, you mention "a period of humanity's history" while ignoring that, unless you are playing a historical game in actual earth, this isn't humanity's history--and in most games, you have plenty of nonhumans who, according to most gamers, shouldn't act like humans with masks on anyway. If you actually care about the worldbuilding, then make a world that doesn't rely on being just like Earth.

Finally, if you lose an aspect of gravitas and authenticity, then OK. You lost one. But there are plenty of others out there without resorting to slavery.
 



MGibster

Legend
Are they required to? No. But it's also a good business practice when it comes to something with mass-market appeal aimed at a kids-and-up crowd.
Is it? Because D&D has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity that hasn't been seen since the 1980s, all the while it has contained some problematic elements. Do you think getting rid of these elements will see an improvement in sales? I doubt it, but I can't be absolutely sure.

There's also a difference between spiders and things like rape, abuse, torture, and slavery. Spiders, for one,

We were talking about triggering elements. But in Curse of Strahd, the titular villain is an abuser who delights in torturing others, has thralls (slaves), and is a rapist who is trying to force a young woman to marry him. It contains many problematic and potentially triggering elements and it's considered one of the better adventures released for 5th edition.
 
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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Ser Jorah Mormont in GoT/ASoIaF was an exiled slaver who fled Westeros and here he was in the story helping the many-titled Danaerys free Slavers Bay. That's an awesome character's arc IMO.
Perhaps you can tell me why you don't like it.
Personally, I'm not bothered by it. But then, the last time any ancestor of mine was likely to be enslaved was over 1000 years ago.

That said, if someone were to see a sleazy man who enslaved people to keep access to sex and who hardly seems to have learned his lesson since he's still ruled by his desire to get into a hot girl's pants as problematic? That's up to them. Particularly when, apparently, tens of thousands of enslaved brown people are helpless to improve their lot until a single hot white chick comes along? Yeah, I can totally imagine a perspective that may not appreciate it as you do.
 

MGibster

Legend
But if you're selling food, and you know there are allergens in there and you don't list them...?
If you go to a restaurant in the United States, they don't list the allergens on every dish. They might have something on the menu that says, "Hey, we sometimes cook with peanuts and cross contaimination is a possibility," but not for each dish. If you have allergies, it's your reponsibility to make sure you don't ingest something you shouldn't.
 

mythago

Hero
I think there's a large difference between a content warning, and 'trigger warnings'. One is generally seen as a 'hey this content will upset your parents' the other comes off most of the time like vegan's did in the late 90's.

Is there, or is it just that the label is a cultural signal about how we feel regarding the use of that label? I mean, let's conjugate:
I thoughtfully include advance signposts on my games so that players can make informed decisions.
You put content warnings on your games to give people a heads up.
She uses trigger warnings.

I'm not sure what more there is for me to answer. I've explained why I like what I like and even elaborated further on a few other real topics (controversial or otherwise) that I enjoy inputting into my table's games to build stories which seem more weighty and authentic to me and my players. I like where D&D gains its inspiration from - warts and all.

Ser Jorah Mormont in GoT/ASoIaF was an exiled slaver who fled Westeros and here he was in the story helping the many-titled Danaerys free Slavers Bay. That's an awesome character's arc IMO.
Perhaps you can tell me why you don't like it.

I think you're talking past me a bit. The issue isn't "should anyone have slavery in their game, y/n" - it's the claim that certain "controversial" elements should be included in games, because 1) history and 2) if you don't, your games are inherently going to be worse and more limited.

And as to those arguments, 1) c'mon - we all pick and choose what "history" and what "controversial" elements we do or don't use, and 2) that's a failure of imagination.

Indeed, you can tell a lot of cool stories in a game world that has slavery. You can also tell a lot of cool stories without it, and you can tell cool stories that wouldn't be possible in a game world that has slavery - especially when it's the hereditary skin-color/ethnicity version of slavery that we in the West tend to attach to that term.

Let me give an example here: the manga Ooku is based in an alternate version of Edo-era Japan, where a pox that only affects young boys results in an adult population that is only 25% male. As a result, the real, 'historical' sexism and rigid gender divisions of Edo-era Japan don't exist, and the emperor of Japan is female. It tells complex, absorbing stories about the politics and court intrigue of such an alternate Japan. Getting rid of the "controversial" element of historical sexism doesn't make Ooku poorer; it opens up a whole different set of stories that wouldn't be possible otherwise.
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Personally, I'm not bothered by it. But then, the last time any ancestor of mine was likely to be enslaved was over 1000 years ago.

That said, if someone were to see a sleazy man who enslaved people to keep access to sex and who hardly seems to have learned his lesson since he's still ruled by his desire to get into a hot girl's pants as problematic? That's up to them. Particularly when, apparently, tens of thousands of enslaved brown people are helpless to improve their lot until a single hot white chick comes along? Yeah, I can totally imagine a perspective that may not appreciate it as you do.
But does that mean it shouldn't have been made, and it's ok to give the people who made it and the people who like it a hard time, to the point of impuning their character?
 

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