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Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas» Forums » General

Subject: Any one else find the slavery dynamic in this game problematic? rss

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James Ryan
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Edit: Predictably, people are reacting in all kinds of different ways to this one. Some people think I'm "bothered" by history, others that I've got some kind of passionate need to reform board gaming, still others that I'm being way too P.C., and still more that accuse me of being "childish" and "petty" to even mention this subject when, in fact, there are atrocities taking place in the world today. Whew! Lively topic. So let me try again, making my point as clearly as I possibly can.

1. History is great! I love history. I love it when a board game represents history accurately and well, and this game seems to really hit the mark. Things like trading slaves, pushing opium on the East, and wiping out whole civilizations in the Americas are not pleasant realities, but I feel it is really important to represent them when playing through this period of history. These are the facts, after all. Bravo to the design team.

2. I would probably feel uncomfortable breaking this game out with black friends or Native friends or Chinese friends, etc. But I would likely do it anyway. I do think it would lead to interesting and productive conversation. Plus the game looks like a lot of fun, and might even be MORE fun with people who trace their ancestry back to nations adversely affected by colonization. They would bring a different perspective to the table, which would make it a more interesting experience.

3. There are many, many games that represent colonization and the exploitation of natural resources. Many many. There are NOT too many games that represent the other side of that history. I think this is a loss. Games are fun. History is fun. Why not tell more of history with more games? We've got Settlers. Now let's see Natives of Catan.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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Don't play this if the history bothers you so much them.
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J J
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No, I find it quite refreshing to see a game that does not skirt around the issue or simply ignore it.

Colonial deals with the facts of European colonisation. Slavery happened, and was in fact vital to some colonies. Good or bad is neither here nor there (to head off the obtuse, yes, I do think that slavery is bad, but its badness is irrelevant to the game).

I do not understand the obsession some people have with it. It is history. It is done. It cannot be changed. It cannot be undone. And it did not happen to you. It may have happened to your ancestors, but why is that reason to get worked up about it? No, I don't consider ancestors/tribes/nations/races (and any associated attitudes or grudges) important in any way.

I do realise that many in the US have a large guilt complex about it, in the same way that many in Germany do about WW2 (and the holocaust in particular), but that still doesn't explain to me the reactions I see; in part I suppose its because I do not see why the guilt complex exists - no living American participated in historical slavery (on either side). But again I don't even understand my own country's particular guilt complex (Aboriginals).
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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"Friends from the African diaspora"? Uh, what?
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J J
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jschlickbernd wrote:
"Friends from the African diaspora"? Uh, what?


Descendants of the African slaves in North & South America (although strictly speaking it should be limited to the dispersed populations themselves, which would have been the slaves alone, not their descendants).
 
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James Ryan
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NBAfan wrote:
Don't play this if the history bothers you so much them.


Hey there, Texas.

The history does not bother me. Read my post again. I completely respect this game for its honest portrayal of history. This is much BETTER history than there is in many games.

I do have a problem with the overwhelming euro-centric bias in modern board game design. We've got hundreds and hundreds of games that let us play the role of colonizing powers exploiting the resources of the developing world. But we have all-too-few games that let us play from the other side of that history. Can you think of even one?

If anything, I'm bothered by the LACK of history. We're missing at least half of history from our boardgames. More than half, really.

For example, I would *love* to play a board game that put players in the role of an aboriginal families or tribes and had us struggle with the problems caused by settlers from the UK. I'm looking at you, now J.J.

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J J
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williamj35 wrote:
NBAfan wrote:
Don't play this if the history bothers you so much them.


Hey there, Texas.

The history does not bother me. Read my post again. I completely respect this game for its honest portrayal of history. This is much BETTER history than there is in many games.

I do have a problem with the overwhelming euro-centric bias in modern board game design. We've got hundreds and hundreds of games that let us play the role of colonizing powers exploiting the resources of the developing world. But we have all-too-few games that let us play from the other side of that history. Can you think of even one?

If anything, I'm bothered by the LACK of history. We're missing at least half of history from our boardgames. More than half, really.

For example, I would *love* to play a board game that put players in the role of an aboriginal families or tribes and had us struggle with the problems caused by settlers from the UK. I'm looking at you, now J.J.



So go ahead and make one. I doubt that I would find it interesting, but hey, there are people who passionately love train games. Although even they would probably not care much for playing the part of stone age tribes destined to be wiped out, both physically and culturally, by contact with aliens of vastly superior technology and numbers. Don't see much game there.

But I would be interested in knowing why it matters so much.
 
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James Ryan
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JasonJ0 wrote:

So go ahead and make one.


Yep. Good idea.

JasonJ0 wrote:

...playing the part of stone age tribes destined to be wiped out, both physically and culturally, by contact with aliens of vastly superior technology and numbers. Don't see much game there.


Realy??? I see *all kinds* of game there. Engaging asymmetrical challenge + Fascinating historical theme = "much game" in my book.

JasonJ0 wrote:

But I would be interested in knowing why it matters so much.


Looks like you have some research to do. whistle

But really, it just takes a little sympathy and imagination. Think, for a moment, about what it would be like to live in your country as something other than white.
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J J
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williamj35 wrote:

JasonJ0 wrote:

But I would be interested in knowing why it matters so much.


Looks like you have some research to do. whistle

But really, it just takes a little sympathy and imagination. Think, for a moment, about what it would be like to live in your country as something other than white.


Pretty much the same as when white.

No really. Looks like you have some research to do.


Edit - not getting into this, cos that way lies RSP.


Still not telling me why it is such a burning issue for you that we have anti-settlers games.
 
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Jens Hoppe
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Well, most wargames covering colonial wars by necessity have one player controlling the "native" forces, you might want to have a look at that. Plenty of opportunity to kick, say, some British backside if you choose the right battles. ninja

As for Colonial, expansion makes for an interesting mechanic, game-wise, and with a theme like colonialism, there's really no getting round the various European powers...
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Greg Lott
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williamj35 wrote:
I know: it's history. I don't really have a problem with games that accurately represent historical events, in fact I appreciate it. Furthermore, there are SOOOOO many Euros that take the exploitation of another nation's resources for granted without exposing the racism and slavery and genocide that go along with it. At least this one shows things as they are: if you want the goods, you have to take slaves and fight natives or "Christianize" them out of a rebellious mood. I've got lots of respect for a game this honest about the facts of Colonialism.

All the same, I feel a little weird stepping into the shoes of a slave trader for fun.

Does anyone feel like breaking this one out in the company of your African friends, or friends from the African diaspora? I supposed it would allow for some interesting conversation...

Where are the games that let you play the role of the natives fighting against the damned Euro-invaders? Forget the settlers, I want to play Natives of Catan.


Anyone else find it tiring that everyone wants everything to be politically correct nowadays?

It's a historical game.

Slavery is a part of history.

Should we just pretend it didn't exist? I really never understand this sentiment when I see it, and it seems like I see it way too often. Just because you enjoy a game that has slavery in it mechanically or thematically, it doesn't mean that you condone slavery.

Are you ok with genecide? No? How about Specicide? Then don't play Dominant Species.

Or just murder/killing/stealing in general? Whoops, there went all the war-games and 40-60% of the rest of them. Especially that MONSTROUSLY non-PC game Pandemic! Those POOR single celled organisms! What did THEY ever do to warrant this mass need for extermination. They just want to exist like the rest of us!

That being said... I probably wouldn't pull this out to play with my black friends, so your point is well taken in that regard.

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James Ryan
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ferris1971 wrote:


It's a historical game.


See my reply above. I don't have any problem with history, nor the fact that this game represents this period rather well, if from a limited perspective.

ferris1971 wrote:


That being said... I probably wouldn't pull this out to play with my black friends, so your point is well taken in that regard.



Exactly my point. Thanks Gregg.
 
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Matthew Tadyshak
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williamj35 wrote:
NBAfan wrote:
Don't play this if the history bothers you so much them.


Hey there, Texas.

The history does not bother me. Read my post again. I completely respect this game for its honest portrayal of history. This is much BETTER history than there is in many games.

I do have a problem with the overwhelming euro-centric bias in modern board game design. We've got hundreds and hundreds of games that let us play the role of colonizing powers exploiting the resources of the developing world. But we have all-too-few games that let us play from the other side of that history. Can you think of even one?

If anything, I'm bothered by the LACK of history. We're missing at least half of history from our boardgames. More than half, really.

For example, I would *love* to play a board game that put players in the role of an aboriginal families or tribes and had us struggle with the problems caused by settlers from the UK. I'm looking at you, now J.J.

Try The Princes of Machu Picchu then.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Sure glad Abraham Lincoln was black....oh wait.

smh
 
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williamj35 wrote:
ferris1971 wrote:


It's a historical game.


See my reply above. I don't have any problem with history, nor the fact that this game represents this period rather well, if from a limited perspective.

ferris1971 wrote:


That being said... I probably wouldn't pull this out to play with my black friends, so your point is well taken in that regard.



Exactly my point. Thanks Gregg.


Yeah, sorry if my comments were overly harsh. I've just pretty much developed an allergic reaction to PC stuff nowadays. It's just such a waste of time and energy. And it's dumb.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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Never seen people complain about games where you take the role of a thief or a murderer.
I do like to step on the imaginary role of a slaver/thief/murderer for fun.

[edit]: If I do purchase this game I will invite at the very least one black friend (who is a really close friend of mine). I`ll go ahead and say he will have fun and the topic may not even come out, if it does it will be on a racist joke...
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Ade Lewis
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Just type into google

slavery today

I think people who live in the past are blind to the present.

History is just that, its something to relfect on and allows 'civilized' society to change things for the better of all mankind.
We live and learn, but should not forget.

As the google results show e.g.

http://www.ihrb.org/commentary/guest/slavery_in_supply_chain...

There are far better things to be uncomfortable about right now than this game.
The whole concept from the OP is a personal one and quite petty and slightly childish to be honest based on the slavery going on today, unchallenged, all around us.

Now if slaves were used to make this game that would be different, but I'm sure thats not the case.
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Jim Adams
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I feel about this the same as I do about the Holocaust and slave labour in WWII games. I think it's important that the costs of these practices should be simulated, as well as the gains. I also like games, in which one can try alternate methods. What if Britain had outlawed slavery a century earlier, what are the consequences?
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There is no good way to separate the emotional history from the clinical history of any one person, group, nation, or culture.

It would not be a good idea to do so. The feelings aroused when learning, or reflecting on the Holocaust, slavery, or other aspects of human cruelty are a minimal safeguard as it is.

The game covers a period of European Exploitation. It is a lesson that should illuminate the consequences.

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It would be more troubling if it was ignored or some pretence was made it didn't happen.
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I'm more upset that the sole resource in Japan is precious metals and not tea.
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NBAfan wrote:
Try The Princes of Machu Picchu then.

Which was inspired by Mac Gerts' Peruvian wife, I think.


But, addressing the OP, I think playing the 'bad side' of history is fun and satisfying. It reminds me of the children of Earth-First parents I used to know playing Logger, Protester and Sherrif. They were re-enacting what was meaningful to their world.
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I think the tiny role that slavery plays in Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas absolutely pales in comparison to the role weapons of mass destruction play in The Manhattan Project.
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Quinn Martindale
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I have no problem with anyone expressing concern with a system that treats human beings as mere objects, but games do that all the time for far less appropriate reasons than historical realism. Things get abstracted all the time in games - as Gregg says, should you feel uncomfortable killing soldiers in a war game? People play as Confederates or Nazis all the time in war games, and no one suggests they they think the wrong side won that war.

There are tons of interesting themes which involve unpleasant or immoral behavior. Even something basic like conquering the world is inherently problematic. This can be used by an artist to comment on how easy it is to think about maximizing efficiency in a system without any empathy for those affected by that system (e.g. Train). I don't think, however, that it a systematic indictment of game playing in general. To the extent that this game makes you feel something about history, it is accomplishing something.

So while I don't think you're wrong to feel uncomfortable with a game that depicts an historical atrocity, I have no problem playing such a game. I would only have a problem if I played with people who used the game to act out racist beliefs or made racist jokes while playing.
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I really like your thoughtful response, Quinn, though I'm not sure I agree that one should feel badly every time a meeple is lost.

Games are an opportunity to turn difficult events into manageable abstractions, sure, but they're also breaks from morality, like what the Russian literary critic Bakhtin termed the carnival. The most humble nerd can be a king in a game, and that may have absurd, counterfactual, amoral or immoral consequences in game, but I think it's important for people to have access to it nonetheless.
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