17 August 2014

"OMG I am teh OFFENDED!!!"

An occasional syndrome has come up in which someone seeks to play a historical or contemporary war scenario: WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, what have you.  Then, all of a sudden, Social Justice Warriors popsup screeching -- it's insensitive, you see, and "trivializes" the true nature of human suffering that goes on in such conflicts.  How dare people turn jihad and genocide into a game?

I note their opinion (barely) and move on.

If it sounds like I treat the notion cavalierly, yes, you'd be right; I do. There are many aspects of roleplaying that many people find distasteful for whatever reason ... heck, I've seen more than one player leave the hobby because they couldn't hack the casual and pervasive violence inherent in it.

And beyond that?  A very great deal of our popular entertainment, from books to movies to music to television, is disrespectful of societal norms of decency and fair dealing. But however much "geto rap" which glorify murdering police or beating women disgusts me, I'm not going to barge in on rap discussion boards moralizing at unsuspecting people minding their own business.

We "owe" it to the victims of the Holocaust no more to not play RPGs set in WWII than we owe it to them not to play Axis & Allies, War in the Pacific or any other wargame that purportedly "trivializes" their suffering. What indeed trivializes them is the notion that a handful of people sitting around a table with dice could somehow detract from what happened to them.

In one such debate, a poster flung at me the hypothetical of a campaign with SS Totenkampf PCs.   Would I support that?  Huh?  Huh?

Surprise, said I. If someone did want to play in an SS game, I was neither prepared to commit mayhem to stop them or to screech at their inhumanity.  There is an entire GAME system out there, one of the most popular there has ever been, in which PCs as a condition of survival feed on human beings. Gamers have been portraying torturers, cannibals, babykillers, rapists, death cultists, assassins, and monsters of every hue and description for the entirety of the history of RPGs. Somehow the world continues to turn, and I don't know of any gamers who march to protest Vampire games.  (Hell, show of hands: how many of you reading this could even count within a hundred how many sentient NPCs your PCs have killed in the course of your gaming career?  Your average long-term gamer's whacked out more people than Genghis Khan ever did.)

And, indeed, how many would pull this for other historical milieus? If someone was starting up a Scarlet Pimpernel game, would anyone imply they were monsters for trivializing the real human suffering and wanton butchery of an era that bequeathed the word "terrorist" to our language? Probably not ... but then again, that was ever so much longer ago, and the inhumanity to man has passed its sell-by date.

Anyway, a lot of gamers claim to feel such issues, deeply. This is another part of this syndrome that really bugs me ... that based on glancing at a headline or two or seeing a 15 second clip on the news -- and let's not pretend; that's about as much as 90% of gamers ever see -- people can claim to have some manner of "emotional connection" to a matter that "touches their lives."

Nonsense. That's on a par with claiming that having seen Bambi as a child gives one a deep understanding of hunting for game and all of its attendant issues.

Now, yes,: someone seeing a 15 second film clip of horror and war does have an emotional reaction. But it's shallow. The requisite "Oh, how awful!" and "Oh, someone should do something!" comes out, then the TV shifts to a commercial, followed by the weather and a clip on the giant pumpkin a local farmer grew, and man's inhumanity to man gets lost in the shuffle of ordering a pizza and settling down to watch the Bruins-Senators game. If that person gives Somalia another thought before the next news clip or headline, I would be very surprised indeed.

That, to me, is the really disrespectful bit, when the agony and violence of a region that's been suffering for decades is turned into a soundbite.

1 comment:

  1. Erasing the World Trade Center from movies. Removing Nazis or Germany alltogether from WWII set in europe. It is not just games.