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Subject: Reading Representations in Board Games rss

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Cool User
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I think you are being overly simplistic. Yes, images are "just" representations. But in the same way, words are "just" representations of ideas. While we teach children "sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me," it sounds great except that in the real world, names do hurt. That's why we have so-called hate crime laws, which more and more are targeting speech*, whereas crimes used to require that an idea be acted upon.

To say that everyone should strip away their own personal lenses when evaluating an idea, be it words or a picture, is to deny the validity of that person's experience. You may call a picture fictional, but it can still have a very real impact on someone and to arbitrarily say that those reactions don't (or shouldn't) count is to strip away the essence of human existence and communication.

To pretend that anything can ever be viewed without some sort of human prejudice or filter is a fantasy. Here's a philosophy I have formulated (suitable for quoting or even framing ) :
Cool Username wrote:
Everyone is prejudiced. If you think someone is neutral, it only means that they share the same prejudices as you.
So to ask someone to evaluate something neutrally is, in my opinion, an impossibility. Some people try very hard to avoid exposing their prejudices to others, but they are always lurking underneath.

I don't know if there was some specific thread that prompted your post, so maybe I'm missing something. I agree that it is becoming hard to have any kind of discussion without running the risk of "triggering" someone, somewhere. But I would never deny the fact that that person was indeed "triggered" or claim that their feelings were unreasonable. I would only blame them if they then demand that everyone else must be shut down at all costs so they don't have to be confronted by unpleasant ideas. And I don't have a problem with being called racist/hateful/antagonistic/whatever as long as the charge itself is not accepted as de facto proof which ends the conversation entirely.


*a really, really bad idea, IMHO
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CARL SKUTSCH
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Maybe then, people on here are less likely to label other people as: misogynistic, sexist, racist, gender biased, bigoted, hateful, harmful, antagonistic…
Are any of these things real, in any reasonable sense? If you say "no, none of these are real in any reasonable sense," well, I guess we're done here. If you don't think bigotry is a real thing, I'd be stumped. If, however, we agree that racism, sexism, bigotry etc exist, then why can't they be represented, both with words (as cool username says) or with images?

I think 95% of us here on BGG will agree that a minstrel show image from the 1890s or a Nazi anti-Jewish image from the 1930s would be racist. The images wouldn't BE racism (ala the pipe) but they would REPRESENT, or EXPRESS racism.

Once we agree there, then the question isn't whether or not representations/images can be racist/bigoted etc, the question is whether or not specific images actually ARE racist/bigoted etc.

So, can game images represent racism or sexism? I think so. Do we sometimes overreact to these things? I think so. Where is the line between fair labeling and overreaction? There's the debate.

Also, Plato was a bit of a tool. Condemn art because it might be misused? Create a caste based society so twerps like him could lord it over the laboring classes? Bah.
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Bryan Thunkd
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Representations are fictional.
If you show me a video of torture-porn I’m going to have a very visceral negative emotional response. It doesn’t particularly matter if you tell me that it’s fictional and fake, it’s still going to shock, horrify, and disgust me. Not because I don’t know it’s fake, but because I have strong feelings about violence and torture, and the verisimilitude of such depictions will bother me.

The more graphically you depict horrible things, like murder, violence, etc. the more troubled I will be... because the reality of those things is horrible. In the abstract I can divorce those concepts from reality in a way that makes them palatable, and read about them in books, watch them in movies or play them in games, knowing those depictions are unreal. I need that distance from reality to be comfortable with them. Make them too real and that distance dwindles and they become troubling. Or if I have been personally affected by such things, that too diminishes the distance and they will bother me.
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Pete
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Is this thread a trick?

Pete (feels like he's being tricked)
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CARL SKUTSCH
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ScottRock79 wrote:
cool username wrote:
I think you are being overly simplistic. Yes, images are "just" representations.
I understand there is more to it, and I worry you missed my point, which was: think about what it is you are reacting to before labelling illustrations and people. I even offered a little guide to reading.
Ah, ok, you accept that representations have more to them, but you worry that we might overreact without your helpful guidance. Got it.

Look, I understand nuance, I understand complexity, I understand that images must be seen within the context of who is using them, who is the target audience, when are they being used, etc. I figure many folks on here know these things too. For those who don't, I doubt if telling them to "think" will make them think. It certainly doesn't work with my students.
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Alexandre Santos
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It's great that representation is not a problem for you, but in this kind of matters there is a problem if the issue is a problem for someone, even if it's not you.

Think about it: if my daughter is frustrated because she can't pick a female character to play, which one will I say :

1 - Dear, don't worry, these are just colored pieces of paper, plastic and wood, pick whatever.

2 - How come that in the 21st century there are still inane editors that can't be bothered to cater for the needs of their audience?

Hint : second!
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Marc Mistiaen
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ScottRock79 wrote:
The Treachery of Images (1928-29) by French Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte
Magritte was Belgian, not French. I guess it's too late to correct that article of yours.
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Olli Juhala
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Representations are fictional.

I see so many debates here and on other board game forums where people have confused fiction with non-fiction (in regards to representations). So many of these debates and arguments are futile.

It’s not like people confusing representations with reality is anything new. Plato spoke about it back in the day. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote called, Time and the Nature of Art:

(Plato’s issue with art is that it) also represents fiction as truth. Take this brilliant oil painting titled The Treachery of Images (1928-29) by French Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte; the words translated state: This is not a pipe. 

 


Rene Magritte (1928-29) The Treachery of Images, Oil on canvas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
 
The majority of people who look at this artwork will be confused by it and will say things like, “If it’s not a pipe, then what is it?” The artwork will make them feel stupid when they are eventually told, “It’s not a pipe – it’s a painting.” Stupidity quickly leads to either laughter or anger. Whatever their emotional reaction to a representation of a pipe, Plato saw this problem as dangerous and called for the censorship of art.

The problem with representations has not gone away. Despite the evolution of our IQ. It may have gotten worse (I’m not a historian but I am painfully aware that people currently commit murder and acts of terror over representations).

Please bear in mind, the next time you have an emotional response to a board game illustration or take a reasonable issue with it, (or take issue with someone’s comment on an illustration) please ask yourself:

* What is being represented?
* What lens am I reading this illustration through?
* How has it been framed within the board game?
* How have I framed it? Have I applied a contemporary context, a personal context, a cultural context, or a formal context?

Maybe then, people on here are less likely to label other people as: misogynistic, sexist, racist, gender biased, bigoted, hateful, harmful, antagonistic…

WEll, nature of reality is a tricky business in itself.

You may be technically correct to asssert that representation is not reality. But that is the whole point of it - representation is, as it says, a representation of A reality. Specifically, the reality as understood and assumed by the instance doing the representing. I'm sure we can all do our due diligence in interpreting, but it's still a two-way street and whoever wrote/drew/etc. the thing being interpreted is also a responsible party.
 
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Olli Juhala
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skutsch wrote:
ScottRock79 wrote:
cool username wrote:
I think you are being overly simplistic. Yes, images are "just" representations.
I understand there is more to it, and I worry you missed my point, which was: think about what it is you are reacting to before labelling illustrations and people. I even offered a little guide to reading.
Ah, ok, you accept that representations have more to them, but you worry that we might overreact without your helpful guidance. Got it.

Look, I understand nuance, I understand complexity, I understand that images must be seen within the context of who is using them, who is the target audience, when are they being used, etc.

Context informs, it does not absolve. It doesn't really change the interpretation, merely makes the causality more apparent.
 
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Olli Juhala
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ScottRock79 wrote:

I never said I don't have problems with representations; I have problems with representations all the time and more problems with the way people read representations, which is why I made this post.

Could you perhaps give an example of a representation you have a problem with (rather than a reading of it)?
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ScottRock79 wrote:
AlexFS wrote:

It's great that representation is not a problem for you, but in this kind of matters there is a problem if the issue is a problem for someone, even if it's not you.

I never said I don't have problems with representations; I have problems with representations all the time and more problems with the way people read representations, which is why I made this post.

AlexFS wrote:

Think about it: if my daughter is frustrated because she can't pick a female character to play, which one will I say :

1 - Dear, don't worry, these are just colored pieces of paper, plastic and wood, pick whatever.

2 - How come that in the 21st century there are still inane editors that can't be bothered to cater for the needs of their audience?

Hint : second!

Your problem with representations in games seems to be that a meeple or an illustration does not accurately reflect your daughter. This is off topic from the issue I posted about but I'll respond and say I'd definitely say to my daughter 1. I'd also argue that a representation is not a complete projection of oneself. I'd also explain part of the fun of (say) an RPG, is 'being' something you're not. I don't agree with the argument that girls can only play females and boys can only play males. I'm currently playing Tomb Raider and at no point did I feel I couldn't play the game because the character is female. It's like saying your daughter also can't play a dragon in a game because she's not actually a dragon, or she can't play the roll of an intergalactic detective because she's not on in real life. That kind of thought leads to the craziness we're seeing in Hollywood where people are calling for Ruby Rose to be removed from the roll of Batwoman as she's not gay enough in real life.

Daughter: Cool, so, seeing as we can relax and pretend to be anything we want... can you explain to me why this game doesn't allow me to be female, and why you don't have to to pretend to be something you are not.... again..... ?

Representation is a very real issue for minorities, or for groups who aren't represented often. It's important. They feel it. And having someone who IS represented, all the time, telling them it's fine, because they can just pretend, is often not too helpful; reason being, that person IS represented, so can choose.

Complaining about this situation does not mean the person has not gone through your 4 steps to critical success either. How is it framed? It's framed to not represent me! Another one! Awesome. Having really got to grips with that, I'll just accept it's fine after all.


Btw, props for really empathising with what it must be like to be a woman via Tomb Raider.
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Graham Robinson
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ScottRock79 wrote:

 


Rene Magritte (1928-29) The Treachery of Images, Oil on canvas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
 
The majority of people who look at this artwork will be confused by it and will say things like, “If it’s not a pipe, then what is it?” The artwork will make them feel stupid when they are eventually told, “It’s not a pipe – it’s a painting.” Stupidity quickly leads to either laughter or anger. Whatever their emotional reaction to a representation of a pipe, Plato saw this problem as dangerous and called for the censorship of art.

To my mind, this is understating the subtlety of Magritte's point. It is a pipe, it is a painting, it is a representation of a pipe, it is an illusion in the viewer's brain... The questioning of "then what is it?" is part of the narrative of the piece. Claiming "It's not a pipe - it's a painting" makes it seem like a silly trick which "clever" people will get the "right" answer to. But those who think there's a "right" answer are the ones who are missing the point. There's a deeper insight there.
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Alexandre Santos
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ScottRock79 wrote:
I'd also argue that a representation is not a complete projection of oneself. I'd also explain part of the fun of (say) an RPG, is 'being' something you're not. I don't agree with the argument that girls can only play females and boys can only play males. I'm currently playing Tomb Raider and at no point did I feel I couldn't play the game because the character is female. It's like saying your daughter also can't play a dragon in a game because she's not actually a dragon, or she can't play the roll of an intergalactic detective because she's not on in real life. That kind of thought leads to the craziness we're seeing in Hollywood where people are calling for Ruby Rose to be removed from the roll of Batwoman as she's not gay enough in real life.

Of course you can play other genders than your own. That's all right as long as it remains a choice. When you are never given the choice then it becomes a problem.

Representation is not the problem, it's the lack of possibilities of representation that is. And that is what you are not addressing.
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I Taylor
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Is anything real?
Is anything?
Is?

Makes you think.
 
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Jamie Hankins
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I don't think anyone has confused fiction and non-fiction.

However, people do care about the content of non-fiction.

In particular, some people care about the representation of minority and marginalised groups in board games. I think that's a sensible and understandable thing to care about.
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Alexandre Santos
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ScottRock79 wrote:

Secondly, you say I’m not addressing the lack of possibilities of representations... What? The aim of my post is a plea to think before criticising other people. That’s it. Why do you think I have to address the number of possible representations in games? What’s that got to do with me and this post?

Your OP is about how people should think when they have a problem with representation:

ScottRock79 wrote:
Please bear in mind, the next time you have an emotional response to a board game illustration or take a reasonable issue with it, (or take issue with someone’s comment on an illustration) please ask yourself:

* What is being represented?
* What lens am I reading this illustration through?
* How has it been framed within the board game?
* How have I framed it? Have I applied a contemporary context, a personal context, a cultural context, or a formal context?
It seems to me that if you are going to give

It seems to me that before you offer advice, you should ponder what is the issue that people have with representation. It's not tangential to your thread, it's the basis from which you should start.

You obviously don't have problems with representation, but were incited to create a thread about how people should react to representation. In order to do so, you must understand why people have these reactions, and lack of choice in representation is often the issue, whether you like it or not.

Quote:
That is so far removed from the axis of my statement.

Nope.

Quote:
You are turning this into a you issue, making it personal, because your daughter feels emotionally frustrated because she wants to play female representations in games that don’t have female representations, and you say that inane editors have not catered to the needs of their audience.

No, I'm giving you a concrete example why this is a problem for someone, even if that someone is not you. It is also clear from my example that "think more about it" is not the answer to the issue creating an aversive response to the representation.

Quote:
That is misguided. Maybe they have catered to the needs of their audience and she’s playing a game not designed for her? Edit: Apparently more than 3000 board games were released this year - I’m sure there are some that suit her.
You are clearly dropping the ball here. Not only should she think about the pointlessness of representation, but she should go play other games? A win for inclusiveness...

Quote:
Do you see the difference in my post which is (basically), be cool and think about what you’re looking at before making judgements on others, and your reply to my post?

The way I see it, your post (even though perhaps well intentioned) reads like : I don't understand why you have an issue, don't care about understanding it and just relax, it's not important anyways.
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C Bazler
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I'm so sick of people pretending that representation doesn't matter. It's really easy to not care about representation when you've been represented in almost every book you've ever read, movie you've ever seen, or game you've ever played.

You see the real problem when a black man is cast as a lead in a big film and the internet erupts with cries of "Political Correctness" and "pandering." You often see the same thing with a female lead (Doctor Who, anyone?). A single LGBT+ storyline or character will be met with an outcry that the show is "forcing a political agenda" and will be condemned for being "non-family friendly." (Just go read the "1" and "2" ratings for Legacy of Dragonholt as proof).

People who criticize "identity politics" forget that identity politics has always existed: it's just that for a very long time the only acceptable representation was the prevailing identity of the white, straight norm.
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Bryan Thunkd
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Representations are fictional.
ScottRock79 wrote:
Please bear in mind, the next time you have an emotional response to a board game illustration or take a reasonable issue with it, (or take issue with someone’s comment on an illustration) please ask yourself:

* What is being represented?
* What lens am I reading this illustration through?
* How has it been framed within the board game?
* How have I framed it? Have I applied a contemporary context, a personal context, a cultural context, or a formal context?
ScottRock79 wrote:
Maybe then, people on here are less likely to label other people as: misogynistic, sexist, racist, gender biased, bigoted, hateful, harmful, antagonistic…
Taken together these three points seem to lay out a problem that people are labeling others as sexist (and other things).

It identifies the root cause of the problem as an emotional response to game art instead of a thoughtful response that recognizes that representations are fictional.

This is very insulting. You've telling people that they're over-reacting, especially in an emotional way. That if they just thought about it a bit, they'd see that there's no cause for their issue and they'd recognize that the representations they're getting upset over are just fiction, not reality. You're dismissing people's concerns as fake or imaginary. Which is easy enough when those issues don't affect you.

You've cloaked yourself in what appears to be logical dispassionate argument, but when you strip away the intellectual framing, it becomes clear you haven't really given the key points any thought or consideration. You've focused on the fictional images as people's issue instead of recognizing that it's what those images signify that matters to people and that the choice of images has deeper implications about who is inherently recognized and included and valued. You've literally taken the shallowest view of the issue... much like those who look at Magrite's painting and only see a pipe and miss the deeper questions about reality, symbols, duality etc.

I agree with one point you've raised, that some people haven't given enough thought to these issues... but I think that person is you.

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Vivien JustJ

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ceci n'est pas une violation du code de conduite de BGG.
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Olli Juhala
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Shader10 wrote:
ScottRock79 wrote:

I never said I don't have problems with representations; I have problems with representations all the time and more problems with the way people read representations, which is why I made this post.

Could you perhaps give an example of a representation you have a problem with (rather than a reading of it)?

I could do that but I’m sure it will lead to a debate and I worry that will further derail the purpose of the post. Can you tell me why you need an example of a representation I have a problem with?

So I could better tell what you actually understand representation to be.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Shader10 wrote:
ScottRock79 wrote:
Shader10 wrote:
ScottRock79 wrote:

I never said I don't have problems with representations; I have problems with representations all the time and more problems with the way people read representations, which is why I made this post.
Could you perhaps give an example of a representation you have a problem with (rather than a reading of it)?
I could do that but I’m sure it will lead to a debate and I worry that will further derail the purpose of the post. Can you tell me why you need an example of a representation I have a problem with?
So I could better tell what you actually understand representation to be.
Yeah, examples (or links to examples if they're maybe too iffy) could be useful. What game art has crossed the line, or been accused of crossing the line where you think the accusation is unfair?

My view here is:
Some game art, given context and all that, is offensive to me.
Some game art, is offensive to other people but not offensive to me (i.e. I think they're overreacting).

Or, to reframe:
I think some accusations of sexism and bigotry are appropriate, given the nature of the subject matter, behavior, etc.
I think some accusations of sexism and bigotry are overreactions, come from too much sensitivity, etc.

Sometimes it's just a matter of presentation. I think some of the art in Kingdom Death: Monster is sexist. On the other hand, I support the right of game producers to produce such art and game buyers to buy such art. I don't think all sexist things should be forbidden, or even banned from the pages of BGG. (Of course, I have no control over what the mods do; I do think sometimes they react too quickly, or come down too hard on posts.) If a person wanted to post a KDM pictures and ask "Why do you people think this is sexist?" in order to open up a debate, that's fine. Or maybe they want to post and say "I find this art really interesting and thematic, what do you think?" Again, fine. However, if they post "Check out the boobies on that hot tamale! I'd sure like to etc etc." then they've clearly crossed a line (for me) in their use of representation.

Of course, those are just my views. I guarantee there is vast disagreement on BGG on what I've just said. Some folks will think I'm too restrictive, some will think I'm too easy-going regarding offensive material.

In the actual world, does this really come up that much? Besides KDM, Barbarossa, Tanto Cuore, are there really that many games that arouse the ire of gamers? I mean, in general, there is a push for more human representation, art that is less horny-teenager in style, but that push doesn't seem excessive to me.

So again, give us some examples or it didn't happen.
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The Treachery of Images is, unfortunately, a really bad example for the point that (I think) the OP is trying to make.
And yea, I even had to put '(I think)' in there, because that's how much it muddies the waters.

The Treachery of Images is just a picture of a pipe. There is no background, no context, nobody holding it, the pipe is not lit, it is not being used in any way.
There is no commentary or intent behind the image of the pipe. It is, essentially, a reference image of a pipe, and nothing more.

I'm going to assume this thread was prompted by yet another discussion about representation in board game art (probably the one about buying a game with sexist imagery, but there are loads to pick from these days). Unfortunately, trying to equate the "Aha! but this isn't actually a pipe!" of The Treachery of Images to drawings of sexy ladies is missing the point of those other threads. We know fine well that a drawing of a sexy lady isn't a real sexy lady, that's not the issue. The issue is one of appropriateness for the context, and whether or not such depictions are harmful to people and/or the hobby in a wider context.

People are already considering object/lens/framing when engaging in these discussions, they just aren't spelling it out methodically because this isn't a philosophy board.

At least I think that's what the OP was getting at.
Or did they think I was going to try and eat my Sushi Go! cards?
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ScottRock79 wrote:
Shader10 wrote:
representation is, as it says, a representation of A reality.
Good point. One of the issues I've come up against recently is when people confuse representations of realities. A game can have representations of other realms, but people read into that universe as their own universe (that they know and live in), and attach to it our histories, our social and cultural values and beliefs and because they have done this, they become confused between the two.


No, sorry, you have misunderstood me. A fictional world is a representation of our reality, as understood by the writer of the fiction. What they choose to include and how is a reflection of them and by extension our world.

This is because fictional worlds are fictional, created in our reality, and our reality is the only reference reality.
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Here’s the TLDR version.

OP was forced to play as a woman in Tomb Raider. The game was still fun. Therefor, women and minorities should stop being bothered about how they’re unfairly represented (or not represented at all).

Paintings of pipes are not real.
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Vivien JustJ

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probably because this post was condescending.
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