Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kill it With Fire!

Timeshadows writes:

That shit is just as wrong, and more-so, today, in this age, than it was in more Victorian years of my own lifetime.
--Not only that, it's *Fucking Stupid* for a Niche of a Niche hobby trying to find new players --players who haven't bought into the Cannibal Corpse mindset, that is.

Is that /so/ *Fucking* hard to understand?

Since she’s the dissenting voice in this so far, I figured she deserved a proper, longer response. Though I have to admit, I’m not sure I understand her argument.

My father played one, maybe two sessions of D&D with me after I got the Mentzer Basic box for Christmas. He never forbid me to play the game, and even encouraged my interest in it, but he never played it again himself. The game, quite simply, was too violent for his tastes.

RPGs are all about violence. The latest iteration of the “gateway game” has a huge miniature combat component to it, and just about all the other rules are tacked onto that. The world of computer RPGs is even worse; the mmogs that allowed you to bake bread or play music in the tavern are all but gone, driven out by those that focused on grind-tastic combat.

I hope we’ve buried the old canard about women not liking violence in their RPGs. These games are largely about violence, violence against women and men and children and animals, self-inflicted violence and certainly undeserved violence. Even if orcs spawn from pods by the power of the mystic underworld, even if those orcs never make it to the surface to attack the towns and cities the PCs use as home-base, the threat of violence against women is always lurking in the background.

And don’t try to feed anyone any lines about how violence against women drives away women. There have been far too many examples to the contrary for that to be convincing.

Now, you might have an argument when it comes to graphic depictions of violence against women, a la Cannibal Corpse. Though, honestly, you also might be able to just stop at “graphic depictions of violence” and leave it at that. The dripping-intestines thing does appear to be something that primarily appeals to guys (though not exclusively) and I don’t have any market research handy to back that up. I just haven’t seen anyone else jump on that bandwagon for a product targeted primarily at women.

But, as far as being “wrong,” I’m afraid it’s all bathwater and no baby; if you want to purge the hobby of violence against women, you’ll have to purge the hobby out of existence. And you’ll be tossing out most entertainment appealing to women as well. I’m not sure why it’s more important now than in the past (America, at least, is far less dangerous today than it’s probably ever been) either.

As for my father, eventually we did play a few home-made RPGs in later years, sci-fi games focused on things like planetary geological surveys and collecting animals for study. We had fun, but good luck selling that sort of game to RPGers today, male or female.


Anonymous said...




5stonegames said...

I agree that RPG's are mostly about violence or violent conflict .

There are exceptions of course, a few games are more soap opera than anything (Smallville and the Indy games) and some games like Leverage and some older school D&D games are about theft more or less. Get the XP for the gold and skip the combat that sort of thing ...

However ... very few people of any gender or ethnicity are interested in a game that is (not my words here) a combination of wargaming, improv theater and bookkeeping.

And even changing the hobby to make it safer and more PC won't make the game more diverse or bring in new blood .

People who want a different experience have computer and games and occasionally board games to play.

The days when it was "D&D or nothin'" are long gone.

As for the crime question, well I'll be political here which is rare and note that taking those stats at face value, the US is measurably worse off than it was back when the stats were this low.

Between our insane incarceration rate, surveillance state (cops watching cameras in the public square is not the sign of a free society) militarized policing, zero tolerance, improved forensics and other factors (possibly abortion, private CCW and removal of environmental lead) we've managed to make a country about as safe as it was post war.

That not an accomplishment to be proud of at all.

In many ways, save maybe access to porn in rural areas and concealed carry of guns the US is measurably less free than it was in the past.

Also though unpopular to say US crime is a matter of demography, the D&D demographic, mainly geeky suburban middle class white males and a mix of others has never much been part of the crime demographic either cause or victim.

There are of course outliers (I have some in my group) but on the whole, the areas with high crime rates do not have a lot of D&D players.

certainly gamers have been victims but its pretty rare to have serious exposure to crime, baring mental illness or drug addiction.

The one exemption seems to be gamer girls, this may be an IME thing but a lot of them seem to have been victims of sex abuse. This is one of those "any demographic crimes" of course and underreported at times.

That exposure is why I avoid sexual violence or graphic violence especially vs women in a group with women in it and reserve the darker types of gaming for players who can handle it.

Stuart said...

That poor middle, getting all excluded like that... :)

watermelontail said...

There's a pretty big difference between pointing out the depictions of violence in the art in one gaming product and arguing that RPGs need to stop including violence at all, and it takes a pretty big logical leap to get from one to the other. I find your argument as far fetched as it is unpersuasive.

As for depictions of violence against women, you're ignoring the context of the genre (fantasy art), the medium (art & RPGs) and the society these are part of. We'll just leave aside the long history of problems fantasy and RPG art has with women in general, for now, because that's an entirely different thing. But let's go at it this way; I sort of wish I lived in a world where depictions of violence (perpetrated by men) against women merited the same reaction as men against men, women against men and women against women, because that would mean that society viewed them all as the same, but they don't.

When a man (or woman) commits and act of violence against a man, he does not have to prove the violence took place, that the violence was violent, that some official response to the violence is warranted. No one thinks of the proprietary concerns of his spouse, partner, parent. Very few people, if any (name one case other than The Brave One and that will double the number I've encountered)make fictional representations of the rage and need for vengeance of said spouse/partner/parent of the victim.

There is no argument that depictions of violence against women should be treated differently, they already are treated differently, because actual violence against women already is treated differently, and usually with suspicion, scorn, victim-blaming and more violence.

So, yeah, you shouldn't be surprised when people are offended by those pictures. You shouldn't be surprised when people are more offended, and it's not because those who get offended have delicate sensibilities or are looking to be righteous. Depictions of violence against women are, in context, more offensive, because it's really easy to find unanswered and even societally approved analogues in real life. And no, the fact that tentacles might be committing the violence doesn't change that.

Norman Harman said...

I hate when something happens and people blog about it and I have no idea wtf they are referring to / talking about.

trollsmyth said...

NUNYA: Yeah, you could practically rename this place "Trollsmyth's Bla-bla-blahg" the way I've been posting lately.

5stonegames: Don't even get me started on the politics. I don't do that here, anyway. Xp

And no, I personally don't go out of my way to shock or horrify folks, especially at my table (even when the table is virtual). That's not my scene, and the point of the game is for all of us to have fun. This really isn't about me.

Not yet, anyway...

Watermelontail: There's a pretty big difference between pointing out the depictions of violence in the art in one gaming product and arguing that RPGs need to stop including violence at all, and it takes a pretty big logical leap to get from one to the other. I find your argument as far fetched as it is unpersuasive.

Er, so are you arguing that you'd be fine with a game that was all about something horrifically offensive as long as you didn't include any pictures of its subject matter? Sorry, but I'm pretty sure you don't mean that.

As for the rest, no, I'm not shocked at all that folks are offended. I don't object at all to offense. I just object to the notion that just because something is offensive means we shouldn't be doing it.

Norman: Yeah, apologies for the lack of a preamble. The short form is, I wrote about the necessity for enduring things we find offensive, in response to a number of posts (like this one) which appear to be primarily about the art Raggi has in his Grindhouse books.

As NUNYA says, a lot of blah-blah-blah. ;)

Aberrant Hive Mind said...

I'm sure there are more dissenting voices out there, but I'm certain those who would argue against your last post ended up tuning it out(myself included).

I agree that it was a "fucking stupid" move to go all cannibal corpse with grindhouse. Myself I skipped it. I think James is a better writer than an art director personally. I'd rather he concentrate on adventure writing than art, but whatever pays the bills I guess?

Greg Christopher said...


I love you dude, but this is one big giant straw man of doom. Seriously.

I expect more from you.

Watermelontail NAILED IT. The problem is the social context in which it occurs, not the actual subject itself. Which is why you can have a movie like The Siege where they round Muslims up and put them behind barbed wire in camps, but not for Jews. Not for Jews for a long, long, long, long time. It may have to be the 22nd century to do that to Jews. It just wouldn't be tolerated. And you and I both know why.

Same logic applies here for women. Art that depicts violence against women is just inappropriate. Even if you are being fair and balanced in terms of imagery.

Context is king.

Stuart said...

Art that depicts violence against women is just inappropriate.

Yeah! Screw that middle ground. Everything is black and white. :D

Greg Christopher said...

fair enough Stuart, extreme violence. Sorry, I have been arguing this so long my qualifiers are falling off.

trollsmyth said...

ABH:G. Christopher: The problem is the social context in which it occurs, not the actual subject itself. Which is why you can have a movie like The Siege where they round Muslims up and put them behind barbed wire in camps, but not for Jews. Not for Jews for a long, long, long, long time. It may have to be the 22nd century to do that to Jews. It just wouldn't be tolerated. And you and I both know why.

Um, seriously? Have you been living under a rock? They made a movie about Jews locked up in camps behind barbed wire. It was called "Schindler's List." And "Jacob the Liar." And "Life is Beautiful." And...

And did you see "The Siege?" The whole point was to show an equivalence between potential oppression of Muslims in America to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany. They could make "The Siege" and expect it to have an emotional impact specifically because there are lots of films about Jews in concentration camps.

Which, frankly, is still beside the point. There are lots of topics Hollywood won't touch. (Like, say, the Prophet Mohammed.)

And I say, nothing should be off limits simply because someone finds it offensive. We call that "freedom of speech." It's scary and sometimes dangerous, but not as dangerous as forcing some ideas underground, where, through processes of pressure and fermentation, they weaponize into truly dangerous stuff.

taichara said...

The disappointment I have seeing this can probably be measured out by Mars.

And I'm not debating it.

Greg Christopher said...

I meant fictional stories, Brian. Not documentaries.

And nobody said anything about suppressing speech. I said it was inappropriate. You are free to do a lot of things, like tell people they are ugly right to their face, but you refrain from that out of politeness.

trollsmyth said...

Taichara: Yeah, I know. And I'd apologize, except this is important. The list of offensive ideas throughout history includes irrational numbers, that the earth orbits the sun, natural selection, and that women should be allowed to vote.

I truly hope that you can see this as the tempest-in-a-teapot that it really is; it certainly won't affect my games, and I don't expect it to affect yours at all. The game, after all, is what really counts in this crazy little dysfunctional community of ours.

Keep your head up, please. This too shall pass.

trollsmyth said...

Greg Christopher: The reason nobody makes fictional stories about Jews in camps is because it wouldn't have the impact of the real thing. It's got nothing to do with respect or offense.

And I certainly don't go around punching people who offend me. Neither should you. Neither should anyone. That is my point.

Greg Christopher said...

The thing is Brian, I have said this many times but people don't appear to be listening, is that I am not offended by anything going on in the RPG community right now. Offended is just not something that happens to me.

What does happen to me is that I see something I think is inappropriate for the context and I speak up. If that is being analogized here to punching people in the face, I plead guilty. I don't think we are obligated to be silent when we see things we disagree with.

Aberrant Hive Mind said...

? Haha, did I just get Greg's words put into my mouth? wtf mate. wtf...

oh shit, I just realized.. trollsmyth. clever

Stuart said...

nobody makes fictional stories about Jews in camps

There one in theatres right now.

trollsmyth said...

ABH: Er, actually, my response to you got eaten by my response to GC. Oops.

Anyway, what I meant to say to you was, I suspect that's what most folks (including myself) did when they saw the art in Raggi's latest. Timeshadows took the time to write a rather impassioned response, and so she got one back.

Again, I've got no issue with being offended. (That was the point of my discussing the cocktail parties of yesteryear when conservatives and liberals could agree to disagree.) I've got no issue with folks expressing how offended they are. I do take exception to the notion that offense alone is enough to warrant not doing something or, worse, being forbidden to do something.

Aberrant Hive Mind said...

ah! haha, GAME ON bro!!!

Timeshadows said...

Trollsmith: Your replies to the posters, nanely Greg, suggest that you have a hard line that you will not think past.

To oblige your request for my explanation (without contacting me to do so, merely leaving it to be found...why?), here it goes.

Let me preface this by saying that what I say now is my final comment, so don't bother asking me here for anything else. Contact me via my blog or by e-mail if you wish to conduct an interview or something.

1). The context was that of legitimacy of personhood: other Minorities, Gays, and Women.

2). When Victorian morals were active, Women were essentially non-people.

3). We in the West have made some headway in personising groups (women in this instance) which is still not present in much of the world.

4). In our modern, sensitised society, the idea of treating Women as sex objects, objects/subjects of violence, or any combination thereof as being anything proper (I'll address propriety versus permission later) is apparently falling upon deaf ears and desensitised consciences.
--That some women enjoy this sort of artwork is no better evidence than offering that since Squeaky Fromme helped remove Sharon Tate's unborn child from Tate's belly, all women everywhere are up for that sort of evening entertainment.
---In case you still don't get it: That is poorly constructed logic. What I posted was opinion. Your position is the one that requires some hard evidence, like demographics and charts.

5). My saying 'That shit is Wrong', is not moral panic. It is a moral statement. Civilised society makes moral judgements all the time, such as when individuals convicted of murder are sent to death row, awaiting their execution. The society is saying, 'the unjustified taking of another's life is unacceptable. Your behaviour is undesired, and your wrongdoing so great that the only recourse we possess is for your life to be taken as a punitive balancing act, where one innocent life is taken by an aggressor, so that unjustified aggressor's life shall be forfeit.'

7). Making moral statements in the audience of those without similar moral structure does not obligate the speak accommodating the audience. Doing the right thing has always been difficult in the light of apathy or coercion, and naysayers are just as entitled to speak their opinions.

8). If artwork in an RPG depicted undead sadistic Dommes mutilating male genitalia were released, do you honestly think that the OSR would be eager to purchase and game with that particular edition?
--If not, why?
---Is it because the female form is found to be arousing even in (especially?) violent contexts, but the male form in all its glory being subjected to the same violence is only held to be arousing by a much smaller percentage (gay sadists, mysandronists, anyone who likes images of suffering?)

9). What if each image in Grindhouse that depicted a women being shown special attention were instead replaced with the image of a minority male (black, red, yellow, your choice). Would you guys (and gals) be grooving as hard on that?

I hope that helps you and your side of the view understand what I find wrong with graphic depictions of violence against women.
--I would feel even stronger vehemence if children and infants were the recipients of the offending artwork. Would you?
---If so, why is that?
----What would your justification be?

Good day,

wv: pyromma

Timeshadows said...

'as being anything [im]proper is apparently...'

There may be a few other dangling thoughts in there.

trollsmyth said...

I've emailed a reply to Timeshadows, and I'm happy to let the matter drop here. I'm going to go ahead, however, and include a section of my email because, clearly, I've not been blunt enough in what I'm trying to convey. This is what I get for squeezing in blogging time in the cracks of the rest of my life.

Yes, there is a hard, solid line here. My belief in freedom of speech and freedom of expression is absolute. It does not waver for stupid speech, or evil speech, or dangerous speech. Especially as, as I’ve commented many times, I firmly believe that dangerous speech buried metastasizes into something even worse.

Replace both depictions of a woman being killed in the Grindhouse books with any person, of any age, gender, ethnicity or what-have-you, and I would not change my mind on this. Replace both of them with depictions of me being killed, and my opinion would not change. Replace them with my mother being killed, and my opinion would not change.

Are there things I’d rather not see? Absolutely. But my desires impose no obligations on anyone in regards to their speech or art. And any attempt by me to attempt such an imposition would be evil. Ditto for anyone else.

As for their marketability, that’s Raggi’s problem, but considering his audience, and the continued success of bands like Cannibal Cult, I suspect it won’t be an issue for him. He won’t be leading the great resurrection of the RPG hobby anytime soon, but then, neither will anyone else. He’s got his niche of a niche (of a niche?) and they seem quite happy with his product. As for me, as with all things, I’ll take what I like and ignore the rest.

Greg Christopher said...


Who is calling for hard censorship?

As far as I know, nobody.

In this whole debate, I have seen numerous arguments that nobody should be censored, but nobody actually arguing for censorship. Which leads me to believe that either...

a) people cannot read

b) people are confusing "I don't like this" with "this should be banned".

trollsmyth said...


Granted, he says "exclude," not silence, but it's clear that silence must be the goal, since if he merely "excludes" them, he'll still get painted with the same brush, just as Raggi was assumed to be a fan of Korn because he listened to metal. ;p

As for your post, I read an implied "and you should, too" in the following segment: I also have a right to say fuck in front of old women. But I refrain. It isn't a question of rights. It is a question of appropriateness. Every community has standards that you shouldn't violate if you want to be respected.

Apologies if you never intended something like that, but it certainly sounds like that's what you're saying, in spite of all your protestations to the contrary elsewhere. The whole thing kinda read, to me, like you were saying, "I have no right to tell you to shut up, but yeah, stop being rude and shut up."

DHBoggs said...

What the hell is a joesky tax. Wait I don't want to know. I already know more Jejemon crap than I want to.

DHBoggs said...

As to the subject, well I personally have no interest in seeing more than I already have of the artwork in question.

But, here is what I find curious about the hoopla, to be offensive, doesn't something have to be taken seriously? Perhaps I'm underreacting, but I'm not inclined to take RPG sketches, fantasy worlds or horror game art very seriously, regardless of how obnoxious, juvenile, disgusting, pretensious, or silly their content.

Greg Christopher said...


If I say that I think 4e was a mistake, am I trying to silence WotC? If I say "and I think a majority of gamers agree" does that mean I am trying to silence WotC?

I think you would agree, no it doesnt. It is just my opinion on the merits of a design decision. Right?

trollsmyth said...

DHBoggs: Actually, the Joesky Tax is kinda cool. But I haven't the time to play. :/

trollsmyth said...

GC: True, but I think you'd also agree that there's a profound difference between saying that something was a foolish business decision and saying that something "goes over the line that people are willing to comfortably tolerate, it is beyond the acceptable standard of behavior".

If you'd said, "the art is excessively graphic" or "it grossed me out" or even, "I wouldn't be comfortable letting someone new to the hobby see this for fear of what they might think" I wouldn't have made a huge deal about it. But what you said was that it was "beyond the acceptable" which looks to be synonymous with "unacceptable" and not just by your standards, but unacceptable by the standards of the entire community. So I hope you can see where I got that idea.

Blair said...

I just wanted to say that if a rpg product featured male genitals being mutilated by undead it's likely that I would find it hilarious, "sausage is on the menu!"

Oddysey said...

I am confused as to why we are having this discussion. It's not like Raggi really needs us to defend him from Greg Christopher, and it doesn't appear that anything anyone has said about his products so far is going to (a) stop him from making them or (b) discourage anyone from buying them. Rather the opposite in both cases.