So Vice (or, more properly, one of Vice's hydra-head of affiliate sites) put up a thing a woman wrote about an RPG.
tl;dr on the article: This mesoamerican game is not as woke as it wants to be and the art is bad, but the author gives it free advertising on Vice anyway.
Let me stress up front a couple things:
I personally think the game is racist and stupid, for some but not all of the same reasons the author does.
I don't think my opinion matters much--I think the opinion on wannabe woke games that matters most is the opinion of people who are in the group affected, and people who make these kinds of games.
I think the article is interesting because it points up some conversations these people will probably never have because in each case, at least one of the two sides does not believe in having conversations, in some cases both.
Here's a summary of the article and the points it brings up but doesn't resolve (and can't resolve because it's an article by one person, not a dialogue).
1. As a child the author used games as escapism, playing out fantasies of revolt they didn't do in real life.
2. Author asserts the purpose of RPGs is to aid in thinking about difficult things.
Conversation That Will Never Happen A:
These things are very often not compatible goals.
Conversation That Will Never Happen B:
Is it even good--at least for adult activists--to crave entertainment give them A? Isn't it kind of sad and defeatist?
Conversation That Will Never Happen C:
Are people going around casually assuming all games are escapist fantasies and not realizing all the other things games are for?
3. The author was skeptical of an invitation to participate in an RPG.
4. The author feels the depiction of westerners landing in the new world overtly tries to depict them as bad in some ways, but not in enough ways for the author.
Conversation That Will Never Happen D:
Is it ever possible to say a person we all agree is bad experienced and overcame hardship? At what point does it become unnecessary or too much?
5. The author feels the depiction of the mesoAmericans sexes up the women too much and (I think?) de-emphazies their mesoamerican features.
Conversation That Will Never Happen F:
Yes. Can we also talk about the effect of just bad art in general? Like how much just unbelievably bad generic art makes games about historically overlooked indigenous people look like boring jerks with boring lives baking maizecakes out of straw all day?
6. The author objects to the presence of blood rituals and human sacrifice. Also it appears slavery is not deal with in depth and the author wants it to be.
Conversation That Will Never Happen G:
Can we please either decide which of "X is traumatizing let's not include it for the sake of the traumatized/"X is traumatizing we must go into it in massive detail for the sake of the traumatized" is the Official Woke Stance?
7. “European women characters can choose the unique class Dragon Rider (which is exactly what it sounds like), whereas indigenous women characters can choose Courtesan (which is exactly what it sounds like).”
8. The RPG writer was inspired by a novel, the author asserts its a problematic novel.
9. The RPG writer is apparently Mexican but not indigenous.
Conversation That Will Never Happen H:
Literally who gets to write what in games? Is it like "This is overlooked therefore everyone needs to write about it" or "You're not in the group stay away"? Give rules.
10. The game has a “Tolerance Skill”.
Conversation That Will Never Happen I:
Isn't this hilariously twee? Is it more or less twee than Burning Wheel’s “Elf Sadness” mechanic? Is there a level of twee that Indie RPGs shouldn't be?
11. The author is scared that the fact the game is, well, an RPG, means that the players could decide to do colonialist things. Why this would be bad in a game isn’t delved into much, but presumably it is because the author assumes 1 above is the universal reason for playing games despite 2 above.
Conversation That Will Never Happen J:
Isn't that entirely the adult players fault? Are we literally trying to tell shit people to hide their shittiness?
Conversation That Will Never Happen K:
Let's say that happens. Then what? Did everyone at the table literally either feel oppressed or get more racist? What's the consequentialist argument here?
12. The author then says Shadowrun’s politics are “a mess”. But somehow in this mess the author feels it encouraged stories the author thought were more good than bad.
Conversation That Will Never Happen L:
Your argument here is extremely subtle. Is it fair to hit authors over the head with a claim of moral wrongdoing when even the woke position is unclear and requires subtle arguments that even affected people have no consensus on?
13. The nut of the the thing:
Perhaps a way of understanding this is that Dragons Conquer America wants players to indulge in power fantasies of being both Cowboy and Indian. That doesn’t sit well with me. As an indigenous woman, I’m rarely afforded the opportunity to cut out Cortes’ still-beating heart and eat it as his soldiers quake in fear. But the options to enact violence against indigenous populations are many. A tabletop game that encourages me to play “both sides,” and create a party of indigenous characters working together with European invaders (no matter how historically accurate) feels bad in 2017. Especially when I can’t be assured that, in the end, we won’t still lose. Living as an indigenous person already means constantly being told that you lost.
Conversation That Will Never Happen M:
Are any approached besides "Hey but in the game you can win?" acceptable in 2017? Is there some precondition for them becoming acceptable?