Ethical considerations

August 27, 2009

The magic of a roleplaying game is that space for an engaging, gripping ethical decision DOES exist right in the fundamental framework of the game.

I think Luke hits the nail on the head here. He lists other possible motivators in rpgs, but basically the difference he’s pointing to is that this space exists.

I think it scales up to the designers and publishers as well- what kinds of space does your game create? What kinds of media are you publishing?

The nonthinkers assume that this line of questions is intended to lead to standard answers for everyone and eventually ZOMGCENSORSHIP, but what it really is, is poking at all the ways in which designers and publishers don’t ask these questions or ask them in such a narrow range, even going as far as self-enforcing those boundaries, and highlighting the problematic element of it.

We all consume problematic fiction, the question is at what level you can filter as a consumer? As a gamer making and taking your fiction, how much filtering do you need to do with your friends? With the fictional situations the setting and the mechanics and the group create?

Often in these situations the kyriarchy expectations are in place- and “the price of participation is silence” on those very issues, which destroys a great deal of that space- when you’re self censoring to protect other folks’ comfort in privilege, there’s so much lost in terms of exploration in ethics. For example, look at the backlash at a game setting where only women can be calvary… (friends: don’t click unless your BP is low and you have high patience for male defensiveness today)

Though I don’t think every instance of play or design needs to go to that level, just as much as there is always media/fiction created without much thought- it’s the dogged determination at all levels to avoid it that’s troubling and basically chaining down a great deal of the culture in the hobby.

One comment

  1. Guess my BP wasn’t low enough. Wow that’s a lot of pages of incessant whining. Yet Reign does give me some nice ideas to play with should I ever run/co-run a game, such a men being restricted from the use of cavalry/heavy frontline weaponery and gender ratio in a population for example.

    Anyway, yeah even though ethical decisions and concerns do exist in virtually any sort of RP you can come up with, the setting of the volume knob seems to come down to the players in the end. At times it comes to an agreement, unspoken or not, and other times it seems players are disputing over the knob. This could be due to some players filtering or not being able to filter enough of a given situation?

    When that arises if can feel like a character (or characters) are acting more like a player’s avatar than a player acting as a character when dealing with an ethical matter. Yeah, an ethical matter doesn’t always have to exist but sometimes its just there and you’d really have to be determined to ignore it in-game and/or out of game.


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