Thursday, March 22, 2018

Warning: Post May Offend Some Readers





I'm not kidding. This is the post wherein I will likely hurt some feelings. I may even loose some of the readership I have left. I hope not, but there's something I'm tired of, so here we go.

In this country we have gone so far in our collective desire to not offend fringe groups that we (almost) de facto vilify any opposing views. I want to address two specific cases in point, where this intersects with gaming.

Point #1 - The Objectification/Exploitation of Women

There are some fairly vocal folks in this hobby, curiously enough, mostly men, who decry women in fantasy game art being displayed in provocative ways. I have read reviews where the reviewer wouldn't recommend an otherwise good product simply because there was a bare female midriff on page 132 and a glimpse of cleavage on page 243. Bared and oily skin is a traditional trope of much of the imagery associated with fantasy gaming. It isn't strictly necessary, look at Lord of the Rings. But sometimes it does add to the experience. There's a reason they tapped Arnold to play Conan and Sandal Bergman to play Valeria. It wouldn't have been the same with Mike and Molly.

A quick glance to the right will show you where my gaming head is most of the time (ADD not withstanding). There's plenty of cheesecake AND beefcake in C&C. I love all of it. It's funny to me that the same people that rail against the cheesecake don't seem to have a problem with the beefcake. They'll sometimes  comment about it, but will rarely, if ever, allow beefcake to factor into their review.

Here's a couple of examples from C&C that I like:





















Finally, I want to say to anyone who is offended by the objectification of women in fantasy roleplay art: They're drawings and paintings. They are not real women. No one was objectified in the making of this post.


Point #2 - Traditional Values

I'm a Southern Conservative, in case that wasn't already obvious. I'm not a narrow-minded bigot, but I do have my opinions, views, and values. I was having another ADD dalliance with D&D5 recently, when I discovered this little nugget:

You don ’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.

PHB pg 121

Firstly, I'm fairly certain that anybody with enough imagination to play D&D in the first place could figure this out. Even if they were a little unsure of things going in, by the time they get to page 121 in the character creation process, they should have a handle on the notion that they can imagine pretty much any character they want to.

It just pisses me off that we are nearly constantly exposed to the notion that these fringe groups (population-wise) get so much damn play in our society. "Call Bruce Jenner a hero" "Use whichever bathroom you want to" "Make me a cake or I'll sue." Of course, if you're more about traditional values, or even the concept of liberty that grants you the right to your own opinions, you're a narrow-minded bigot.

Why do these things get exclusive coverage anyway? Why are there no lines about settling down and starting a family the old-fashioned way? And that crap about Corellon Larethian is MADE UP. And, by the way, what kind of game are the designers expecting people to run where sexual orientation even matters?

Bottom line: Our youth are constantly exposed to "alternative lifestyles" without any counterpoint for traditional lifestyles. Bruce Jenner is not a hero. He's a guy that ingested large doses of estrogen and put on a dress. He didn't save a life or help found this country. This country was founded by men who weren't afraid to be men and do man shit. George Washington didn't have a sex change and Thomas Jefferson didn't have two mommies. If somebody wants to transgender or be gay, then go for it. Just don't vilify me when I don't want to be assaulted with it morning, noon, and night.

10 comments:

  1. For a long time I didn't use the term "SJW" in public, mostly because, like you, I didn't want to offend people, and it's such an obvious trigger term. But now I don't care. To me, the term doesn't refer to what kind of "social justice" is being subscribed to or advocated, but HOW it's being done, if that makes sense. I don't care whether someone in the community is "pro-" or "anti-" this or that, nor do I even care if people want to insert a bit of their pro- or anti-ness into their own retro-clone or setting or whatever. It's THEIR work after all, and one would expect people to sometimes personalize things. I actually find those efforts useful and interesting, even and especially when I might "disagree" with the underlying sentiments.

    But when the dominant company in the industry, echoed by many of the others, pushes a particular political agenda - ANY agenda, but in this case a culturally leftist one - onto their twelve-year old customers, especially in such a heavy-handed and boring way, it annoys me. And, no, old-TSR didn't do this. The implicit claim that Gygax and co. were pushing white-straight family-values or whatever onto their twelve-year old customers back in the day is laughable. It's also a lie.

    The joke of course is that the ONLY people talking about excluding anyone from their gaming tables is the "inclusiveness" or "diversity" crowd. It's Orwellian. And in that sense, it goes from being a joke to being something more sinister.

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    1. Thank you for your reply, Mr Spalding. When I first glimpsed that I had a reply and that it was you, I became a little anxious. I'm a fan of your work, so I wasn't looking forward to being on opposite sides. Of course, I had no way of knowing what side you fell on, but with my sporadic posting schedule I don't enjoy the readership I once did. I started this blog mainly as a way to warehouse my ideas and thoughts on things, and secondarily to maybe have some interesting discussion. So, it was with some trepidation that I approached your comment, very nervous about alienating someone who's work, history with gaming, and views which I respect.

      It's nice to know that not only am I not alone in my feelings, but share them (to some degree, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth) with a gamer I respect.

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  3. Hmm, this is interesting in part because I know people who are part of that "get offended by cleavage crowd" as well as people who like the nod Wizard's make about being a non-binary magician or whatever. I disagree with the former and moderately agree with the latter. While I'd hardly call your thoughts offensive, I'm not sure I see this as Wizard's "pushing an agenda", in just the way I don't see the common tropes of more-than-half-naked-men-and-women that are part of the S&S/Fantasy tradition equal to pushing an agenda. Do you think you could clarify what it is about it that bothers you or seems like a political agenda?

    My initial reaction is not to recoil with worry when things are different, but as a younger person from a coastal state I've also been exposed to this my entire life. I'd welcome your thoughts, and as always great writing (longtime lurker)

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    1. Hello, Aaron. I apologize for the lengthy delay. Thanks for the reply and the kind words. It's hard to nail it down precisely. The best way I can put it at the moment, is that there has been a shift. It's not so much about expanding the societal norms as much as shifting them. Almost like being in a car driving down a highway. The current culture isn't about making the car big enough to occupy both lanes, it's more about moving the car into the other lane.

      I guess the heterosexual nature of things was implicit during the TSR days, but that was mainly because it was implicit in society at the time. Also, I would say, it is simple biology. If a character wants to establish a barony or wizard's tower or whatever, and a lineage, then that character needs an heir. An heir that would, presumably, be produced the good old-fashioned way. I know there were alternatives, such as adoption, but the old fashioned way was the way that sprang to mind in the late '70's/early '80's. Hence, I say it was implicit.

      Fast forward to today. The diversity of today is very explicit. It is to the point that almost every commercial on TV features something "alternative". I can go an entire commercial set and not see (what is to my experience) a "traditional" situation. I'm trying to be delicate here because I don't want to seem judgmental. I don't really give a rip if two guys want to be married, or if there is an interracial couple in a Kroger commercial. My issue is that there is a shift toward that, not a broadening of the social fabric. So, it starts to look like, to me, that if you don't have gay friends or a family member married to another race you are either narrow-minded or a relic of an older, more ignorant time.

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    2. I think I understand what you mean about the car moving lanes rather than widening, and as someone who has seen far more than me, I can appreciate why that might be so. I certainly myself advocate for a larger car, but its no mystery to me that certain elements would just as soon paint you/people like you as you say, as relics, or even as "part of the problem"

      However, I don't agree with that, nor do I think that's whats going on either with Wizards or in the broader spectrum of society. It is very easy to hear only the loudest, most negative voices on hot-button cultural issues. Certainly I've heard my fair share from both sides of the aisle. But the vast majority of the time, I find that most people are kind, loving people that care about their families, go to church/clubs/etc, and just want to make a better world for themselves. So while I favor broadening the cultural norms, I don't think that invalides you or people like you.

      As you said, you're a southern conservative and I can see how the modern iterations of D&D and many other cultural icons can make it seem that people like you are relics, and that the "new normal" is hip, gay, eats avocado toast, or whatever. I'd like to venture an idea for you to consider though, perhaps it may help, perhaps I'm just talking out of my ass. That idea is the one of *cultural primacy* -- this is when a specific culture or group is the "King of the Hill" in a system where there is otherwise a mix of people. As an example, white heterosexual men have cultural primacy in the halls of Congress. And D&D was an icon of that cultural primacy back at its inception.

      Now, as that cultural primacy is worn away (the subject of many heated political campaigns and divisive rhetoric, RE: Trump), we see that too extending to both D&D5e, and a lot of what you just see all around you. It can feel like you are being erased, not because you are "losing" your identity in the world, but rather because so many others who were previously marginalized politically, culturally, perhaps even legally, are now making their voices heard and taking up more and more headspace in doing so.

      Coupled along with this is just the astronomical vaulting of D&D from cultural icon of a otherwise niche hobby, to something being streamed, played, and talked about by millions of people on YouTube and the internet daily. We were bound to see Wizard's adjust "the little things" like that aforementioned reference to a non-binary wizard, in order to increase the broad appeal of the game to more people, which brings more people into the hobby (and yes, makes Wizards more money). And so it is with most things that become issues of "broader" appeal, they become more "inclusive", but at the same time that inclusion can inadvertently feel it excludes those who were the main players before. Overall I think that growth in inclusion is a positive, but again I appreciate how it can induce a certain element of anxiety.

      That's my 2c anyway. Please let me know if I can elaborate in anyway. I have made a few assumptions in this post, and I apologize in advance if they come off as offensive. I sincerely wish for you and anyone feeling similarly to feel accepted in the modern hobby today.

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    3. Oh, and as a final observation, a lot of the modern OSR seems to be a reflection of this to me, not so much a change in game rules as a change in the game philosophy and culture that converges around those types of games. People who might have been the "in-crowd" in the past may not feel so much anymore, or may even feel threatened. Or maybe they just don't like needing 3x300 page textbooks to play the damn game. And so you get things like Lamentations, a bunch of Conan-clones with bare-breasted ladies, and of course good ole S&W. It's natural to seek one's "comfort space" , and there's nothing wrong with that. I just think D&D5e should be able to be played the "modern inclusive whatever" way, or in the "swords and sorcery Conan saves the bare-breasted lass way" with equal ability and without you or anyone else being judged for it. Even if you're all white, love beer, have wives, and shoot guns, it shouldn't matter :) (being hyperbolic but I hope the point comes across)

      Apologies for the double post, character limit

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