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Subject: Real world issues in boardgaming? rss

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Denmark
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First of all, I'm not trying to cause trouble or be a troll.
Secondly, I wasn't quite sure if this kind of post should be in RSP?

With the rise of the indie video game industry over the last 10 years or so, video game developers have started to embrace themes concerning real world issues like racism,loneliness,suicide,drugs,bullying ect.

When done with great care and respect, video games can potentially be an great interactive tool to teach (older)kids and adults alike about issues they may not think about or are exposed to in their daily lives and in best cases lead to empathy and a better understanding of the consequences of our choices(or lack thereof).

That brings us to boardgames, are we the boardgaming community ready to embrace such serius themes? I see the mixing of escapism and real world issues in boardgames as a potential gateway to approach taboo subjects that we think are to uncomfortable/sensitive to outright bring up in normal conversation(especially for families and in classrooms maybe?).

Then again, what do I know? Maybe its a can of worms that shouldn't be opened? Are the risk of offending with poorly developed games to great? Or simply for people to misunderstand the developers message/intention with the boardgame to great a risk? Maybe boardgames should just remain a safe haven, as a means to escape real world issues for a while?

What to you think?


Ps. I'm not trying to ride into town on a high holy horse, I have been a racist,bully,sexist ect. during my youth and unfortunately only realized some of my wrong doings years later.
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Matthew Hague
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I don't play games to be taught lessons I play them to have fun and spend time with my friends.

If it's a good game, with a fun theme I'm up for it. Otherwise Ill give it a miss.

I'm sure theres probably a space for these kind of games out there, but I doubt it would be in most peoples collections.
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maf man
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Tullis wrote:
are we the boardgaming community ready to embrace such serius themes?

sure, as much as video games are I'd suppose. But right now I'm kinda blanking on any examples in ether industry.
 
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Jim Parkin
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Themes such as rape, incest, battery, drug use, sexuality, alcoholism, slavery, colonialism, misogony, cannibalism, murder etc... are not necessarily taboo--I believe that context is king. If you're theming a game for kids and choose gateway drugs, promiscuity, and domestic abuse as the framework for your mechanics, I'd argue that this is not appropriate. If you theme a game for an adult audience and attempt to portray realistic conditions related to a theme, I have a more flexible appreciation for those titles.

Games like Freedom: The Underground Railroad or Colonialism directly reflect the mise en place of the setting--deviation from that setting and accuracy of emotional reaction would detract from the experience and invalidate the design. Other examples include games like Paths of Glory and A Distant Plain, which tackle the grievous reality of war and the grayscale morality that has to be reckoned with in such conflicts. Even more, games like Android deliberately spend the bulk of their design on exploring the existential crises of player characters, involving direct interaction with topics like spousal abuse, addiction, revenge killing, apartheid, racism, and sexual exploitation. These are real themes which exist in some form in real life--I do not see why they are not allowed to exist in a simulation.

These games are not for everyone, nor are they necessary or should be promoted as essentials for every shelf. That said, I take a libertarian view of theme, so I am not quick to dismiss a game.

tl; dr -- if theme is offensive or uncomfortable, the point of the game should be exposing players to the offense and discomfort in order to reckon with and reconcile the reality of the theme with their complex counterparts in real life. If the theme is offensive and uncomfortable for the sake of offense and discomfort, I'd veto that game.
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Shaun Morris
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Tullis wrote:
First of all, I'm not trying to cause trouble or be a troll.
Secondly, I wasn't quite sure if this kind of post should be in RSP?

With the rise of the indie video game industry over the last 10 years or so, video game developers have started to embrace themes concerning real world issues like racism,loneliness,suicide,drugs,bullying ect.

When done with great care and respect, video games can potentially be an great interactive tool to teach (older)kids and adults alike about issues they may not think about or are exposed to in their daily lives and in best cases lead to empathy and a better understanding of the consequences of our choices(or lack thereof).

That brings us to boardgames, are we the boardgaming community ready to embrace such serius themes? I see the mixing of escapism and real world issues in boardgames as a potential gateway to approach taboo subjects that we think are to uncomfortable/sensitive to outright bring up in normal conversation(especially for families and in classrooms maybe?).

Then again, what do I know? Maybe its a can of worms that shouldn't be opened? Are the risk of offending with poorly developed games to great? Or simply for people to misunderstand the developers message/intention with the boardgame to great a risk? Maybe boardgames should just remain a safe haven, as a means to escape real world issues for a while?

What to you think?


Ps. I'm not trying to ride into town on a high holy horse, I have been a racist,bully,sexist ect. during my youth and unfortunately only realized some of my wrong doings years later.


There are already board games in existence that intend to deal with some real world issues. I've listed 2 off the top of my head but I know there are a number of others.

This War of Mine: The Board Game - dealing with the horrors faced by civilians caught up in a war zone.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad - dealing with the horrors of slavery

EDIT: Ninja-ed ninja

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Jim Parkin
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morris9597 wrote:
EDIT: Ninja-ed ninja

ZING!
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Denmark
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A few video games examples:

That Dragon, Cancer - about cancer

loneliness - about loneliness

Life Is Strange - about suicide,angst,death ect.

I made the post because I'm interested in peoples opinions on the subject, so keep them coming

 
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Boaty McBoatface
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Is this RSP, most likely (and it's a bit late) but let me reply by not raising RSP.

Games can and do deal with real issues, hell Monopoly's genesis was just that. In fact any wargame is dealing with "real world" issues to a degree.
But when the "lecturing" or "education" is more important them game play (yes Tobruk I am looking at you) then I think you just have a bad game.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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Tullis wrote:
That brings us to boardgames, are we the boardgaming community ready to embrace such serius themes?

Train
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Check out Clockwork Wars. It's a pretty darn good dudes on a hex map Euro'ish steampunk game. Quick and fun.
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It can be done, but I have a feeling the appeal will not be widespread. A lot of gamers play games as a bit of escapism. Confronting real world problems and dilemmas doesn't seem very escapy to me. For those gamers who care not for escapism, the subject matter of the games is irrelevant, they just care about the mechanisms. So you have some gamers for whom your subject matter will be a downer and others for whom it will be either irrelevant or a distraction. Not a win win situation.

Look at Freedom: The Underground Railroad or This War of Mine: The Board Game. I have zero desire to play either game. I think both topics are vitally important. I'll read books on them. However, when I play a game, I want to escape from such depressing topics, not explore them with a game.

This doesn't rule out all issues board games for me. I am interested in testing CO₂. There, however, I think the theme is far enough away from direct human nastiness to not be such a downer (even though the implications of global climate change are very serious indeed). I also think very well of Vital Lacerda as a designer.
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Mark Watson
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Tullis wrote:
Are the risk of offending with poorly developed games to great? Or simply for people to misunderstand the developers message/intention with the boardgame to great a risk? Maybe boardgames should just remain a safe haven, as a means to escape real world issues for a while?

What to you think?

Don't think it's really an issue; it's a free market, I can choose to purchase or not purchase a game as I see fit for any reason. The videogame market is a good case in point - most objections to those indie games which do cover real world topics tend to be more about their failures as games than anything to do with theme as such.
If anything the problem is one of design - it's rare than a game is good at both being a game and conveying a message (just think of all those edutainment titles), so by and large these aren't huge sellers. So perhaps the real issue isn't the themes but whether the likelihood of success is high enough to justify the (financial)risks of development.
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Andreas Kortegaard
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I think most of the "real world" theme video games I've seen, share some features that are not traditionally seen in boardgaming. They are often solo experiences, and not with a lot of replay value, e.g. experience games.

The translation of videogame formats into boardgames often require major re-write a la "X-com", and i think "This war of mine" to a degree, or some sort of innovation like the legacy format games.

The expectations of agency, by people attracted to those video game are probably lower than the average boardgamer and gamer in general.

"Freedom: the underground railroad" clearly proves, that it can be done in something resembling a traditional boardgame. But the design evolution in boardgames is just slower than in videogames at the moment. And the common requirement of fun in games, leaves real world (negative) themes as late developments and targets a pretty niche market.
 
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Phillip Harpring
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Beyond the already mentioned heavy real-world settings, on a smaller scale there have been a couple recent games based on realistic relationships, like ...and then, we held hands. and Fog of Love.
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(ɹnʎʞ)
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morris9597 wrote:
This War of Mine: The Board Game - dealing with the horrors faced by civilians caught up in a war zone.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad - dealing with the horrors of slavery

I was also thinking of these games.

Yes, there absolutely is room for serious subjects in video/board games, but it's very, very difficult to integrate such themes in a respectful and logical way (in terms of game design), while making sure that the game is still somewhat entertaining and fun to play.

The biggest potential problems are whitewashing, unbalanced perspectives (for example, political views) or a disrespectful handling. It's a real mine field for a game designer and publisher.

Greed was also criticised for being too dark in the depiction organised crime, while I always said that I respect the publisher's choice for being so bold and for not downplaying it with cartoonish silliness.

Like movies, games can be more than just entertainment: they can stir emotions, make you think and talk about certain subjects. Unlike movies or books though, they are interactive, so I have to make the choices and face the ramifications -- which can be a really interesting experience in terms of self reflection or understanding the real-world counterpart a bit better.

So yes, I would welcome more games like this -- but they really, really have to do it right.
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Jim Parkin
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Kyur wrote:
So yes, I would welcome more games like this -- but they really, really have to do it right.

Indeed.
 
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Adrian Hague
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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a fairly serious look at a 'real world' issue, and quite educational to boot.
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Denmark
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Quote:
So yes, I would welcome more games like this -- but they really, really have to do it right.


Exactly

Great examples of boardgames btw(I also backed "This war of mine")
 
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(ɹnʎʞ)
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AdrianPHague wrote:
Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a fairly serious look at a 'real world' issue, and quite educational to boot.

I agree that it's a fairly serious look, but it's also an imbalanced one, since the designer's personal view ("Volko Ruhnke is a game designer and CIA national security analyst [...]") is shining through.

Because of this, categorising it as "educational" is highly questionable to me. I'm not pro jihadism, but the depicted conflict is not as black and white as the game makes it look like.

That white knight on the cover...

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Pandora Caitiff
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Kyur wrote:
So yes, I would welcome more games like this -- but they really, really have to do it right.


I think that's the key.

I'd want any such game to be created in conjunction with someone knowledgeable in the field (survivors, counsellors, rescue workers, etc), and handled sensitively - it's possible people playing the game, or someone they care about, may have experienced the issue in question.

I think there's also a difference between games made for an entertainment audience, and ones made for use in the classroom. I'd be far more willing to accept "Domestic Abuse: A game for Social Studies classes (Ages 15+)" than "Domestic Abuse: The Card Game!"
 
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Boaty McBoatface
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Note do not read, this is very offensive.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Cancer the boardgame

Draw a map of the human body divided into areas.

Head
Brain (counts as two infections)
Throat (counts as two infections)
Left Arm
Right Arm
Chest
Lungs (counts as two infections)
Stomach
Rectum
Cock
Left leg
Right Leg

Each player takes one of six piles of infection cards (6 in total).

Each turn a player places an infection card. On his first turn he may place in are area, after that it must be adjacent. In stead of placing infection a player may treat another players infection, turning it over to "dormant" or removing a "dormant" infection.

Play ends when 1 player has twice the infections of any other player, or the players get fed up.

I dedicate this to BFG Mark, whose funeral (due to cancer) I went to last Thursday. I think he would have had a laugh at it.
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Christian Nierensieb
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Kyur wrote:
AdrianPHague wrote:
Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a fairly serious look at a 'real world' issue, and quite educational to boot.

I agree that it's a fairly serious look, but it's also an imbalanced one, since the designer's personal view ("Volko Ruhnke is a game designer and CIA national security analyst [...]") is shining through.

Because of this, categorising it as "educational" is highly questionable to me. I'm not pro jihadism, but the depicted conflict is not as black and white as the game makes it look like.

That white knight on the cover...



True, the game simplifies several things, most prevalent the assumption that the aims of multiple jihadist groups in the world are the same and there's some kind of brain bug behind all of them (i. e. the jihadist player).
Nevertheless it offers some important insights into this conflict, for example there's an in-game reason to commit acts of terrorism which translates into the real world... the aim is not killing per se, but changing a country's posture and its way of government.

But you are right, of course, that the stance on GWoT and jihadism the game is taking is open to criticism. There is a brilliant https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/594871/flawed-simulatio...review that focuses on some of these points of criticism .
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ackmondual
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Tullis wrote:
First of all, I'm not trying to cause trouble or be a troll.
Secondly, I wasn't quite sure if this kind of post should be in RSP?

With the rise of the indie video game industry over the last 10 years or so, video game developers have started to embrace themes concerning real world issues like racism,loneliness,suicide,drugs,bullying ect.


If nothing else, I like how some bg allude to some of these... perhaps by coincidence or otherwise. Examples include..
-Colonists in Puerto Rico
-"racist meeples" in Keyflower
-paying 2 coins to discard an animal in Zooloretto or Aquaretto. THey're nt getting killed, but sent to an NPC zoo p)
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
True, the game simplifies several things, most prevalent the assumption that the aims of multiple jihadist groups in the world are the same and there's some kind of brain bug behind all of them (i. e. the jihadist player).


Isn't that really a simplification of a lot of games. Think of Twilight Struggle - did every single American, or every single Soviet, government and military leader over a 40 year period all have the same goals and strategies as all the others?
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Dave Lartigue
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Other games that feature real world commentary:

Kolejka - a game about going shopping in Soviet-controlled Poland.

Wir sind das Volk! - a game about the fall of Soviet influence in Germany, from a socioeconomic angle.

The Grizzled - WWI game told from the point of view of disinterested soldiers who just want to survive and make it back home
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Matt Lee
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I think it's part of becoming a maturing hobby to the mainstream, and boardgaming hasn't gotten there yet (at least in the US).

While there are still a lot of people who mistakenly believe that all videogames should be family friendly, the fact that it is large enough to support a niche that can deal with mature subjects well is what allows those games to gain an audience and become a niche. I vaguely recall some games did try in the past, but the niche was too small to support more than one offs.

For boardgames, the hobby is still in a stage where people are slowly accepting that it can handle mature subjects without necessarily being "adult", but I do also think that a problem comes from the fact that baordgames are often more social in nature than many videogames are.

Solitary games can focus people onto the subjects as an exploratory exercise much more easily than when multiple people are trying to reach multiple goals (co-ops notwithstanding).

Add in that boardgamers most of the time do not want to be dictated/preached to and that makes development of a game featuring those subjects much more difficult.

Just my
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