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Subject: Social taboos in games... what is the practical limit? rss

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Mike Bourgeois
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Where do you draw the limit for social taboos in your games?

What themes would you automatically say no to when considering a game to play?


I can easily start the ball off with the following...

pedophilia
necrophilia
control violence against men or women
bestiality

I realize that it's unlikely that you'd run into any of the priors but could you tell me other things that you'd be saying and automatic and qualified 'no' to if offered?
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I had no idea there were games that had those themes.

I won't even guess where they would be from!
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Matt Davis
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It says something about the attitude in the US that those sexual taboos seem automatically off the table for game themes as far as I'm concerned, but I thought nothing of playing a light-hearted game about mass murder:

Let's Kill

Huh.
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mbourgeois wrote:

Where do you draw the limit for social taboos in your games?

What themes would you automatically say no to when considering a game to play?


I can easily start the ball off with the following...

pedophilia
necrophilia
control violence against men or women
bestiality

I realize that it's unlikely that you'd run into any of the priors but could you tell me other things that you'd be saying and automatic and qualified 'no' to if offered?


Agricola does allow you to invite a sheep to stay in the house.shake
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Mike Bourgeois
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djbrickhaus wrote:
mbourgeois wrote:

Where do you draw the limit for social taboos in your games?

What themes would you automatically say no to when considering a game to play?


I can easily start the ball off with the following...

pedophilia
necrophilia
control violence against men or women
bestiality

I realize that it's unlikely that you'd run into any of the priors but could you tell me other things that you'd be saying and automatic and qualified 'no' to if offered?


Agricola does allow you to invite a sheep to stay in the house.shake


I'm sure though that your intent is to fatten them up for consumption and not pre-nuptuals?
 
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Mike Bourgeois
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coolpapa wrote:
It says something about the attitude in the US that those sexual taboos seem automatically off the table for game themes as far as I'm concerned, but I thought nothing of playing a light-hearted game about mass murder:

Let's Kill

Huh.


Actually I hadn't considered Let's Kill. Probably for me though it wasn't the theme but the game itself... I really thought it sucked as a game.

That being said though... you are right... such a game with Mass Murder being the intent... it's perhaps a game in very poor taste.
 
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Steve Bauer
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I do not see why any of these topics would be out of bounds for a game played by adults.

I also find it unlikely that any designer is going to make a decent pedophilia game anytime soon.
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sbauer9 wrote:
I do not see why any of these topics would be out of bounds for a game played by adults.

I also find it unlikely that any designer is going to make a decent pedophilia game anytime soon.


Steve, could you enlighten me as to how it's possible to make a 'bad' pedophilia game much less one that excites the masses?
 
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mbourgeois wrote:

pedophilia
necrophilia
control violence against men or women
bestiality


Depends on how I perceive the game to handle the subjects. I wouldn't mind any of those subjects in an ironic context for example (Like Pimp: The Backhanding, the game is clearly about control violence against men and -mostly- women, but it's obviously "advocating" such behaviour in the same way Let's Kill "advocates" mass murder). A game by NAMBLA about who gets to legalize pedophelia first on the other hand, I wouldn't appreciate.

I think any subject is fair game in any form of media, if a book or movie is allowed to use necrophilia to generate laughs, atmosphere or character, I don't see any reason a game shouldn't be. (And for the record, I also don't see any reason a book or movie shouldn't have those artistic freedoms)

The only line I draw is, as mentioned above, when any form of media actually advocates behaviour I find distasteful (such as the ones you listed, apart perhaps from necrophilia and bestiality, not that I'm into that stuff, but at least people who engage in such behaviour don't hurt anyone with it, so why bother being bitter about it, though I'd still be reluctant to shake their hands if I knew )
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Steve Bauer
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This was my first thought, although I would have used little ice-cream trucks.

You could also make a very disturbing re-theme of Animal Upon Animal,
but clearly I need help.

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In Catan is it not uncommon to say, or hear said "I got wood for sheep" during the trading phase. . .
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I do draw the line at The Sleeping Beauty Game.

Encouraging 3 year olds to go around kissing dead people is just wrong.


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mbourgeois wrote:
Where do you draw the limit for social taboos in your games?


I'd play a game about anything, although it is hard to imagine many themes being anything other than tactless and vulgar in games.

I find many games thematically objectionable without going into too extreme a space... heck, I'd rather not game than even try a lot of plain old sleazy games in the database. If you are digging into the sensationalism barrel to theme your game, guess what? Your game sucks already... I have no interest in it. Yup... I won't even try only trivially objectionable games like Busen Memo or Pimp: The Backhanding.

But then, a game played on some more general level - perhaps a game with a courtroom setting where players are lawyers - could be a fine area to explore socially unacceptable themes.
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All of those topics listed in the original post I would not be interested in gaming.

Other subjects that I wouldn't want to play a game about:

sexuality
torturing people or animals
sadism
being a serial killer
satanism or any game about any type of religion or religious concepts (hell for example)
cannibalism
terrorism


Basically, I want to play games with positive themes, there is enough negativity around from simply watching the news to want to play with negative themes

Wargaming, although I'm not a wargamer, would be an exception because it is abstract and mostly about strategy and tactics which does appeal

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Hmmm. I'm guessing a game based on the John Landis-directed "Thriller" video set in a kindergarten probably wouldn't go over well.

I'm also guessing not too many people have ever tried playing XXXenophile, a somewhat silly but wonderfully illustrated card-driven game.
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quinnox wrote:

Wargaming, although I'm not a wargamer, would be an exception because it is abstract and mostly about strategy and tactics which does appeal



One could make an abstract game about slave trading too, but many - including wargamers - would get on their moral high horse about it.

I don't see how one can morally object to one but not the other.

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DancesWithBeagles wrote:
quinnox wrote:

Wargaming, although I'm not a wargamer, would be an exception because it is abstract and mostly about strategy and tactics which does appeal



One could make an abstract game about slave trading too, but many - including wargamers - would get on their moral high horse about it.

I don't see how one can morally object to one but not the other.



Wayne, isn't 'moral high horse' a bit inflammatory? War is an awful thing and I'm sure we've all had a family member who can tell us about how horrible it was... but also that they were doing it for what they perhaps considered a noble reason. (defend freedom, remove a horrible dictator)

I'm pretty sure that most people couldn't tell you that they were engaged in the slave trade for an altruistic reason. If you can whip one out then please by all means enlighten me.
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DancesWithBeagles wrote:
quinnox wrote:

Wargaming, although I'm not a wargamer, would be an exception because it is abstract and mostly about strategy and tactics which does appeal



One could make an abstract game about slave trading too, but many - including wargamers - would get on their moral high horse about it.

I don't see how one can morally object to one but not the other.



Two of my three favorite games do include some aspect of slave trading;
Puerto Rico and Struggle of Empires.

The are both in the top 100.
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There are plenty of games with taboo themes that are (or were) somewhat popular.
Frischfleisch comes to mind, a game that I would love to have, I admit.
Funny Friends is much about sex and drugs, and with the right group of six people, it is an awesome game.
And who wouldn't enjoy a nice game of Nuclear War (well, actually, that one is a bit outdated, I'd say)?

None of these games are very tasteful or positive, but when presented right, almost anything's possible. At least for me.
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mbourgeois wrote:
DancesWithBeagles wrote:
quinnox wrote:

Wargaming, although I'm not a wargamer, would be an exception because it is abstract and mostly about strategy and tactics which does appeal



One could make an abstract game about slave trading too, but many - including wargamers - would get on their moral high horse about it.

I don't see how one can morally object to one but not the other.



Wayne, isn't 'moral high horse' a bit inflammatory? War is an awful thing and I'm sure we've all had a family member who can tell us about how horrible it was... but also that they were doing it for what they perhaps considered a noble reason. (defend freedom, remove a horrible dictator)

Rationalisations aside, my dad's a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, and he would object to any minimally-abstracted war game. Isn't his objection sufficient to establish the offense?

I'm with Wayne. If someone designed a brilliant strategic, tactical abstract and tacked on a pedophilia theme, then I think people who defend war games with the same argument would have to say this is ok, too.
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Wayne Hitchcock
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mbourgeois wrote:


Wayne, isn't 'moral high horse' a bit inflammatory?



Not at all.

mbourgeois wrote:
War is an awful thing and I'm sure we've all had a family member who can tell us about how horrible it was...


Indeed, like my father and grandfather. I lived with both growing up, and saw first-hand how their experiences effected them psychologically, and thirty-odd years after the fact, I could sit and watch my father still pull pieces of metal out of his arm.


mbourgeois wrote:
...they were doing it for what they perhaps considered a noble reason


In the interest of not getting too off-topic let me just say my father's noble reason was to escape his grinding poverty. The army offered him a roof over his head and three hot meals a day.


mbourgeois wrote:
I'm pretty sure that most people couldn't tell you that they were engaged in the slave trade for an altruistic reason. If you can whip one out then please by all means enlighten me.


There are none. Period. It was not my purpose to defend slave trading in any form, only to point out the hypocrisy of decrying one human tragedy as morally reprehensible while finding entertainment value in another.
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tommynomad wrote:
Rationalisations aside, my dad's a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, and he would object to any minimally-abstracted war game. Isn't his objection sufficient to establish the offense?


No I don't think it is, I would not want to make light of his experience but it doesn't let him be the moral filter for the world.
If it did you would be hard pressed to find any theme that does not offend someone.

tommynomad wrote:

I'm with Wayne. If someone designed a brilliant strategic, tactical abstract and tacked on a pedophilia theme, then I think people who defend war games with the same argument would have to say this is ok, too.


Maybe I am a hypocrite, I think war is terrible but I enjoy war games. I don't like war game in spite of there theme but because of there theme. I find it gratifying to line up units in battle and make the tactical decisions to win the conflict. I don't think an enjoyment of war games leads to or requires a love of war but I could see how someone could draw a connection. Certainly when you see how technology is making computer games more realistic and making actual war more game like, it can give you pause.

A similar pediophilla game would be icky. I thought the youtube video was funny but if I showed up on game night and my group was playing it I would be distributed. I don't think war games lead to war I don't know if I have the same belief for pedophilia games. It is clearly my bias but I just can't imagine such a game being at all interesting. Of course I have no trouble with the slavery in Struggle of Empires and I think slavery is just as wrong as pedophilia.

If it is done in jest, I can usual see the humor in it, even if it is very offensive, but any game that would go for such crude jokes is unlikely to be an interesting game.
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