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Subject: Politically 'sensitive' topics; Or, is it ok to make a game out of ANY topic? rss

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William Boykin
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There's a miniatures game that I play a lot, with a forum that I used to spend as much time on as here.....!

This game has recently irritated me, to the point that I'm in the middle of composing a letter of protest to the game company.

The reason?

In a World War II miniatures game (small unit actions), they have created army lists for the SS Totenkopf division.

Totenkopf, if you're not aware, was the Waffen SS division that was created by taking Concentration and Death Camp guards and officers and transfering them to the Eastern Front. They were notorious for being particularly cruel, in a war that was already being fought without mercy.

What is worse, in my eyes, is that in their historical background for the list, none of this mentioned. The unit is 'whitewashed' in my opinion- their almost suicidal bravery is mentioned, but their use in rear action atrocity is not.

My particular feeling is this-
I can understand the rationale for having SS units. The game in question has lists for several other SS units- Viking, Das Reich, and Hitlerjugend, amongst others. (Personally, I find lists for the HJ to be in questionable taste as well, but Totenkopf for me is totally out of bound). So its not as if those who want to run an 'evil' elite force do not have a plethora of lists to choose from.

Because of that, for me there is no reason to do Totenkopf. For me, there are certain things that just should not be turned into games. Totenkopf is symbolic of all the atrocity of the War in the East, and as such should not be turned into a game.

On the other board, mostly consisting of people who play their particular game, I was accussed of being to thin skinned. So, I put it to you, good citizens of the RSP, two questions.

Are there some subjects that a game company should just not tackle?

And if you think any subject could be the subject of a game, are there limits to 'taste'? When does a game become offensive? Or should game designers not care about such things- if there is a market for the topic, publish?

Darilian
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CHAPEL
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If it's historically accurate, then nothing is out of bounds, regardless of insensitive omissions.
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J
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As long as they never create a game where you take slaves off of ships (represented by dark brown disks) and put them to work on your plantations, I'm good.
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Lebanon
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Don't know how accurate that is, but wikipedia says
Quote:
The division is famous due to its insignia and the fact that most of the initial enlisted men were SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS concentration camp guards).


and

Quote:
By the end of 1942 the division had experienced virtually a complete turnover in personnel. The high casualty rates meant by late 1943 virtually none of the original cadre were left. However, while the division's record in the brutal Eastern Front fighting to follow is quite clean, its reputation lingered.


Appart from the unit's background its track record doesn't seem any better or worse than the average SS unit, or is it?
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MSV Burns
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Seems reasonable that one can make/create/write whatever one wants.

However buying/playing/enjoying/reading/getting off on these 'taboo' topics (genocide, slavery, sexcrime, whatever...) seems a little more questionable.
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Yeah... you're being thin skinned. It's historically accurate... right? It existed and fought. Then it should be included.

Look at it this way... I used to sell this hot little item in my store:



The topic is grim. At least as grim as the SS unit you mentioned. But it parodied real events that were tragic and inhumane and even got in a few chuckles along the way.

Nothing is sacred. Nothing.
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William Boykin
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I'm curious as to how the RSP culture thinks here, so I'm not going to rebut anyone....but Keep it up!

I do want to hear the feedback....!

Darilian
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Colleen
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When you get upset over a game, you've lost.
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Isaac Citrom
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Dar, context is everything.

The use of SS Totenkopf in 1:300 or smaller scale is wargaming. The gamers are not simulating, playing out or role-playing atrocities. They're playing WWII small unit actions.

Jarred is right. The playing (boardgaming) of the enslavement of Puerto Rican "Indians" is in bad taste. The point has come up repeatedly on BGG. Very simply, there isn't a big stink about it because the descendants of these people are not speaking up about the game. Perhaps they aren't even aware of it.

This is different from the established Jewish voice concerning the Holocaust. If your game, Dar, was called "Auschwitz", with goals such as to maximize the work of the camp's prisoners, while minimizing the number of calories of food you had to expend, and maximizing the death count, this certainly would be in bad taste for a game. Likewise, I'm sure the NAACP would have a whole lot to say about a boardgame whose theme is US African slave trading and/or running a cotton plantation.

I appreciate your sentiment but I think that in this case it may be misplaced. I would only say that I agree that SS Totenkopf's blurb in the army lists should point out the history of that division. I don't like the white-washing of WWII history. I whole-heartedly disagree with Tripp. Not everything is fair game. There are limits to everything in life. Would any of you condone a boardgame about running a child porn ring or other such heinous theme.
.
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Yes, it is.
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T. Nomad
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DWTripp wrote:
Nothing is sacred. Nothing.


That's twice this week I agree with Tripp. I'm the son of a holocaust (and concentration camp) survivor, and I have no problem with the existence of Juden Raus. I won't play it, but if someone else wants to, fine. I likely wouldn't play a game set in the juvenile oncology ward at a hospital, or John McCain's POW game, but if other people want to, fine.

I do draw the line at Puerto Rico, which offends me by being so fucking boring.
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Jeff
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I don't know about the people producing it, but I'd steer way clear of anyone who took the time to assemble and paint an SS army.

The cynic in me wonders if this isn't a way to market to the small but ubiquitous neo-Nazi wargamer market, which is a little disturbing. We've all had encounters with this type, and I'm not a big fan of a product that might encourage more of them to get involved with the hobby.
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Steve Tidwell
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jarredscott78 wrote:
As long as they never create a game where you take slaves off of ships (represented by dark brown disks) and put them to work on your plantations, I'm good.


Puerto Rico?
 
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T. Nomad
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franktidwell wrote:
jarredscott78 wrote:
As long as they never create a game where you take slaves off of ships (represented by dark brown disks) and put them to work on your plantations, I'm good.


Puerto Rico?

No flies on you, eh?
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Isaac Citrom
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tommynomad wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
Nothing is sacred. Nothing.


That's twice this week I agree with Tripp. I'm the son of a holocaust (and concentration camp) survivor, and I have no problem with the existence of Juden Raus. I won't play it, but if someone else wants to, fine. I likely wouldn't play a game set in the juvenile oncology ward at a hospital, or John McCain's POW game, but if other people want to, fine.


Why is it OK?
.
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T. Nomad
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isaacc wrote:
tommynomad wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
Nothing is sacred. Nothing.


That's twice this week I agree with Tripp. I'm the son of a holocaust (and concentration camp) survivor, and I have no problem with the existence of Juden Raus. I won't play it, but if someone else wants to, fine. I likely wouldn't play a game set in the juvenile oncology ward at a hospital, or John McCain's POW game, but if other people want to, fine.


Why is it OK?
.

Because creativity, even when it results in the worst kinds of garbage, ought not to be censored. Chiddler's example above is an excellent illustration: you and I agree Juden Raus is abominable, and I'm sure most people would agree. But lots of people may object to Civilization or Puerto Rico for similar reasons. Who decides what is over the line?

That's why I say there is no line.
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lotus dweller
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I think its OK to make a game about anything.
As long as you are prepared to wear the "consequences".
And "consequences" I often agree with.
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Snowball
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I think it's about time. If the event depicted is more remote in time, it becomes more acceptable.
It's also about culture. I've never felt any problem with Puerto Rico, but I would not play a game about the sordid details of coal mining.
 
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Obsolete Man
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Darilian wrote:
So, I put it to you, good citizens of the RSP, two questions.

Are there some subjects that a game company should just not tackle?

And if you think any subject could be the subject of a game, are there limits to 'taste'? When does a game become offensive? Or should game designers not care about such things- if there is a market for the topic, publish?

Darilian


Obviously there are some subject matters which are inappropriate for a game. The example of a game about running a death camp is one.

Sure, there's the question of "crossing the line". But just because people disagree about the exact placement of the line, I think it would be foolish to toss out the idea of the line entirely. Just like if I said that I didn't believe in neutrinos everybody else would all of the sudden have to throw out modern physics.

On this particular matter, it sounds like that certain company has failed to properly chart an admittedly perilous course. If they were going to do lists for Totenkopf, they should mention the history and basis of the unit and note that their inclusion in the game is only for purposes of historical tactical simulation.

I think that it is legitimate to include them for just that purpose (historical tactical simulation), and I would note that a lot of armies were mired in atrocity in that war. And yet nobody bats an eye if (for example) a WWII airplane game includes units from RAF bomber command. But in this specific case, which is something of a corner case, the history should be addressed so that people know what they're dealing with.

If it's legitimate to simulate company/battalion actions in WWII in the first place, then it's legitimate to include these particular individuals insofar as they were actors in that drama. To me the problem is to treat them as merely one more unit in the mix, which they basically weren't. With this particular group we're certainly beyond Mitchell and Webb, anyway.

But on your actual question, yes... there are some things which it is simply wrong to simulate. Probably not very many, relatively speaking, but they're there.

As an aside, Dar: what's the problem with having a list for 12th SS Hitlerjugend? They don't seem to have been much worse than anybody else, though as you know I'm not an expert. What about LSSAH?
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Darillian wrote:
What is worse, in my eyes, is that in their historical background for the list, none of this mentioned. The unit is 'whitewashed' in my opinion- their almost suicidal bravery is mentioned, but their use in rear action atrocity is not.

I agree that that's bogus, but how would they include that without making it seem like some kind of snuff porn intended to titillate, uhh, "Nazi enthusiasts?" (Maybe that doesn't matter--you wouldn't want to play with people like that anyway.)

An interesting thing would be if their eliteness was balanced by penalties, like other units getting some kind of morale bonus against them, or against all SS units if Totenkopf is in play. (I'm thinking here of some units' orders to take no SS prisoners after Malmedy.) Or, I can't find it now, but I think I remember reading something about SS officers during the Battle of the Bulge putting on non-SS uniforms before being captured (to avoid being killed, not Otto Skorzeny stuff); if that's right, then it seems like that might manifest itself in game terms as some sort of morale penalty which makes SS units more likely to fall back than to risk being captured when an infamous SS unit is in play.
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lotus dweller
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Reading some of the responses here I now think that the "fair consequences" for publishing some games would be illegal. And as I like the rule of law then I think some games are not suitable for publishing.
 
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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I'm not sure that I consider Totenkopf to be especially worse than other Waffen SS units - which is more to say equally as bad. But frankly I had a bit stronger reaction to the follow:


AT 22 wrote:
Don't know how accurate that is, but wikipedia says
Quote:
The division is famous due to its insignia and the fact that most of the initial enlisted men were SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS concentration camp guards).


and

Quote:
By the end of 1942 the division had experienced virtually a complete turnover in personnel. The high casualty rates meant by late 1943 virtually none of the original cadre were left. However, while the division's record in the brutal Eastern Front fighting to follow is quite clean, its reputation lingered.


Appart from the unit's background its track record doesn't seem any better or worse than the average SS unit, or is it?


A 'quite clean' record on the Eastern Front? If the article quoted was trying to say 'no worse than other Waffen SS units', then the wording is pretty poor and misleading. On the other hand, the only thing worse than omitting mention of atrocities is denying they even happened.
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You people are overlooking a basic point. If the game is a complex simulation of WWII combat then you'd expect accuracy. But its silly to expect the same accuracy from a simple, streamlined eurogame. Puerto Rico (the game) has no direct link to slavery. But people think any game about Puerto Rico needs to reference slavery somehow. shake
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WhiteKong, maybe you're just becoming an oversensitive old fart, watch out.

I played GTA 3&4 recently, and I remember very well playing GTA 1, and except for the graphics I don't see any moral difference. In GTA 1 you even made extra points when killing several pedestrians in a row with your car, and you already had the nice bloody tire marks. Oh and it was probably actually worse morally, anyone remembers "go kill the Haïtians" and that kind of stuff?
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lotus dweller
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DarthXaos wrote:

...
The only limits on free speech should be those intended to protect the privacy of individuals....

Would you include protection of physical well-being as well?
 
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