What We Lose When We Eliminate Controversial Content

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Hussar

Legend
You tell me. What story can be told in an RPG session that couldn't be told ten years ago?
Well, potentially, a response to that would be, how many Mythical Africa products have been produced for D&D, from, say, 1975 to 2010?

Compared to how many products that reference slavery? It's all very easy to say that slavery hasn't crowded out different products, but, considering there are dozens of D&D adventures, setting guides and even the core books which reference slavery repeatedly, the argument could be made that it certainly doesn't seem to be making room for other stories.
 

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JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
So, to keep with this metaphor... Art can use any color. It can use all colors. It can use a limited palette. It can use just black and white. It could even have no color at all.

A game not having slavery--or not having some other topic--isn't less of a game, and it's not limited. It's just different. And it could very well be better and more accessible for not having that topic in it.
You keep limiting this discussion to a singular campaign/adventure. I'm discussing the system as a whole. There are great G rated movies, but that's not all I want out of streaming.
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
Well, potentially, a response to that would be, how many Mythical Africa products have been produced for D&D, from, say, 1975 to 2010?

Compared to how many products that reference slavery? It's all very easy to say that slavery hasn't crowded out different products, but, considering there are dozens of D&D adventures, setting guides and even the core books which reference slavery repeatedly, the argument could be made that it certainly doesn't seem to be making room for other stories.
I am missing the connection....

How many Mythical Russian products versus references to bears?
 

mythago

Hero
You tell me. What story can be told in an RPG session that couldn't be told ten years ago?

So first we have a goofy crayon box analogy and now we have a ten year cutoff? Where is all this coming from?

I really don’t get why anyone feels it necessary to say “leaving X topics out objectively makes your game worse” when they really mean “I want to include X topics in my game”.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Nowhere did I say it was "unreasonable". I asked what it meant, specifically. What does it look like if you are "not allowed"? What is the fear here? There seem to be no commitment to what this is actually about.



No. Lacking an answer to what it means to be "allowed", I moved forward with an assumed one that seemed common enough in similar discussions to be a reasonable guess.



Yes. Since there is no legal impediment to publishing such, I moved along with "allowed" being about the criticism or pushback - you are "allowed" if the public doesn't give you a lot of criticism or pushback on the work.

And then, I believe my assertion holds - if you don't want pushback, it needs to be pretty darned good stuff. This should not be controversial.




Again, this is why I asked what "allow" meant. What do you expect to happen if you are "allowed" or "not allowed"? Because, this right here reads like you mean an actual legal impediment, of which there is exactly none at this time in the US, at least.

And by "you" I really mean "publishers". As far as I am aware, this is a theoretical argument for you, personally.



You realize that criticism is as much expression as artwork is, right? So, if you are allowed to publish it (for whatever meaning of the word), others should be allowed to criticize it. A position that is, in effect, "I get to talk, but if you don't like it you should not consume it and shut up," is not an option.
Please don't try to put the words "you aren't allowed to criticize it" in my mouth. You are creating a straw man and putting it in bold text. This isn't about whether people can say what they like or dislike about stuff, of course they can.

What I actually responded to was instead you saying "if you want to publish such stuff, you need to do a really good job of it, so that the value of its inclusion clearly outweighs the issues"

That is not criticism. That's telling publishers they aren't free to publish what they want without checking in with you first. Or, at least, that's the immediate interpretation that I truly hope you don't sign off on.

In fact, I would love if you tell me that's wrong, and that you absolutely do allow people to publish (and perhaps more pertinently, allow forumists to discuss on forums) works even if they feature troublesome content without accusing the authors of sharing the views of their fictional villains or that they encourage the oppressive societies their fictional worlds might feature or that they disrespect the victims of actual history.

---

Which brings me back to the greater topic of:

Is fantasy a genre that many people no longer "give a pass"?

By this I mean that perhaps the foundational property of the entire genre is the ability to discuss and explore real-life dark chapters by transporting the dilemmas into made-up worlds.

If you (the general you, not Umbran specifically) no longer think people should "get away with" people featuring made up worlds featuring the troublesome topics of the original post, then this fundamental reason for fantasy as a genre ceases to exist. For you, at least.

Should other people (like me) still be allowed to enjoy fantasy adventures despite you (the general you) taking offense to some aspect of that adventure? (Anything from the heroes being served beer from a stereotypical buxom bar maid to the characters having a mission and that mission isn't to free all the slaves)

What is the solution here? That you walk away from content you can't or won't enjoy, or that we tell publishers to stop publishing content because someone is (or even might be) offended? (Or worse, that we hang out the writers accusing them of taking advantage of real-world young women or that they endorse modern or historical slavery!)

And no, I won't leave that as a rhetorical question. Of course the solution is the first one, where I simply vote with my wallet, and avoid consuming movies, roleplaying scenarios, works of art, literature, theatre and so on that make me feel bad or remind me of real societal issues.

The point here is that there is a difference between

a) companies realizing that certain things don't sell and thus publish less of that.
b) we preemptively stop companies from publishing "that"
c) we create an atmosphere where companies are too afraid of publishing controversial content, because we take the right to accuse the artists and writers of being racist or misogynist (etc) because their works feature NPCs that are racist (and so on) without them existing chiefly for the purpose of being antagonists that end up dead or in jail.

I would argue only option a) can ever lead to a society worth living in. And more to the point, a discussion forum that doesn't regress into an echo chamber.

I absolutely understand the desire to be respectful. But the discussion climate is IMO perilously close to capsizing. If we forget that in order for somebody to disrespect you, there must be intent. You can feel disrespected without the writer actively disrespecting you. (It's not a transitive property) The fact you feel shame or rage does not mean the writer has committed an offense. (I'm not a laywer, so excuse any language that you feel is legally clumsy) Authors aren't necessarily disrespecting minorities and victims just because they feature bad situations and unpunished crimes. Most right-wing nutters sure are, but that can't mean the solution is b) or c).

I think the best way to sum this is up is by:

TL;DR:
  • Our roleplaying games should not only feature what I effectively characterize as morality tales, where modern and enlightened perspectives carry the day.
  • If bad characters can't reign supreme, our fictional worlds and stories will feel deeply deeply unrealistic. For some of you that's an acceptable cost to pay, and hey, that's okay as long as you recognize the right of others to make a different evaluation.
  • If adventure writers can't feature people having heinous viewpoints without getting accused of sharing those viewpoints, we lose the exact thing we're trying to uphold - our liberal values depend on not regressing into censorship and witchhunts.
 


I really don’t get why anyone feels it necessary to say “leaving X topics out objectively makes your game worse” when they really mean “I want to include X topics in my game”.
I feel this is the crux of it.

As I mentioned way upthread, I tend to run a no-holds-barred game. I've included slavery, religious persecutions, racial persecutions, sexual exploitation, infanticide, torture, mutilation, drug addiction, insanity, various paraphilias, cannibalism, human sacrifice, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Much of it is implied, and I tend to gloss over the grisly details, but it exists nonetheless.

Do I think this is suitable material for mainstream publications aimed at an audience of age 10-and-up?

Emphatically, no.
 

Do I think this is suitable material for mainstream publications aimed at an audience of age 10-and-up?

Emphatically, no.
But you'd be fine with it levelled at an older age group, maybe 16+, and if it had the "for mature audience" label on the cover?
That is what I suggested some posts back, but I don't believe anyone having issues with controversial content made that compromise. It seems there are those that are willing to listen and meet others half way and there are those that just like throwing away crayons.
 

But you'd be fine with it levelled at an older age group, maybe 16+, and if it had the "for mature audience" label on the cover?
In principle, yes. But I don't think that it's in the interest (financial, reputational) of WotC or Paizo to pursue this route, and I'm not persuaded they wouldn't make a hash of it anyway - Book of Vile Darkness, I'm looking at you.

As I also mentioned way upthread, I think this is third-party territory. It's sufficiently niche for a big publisher to bypass altogether.
 

Kaodi

Hero
Well, potentially, a response to that would be, how many Mythical Africa products have been produced for D&D, from, say, 1975 to 2010?

Compared to how many products that reference slavery? It's all very easy to say that slavery hasn't crowded out different products, but, considering there are dozens of D&D adventures, setting guides and even the core books which reference slavery repeatedly, the argument could be made that it certainly doesn't seem to be making room for other stories.
This seems like a bit of an odd connection to make: that the presence of slavery is the cause of the absence of African, as if those things are intrinsically oppositional. It is both the case that Black people are bigger than the worst thing that ever happened to some of them, and that some of histories most famous Africans sat atop slaver societies: Mansa Musa and Ramses the Great, for instance.
 

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