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Liberia: Descent Into Hell – The Liberian Civil War 1989-1996» Forums » General

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Alan Goodrich
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I'm hardly one to get my panties in a bunch, nor am I particularly PC in my tastes. That said, however...

I happened upon the title to this game on the BGG front page, and it caught my eye. Now, I'm hardly a wargamer, but I fail to see how this game could (or should) appeal to anyone. From the description, it sounds racist and very glib - this is certainly an event that doesn't need to be simulated. As far as I'm concerned, you'd have to be a ghoul to play this thing...
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Actually the game is not racist, from the description, it does sound very ghoulish but the things in the game are quite real and it happened.

Also the game is very historical, all the major tribes are represented(Krahn, Gio etc.). Has a lot of real political stuff which happened and gives good insight into African Politics and warfare.

Basically the game is trying to run a African 3rd world country in the throes of a bloody civil war. The Liberian civil wars was considered a strange war even by its neighbors(its aftereffects spilled over into Sierra Leone and we all know what happened there).

And the Pat Robertson and Moonies involvement is very factual and documented.

This game is very well researched.

If you want research materials read the following:

Liberia's Civil War by Adekeye Adebajo

http://www.amazon.com/Liberias-Civil-War-Regional-Security/d...

Monrovia Mon Amour by Anthony Daniels

http://www.amazon.com/Monrovia-Mon-Amour-Visit-Liberia/dp/07...

Mask of Anarchy by Stephen Ellis

http://www.amazon.com/Mask-Anarchy-Updated-Destruction-Relig...

The Years the Locusts Have Eaten Liberia 1816-2004 by Joseph Telloewoyan

http://www.amazon.com/Years-Locusts/dp/1413478425?tag=articl...

Research for this game is very factual and the main info is gotten from African authors(1 Nigerian & 1 Liberian).

This game provides historical insight on the First Liberian Civil war.



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Alan Goodrich
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I'm not arguing that it's not "acurate," I know all too well what events occurred in Libera. What I'm saying is, not everything is fodder for a game. Yes, to me, being a white person living half a world away from such happenings, who is in no fear of having similar events happen to me, playing at events that caused so much suffering and horror to people so much more disadvantaged than myself, yes, I would feel like a racist playing this. Because it's obvious the gruesomeness, the otherness of both the people and the events (cannibalism et al), is the draw, and that it is played for kicks. It reinforces very negative stereotypes, even if the events themselves are true. Games are suppossed to be fun - well, having fun recreating the suffering of thousands of people of color destroying each other is, at the very least, cynical and sad and, at best, f#*$ed up and racist. Sorry. I know many people play games about WWII and all, but this is more akin to "Auschwitz: The Boardgame."
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The only thing that is 'unnecessary' is this thread.
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If White historians can't comment about what Black societies do (or vice-versa) we might as well abandon any pretence of doing history at all. I'm not a Roman, therefore, I have no possible justification for commenting on anything Roman. Or, I'm not a Finn, so it would be racist and inappropriate for me to say anything about Finland. And so on and so forth.

Liberia: Descent into Hell is a wargame, and as such no better or worse, ideologically, than any other example of the genre. Yes, I did include a lot of controversial elements -- cannibalism, the drug trade, prostitution, weird religious stuff (including Pat Robertson), and so on. But this is in the didactic interest of completeness. This is (IMHO) a far better approach than the sanitizing of conflict that occurs in most wargames. How many WWII games have the Germans killing Jews? Yet that was a basic part of how Hitler operated and leaving it out of a game on the Third Reich is (again, IMHO) far more egregious than actually including the evil things that evil men did during their pursuit of war.

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Well, difficult subject here... I don't have the game so I cannot comment much but on the ethical concept...

We must concede than Alan has some points too... And this is not an historical study of some sort but a game produced and sold by a company which, as all company do, expects a minimum financial return on this investment...
Hopefully there is also an educational purpose too... Difficult subject anyway...

But the very least to do is to raise questions and to think about the subject... Just for this, it is already a credit to give to this game...
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Quote:
I'm not arguing that it's not "acurate," I know all too well what events occurred in Libera. What I'm saying is, not everything is fodder for a game. Yes, to me, being a white person living half a world away from such happenings, who is in no fear of having similar events happen to me, playing at events that caused so much suffering and horror to people so much more disadvantaged than myself, yes, I would feel like a racist playing this. Because it's obvious the gruesomeness, the otherness of both the people and the events (cannibalism et al), is the draw, and that it is played for kicks. It reinforces very negative stereotypes, even if the events themselves are true.

I have to say I could not disagree more. I can only speak for myself, but I don't play wargames to revel in glory or war or vioulence. If we look purely at themes, the disturbing nature of the theme is appealing because it helps us understand the horrible nature of conflict, By playing the game it helps us understand the horror, not revel in it. I find it deeply offensive that you would think so little of your fellow gamers. There are those who perhaps play games for such reasons, but most grognard who are interested in such conflicts do not do so because they think the horrors of war and human nature are "cool". You seem to assume that all wargamers are simply teenage gamers who like the gore and violence, some of us deeply abhor war, but play games about it, because deeling with the issue is far more important than simply ignoring it.

Quote:

Games are suppossed to be fun - well, having fun recreating the suffering of thousands of people of color destroying each other is, at the very least, cynical and sad and, at best,


The game you play perhaps are supposed to be "fun" and "light hearted" this is not true for all. I play games because they make me think, which I enjoy, which is fun. It is like watching a tragic movie or one about the awfulness of war. Does All Quiet on the Western Front glorify and make light of War? What about The Thin Red Line? Apocalypse Now? Full Metal Jacket? Culture is about context, your attempt to remove this game from its context is blatantly misplaced.
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f#*$ed up and racist. Sorry. I know many people play games about WWII and all, but this is more akin to "Auschwitz: The Boardgame."

Why not kick up a stick about every wargame then, what about
War of the Suns?
It coveres the Rape of Nanjing in it, what about all games that deal with the horrendous nature of war? The fact is you have to view these games in the context they are produced. If this was glorifying the nature of the war, promoting falsehoods or generally acting in a reprehensible manner, I would happily agree with you, but I don't think it does and frankly your lack of experience in dealing with wargames shows through here.
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While the issue raised, in and of itself, is an important one - what should be taboo in terms of simulating or portraying for games - I'm not sure the game in question (which I have not seen) runs over the edge into Taboo territory. For one, it doesn't sound much worse than a slew of video games, some of which push the envelope of sleazy marketing quite a bit . . . and "gaming" some of Life/History's unpleasantries can be most insightful. (Again, within limits . . . but who decides what those limits are? The people who run endless commercials on Erectile Dysfunction and diarrhea?)

BLACKBEARD contains many issues that some would consider "difficult" . . . altho the original Torture Table was excised by AH as not family-friendly. And the original playtesters objected to the overt sexism of the original "Rape the Governor's Daughter" effect . . . they didn't seem amused by my comment that i would change it to "Rape the Governor's Daughter or Son", as most pirates weren't that picky. (The effect, if not the details, is still in the present version of the game.)

The brutal, and horrifying, tribal-oriented conflicts devestating much of Africa today don't seem to be fodder for games we play for fun . . . but everyone's definition of Fun is rather different. TV and movies tell us that . . .

The TV show "Boston Legal" tackled this issue, somewhat tangentially . . . but effectively.

RHB
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Alan Goodrich
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Talossa wrote:
If White historians can't comment about what Black societies do (or vice-versa) we might as well abandon any pretence of doing history at all. I'm not a Roman, therefore, I have no possible justification for commenting on anything Roman. Or, I'm not a Finn, so it would be racist and inappropriate for me to say anything about Finland. And so on and so forth.


As Desiax points out correctly, history writing and board games are two totally different things. I hardly have a problem with a white person writing about a black issue. In history, or literature, or film, or many other forms, you can achieve depth and feeling, something that is not possible in a boardgame, which is necessarily an abstaction. You cannot get from a game experience what you get from those other works because the game experience is generated from within, from your own imagination - it works on information you already have. I fail to see how it can "teach" you anything except some factual details, or tactical/strategic realities in a stirctly military sense. But you can't feel pathos, sadness, disgust, etc. like you would from reading a good work of history or literature.

ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
By playing the game it helps us understand the horror, not revel in it. I find it deeply offensive that you would think so little of your fellow gamers. There are those who perhaps play games for such reasons, but most grognard who are interested in such conflicts do not do so because they think the horrors of war and human nature are "cool". You seem to assume that all wargamers are simply teenage gamers who like the gore and violence, some of us deeply abhor war, but play games about it, because deeling with the issue is far more important than simply ignoring it.


The claim that playing such a game helps you "understand" the horror seems deeply dubious to me. And what does my complaint, aimed at the publisher, have to do with fellow gamers? Why do I have to support what gamers do - just because I'm a gamer too?

What also needs to be pointed out here is that the front page for this game was far more sensational when I first posted this yesterday - after my post, it got severely truncated and much much more generic, I guess by the publisher (I don't know who can change the game description besides admins). But yes, the publisher was definitely selling the game based on its sensational and ghoulish aspects, which were obviously meant to titillate. I was responding to this, not the very short copy that exists now.

BROG wrote:
BLACKBEARD contains many issues that some would consider "difficult" . . . altho the original Torture Table was excised by AH as not family-friendly. And the original playtesters objected to the overt sexism of the original "Rape the Governor's Daughter" effect . . . they didn't seem amused by my comment that i would change it to "Rape the Governor's Daughter or Son", as most pirates weren't that picky. (The effect, if not the details, is still in the present version of the game.)


True. I have no problem with dark themes in games, but the difference is about race here. A game that simulates an event from my own culture, my own history, or whatnot is not as problematic for me, as on some level it is playing with my own ugliness, suffering, or the like. But simulating the suffering and events of other cultures is of no interest to me. Would there have been a civil war in Liberia had it not been for white colonialism? No. So given that my culture is the cause for most of Africa's suffering, I have no interest in then turning around and simulating it. It is not my place. If others feel differently, then so be it. But my comment about "Auschwitz: The Game" still stands. No one would attempt to publish such a thing, even though you could make all the same defenses for it that this game has received. The difference is that the hue and cry would be loud, and no one wants to be an anti-Semite. Well, there is no hue and cry here, because there is no community of boardgamers who are directly affected by this - that is, it's a game by whites for whites, as by and large boardgaming (in its modern incarnations) is a European pasttime. If there is a Liberian or African perspective on this, I'd love to hear it, but my feeling is, this is exactly NOT a game they would want to play, as they "played" it for real.

We caused the problem, and now we are going to organize their suffering as an entertainment and, by the by, hope to make some money off it. No thanks.
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Robert Bor
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Let us shove it under the carpet and ignore it, that is what we in the West are so good at anyway.

A heartfelt "No, thank you" for your brand of political correctness and applause to the students of history who dare to tackle difficult subjects like these with passion, an open mind an a mission to bring the horrible reality of this dirty little war to our attention.
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Sokadr wrote:
The only thing that is 'unnecessary' is this thread.


Hear here!
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BerZerg wrote:
Let us shove it under the carpet and ignore it, that is what we in the West are so good at anyway.

A heartfelt "No, thank you" for your brand of political correctness and applause to the students of history who dare to tackle difficult subjects like these with passion, an open mind an a mission to bring the horrible reality of this dirty little war to our attention.




What is so (com)passionate about the sensationalist manner in which the publisher originally billed this game? I don't think anyone has addressed that aspect of Cayluster's argument (and so it follows that I don't think anyone has really addressed his argument). Also, do you really need boardgames to bring world events to your attention? Perhaps you should read a newspaper, as you seem to conflate historically-themed boardgames with historical documents.

I hope all of you will put your money where your mouth is and buy this little gem of a game.
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winnerup wrote:
Also, do you really need boardgames to bring world events to your attention? Perhaps you should read a newspaper, as you seem to conflate historically-themed boardgames with historical documents.


Perhaps you should not make assumptions about the reasons people have for playing games, since your view of the entertainment sector appears to be rather narrow.
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jrebelo wrote:
Sokadr wrote:
The only thing that is 'unnecessary' is this thread.


Hear here!


Justin, you need to post more often. If only for that avatar to appear more often! meeple
 
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Paul Sauberer
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cayluster wrote:
As Desiax points out correctly, history writing and board games are two totally different things. I hardly have a problem with a white person writing about a black issue. In history, or literature, or film, or many other forms, you can achieve depth and feeling, something that is not possible in a boardgame, which is necessarily an abstaction. You cannot get from a game experience what you get from those other works because the game experience is generated from within, from your own imagination - it works on information you already have. I fail to see how it can "teach" you anything except some factual details, or tactical/strategic realities in a stirctly military sense. But you can't feel pathos, sadness, disgust, etc. like you would from reading a good work of history or literature.


The statement, "I'm hardly a wargamer" in your OP is amply proved here. The game experience is not completely generated from within. It develops from the situations that eveolve in the game. It is an experience of (abstractly, yes) placing the gamer as one of the participants. It is in viewing the situation from a different perspective (as opposed to the passive observer perspective of a reader or watcher of film) that one can get some of the same emotions (such as desperation or a dilemma to resolve) that happened in real life. It is a different experience than having one's emotions manipulated and imposed by the author/filmmaker. However, by saying that you "fail to see how it can 'teach' anything except some factual details, or tactical/strategic realities in a strictly military sense," particularly in a game about a situation with strong political/diplomatic components, you reveal more about yourself than about gaming per se. Just because you fail to see it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Quote:
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
By playing the game it helps us understand the horror, not revel in it. I find it deeply offensive that you would think so little of your fellow gamers. There are those who perhaps play games for such reasons, but most grognard who are interested in such conflicts do not do so because they think the horrors of war and human nature are "cool". You seem to assume that all wargamers are simply teenage gamers who like the gore and violence, some of us deeply abhor war, but play games about it, because deeling with the issue is far more important than simply ignoring it.


The claim that playing such a game helps you "understand" the horror seems deeply dubious to me.
Just because you don't understand how people can use a game in a way other than how you feel it must be used, doesn't mean that your evaluation is correct and is actually dubious. Perhaps you just need to broaden your perspective and seek to understand those who approach things from a different direction. Just because you can't do it, doesn't mean that those who do are wrong.

Quote:
And what does my complaint, aimed at the publisher, have to do with fellow gamers? Why do I have to support what gamers do - just because I'm a gamer too?


When you say that the subject should not be made into a game, you are indicting those who are interested in using the game. You don't have to support it, but a blanket condemnation of them with the "racist" brush is overly harsh.

Quote:
What also needs to be pointed out here is that the front page for this game was far more sensational when I first posted this yesterday - after my post, it got severely truncated and much much more generic, I guess by the publisher (I don't know who can change the game description besides admins). But yes, the publisher was definitely selling the game based on its sensational and ghoulish aspects, which were obviously meant to titillate. I was responding to this, not the very short copy that exists now.


I didn't see the original description, although it might be in the wiki history and I'll look at it. That being said, I have little doubt that marketing material for other entertainment media productions (e.g. film, TV, books) on similar subjects would be found lacking in "titillation."

Quote:
BROG wrote:
BLACKBEARD contains many issues that some would consider "difficult" . . . altho the original Torture Table was excised by AH as not family-friendly. And the original playtesters objected to the overt sexism of the original "Rape the Governor's Daughter" effect . . . they didn't seem amused by my comment that i would change it to "Rape the Governor's Daughter or Son", as most pirates weren't that picky. (The effect, if not the details, is still in the present version of the game.)


True. I have no problem with dark themes in games, but the difference is about race here. A game that simulates an event from my own culture, my own history, or whatnot is not as problematic for me, as on some level it is playing with my own ugliness, suffering, or the like. But simulating the suffering and events of other cultures is of no interest to me. Would there have been a civil war in Liberia had it not been for white colonialism? No. So given that my culture is the cause for most of Africa's suffering, I have no interest in then turning around and simulating it. It is not my place. If others feel differently, then so be it. But my comment about "Auschwitz: The Game" still stands. No one would attempt to publish such a thing, even though you could make all the same defenses for it that this game has received. The difference is that the hue and cry would be loud, and no one wants to be an anti-Semite. Well, there is no hue and cry here, because there is no community of boardgamers who are directly affected by this - that is, it's a game by whites for whites, as by and large boardgaming (in its modern incarnations) is a European pasttime. If there is a Liberian or African perspective on this, I'd love to hear it, but my feeling is, this is exactly NOT a game they would want to play, as they "played" it for real.

We caused the problem, and now we are going to organize their suffering as an entertainment and, by the by, hope to make some money off it. No thanks.


Yet somehow you have no problem with films on such subjects, produced by the entertainment industry that are also produced with the prospect of making money. Nor are, I suspect, books on such subjects published with the thought of, "Hey, let's lose money on this."
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Seriously, now...

It's a difficult subject. The crisis there was real, and it involved all of the elements pointed out. As such, they need to be addressed when dealing with a simulation of that conflict.

All of those additional elements deserve mention, for the sake of historical accuracy. Sure, you can replace terms with more generic ones, like "external influence" or "atrocities". But that's a disservice to those who may have actually experienced what happened there.

This is a very touchy topic. But I think each individual has the right to determine on his or her own the merits (or demerits) of such a game. Perhaps the challenge of trying to figure out a better way. Maybe experiment to see if a "more humane" approach could work (within the game's parameters). However, there may be some with a true interest in the happenings there, and this is the kind of study that would allow them to possibly discover some of the difficult choices that were made there.

As long as a game isn't simply a propaganda device, any game that someone feels is worthy to be published deserves to be out there. And each person can make his/her own decision as to whether it's an appropriate subject to have in his/her library of games.
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For the record, after looking at the wiki history of the description, the original entry was not put up by the publisher. It was made by user fuzzyfife who, AFAICT, is not connected to Fiery Dragon Productions in any way other than, possibly, a customer. User gangrel changed the description to what the publisher had actually put on their website.

As a result, I believe that the OP owes the publisher an apology for unfounded accusations of "unnecessary" titillation and focusing on ghoulish aspects in a description that they didn't write. Especially since the evidence was right here to show that the accusation was false.

FWIW, I was conceived in Liberia while my father was working for the Monrovia Port Management Company, and am interested in the game to see in a more tangible way the outcome of some of the tribal interplay that they have told me about from 45 years ago. I will probably purchase the game.

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have to agree with the poster who have defined unnecessary this thread. I am just feeling sick at how many non wargamers comment on wargames without knowing anything about them. And i support the desiger to have tackled such a topic.
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Sokadr wrote:
The only thing that is 'unnecessary' is this thread.


Absolutely NOT!

The OP posed a question, which has opened discussion explaining the reasons or need for such distasteful subjects as tribal warfare, cannibalism, and foreign intervention in civil warfare to be included in a project such as this.

I would hope that the OP has come away with a better understanding WHY these things are so. Learning WHY is what drives many of us to learn about history, much moreso than any who, what, where or when.
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I'm not in the business of enlightening or otherwise enhancing understanding for those who express their ignorance in the manner of the OP. He came on very like a troll. I simply don't have much time or patience for such. Those for whom the game was made had no problem understanding the design or the designer's intent. Wargames are not designed around nice or pleasant topics. This should surprise no one, not even the OP.

If the OP seriously desired greater understanding, I sincerely hope he got some. If he was trolling, forget 'im.

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Sokadr wrote:
I'm not in the business of enlightening or otherwise enhancing understanding for those who express their ignorance in the manner of the OP. He came on very like a troll. I simply don't have much time or patience for such. Those for whom the game was made had no problem understanding the design or the designer's intent. Wargames are mot designed around nice or pleasant topics. This should surprise no one, not even the OP.

If the OP seriously desired greater understanding, I sincerely hope he got some. If he was trolling, forget 'im.



I hope to God that you're not an educator. shake
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Paul Sauberer
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cayluster wrote:
And what does my complaint, aimed at the publisher, have to do with fellow gamers?


After rereading your OP, maybe the ending comment of

Quote:
As far as I'm concerned, you'd have to be a ghoul to play this thing...


just might have been taken as a complaint about "fellow gamers" (who are "ghouls" in your opinion) and not only about the publisher.
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Nothing at all in the descriptions seems racist nor glib.

Now if you had gone to the wiki history and read that, perhaps you might have a point. But why would you do that?

Got to agree, this thread is unnecessary...
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Actually JL I'm fully certified in my state. Social Science, all disciplines. And God had nothing to do with it. shake

 
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Sokadr wrote:
Wargames are not designed around nice or pleasant topics.


Sigh... I always admire people who can say in a few words what it takes me too many to say.

I admit I got a chuckle from the "Auschwitz: The Board Game" comment from the original poster. I find it weird that the hobby has this highly selective self-sanitizing process that revels in some awful things (how many game covers look like recruiting posters for the SS) but shoves other awful things under the table (how few WWII games never even once mention the fact that Germany's production points or BURPS or quatloos or whatever are being diverted from the war effort to build death camps in which to murder Jews).

I don't have the gene for being able to cheer on the Nazis in a wargame without remembering that they are, in fact, still Nazis.

I designed Liberia to be a game where you can't cheer for anybody, as the multi-page designer's notes make clear.
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