Internalized Escapism

May 17, 2008

The Black Panthers/GTA game idea at Token Minorities is awesome.

It’s also a game we’ll never see, despite the fact that we have endless games about US military action in the Mideast, fighting games about rappers beating the shit out of each other or even a videogame about the Columbine shootings, if only because white on brown, brown on brown, or white on white violence doesn’t upset status quos like brown on white violence would, even if it’s “just a videogame”.

But this also got me thinking about why I, personally, avoid history in my games. It’s that history holds too much for me, on an emotional level. I mean, for a lot of folks the BPP is an inspiration, but for me, it stands as a reminder of how far people will go to put down folks for putting up stop signs and making soup lines. Growing up, someone I knew, his father was a BPP member… until they found him decapitated by a lake, cause of death, “suicide”…

It’s shit like that, which makes our history generally too raw for me to even play with. I can’t have escapism with it.

So I wonder how many of us escape into comic books, The Matrix films, Star Wars, Halo, anything to basically avoid looking at our ugly history, full of sorrow and martyrs more than heroes.

And then I wonder what we’re really escaping?



  1. Many of the the people I spent time with (and play games) have some sort of history in political activism which in those cases may include riots, streetfights, repression and jail time.
    None of us likes to fight the same struggles in a game. It’s part escapeism but it is also a lot harder to make a interesting game out of something everyone knows well. Beside it makes it harder to abstract between the role played and the real person – which gets kinda uncomfortable.
    Changing the known factors could work to make an enjoyable game. Like changig the setting, the level of confilct or even change the sides. But some safety lines should not be crossed, of course.

    But for the people I know it only seems to affect rpgs. In other media most don’t feel the need to escape. To the contrary a good movie, book or comc about ugly history or present and people fighting it is very likely to get everybody interested.

  2. Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I self select certain movies or books I intake based on how my mood is. For example, Serafina is one of my favorite movies, but I don’t think I could watch it more than once a decade, because it affects me so deeply.

    I think with roleplaying games part of it is the fantasy/wish fulfillment of being empowered, whereas, the real world is full of so many examples of horrible disempowerment and unhappy unendings.

    I guess to draw a counter example, I could totally play Grey Ranks, which although it has a horrible tragedy at the core of it, I know as a player that Nazi Germany eventually falls and the problem has basically ended (which isn’t to say that the horrible damage to Poland, physically, socially, emotionally is gone).

    I think it’s basically a lie to even begin to consider our history or current situation as “post-colonial” when the effects (and more importantly, the tools) of colonialism are still so strong, killing us whether physically (bombs in Laos) or emotionally (colorism and internalized self hate).

    With that in mind, it’s just impossible for me to find escapism in that.

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