Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Outstanding Questions/The Nazi Games Again

Recent statements by Jessica Price over at the company that makes Pathfinder have sparked some Internet debate about Internet debate.

All I'm going to say about that here is while no you don't have to have a conversation with everyone who wants to have a conversation with you and you don't have to have a conversation when they want to have it, you do have one obligation.

...or at least if you want to publicly claim that something is important you have one obligation.

The obligation is this: you need to have (or do your best to have) a solid, internally-consistent answer for every single question anyone might ask about your important idea even if you are too tired to give that answer to any specific person on any given day or at any given time.

I take this time to say this because there are a lot of questions folks in the mainstream RPG scene don't have any answer for and have consistently avoided by shifting the issue from articulating and weighing their actual values to articulating and weighing how angry they are that the question got asked in a given venue by a given person.

And since this is a Saturday, and since we've been here before, and since this blog has been around long enough that things get lost in the shuffle and since it's very relevant to all the questions about representation in games nobody seems to have answers for, the rest of this is a re-post about some questions that--two years later--still haven't been answered:
The Nazi Games

People get stuck on boring, kindergarten-level questions like "Can art affect people?" (Yes) "Can art be racist, sexist, etc?" (Yes) "Can art be unconsciously those things?"(Yes) "Can fiction be racist, sexist?" (Yes, but it's relatively rare)  "Should we avoid offending people at all costs?" (No) and "Should we censor things" (No) and pretend the argument is about that. Here are some questions which are for adults.

I chose Jewishness as an example because it is a form of marginality (however minor, in the US in 2015) that I can claim by birth--I am not, myself, religious--but these questions are still meaningful when ported to other, considerably more marginalized, groups of people. Feel free to substitute in other forms of marginality and re-ask. So here we go-- the easy ones are first, but they presage the more complex issues that people pretend are already solved:


1. Hitler writes a game. He intends it to clearly reflect his worldview but he's so bad at writing, no-one can understand it and it has no effect on anyone.

Is it anti-semitic? Why or why not?


2. The author of this game harbors no prejudice and is kind to everyone -- this is publicly known and is privately true. Or at least as true as it can be of anyone. No-one has ever even suggested she harbors any bigoted feeling or idea. She has sacrificed a great deal for the well-being of the marginalized.

Her game is rancid with prejudice, Jews are called kikes, every race is slurred and degraded. The imagery and experience system suggests it is heroic to slaughter anyone less well-off than wealthy blonde white men--and it is written at a level suggesting it is for children. Her motives are unclear: perhaps she wrote it as a kind of cathartic exercise to purge herself of wicked thoughts, perhaps simply as an intellectual challenge to write in a voice that was not her own--it's impossible to be sure.

However, this game is unreadable. It is written in a language that was lost forever and will never be remembered or recovered, even by the author. No-one knows anything about it.

Is it anti-semitic? Why or why not?


3. The motive behind the game is repulsive -- it seeks, proactively, to begin a race war. The author is unimaginably racist. No-one knows any of this.

The game is a ridiculous failure in its secret purpose and nobody even notices the racial overtones, they are so clumsily coded and poorly written. It comes across as a charmingly inept kind of Gamma World or Mutant Future.

A prominent celebrity of color is quoted as saying he is a fan. Its odd and accidental charm makes it not only popular but immensely, disproportionately popular among players of color. A statistically meaningful number of people who aren't white take up the hobby because of it. People who do play it generally walk away with a greater feeling of tolerance toward others than they walked in with. Universities where they study games, like UCLA and Columbia -- notice these things and report them. The results are confirmed. This goes on forever. 

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


4. Hitler writes a game. Or maybe Goering or Goebbels. Or the Grand Wizard of the Klan.

Nobody knows they are the author. They die.

The game is discovered later, author unknown. It is published, embraced. It has no content anyone ever accuses of being racist. It seems considerably less ideologically loaded than, say, Pong, to anyone whoever plays it. Let's say: even in these fraught times, it attracts less racial critique than any other RPG ever, though it is popular. The audience is skewed in no particular way. Social scientists can detect no notable change in attitude among people after playing the game. In fact: there is none.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


5. The game is produced with the best will in the world by the most progressive soul imaginable -- but not the most talented. It becomes popular.

Because it is kind of dull or because of the social circles through which it propagates or for some other reason that's difficult to trace, the earnest (and in no-way detectably offensive) game only manages to acquire a very WASPy audience. It changes their attitudes in no way, as it was preaching to the choir. Because it is popular, it actually makes the RPG audience less Jewish and more WASPy than it already was.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


6. A Jewish person produces a game. They harbor no self-hatred. Exactly half the Jewish community finds it offensive and anti-semitic. The other half doesn't and, in fact, hails it as a vital exploration of social issues essential to the community that couldn't have been addressed any other way. It changes the game audience in no way and there are no detectable changes in peoples' attitudes about race after playing or reading it.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


7. A white anglo-saxon protestant produces a game. They harbor no anti-Semitic feeling. Exactly half the Jewish community finds it offensive and anti-semitic. The other half doesn't and, in fact, hails it as a vital exploration of social issues essential to the Jewish community that couldn't have been addressed any other way. It changes the game audience in no way and there are no detectable changes in peoples' attitudes about race after playing or reading it.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


8. A person bearing no prejudices produces a game. It is broad and written for children and relies on stereotypes about people of many ethnicities either because they're oblivious or because they think this is a good way to get ideas across to children. It is incredibly popular among people of precisely those ethnicities and encourages everyone who plays it to learn more about those cultures. It is, in fact, more popular among a diverse audience than an earlier, less stereotype-riddled version of the same game.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


 9. A progressive person produces a game full of progressive ideas about people of all ethnicities, including Jews. It is dull and (measurably, like in a lab) makes people think these kinds of games suck.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


10. 30% of Jews say the game is anti-Semitic and offensive, 70% say it is a vital exploration of social issues essential to the community that couldn't have been addressed any other way.  It has not other measured social effect on the audience or the audience's attitudes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


11. A person bearing no prejudice produces a game. 10 Jewish people play it and are offended and say it's anti-semitic and never play RPGs again. 10 Jewish people love it and have the best experience of their gaming lives and go on to do a great many game things. It has no effect on anyone's attitudes about prejudice except the offended people--people who like it just say it's fun.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

What if 20 Jewish people love it?



Only 2?


12. A game divides the Jewish community. All the Jewish people you get along with and think are smart consider it a vital and necessary exploration of their identity. All the ones you don't and think are stupid consider it anti-semitic.

Is it? Why or why not?


13. A game is produced by a superlatively progressive person. The game is for adults. It has no measurable effect on the attitudes of adults or on the demographics of the adult audience.

It is not for children, but if children were to play it, they have a chance of adopting anti-semitic attitudes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


14. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: people who have anti-semitic beliefs are more likely to take an anti-semitic action after playing.

Is the game anti-semitc? Why or why not?

If so: is beer therefore anti-semitic? Why or why not?


15. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: stupid people are more likely to be anti-semitic after playing.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


16. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: mentally ill people are more likely to be anti-semitic after playing.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

17. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. Smart people become less racist when they play the game and understand important issues better and more viscerally, stupid people become more racist. There is no other way to address the complex issues in the game except via playing the game in its current form -- it, for example, requires people to adopt roles of real-life Jewish people who were guilty of banking-related crimes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


18. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game is old: the game's measurable effect on the audience at the time was to diversify the audience and make it more progressive. No Jewish people at the time were offended. However, now, looking back, there are elements which are not as progressive as the language we use today -- however the style of the game is so dated that everyone who reads it, looks at it or plays it has a level of historical distance or irony akin to when they read the casual references to Jewish bankers in 19th century novels. It is not for children. It has no measurable effect on anyone's attitude now that social science can detect.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

19. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. It offends only extremely, orthodox conservative Jews who have some sexist or homophobic ideas built into their way of doing their religion. But it does offend pretty much all of them.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


20. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. No measurable effect on participants' attitudes or the wider game world's demographics. However, it is written in english and english is a language and so contains inherently racist constructions like "Hip hip hooray".

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

If not--how many Jewish people must claim to be offended before it is?

21. Let's assume you are not Jewish but you hold the purse strings at a company about to give money to the author of game 7 above money for another project. Let's assume that for whatever reasons you need to decide whether their game was anti-semitic or not and back that decision with your money.

Can you? Or do you leave that to Jewish people to decide? And assuming they are split -- how do you decide?


Peter Webb said...

After thinking about this I came up with relatively simple criteria:

If the answer to 2/3 of these questions is yes then yes it's anti semetic:
Is the intent anti-semetic? Is the content? Is the effect?

This was comprehensive enough for me. Answers:

1. yes: intent/content

2. no, just content, no evidence of anti-semetic intent is available

3. just intent so no

4. just intent so no

5. just effect so no

6. just content so no-- if we can't recognize being offended as an change/effect as the premises states. To the question is the content anti-semetic, I'm using the broadest possible definition such that if any people think it is than it counts.

7. see 6

8. just content so no

9. just sort of effect so no

10. see 6

11. depends on whether or not there can be said to be an effect. at this point I'll also say that for the content to considered offensive the veracity of the accusations has to be considered

12. intent is missing so we can't judge... effect is also missing except for "divides the jewish community"

13-16. effect yes, content needs to be investigated, at this point we can't judge.

17. effect yes, content seems to have been investigated by smart people, so probably no.

18. content: yes, effect: no, intent: hard to say, did the author have that intent? if so then yes but it may impossible to judge

19. just content if offending is considered effect but we're missing intent/content so can't say

20. intent and content need to be investigated

21. the game isn't anti-semetic so I'd publish it if it met my standards

Zak Sabbath said...

What does "is the content anti-semitic?" mean in fiction?

Content in fiction doesn't tell you to do things it simply presents things

Peter Webb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Webb said...

If what you say is the case then the content of fiction cannot be anti-semitic and therefore under my criteria the only anti-semitic works of fiction that can exist must have been both written with the intent to be anti-semitic and have had anti-semitic effects. In this case I'm not sure any of the games mentioned above can be considered anti-semitic if games are works of fiction.

G. B. Veras said...

Lets say an author write something that is objectively true but still offends Jews.

Is it anti-semitic?

Peter Webb said...

Not enough info to judge-- offending jews is not enough to make the writing anti-semitic and the writing being objective truth doesn't prevent it from being anti-semitic.

Peter Webb said...

Games aren't just works of fiction though, they have non-fiction in them sometimes too, and they often have literal instructions

Tom K. said...

Around 10 I stopped reading and skimmed until the end.

For all the words, you're being simplistic.

Zak Sabbath said...

That's a vague criticism, too vague to be actionable.

You'll have to explain yourself better than that.

As always, the rule here is address the points, not make vague swipes. your move.

Zak Sabbath said...

Which Jews? All , some, half? This is important

Zak Sabbath said...

True but that stuff ("this is what we call a d10") is much less often the target of debate.

If something offers clearly racist nonfiction instructions "If a Jew comes to your table don't let them play"--there is no debate about it being anti-semitic and so this is in no way an interesting question worth discussing.

Peter Webb said...

Nonfictional elements like historical context and direct advice from the author could make, for example, Hitler's game anti-Semitic.

Unknown said...

Does the game specifically reward those who hate jews? Does the game specifically punish those who like jews?
For those offended, why are they offended?
Does the game mechanic allow for the offending information/mechanic to be changed?
If the game gives realistic examples of conflict resolution; is the jew always the opponent? If the game gives examples of cooperation; is the jew never included?
anti-semitic has a lot to do with actions so each example that made people more anti-semetic would by default be anti-Semitic. I would want to know why but that is not addressed in your question.
if I knew the author was anti-Semitic and their money was going to support such activities; I would not support their game and how well the game was written would not be relevant to me.

racism is also a part of culture. it is possible to have racist techniques that are oppressive in one culture and laughably useless in another.

1. if it is not recognizably anti-Semitic; then it is not anti-Semitic.

2. assuming I know how to read this example it is anti-Semitic. if I can't read it then I would have to judge it as anti-Semitic.

3. it is possible that I can recognize it as racist but not recognize it as specifically anti-Semitic. not anti-Semitic.

4. not anti-semitic.

5. not anti-Semitic. it only takes advantage of WASPy bias as opposed to punishing or rewarding types of Semitism.

6. not anti-Semitic as it has no impact on how non-jews react to jews in any way.

7. same as 6.

8. while not anti-Semitic it is still racist. but it is a tool for understanding racism so I would support it.

9. not anti-Semitic. there is no punishment/reward in regard to Semitism.

10. why are they offended? not anti-Semitic until I have more data.

11. as 10.

12. as 10.

13. it is apparently anti-Semitic for children. I would want to know why. it looks like time for a child development researcher to get some grant money.

14. as 13 but for a different group definition. time for a study.

15. as 13. but for stupid people.

16. as 13. but for mentally ill. which type of mental illness? is there a mentally ill variation that becomes less anti-Semitic? time for a study.

17. not anti-Semitic. but as 13. but for people lacking specific social skills or empathy. time for a study.

18. was not anti-Semitic for a time. then anti-Semitic, but not anti-Semitic now. things change.

19. not anti-Semitic. sounds anti-orthodoxy though.

20. no anti-Semitic intent or result; then not anti-Semitic.

21. publish. people who don't like it should not buy it and it does not result in anti-jewish sentiment.

Zak Sabbath said...

As I just said, that much is obvious and not an interesting question, and there's no point to discussing it.

The interesting question is more the fictional content.

Zak Sabbath said...

Your answers seem to establish:

-You care about effect but not intent.

-You are interested in _why_ a text is claimed to be anti-semitic and deciding whether that "why" is valid.

What are some Whys that you'd consider valid? What are some Whys you'd consider in invalid?

Only refer to possible Whys that could realistically apply to a game and have not been covered in the questions already.

Also, re 14: Is beer therefore racist?

Peter Webb said...

So do you think that a work of fiction can be anti-semitic?

Zak Sabbath said...

Obviously, yes because that question is already answered in the affirmative in the post.

mordicai said...

For one, it reads very much like "let's escalate this conversation to abstracts in order to avoid engaging with the real conversation." The list of hypotheticals don't seem like good faith questions, but talking points long stalked out in order to provide cover from criticism. It is an old inflammatory post re-contextualized with the melodrama of the day.

It insults straw "kindergarten-level questions" while being constructed of the very same. It posits that having a simple answer to a complex question is your "one obligation" but offers no answers of its own. It's not a thesis or counter-point, it's just whataboutism.

Furthermore, I'm confused how the subject of censorship came up: is there another Cyberpunk situation going down that I don't know about?

mordicai said...

This binary delusion, that something IS or IS NOT racist based on simple criteria, isn't much use. Things can be lots of things at once. Cerebus can be both an brilliant work of cartooning & deeply misogynistic. The orcs can be a legacy of colonial racism & Lord of the Rings can still be a good book.

Simplifying things to the point of absurdity rarely does any good. There is a reason Godwin is a rule of thumb.

Peter Webb said...

How do you determine if a work of fiction is anti-semitic?

Zak Sabbath said...

1. "reads very much like" is not meaningful. That's some tone bullshit, add specifics.

2. "don't seem like good faith questions" again: they of course are good faith questions, it is sickening you would assume otherwise, especially without any evidence to back up that kind of smear.

3. If there are complicated answers here: PROVIDE THEM. Don't deride the questions and make vague attacks for vague reasons.

4. Censorship is not in any way being discussed here.

Mordicai you must address these points or be banned.

Zak Sabbath said...

You have made a disastrous logical mistake. and you need to address it

The _quality_ of the works in question is not the topic of discussion here and introducing does not in any way affect your binary judgments.

If you say
"Cerebus can be both an brilliant work of cartooning & deeply misogynistic."

The the answer to the binary question "Is cerebus misogynistic" is "yes".


Now if you want to make a better argument that the answer to whether it is fair to use a given word to describe a work, then make that argument instead.

You must address this now.

Zak Sabbath said...

I can tell you how I'd do it but responding to a post that explicitly asks YOU THE READERS to think about your own criteria for labeling works with "Well what do you do, Zak?" isn't necessarily the most helpful way to address the issue.

I recommend you ask me later, after the discussion in the comments has played itself out.

mordicai said...

Longtime reader & happy customer, thanks for the warm welcome.

1. Certainly. Here are a few phrases you've used in the intro that I read as dismissive internet drama.

"...some Internet debate about Internet debate."

"All I'm going to say about that here..."

"...folks in the mainstream RPG scene...have consistently avoided..."

2. You are sickened? That's a rather dramatic response, against considering that in your intro you condemn "weighing how angry they are that the question got asked in a given venue by a given person."

I go on to elaborate on what I mean: the questions are narrow to the point of shutting out discussion, they are escalated to the point of ad absurdum discussion, they use poor criteria like "all" & so forth.

3. I left a follow-up comment below, to begin that discussion. I thought, given your usually brash style of conversation, that disagreement would not be met with such vehemence. I didn't come here for a flame war.

4. "'Should we censor things' (No)"

It is your playground & thus your call to ban as you see fit. But again, that disagreement is met with threats of banning would go to point #2 regarding good faith discourse.

mordicai said...

That's a fair point. But I'm curious how it fares if you run that point through your own Nazi Games questions; as that system is what we're currently discussing.

Zak Sabbath said...

1. None of those are about avoiding a real conversation.

I have (longtime reader) never avoided a conversation about anything ever. If you want to have a conversation about something: start that conversation rather than lying in my comments.

2. Invalid:

2A.They are not narrow to the point of shutting out discussion because literally ANY discussion that you want to have here in the comments is within bounds. You are 100% wrong

2b. They are escalated in order to force people to address an important point: is labeling a work about intent or effect or about something else for them. The word "all" is used to isolate those variables from others.

You don't change all variables at once when deciding which things matter.

3. Accusing me or anyone of bad faith or avoiding discussion is always an attack. YOu must address the consequences of that.

Pay no attention to the tone and "style" you imagine and instead address the substance of the issues and we can have a productive discussion, Allow yourself to be distracted by a tone you have guessed at accomplishes nothing in the way of helping anyone learn anything about the actual issues involved.

4. That quote explicitly takes censorship OFF the table as the topic of discussion I chose.

We are talking about an interesting topic, not a dull one. We are talking about when it is fair to label a product.

As for "threats"--again, stop worrying about tone. The rules here are the rules:

You need to address points made by people who disagree with you to make a coherent discussion.

You should not interpret being reminded of the rules as a hostile act.

Please address the points made.

Zak Sabbath said...

Some of the games described above I would say are anti-semitic and some not.

However as I said above:

I can tell you how I'd do it but responding to a post that explicitly asks YOU THE READERS to think about your _own internal_ criteria for labeling works with "Well what do you do, Zak?" isn't necessarily the most helpful way to address the issue.

I recommend you ask me later, after the discussion in the comments has played itself out.

mordicai said...

I provided quotes from your post. You accuse me of lying. I'm not sure how those things fit together. You claim you've not avoided a conversation in your life: here you are being rude, refusing to use my name, & calling me a liar. You are avoiding having a conversation with me by introducing roadblocks & friction to what could have been a nice discussion.

2. How is it invalid? It was a paragraph of your bemoaning a lack of internally consistent arguments. I find your claim that any conversation is 100% inbounds at odds with you beginning a conversation with the threat of banning.

3. This is actually still point #2.

You flip from:

"Accusing me or anyone of bad faith or avoiding discussion is always an attack."


"You should not interpret being reminded of the rules as a hostile act."

This is not internally consistent.

4. Fair enough.

I'm not worried about the tone; you are the one who keeps bringing up tone policing, being sickened & calling me a liar. What I'm bothered by is the unfriendliness, because there's not much motivation for me to continue a discussion that I'm not enjoying.

Zak Sabbath said...

You made false statements, so I said you were lying. That is what a person is supposed to do when someone makes a false statement.

It's possible you were merely mistaken I suppose. Either way you should apologize for the incredibly aggressive and awful and rude and repulsive thing you did to your fellow human being:

You accused me of posting in bad faith. You didn't even ask questions first to try to establish it.

Now, before we continue this conversation (and I am delighted to see you are addressing points)

I need you to apologize for that disgusting accusation you made in your first comment without even bothering to investigate whether it was warranted.

Please do that now. Then we can talk about the other points.

erwin said...

i remember this fucking me up when it was initially posted, but i'd like to give it a go this time around.

this ended up becoming a two parter (1/2)

1) yes, due to hitler having an anti-semitic worldview and his intentions to reflect it, though there are no effects, his intent remains

2) no, no clear intentions or motive, though the content is itself is prejudice, it having no effect or intent lets this one slide

***3) yes, just because dude failed to get his racist point across (and it backfired in a hilariously positive way) his intentions remain the same. just because no one knows (but I guess we, the readers, would know for the sake of the question) wouldnt change the fact that it was originally intended to be racist

did it fail to deliver its intent due to the the writers poor diction, or like, just a result of progressive times or something?

I'm not too familiar with the example "inept kind of gamma world or mutant future." i think the answer to this could affect later questions

4) maybe yes, even though the authors were racists their intent wasn't explicitly provided with the question feels like this was sort of a twist on question 3.

lets just leave it at a tentative yes, cause all 4 author examples low-key hammer the point home

5) no, progressive author wasn't intending to make an anti-semitic game. not sure how/why popularity among WASPy dudes actually lessens jewish (or marginalized) audience

***6) maybe no, despite jewish bro having no self-hatred, his intent in producing the game wasn't explicitly stated

not sure how i feel about quantifying the split, and how that ultimately affects the outlook on a game

i think this will prolly be further explored in later questions
***7) maybe no, despite protestant bro harboring no anti-semitic feelings, his intent wasnt explicitly stated

these last two are fucking me up

***8) maybe no, despite person bearing no prejudices, his intent in producing the game wasn't explicitly stated

as an aside, his use of stereotypes isn't explicitly confirmed as discriminatory

*I suppose viewpoints on stereotypes=racism/discrimination could play a major factor in this one

9) learning towards no, due to lack of intent, im starting to fall on looking at, i guess, implied intent(?)

10) leaning towards no, same gimmick, lack of information

i still don't know how i feel about quantifying the split

11) maybe no, due to identifying non-prejudice author, and my weenie'ness to factoring numbers of people affected

***12) this feels pretty loaded. leaning towards no. if it was flipped, and people i got along with/thought were smart considered it anti-semitic this could flip to leaning towards yes. I dunno, lack of intent doesn't really give me solid ground to answer this one.

erwin said...


13) maybe no, due to identifying progressive author, but lack of intent (on what theyre trying to reflect in their writing)

i suppose the fact its intended for adults, and its chance for children adopting anti-semitic attitudes would kinda be like how GTA has a(n alleged) chance to cause children into shooting up schools and shit.

i guess it'd be more of a reflection on the parenting/allowing the kid to play it/discussing and understanding intent/implied intent

i dunno, leaning towards maybe no though.

14) maybe no, due to identifying progressive author, but lack of intent

its crucial theres only one effect and its negative, but that shouldnt have an affect on the author/game

i feel like im rationalizing/answering this to defend beer.

15) maybe no, due to identifying progressive (and so far "progressive" has been held in positive light), but lack of intent

same deal with 14, what can the author/game really do, unless they were intending to incite stupid into being anti-semitic then i can't really say.

16) maybe no, same deal with 14-15, the effects get worse and worse, and unless it was the authors intention to incite the mentally ill into being anti-semitic, then I can't really say otherwise

17) maybe no, progressive author with no stated intent, making a game where people roleplay real-life jewish banking-related criminals (whats the intent behind this?) (something like this meant to inherently stir the pot, so to speak? then maybe yes)

18) maybe no, progressive author with no stated intent,

the "measurable effect on the audience at the time was to diversify the audience and make it more progressive" could fall under similar circumstances with question 3, if the intentions were like number 3 i mean.

19) leaning towards no, only because im holding "progressive" authors in a positive light

offending "pretty much all" of a whole group of marginalized people could be the line if i were to factor quantifying effects, but, nah, i gotta hold out haha.

20) leaning towards no, same deal as 19

"pretty much all" of them can claim to be offended, and rightfully be offended, but was the progressive author intending to discriminate?

21) given the question, its maybe no, I don't know his intentions

regardless of the numbers, this dude would become representative of my company, no matter what little bullshit "the authors views dont reflect ours" kinda shit my company might try to pull, end of the day my money is going to marginalizing some people, which isnt MY intention (the 50/50 split isn't relevant, but rather the fact that its happening)

as his money guy, id like to think/hope there would be some professional honesty/integrity in this business exchange and dude would let me know what hes trying to do, and if it lines up with what im trying to do, so i could confidently back him financially.


I feel a lot of these could flip with very minor variation. End of the day, I feel a lot of folks do things with their heart in the right place but the results just get all fucked up. And I don't feel I could hold it against them. Cause that shit happens to me a lot too.

Zak Sabbath said...

Thanks for putting so much thought into the questions, Erwin

erwin said...

chea, i'm curious how these answers could/would ultimately affect how people address/feel about jessica price goin ham on twitter.

i think it would still boil down to intent. while ignorance to peoples' issues/ones own actions shouldn't be a veritable excuse to let toxic shit slide, if they aren't trying to be a dick about it, it could be alright. especially if, moving forward, they made a conscious effort not to be dickish.

Revenant said...

I consider a work racist/sexist/antisemitic/etc if it presents, as true, *false* claims portraying the group negatively, or disproportionately accentuates information that makes the group look bad without providing context. I care about who is offended only inasmuch as "a lot of [group] find it offensive is a good indicator that I might have overlooked something. A work can be horribly offensive to the majority of a group without being racist/etc.

So: 1, 2, 3, and 18 are antisemitic. 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12 might be, but I couldn't say based on the given information.The rest are not.

Zak Sabbath said...

That's not a meaningful analysis here because we are discussing fiction, where no claims are presented as true.

Adamantyr said...

I replied on the original thread two years ago but it got lost in some post shuffling... I wonder how close my present-day answers will be to the originals?

Part 1:

1. No. I WANT to say yes because of the intent, but the fact it had no impact just means it's a badly written game.

2. No. Intent is unknown, the evidence is against it. The fact nobody can understand it to even BE offended makes it impossible. How they'd even be aware of the content's existence is also puzzling.

3. No. This would be a case where the intent is far outweighed by the effect. No doubt the author is seething with frustration at his failed attempt to incite racial warfare, although he may be trying to figure out how to leverage his game's popularity to further his nefarious goals...

4. No. Regardless of the author or authors, the effect is marginal to none.

5. Yes. The balance is on the effect that it has, which is overall negative. It increases the RPG audience but makes them more inclined towards antisemitism.

6. No. Obviously there is some serious contention among the Jewish community about it, but it has no impact on the audience or individual attitudes (which includes non-Jewish of course).

7. No. Same answer as #6, the author's background does not change the impact.

8. No. A positive impact matters more. Obviously there is a fine line to skirt here on content, what is broad and stereotypical but not offensive today could be offensive in the future. (Ever watch TV shows from the 70's and 80's with horrible Asian and Indian stereotypes that make you wince?)

9. No. It's a terrible game but the impact is on the type of game it is, rather than on people.

10. No. Same as #6, changing the percentage of people who say this or that doesn't change the impact.

Adamantyr said...

Part 2:

11. No. The impact on the gaming audience as a whole is unaffected, the number of people who love or hate it doesn't directly impact that. That said, if only 2 loved it out of 10, it's worth digging into the Why...

12. Unknown. I'd need to read it myself. While I may trust my "smart" friends, I need to form my own opinion, possibly with input and questions.

13. No. The fact it DOES have a measurable impact on children is worrisome, but the game was NOT intended for children. That said, the authors should be cautious with their marketing to make the audience clear.

14. No. It has an impact, but only on those individuals who were already inclined towards antisemitism. You don't blame the brewer because while drunk you did something stupid... well, most people don't.

15. No. Same as #14, although I would wonder what the metrics were for determining stupidity. ("Voted for Trump" for example.)

16. No. Same as #14, mental illness is somewhat more complicated than stupidity, but unlike stupidity, you can't choose to NOT be mentally ill.

17. No. See #15. At this point, the game's disclaimer reads "Warning: Not for children, stupid people, or the mentally ill."

18. No. It has no impact on the attitude of anyone now or measurable effect.

19. No. In order to be anti-Semitic, it has to offend the entire Jewish community, not just a subset.

20. No. The language used has no direct impact on the content. (Incidentally, per Wikipedia, the connection of "hip hip hooray" to the Hep Hep Riots has been disputed.)

21. Yes. It's my decision, although I would certainly consult to get opinions from people I know and trust to make it. If there was a very real concern of antisemitism, I would conduct blind playtesting to help influence the decision as well.

Revenant said...

Most fiction is majority-fact. A spy thriller has made-up characters and motivations, but still accepts human biology, that Germany and Italy are countries in Europe, etc. Even Game of Thrones is mostly composed of things people accept as true in real life. Thats why Martin doesn't need to spend paragraphs explaining that getting stabbed hurts just like it does IRL. The assumption in most fiction is that real life rules apply unless otherwise noted.

Zak Sabbath said...

"Most" is a weasel-word.

You need to do a lot better than that and be more specific about the lines you draw.

For example, in a Garfield cartoon "most" men are depicted as having cats. Because Jon is the only man in most of those cartoons. It, however doesn't _claim this is a fact about men_ it presents a scenario.

All plumbers in Mario Bros re presented as italians who kill turtles. It does not make fact claims about them.

Please try to think harder

Revenant said...

Pointing out that parts of Garfield are fictional doesn't demonstrate much of anything. I already agreed that fiction contains non-factual elements.

But even Garfield contains quite a bit of non-fiction. Humans and cats are real. Cats and dogs are kept as pets. Cats enjoy sleeping a lot, and seldom get along with dogs. People live in houses and have jobs, and so on. The comic writer didn't make those things up. They are facts.

In the original Tarzan novels it is taken as given that, in real life, white men are the moral and intellectual superiors of black men. This is included in the books not as a fictional element of a made-up setting, but as a fact of life present in the stories for realism. That is racist literature -- it presents racist views as being true not just in an imaginary world, but in the real one.

Zak Sabbath said...

But how emphatically must a setting element be stated in a work for you to use the verb "taken" as int he sentence ?

How clear must the assertion be?

What are some examples outside Tarzan of phrasing that you've decided isn't ironic, or illustrating a character pov but that's actually making a nonfiction claim?

Without drawing this line, you're not engaging the question in the way that it's usually asked--especially about most modern fiction, which rarely outrigth states a pov

Jojiro said...

Out of curiosity, and I'm piggy-backing off of this because I largely agree about effect-over-intent in terms of game-reviewing, why do we create the dichotomy of "racist or not", and stop the conversation there?

I recognize in the memespace of "let's talk about racism" it is very often a yes or no question, but on a more analytical/academic/nuanced/whatever level I think you can break things down a bit more. That is to say, do we care to take actions or not, which is very much based on impact and not intent, unless the person posts their intent all over the internet, which makes an impact, a splash, in its own way.

Specifically, if we're talking about beer, I think the conversation extends from 15, right? If the impact is that folks are going to engage in more antisemitic activities (the definition of which is in question here, which makes it even harder to answer without circling back) then a person who is now aware of this should not give the game to folks who it would thus incentivize.

Sorry, that was a trainwreck of a sentence.

I guess my point is, while the internal consistency is important, that internally consistent answer sometimes isn't a yes/no for all the complex adult questions you're asking.

For example, in the case of 19, let us say the thought experiment holds and indeed all orthodox Jews are offended, or near all. I don't know that offense is something that informs my moral code, so I might say "your offense is totes legit" and respect that, but also not change my decisions as a moneylender or investor in that game designer.

Zak Sabbath said...

why do we create the dichotomy of "racist or not", and stop the conversation there?

I stop this particular conversation there because "that's racist" is an accusation people make all the time and the first job is to clarify when that is or isn't warranted.

There are other jobs after that, but most people in the conversation are SO bad at even getting to there (see Mordicai below totally fucking it up) that moving beyond that is a whole separate issue.

Jojiro said...

...this medium doesn't have edits. Drag.

I do see the virtue of simplifying the discussion with the yes/no. However, if the goal is internally consistent answers, saying yes/no isn't the answer I think I'd work towards.

Talking to folks, validating their frustrations, and communicating those frustrations to people who can make a difference, I guess, is a pretty consistent thing I do when I have the energy to do it. So like, just as an example for the first few:

1. I don't care cuz no effect.
2. I don't care cuz no effect.
3. Bizarro, so possibly worth using as a fun example, except no one knows any of this, so I guess I don't either. Not knowing it, I wouldn't have reason to think it was anti-semitic.
4. I don't care.
5. I mean, audiences being skewed is again interesting but unless problematic I don't really care.

So that's a start, right? And I'm the sort of person who I guess would call people out more for sexism/racism/whatever more than your average feminist and less than what might be termed radical or "professional". So I do care a decent amount about the topic, yet most of my answers don't fall into yes/no. They just...I dunno how to express this. They don't seem to matter to me as far as internally consistent answers go.

And I wonder if that reflects a quirk in your phrasing, your examples, or if I'm just not the target audience.

Zak Sabbath said...

You've already said that what you care about is "effect over intent" so the diagnostic tool has already gotten you to be wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more specific and clear than you would (apparently) otherwise be.

You are now prepared to go on and call out lots of people who have (by your own description) pointlessly wrangled about what is and isn't objectionable for no reason. You have also framed where your own research should be: What is the effect?

Congratulations, the questions have revealed to anyone reading your personal thought process here.

Now if the 4000 other folks in tabletop RPGs also were able to state their criteria for complaining about games as clearly we could move on to having useful conversations about how and to what degree we can make works less harmful.

Jojiro said...

holy crap you ninja'd my post. i didn't even see the comment between the two. sorry.

ok. i get your point now. so like, you start simple, and even then folks are like "omg are you trying to say something you're not saying" and it can get messy.


also super super sorry. did not see the ninja post so my second comment looks rambly and ignoring you. er. it still was rambly and ignoring you i guess, but not out of malice.

Zak Sabbath said...

Oh, and Tom K, you never cleared up after your attack so you're banned until you do.