Archive for the ‘problematic things I enjoy’ Category

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Penny Arcade: No resets, no cheat codes

February 2, 2011

Every so often, I link Penny Arcade comics here. Not because they’re the epitome of gaming comics, but because sometimes, they have damn accurate assessments of gamer culture. Just as often, they’re problematic and fucked up. Sorta like Kanye West on point sometimes, oh hell no other times.

I’ve been following the simmering since they did a rape comic and then decided being defensive was the good course to take, also, and also.

Let’s put aside the question of whether the comic itself “went too far” – here’s something people seem to keep ignoring.

When is making T-shirts to get lulz and profit from trolling rape survivors a sign of rational “in good fun” discourse?

And of course, statements like this:

PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable.

I’m pretty sure there were people being “very reasonable” when the shit first went down, in talking about the problems with the comic. And people being “very reasonable” when talking about why selling, and wearing shirts that say, “Rape victims – oversensitive LOL!”.

I’m sure somewhere in those 4 months, reasonable people emailed them just as much.

So what’s different now?

Oh, people are talking about whether they’ll be going, or not. People are talking about not going, and not going means PAX doesn’t get as much money.

Now their voices matter?

It’s also interesting that the onus is on other folks to “be reasonable” when your own response to complaints is to go for further lolz the whole way through.

Not to mention not even bothering to wikipedia what rape culture means – I know, I know, the internet is really new fangled and hard to understand, and when you go to places like Wikipedia, you might run into pron by accident…

No, you guys run a fucking goddamn webcomic. You can use the internet. You run a charity for children- you get that some people get jacked over in life, and not everything is happy for everyone.

Is it so fucking hard to say, “I fucked up”? “My bad”? Even if you want to take the stance you’re all good, then why change policy for PAX? The shirts don’t have to be there- the attitude that rape = Funny is the problem. The shirts are just an indicator.

No, it doesn’t just “blow over” – there’s a lot of people who’ve been raped, and no, they don’t need to be triggered by a shirt- they simply have to know there’s a lot of gamers who think that’s funny – and you know what?

That’s a crowd I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to hang out with. Much less pay money to hang out with.

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Steampunk and not reinventing colonialism

October 13, 2010

I’m brought back to Nisi Shawl’s idea that steampunk is a reaction against POC in speculative fiction like cyberpunk was a reaction to women in sci fi:

Ay-leen’s Steampunk & Multiculturalism

Thus, another argument about marginalized peoples’ involvement that has been previously overlooked is the possibility that people of color and non-Westerners are very much interested in steampunk, but choose *not* to engage in the community because they do not consider the community a safe space for them. The most obvious example is the co-opting of steampunk by various conservative, right-wing and white supremacist groups, such as those seen on the white supremacist forums of Stormfront.

Less obvious but still significant is the conversations sci-fi fans of color have about steampunk outside of steampunk community spaces. Garland Grey in her essay “Cause I’m Nerdcore like that: Towards a Subversive Geek Identity” notes that marginalized peoples are still aware of their outsider status in “nerd spaces,” even as they embrace these spaces that are supposedly accepting of mainstream outsiders: “Every time we enter nerd communities, we do so knowing that we may be shouted down and dismissed, bored to tears by useless pissing contests, have our legitimacy or motives questioned, or just be completely ignored.”

In a more steampunk-specific example, naraht writes about the discomfort felt about the prospect of entering the steampunk community as a person of color: “Not that putting brass cases around iPods must inherently be ideological, but the glorification of explorers and adventurers in the late nineteenth century mould isn’t something that can be viewed in isolation. Deep down, or perhaps not so deep down, there’s a sense in steampunk that having an empire must after all have been rather fun. Perhaps for a few it was. And somehow people are still being persuaded to join in the fantasy that they would have been one of the privileged few.”

It’s really frustrating to me the way white geek culture self-segregates- if it’s POC who would like to participate, the bullshit and antics that need to be put up with while the general group refuses to do anything, or, if it’s a POC originated thing (like, say, hiphop) the response is to produce a whole separate scene that refuses to really acknowledge the sources (nerdcore).

Escapism is great, but it’s always interesting what it says about folks when only some people get to partake in the escapism and for others… well, “know your place”.

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I can relate to be unrelatable

September 30, 2010

Neo-Prodigy’s Plight of the POC Storyteller is something I can relate to.

I remember one time Ben asked me why I enjoy the problematic “Legend of the 5 Rings”, and I explained that it was one of the few games where if I played an asian character, no one looked at me funny.

No one thought it was an insert, it wasn’t a weird out-of-place kind character, etc. That is, if I wanted to play an asian character, they could be heroic, villainous, sympathetic, whatever- they were a character > “asian” as the predominant qualifier.

The recent drama around Steal Away Jordan also hits the topic, in that the drama basically revolved around the assumption that the game was produced primarily with white people in mind… And, that the backlash, sadly, was all about centering white people’s reactions as well.

A lot of folks seem unable to tell comprehend that when I talk about making media “about us”, I don’t mean “us” as individuals, I mean, “us” as culturally, as a diversity, as a people having broader experiences.

Of course, I guess the same folks who can’t see people as the complexity of people, there’d be no way they’d be able to imagine stories of the same.

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Mining for Situations: Seven Swords of Tianshan

October 17, 2008

I’m re-watching the Seven Swords of Tianshan and blown away at how good a lot of the situations are and how many of them would be great for a campaign or even a one shot.

The basic premise is that you have loyalists of the old dynasty seeking to overthrow the new dynasty, and generally being on the run as outlaws.  And the rest is pure drama – love triangles, misunderstandings, betrayals, etc.  (The series sadly has pretty wack roles for women- though each could really stand out on their own, all of them basically become sacrificial girlfriends for the men… grr.)

Here’s some of the situations worth mining:

– The rebels are hiding out in a cave while soldiers are searching the mountains.  Then they find out the water has been poisoned- they have a traitor in their midst…

– The prince has captured their ace swordsman, and is trying to break his will and convince him to join.  How long will he hold out?  Will he play the role of double agent, and can he maintain it convincingly?  How will he convince his friends when he gets back out?

– A few of the outlaws are in charge of the children of the village – they all hide out in a temple during a wedding with soldiers just a day behind them.  How will they explain themselves, how will they feed the kids, how will they keep their cover?

– A few days before a giant festival, a horrible storm has driven everyone inside.  A few rebels are laying low in an inn, while soldiers are searching for troublemakers.  At the same time, a spy for the enemy, a sword for hire who is seeking bounty and reputation, and a unknown loyalist all are in the same inn.  Everyone knows the others are skilled warriors, but who do they serve, and who is allied with whom?

Of course, all of these situations are even more loaded with the various characters falling in love, becoming jealous, having self esteem issues, getting separated, getting reunited, imagining betrayal, actually betraying, etc.  There’s also generally a lot of action (though, the fight scenes are pretty tame with handwavey-wuxia smoke and lights swordfighting).

I should probably dig out some Jin Hong books too and mine those for ideas as well…

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Steampunk: Punks fuck it up, not suck it up

August 5, 2008

My good friend Oyceter breaks it down:

And if steampunk is centered on Victorian England, where does that leave everyone else? I want to be in steampunk too, but not if my friends and I are mysterious Oriental girls smoking opium or Indian widows waiting to be rescued by rich British travelers or savages in Africa awaiting civilization by missionaries.

And then follows up with an awesome IBARW discussion on how media affects us globally, so it’s never “just a movie” or “just a book”

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Legend of the 5 Rings

July 21, 2008

Naamen has a great post on “Problematic Things I Enjoy”, which I could probably paint most of my hobby with, but I’ll instead focus on an aspect as it comes to me. So today? Legend of the 5 Rings.

Ben Lehman once asked why I liked L5R, despite the horrible level of asian fetishization/exotification/white man’s fantasy. And, the answer was that it’s one of the few games where it features an all POC setting, not as an add-on or extra to a white setting, and that, characters not only fell into villains and victims, but heroes and more complex characters as well. And you know, I could play an asian guy and no one would make me have to come up with some extra excuse of why I’ve got this character in the setting.

Just the same, it is full of problematic stuff, ranging from the faux Japanese names- “Bayushi”, creepy wank material descriptions of women and their long hair, silk, etc., mixing in Mongols, Arabs, and Irish/Scottish as a clan, and the random bits of specifically Chinese stuff thrown in for good measure.

Of course, at this point, I probably would a) use another system and utilize bits of the setting, and b) only play with friends who I know won’t do the “white man playing an asian speech pattern”, which is, to pause, after, every few, words, and invite, Chris to, throw a, brick at, your, head.

From just a game-side analysis, the good writers pretty much fled after 1st Edition, and since then it’s been riding on a dwindling fanbase. And, the system generally has been the “Task Resolution” + “Powers”, and you have to figure out how to actually run a system, or, you know, make a rag tag group of heroes cooperate who have no real reason to.