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Subject: Ethnic aspects rss

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Ursus Gaminov
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Hi to everyone! Me and couple of friends are developing a boardgame, the plot goes around to certain ethnic group and we want to put it on a crowdfunding site but we are concern about if people would be interested playing a game about the history of a small group of people.

Another wondering came up and we really wanna hear what you think: Would you play a game about a conflict when you belong to the "bad side"? By "belong" we mean, you'd be linked to the "bad side" either by ethnicity,nationality, etc.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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I'm pretty sure people play the 'bad side' in pretty much every Star Wars game and most historical wargames.
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Ursus Gaminov
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What about if you're a person from X country and that country is the reason of all the wrong thing happening around world. or as I asked, would you play a game which plot go around a small country (eg. ruanda)?
 
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Brendan Riley
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xll_badtz wrote:
What about if you're a person from X country and that country is the reason of all the wrong thing happening around world. or as I asked, would you play a game which plot go around a small country (eg. ruanda)?


The worse and more recent the bad side is, the less likely I would be to want to play it. To be fair, though, I generally don't want to play any game that simulates real wars or conflicts too closely.

I think it depends a lot on how you handle it. Nobody had to play the slavers in Freedom: The Underground Railroad, so that game worked. People don't seem to mind playing the Germans in World War 2 games, but as far as I know, none of those games require players to put materiel into concentration camps. I suspect a game that did would be roundly rejected.

My biggest concern would be to know how and why you're using that particular place. Are you from there? If you're not, my concern would be cultural appropriation -- taking another group's history for your own entertainment is, to me, not usually a good idea.
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Jeremy Lennert
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wombat929 wrote:
If you're not, my concern would be cultural appropriation -- taking another group's history for your own entertainment is, to me, not usually a good idea.

This seems a curious objection; history is not a rivalrous good. Could you articulate it further?
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Brendan Riley
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Antistone wrote:
This seems a curious objection; history is not a rivalrous good. Could you articulate it further?


We have a long tradition in America of taking iconography, art, and culture from people who do not have a voice in our society and using those items without regard to the heritage they come from.

Take, for instance, our use of Native American imagery for sports mascots. First, our ancestors take their land and popularize an image of them as "savage." Then, we replicate that image of savagery by making sports mascots that mimic that cartoonish depiction. Then, a significant part of our country finds nothing wrong with the ongoing use of the imagery, even in the face of direct requests from the individuals being depicted. The corporate logos based on African American tropes like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben have similarly disturbing backgrounds.

These are, of course, extreme examples and I'm not at all suggesting the OP is doing this. But if you're planning to make a game about a particular historical event, it's worth considering carefully what imagery you're creating, what ideas you're perpetuating, and whether your depiction of that event does justice to the people involved.

I'm a fervent believer in the public domain and the necessity of an open and broad commons. But I also think popular culture has a power we often underestimate, and when members of one culture undertake to make another culture's history into an entertainment artifact, they ought to do so with some attention to the experience of the people for whom that history is not a distant story, but a real event that has shaped their lives.
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maf man
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yeah the possible problem here is not actually related to your question on "the bad side", can you go into more detail on the theme and game?
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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It sounds to me like your objection is more about insulting other cultures (in whatever way) than about utilizing their history (to whatever end).

Presumably you would also find it objectionable to depict modern natives as savages.



I think it's good to pay attention to the implications of your art, and to approach foreign cultures with respect and humility--especially when you don't have a very deep understanding of them.

However, I don't think that a culture should have veto power over other cultures talking about their history. Nor do I think that talking about another culture's history is inherently bad or offensive.
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Brendan Riley
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Antistone wrote:
It sounds to me like your objection is more about insulting other cultures (in whatever way) than about utilizing their history (to whatever end).

Presumably you would also find it objectionable to depict modern natives as savages.

I think it's good to pay attention to the implications of your art, and to approach foreign cultures with respect and humility--especially when you don't have a very deep understanding of them.

However, I don't think that a culture should have veto power over other cultures talking about their history. Nor do I think that talking about another culture's history is inherently bad or offensive.


I wouldn't say "insulting" so much as repeating a long-running pattern of disrespect.

Regarding the rest of your comment, I agree on all counts. But the humility and respect angle demands that we remember the historical context of cultural appropriation and take that into account when we consider talking about another culture's history, meaning that while no-one should get veto power, we should be extra careful when trying to use someone else's story for our own purposes.
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Ursus Gaminov
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wombat929 wrote:
Antistone wrote:
This seems a curious objection; history is not a rivalrous good. Could you articulate it further?


We have a long tradition in America of taking iconography, art, and culture from people who do not have a voice in our society and using those items without regard to the heritage they come from.

Take, for instance, our use of Native American imagery for sports mascots. First, our ancestors take their land and popularize an image of them as "savage." Then, we replicate that image of savagery by making sports mascots that mimic that cartoonish depiction. Then, a significant part of our country finds nothing wrong with the ongoing use of the imagery, even in the face of direct requests from the individuals being depicted. The corporate logos based on African American tropes like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben have similarly disturbing backgrounds.

These are, of course, extreme examples and I'm not at all suggesting the OP is doing this. But if you're planning to make a game about a particular historical event, it's worth considering carefully what imagery you're creating, what ideas you're perpetuating, and whether your depiction of that event does justice to the people involved.

I'm a fervent believer in the public domain and the necessity of an open and broad commons. But I also think popular culture has a power we often underestimate, and when members of one culture undertake to make another culture's history into an entertainment artifact, they ought to do so with some attention to the experience of the people for whom that history is not a distant story, but a real event that has shaped their lives.


Wow, I didn't expected such good comments. Thanks for taking your time. Concerning about the game, may be I went little too far with my question but I didn't though another way to say it. The game it isn't about any of your described scenarios and no, unfortunately we cannot anymore about the game.
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Julian Wasson
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wombat929 wrote:
I think it depends a lot on how you handle it. Nobody had to play the slavers in Freedom: The Underground Railroad, so that game worked. People don't seem to mind playing the Germans in World War 2 games, but as far as I know, none of those games require players to put materiel into concentration camps. I suspect a game that did would be roundly rejected.


With the recent proliferation of actual Nazis in the US I wouldn't be entirely sure of that, unfortunately. You could buy some ads on Breitbart and generate a whole lot of interest.

Anyway, back to the original question. I would absolutely be interested in playing a game about the history of a small group of people, but the way it's posed is SUPER TROUBLESOME to me. If you think any one country is "the reason of all the wrong thing happening around world," then I would be very concerned about what your depiction of that people would look like. If you're talking about History's Big Villains, like Nazi Germany or the Confederacy, then I think there's enough detachment that you can definitely handle it well unless your flavor text is really offensive. The rule of thumb is the further removed from modern affairs, the more comfortable people are with playing the bad guy (fantasy/sci-fi is pretty safe, history is usually okay, modern is tricky). If you're talking about like modern states in the Middle East, then you're walking a fine line and you better have a lot of thought, research and nuance. Look into games like Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? for inspiration on ways to handle it well.

If you're looking for unusual themes in less-populous cultures and nations, then that is a pretty cool thing so long as you do your research and handle it respectfully. If you're looking for convenient and unusual cartoonish OTHERS to lend your game some exoticism, you may want to reconsider. That's a great way to offend a bunch of people.

Short version: Portraying overlooked cultures in a nuanced and respectful way is GOOD. Using other cultures as caricatures or simplistic Bad Guys is BAD.
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Robin Gibson
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Cosmonaut Zero wrote:
Short version: Portraying overlooked cultures in a nuanced and respectful way is GOOD. Using other cultures as caricatures or simplistic Bad Guys is BAD.


Ghibli Movie morality. Every group of people has wants and needs. Sometimes the wants and needs of one group conflicts with the wants and needs of another. Heroes/Villains is generally a matter of who is telling the story.

And even with a group of people who are doing unjustifiable things, nothing happens in a vacuum.
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Nemo Outis
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xll_badtz wrote:
the plot goes around to certain ethnic group [...] but we are concern about if people would be interested playing a game about the history of a small group of people.


Generally people love the history of small groups that they find cool *coughNinjasandPiratescough*. Most americans have some idea of the French Musketeers, and diddly squat about the history of France, contested lands between the French and the British etc. French history we find boring. Muskateers are cool. Small groups are perhaps more understandable. Easier to keep in our heads and understand. So I wouldn't worry about a small group, just about casting the group so that people see the group and say "cool".

xll_badtz wrote:
Would you play a game about a conflict when you belong to the "bad side"? By "belong" we mean, you'd be linked to the "bad side" either by ethnicity,nationality, etc.

I'd say this isn't a moral/ethical question but an economic one. You can certainly give yourself conniption fits trying to make sure you aren't offending anybody but A. You won't succeed. and B. That's not necessarily going to win you sales. And that's what you're after. So the question is, are the people you are marketing to going to object? Or, are there enough people who won't object to make it profitable?

You have to be a little bit careful here. "Malcolm in the Middle" polled horribly. People said they wouldn't watch it. Fox took a gamble and people loved it, it was a big hit. On the other hand the new Muppets show polled really well, and it got cancelled after 1 season. What people claim they care about and what they say with their dollars don't necessarily line up. That said, remember that both Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity sell, it's a question of who's going to buy.

 
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