This post was originally published in my old website, as a response to the actions of political groups that are turning the RPG industry into a political battleground.
Imagine for a minute that the National Rifle Association decided that “assault rifle” was too aggressive a name, and decided that absolutely nobody should use that denomination ever, for the sake of public relations. They come up with some euphemism, like “pacification device”, and insist that everybody use that euphemism instead of the “wrong” naming. As usually happens with language designed by subcultures or small communities, that term ends up being used exclusively by the people within that community, and the rest of the world is largely unaware of this event.
Six months later, you buy some roleplaying game manual. Some extremely serious game about space marines exploring dungeons and blasting eight legged alien monsters away, for example. You start reading it and it looks like a fine system, but when you arrive to the section with the weapon charts, you scratch your head because there are lots of references to different versions of a weapon called “pacification device” and you don’t know what that means. A few pages later, you find a sidebar in which it explains you what a pacification device is, and why it should never ever be called “assault rifle”, and why your 2nd amendment rights are important.
At this point, you know that the RPG you just bought is including a political advertisement, that the publisher has taken sides, and whose side it has taken. The message the publisher is sending is: if you don’t like assault rifles (pardon, pacification devices), we don’t want you here.
The next afternoon, you browse the Web for downloadable material for the game because you want to run a session with your friends. You enter the forum of the publisher, and you notice there is a discussion going on. Somebody has started a thread, complaining because people are complaining because the book contains political propaganda. The thread quickly turns into a flamewar, with people defending 2nd amendment rights and the inclusion of the propaganda, people arguing that it is not propaganda, people claiming that they defend 2nd amendment rights but don’t want propaganda in their games… The defendants of the propaganda say that the games should be inclusive and try to appeal to gun owners, and the detractors say that such opinion is non-sense, because gun owners are not prevented from enjoying the game at all if the propaganda is absent.
The moderators, appointed by the publisher for taking care of rule enforcement in the forum, arrive and try to clean the mess. What do they do? Do they close the thread, like every moderator does when a discussion is running amok? No. The moderators come and ban off the people who does not agree with the publisher’s political stance.
At this point, you know that the publisher is not even trying to conceal their political agenda.
The sad part of the story? It is as real as it gets.
I recently purchased a thick RPG corebook from Onyx Path Publishing. It was a premium expensive book that was shipped via international premium mail. The book makes use of certain language forms which belong to gay, lesbian, transsexual and intersexual circles… much like our fictional pacification device belongs just to the NRA. It has some sidebar explaining those non-standard language terms and why it is important that they are used.
Some days later, I found a thread in Onyx Path’s forums in which people was tearing each other apart because of the inclusion of such elements in the book. Some people defended that Onyx Path should be inclusive and attempt to appeal to members of the LGBTI community, and some others defended that political propaganda does not belong in such game. At some point it turned into a discussion about the nature of homosexuality and if it was normal or not. The Onyx Path forum moderators arrived at the scene and banned most of the people who disliked the propaganda, alleging hate speech rules.
The line that separates responsible free speech from harmful hate speech is thin and blurry at best, but to be honest, it felt a lot like a demonstration of power from moderation rather than a legit act of housekeeping. A legit act of housekeeping would have been to lock the thread because it was straying into dangerous territory, not to take sides.
Onyx Path Publishing is sending the following message: If you don’t like the LGBTI movement in the way we do, we don’t want you here.
I find it ironic that, in an attempt to make the game more socially inclusive, the publisher is kicking off people who disagrees with their views… which is, of course, actually the stance of a hypocrite.
Books are entertaining devices that are easy to subvert into political tools of indoctrination, and I am sad to say that certain RPG publishers are including lots of political content that is completely uncalled for in their games. It is ok to have mature games that deal with the problems of capitalism and socialism in mature and neutral ways. However, some authors of these games can go as far as to pass moral judgments on certain philosophers or ideologies, rendering the game not neutral anymore.
I think the authors have the right to write the game the way they want. However, once you stop being neutral and start kicking dissenting voices out of your social media, you’d better stop saying that none of the members of the company has a political agenda and that you want your games to be socially inclusive and for everybody. Because it is obviously false.
Advertisements don’t belong to a book that is worth over a hundred USD plus shipping. I don’t want advertisements in a premium product. I don’t want to buy a special edition of a game and find advertisements from Burger King or Telepizza in it, nor advertisements of a political party, nor advertisements of a certain politicized way of talking and writing.
This entry has been posted to alt.fantasy