How to make roleplaying culture hostile to people

August 10, 2013

So.  I had a few comments on rpg.net a few days ago, mostly pointing out that people mix up folks saying “Let’s not have this media be offensive and insulting” for meaning you cannot have any content at all – the thing is, you can have media about racism, sexism, anything – and address it critically – whereas you can have media not about those things, yet completely promote those horrible values.  The insulting is not whether the topic is there, the insulting is how you treat it.

Now for an example of how not to do it critically:

The Misery Index: Games about Terrible Realities.

What gives things away?  Well, it’s by “Misery Tourism Games”.  Ha ha, it’s ironic right?  Just like when someone says, “You piece of shit! Hey, I was just joking!” you know they’re really a nice person and not being passive aggressive and abusive at all.

But we can take their own words for it:

We don’t design games to make a moral point or push an agenda. We don’t design games to offend you or your sociology professor or your congressman. We do it because we believe there is fun to be had in exploring tragedy and depravity with your friends in the safety of your kitchen, den or mother’s basement.

Here’s one game they offer:

Welfare Queens is a role-playing game about a not-so-distant future America where white collar professionals spend their nights in back alley arcades, living virtual lives of poverty and desperation. Bored and overwhelmed by their day jobs, the stock brokers, accountants, and mid level executives of the late 21st century find adventure and catharsis through their experiences as hookers, drug pushers, trailer trash, and panhandlers.

Yeah, ok.  So basically a bunch of games that make mainstream commentary “ironically” for profit with shock-value topics… at least the company name, Misery Tourism is honest about what’s going on here.