Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

RE: [gamedesign-l] Morality in RPG's?

Expand Messages
  • David Kennerly
    From: Brandon J. Van Every ... Mostly yes. Unfortunate for his staying power, his inclusion of saracens was not an accident.
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 1, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      From: "Brandon J. Van Every" <vanevery@...>

      > From: David Kennerly
      > > Tolkien's Lord of the
      > > Rings had an eerie presence on screen, given its timing with
      > > the latest
      > > Crusade; i.e. Iraq. Oliphants, men from the east.

      > Tolkien wrote for "applicability." For instance, Sauron isn't Hitler,
      > the Ring isn't the atom bomb, but if the concerns of LOTR are applicable
      > to musing about WW II, that's Tolkien's intent. You could go backwards
      > in time, forwards in time, and find plenty of ways for Tolkien's themes
      > to be applicable. That's part of the staying power of his work.

      Mostly yes. Unfortunate for his staying power, his inclusion of saracens
      was not an accident. Tolkien modeled nation of men allied with Sauron in
      Middle Earth from Middle Easterners.



      > > However, D&D is not just Tolkien. In the respect of
      > > morality, D&D is worse.
      > > The conquistadors who murdered, raped, and conquered the
      > > native Americans
      > > closely resemble the paladins. Who else invokes religious
      > > zeal to outright slay "evil"?

      > D&D has no guns, is not set in the time period of the conquistadors, and
      > does not have a thing to say about colonialism. Crusades, yes;
      > conquistadors, no.

      Nor does Middle Earth have tanks or mustard gas. Leaving technology aside,
      consider the theme. What is a conquistador but a bully under a cross?
      Religiously zealous warriors in a land of demon-worshippers who practice
      human sacrifice. This is also one way to look at a paladin.



      > > The native Mexicans (that westerners dubbed the Aztecs)

      > Why do you say "Aztecs" isn't an indigenous word? Sounds about as
      > Western as Pawnee or Sioux or Arapaho.

      I'd rather be discussing game design on this list instead of US history.

      I didn't say Aztecs wasn't an indigenous word. I said that westerners
      dubbed them, the Mexicans as Aztecs. They called themselves Mexica or
      Tenochca. But I could care less which term is used. By the way, Sioux is
      French slang. The Sioux called themselves Lakota.



      > > Some, I forget who besides
      > > Campbell, take a European dragon to be a myth for some real
      > > tyrannt. It's
      > > easy, from there, to project any enemy king or lord as a
      > > dragon that the
      > > conqueror should kill to "liberate the people."

      > Any possibility of severely overthinking campfire entertainment? Other
      > than spinning tall tales, how else are people supposed to pass the time?
      > I suppose there's dancing, drinking, and screwing. I'm sure that some
      > myths had political content. That doesn't mean that as they were
      > retold, that people cared or remembered the political content. Nor that
      > they were originally engineered that way. Tolkien, for instance, didn't
      > engineer LOTR for any specific political content. He explicitly stated
      > that it was meant to entertain.

      "Overthinking campfire entertainment" could be a subtitle of a thread titled
      "Morality in RPG's?". :) Tolkien was Catholic and believed his subcreation
      a religious artifact. There's no church or mention of religion, except for
      angels like Gandalf, in the Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings was
      engineered to shed mideval political ethics from a mideval story. In a
      mideval story the good king would have kept the ring and used it for good.
      Tolkien, witnessing the World Wars, believed that there was no good use for
      absolute power. Not even for an angel, such as Gandalf. So he
      significantly altered the ethical advice to reflect a Century that proved
      what happens when political power (i.e. domination) consolidates into a
      small number of hands. One ring to rule them all.



      > > And take the mountain of
      > > plunder. The terrible facts of history, the barbarisms of
      > > Europe, and no
      > > doubt of Asian civilizations too, are the same myths that fuel fantasy
      > > gaming.

      > Sex, violence, and get rich quick. Timeless human themes.

      I am referring to a particular subset of themes: Conquer, hoard, and rule
      the subjects. Timeless government themes. In Beijing's Empress's Palace,
      for another example, statues of the Phoenix and Dragon are effigies for
      rulers.



      > > To my
      > > shock, when I asked players what they enjoyed most, they said
      > > the climatic
      > > battle when one of their infected PCs turned on the party. One of the
      > > antagonists was the sheriff of the village that the PCs were
      > > protecting, a
      > > real hardass searching for a legitimate excuse to kill the PCs. Not a
      > > villain. Just an antagonist. Again to my shock, the players
      > > said that NPC was their favorite.

      > Considering all the weighted factors that could make a piece of
      > entertainment "one's favorite," why the shock? Because you thought it
      > should be all about moral virtues and they didn't? Maybe they thought
      > the NPC had cool lines.

      I was shocked that they enjoyed that NPC so much, because she insulted them
      at each opportunity. She called them names, told them to leave the village,
      and threatened to kill them if they so much as picked up a feather (It was a
      village of Talislantan aeriads. She was a blue aeriad.). What they thought
      was that here was an authoritarian who believed her own preaching. She,
      although a ranger by class, would not be too far removed from the
      personality of a paladin with one screw too tight and another too loose.



      > > Can it be better? Certainly. Better,
      > > for example, exists in Soul Calibur. It is international (although
      > > seemingly inaccurate) mythical and not white-versus-black as
      > > in the Mana
      > > example of Magic. Each character is well balanced in
      > > character virtues and
      > > vices as well as in combos and vulnerabilities.

      > Uuuuh, I've played a good deal of multiplayer Soul Calibur. Some single
      > player. What are you talking about? These are just dudes with various
      > apparel.

      And various backstories and mythic origins. E.g., Astaroth is a
      culturally-corrupted version of the ancient Siddonian diety by the goddess,
      Astarte. There's cuneiform on the wall behind Astaroth in the character
      intro on the Dreamcast idle cinematic. Mitsurugi was a legend of a famous
      Japanese samurai. Yoshimoto, too, sort of. Each of the others has their
      own pseudo-mythology.

      Although I disagree, I don't see how the remaining opinions on my opinions
      pertain to game design, including morality in an RPG, so I'll truncate them.

      David
    • Brandon J. Van Every
      From: David Kennerly [mailto:kennerly@sfsu.edu] ... I d have to go back and read to see just how Middle Eastern those men were. Care to recommend a chapter
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 2, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        From: David Kennerly [mailto:kennerly@...]
        >
        > > Tolkien wrote for "applicability." For instance, Sauron
        > isn't Hitler,
        > > the Ring isn't the atom bomb, but if the concerns of LOTR
        > are applicable
        > > to musing about WW II, that's Tolkien's intent. You could
        > go backwards
        > > in time, forwards in time, and find plenty of ways for
        > Tolkien's themes
        > > to be applicable. That's part of the staying power of his work.
        >
        > Mostly yes. Unfortunate for his staying power, his inclusion
        > of saracens
        > was not an accident. Tolkien modeled nation of men allied
        > with Sauron in
        > Middle Earth from Middle Easterners.

        I'd have to go back and read to see just how "Middle Eastern" those men
        were. Care to recommend a chapter you are most directly thinking of?

        > > D&D has no guns, is not set in the time period of the
        > conquistadors, and
        > > does not have a thing to say about colonialism. Crusades, yes;
        > > conquistadors, no.
        >
        > Nor does Middle Earth have tanks or mustard gas.

        Middle Earth is not about WW I and D&D is not about the conquistadors.
        They are both about war writ large, with Tolkien's treatment of those
        themes being more sophisticated and "responsible" than D&D.

        > Leaving technology aside,
        > consider the theme. What is a conquistador but a bully under a cross?
        > Religiously zealous warriors in a land of demon-worshippers
        > who practice
        > human sacrifice. This is also one way to look at a paladin.

        For some reason you feel a strong need to confuse a Conquistador and a
        Crusader. Possibly because the conquest of the "New World" upsets you
        more than the Crusades? In D&D, a Paladin is very clearly a Crusader.
        Crusading against what, we ask? "Evil." More specifically, lawful
        evil, chaotic evil, and neutral evil. A lot of things are summarily
        handed to us as Evil; I don't know of anyone taking the "demons are
        people too" approach. Nor are there any witch hunts or Inquisitions, as
        magic / witchcraft are an expected and integral function of society. So
        we are left to ask why things in D&D are named "Evil." Usually, the
        answer is "because someone else's mythology named them as Evil, and we
        shamelessly borrowed it."

        This is an unquestioning approach to Evil. But as you formulate better
        questions about Evil, it is wrong to project intents and scenarios into
        D&D that simply aren't there. Worry about how the Crusaders did Evil.
        Leave Conquistadors to a Renaissance RPG.

        > > > The native Mexicans (that westerners dubbed the Aztecs)
        >
        > > Why do you say "Aztecs" isn't an indigenous word? Sounds about as
        > > Western as Pawnee or Sioux or Arapaho.
        >
        > I'd rather be discussing game design on this list instead of
        > US history.

        Historical treatments are certainly appropos to the backgrounds of
        games. That's the whole reason you started this discussion, about D&D
        being this awful thing about "Conquistadors" and whatnot. Your
        willingness to go after the very words used to name people makes me
        suspect that you are rather PC. I have wondered both if your claims
        about the words are correct, and if your desire to make such claims
        affects how you view games in general. Is D&D allowed to exist
        "harmlessly in its own terms?"

        > I didn't say Aztecs wasn't an indigenous word. I said that westerners
        > dubbed them, the Mexicans as Aztecs. They called themselves Mexica or
        > Tenochca. But I could care less which term is used.

        Ok, so given that "Aztec" is an indigenous word, what was an "Aztec"
        before it became a Western referant to a big group of people in
        Mesoamerica?

        > By the way, Sioux is French slang. The Sioux called themselves
        Lakota.

        I learn something every day.

        > "Overthinking campfire entertainment" could be a subtitle of
        > a thread titled "Morality in RPG's?". :)

        Agreed.

        > Tolkien was Catholic and believed
        > his subcreation
        > a religious artifact. There's no church or mention of
        > religion, except for
        > angels like Gandalf, in the Lord of the Rings. The Lord of
        > the Rings was
        > engineered to shed mideval political ethics from a mideval
        > story. In a
        > mideval story the good king would have kept the ring and used
        > it for good.
        > Tolkien, witnessing the World Wars, believed that there was
        > no good use for absolute power.

        Really? There are no cautionary tales in the medieval literary canon?
        I'm not terribly familiar with it, but I'd be surprised if it's as
        unsophisticated as you suggest.

        > Not even for an angel, such as Gandalf. So he
        > significantly altered the ethical advice to reflect a Century
        > that proved
        > what happens when political power (i.e. domination)
        > consolidates into a
        > small number of hands. One ring to rule them all.

        And you think this didn't happen in antiquity? Hitler used Roman
        theatrical regalia for a reason.

        > > Sex, violence, and get rich quick. Timeless human themes.
        >
        > I am referring to a particular subset of themes: Conquer,
        > hoard, and rule
        > the subjects. Timeless government themes.

        Conquer and rule, fine, but I don't see how Sauron "hoards." Resources
        just aren't part of the dialectic of LOTR. They're not fighting over
        oil or coal or mithril or something like that. Now The Hobbit, that's
        different. Smaug hoards, Dwarves hoard, and war results.

        > In Beijing's Empress's Palace,
        > for another example, statues of the Phoenix and Dragon are
        > effigies for rulers.

        They're effigies for a lot of things, if you want to cherry pick. Are
        you going to detail the medicinal properties of these mythological
        beasts?

        > > Uuuuh, I've played a good deal of multiplayer Soul Calibur.
        > Some single
        > > player. What are you talking about? These are just dudes
        > with various
        > > apparel.
        >
        > And various backstories and mythic origins. E.g., Astaroth is a
        > culturally-corrupted version of the ancient Siddonian diety
        > by the goddess,
        > Astarte. There's cuneiform on the wall behind Astaroth in
        > the character
        > intro on the Dreamcast idle cinematic. Mitsurugi was a
        > legend of a famous
        > Japanese samurai. Yoshimoto, too, sort of. Each of the
        > others has their own pseudo-mythology.

        Yes, but the game isn't making any effort to communicate anything
        explicit and deep about those mythologies. It's sock puppetry. It's a
        beat 'em up, not a linear RPG. When I pop the CD into the console, I
        don't get a whole bunch of cutscenes with backstories about what all of
        these characters "mean." In this regard, there's even less effort than
        in D&D. D&D hands over a simplistic moral framework of law / chaos /
        good / evil / neutral. Soul Caliber offers nothing but a choice of cool
        fetish outfits. (One of those pirates is *definitely* one of the
        Village People!)

        > Although I disagree, I don't see how the remaining opinions
        > on my opinions
        > pertain to game design, including morality in an RPG, so I'll
        > truncate them.

        I think we're starting to zero in on the difference between morality in
        RPGs and *moralizing about* RPGs.


        Cheers, www.indiegamedesign.com
        Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

        20% of the world is real.
        80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.


        ---
        Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
        Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
        Version: 6.0.572 / Virus Database: 362 - Release Date: 1/27/2004
      • Andrew Torrens
        ... From: Brandon J. Van Every To: Sent: Monday, February 02, 2004 4:09 PM Subject: RE:
        Message 3 of 7 , Feb 6, 2004
        • 0 Attachment
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Brandon J. Van Every" <vanevery@...>
          To: <gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Monday, February 02, 2004 4:09 PM
          Subject: RE: [gamedesign-l] Morality in RPG's?


          > I think we're starting to zero in on the difference between morality in
          > RPGs and *moralizing about* RPGs.

          Here here! When I originally posted this thread, I was looking for ways in
          which we could introduce moral choice and moral ambiguity into rpg's, more
          than discuss what most of us realize is already there...

          So, any ideas?
        • Brandon J. Van Every
          From: Andrew Torrens [mailto:drewtorrens@sprint.ca] ... Someone asked Bruce Lee how he could learn to punch harder. Bruce Lee said, Punch harder. Well, how
          Message 4 of 7 , Feb 12, 2004
          • 0 Attachment
            From: Andrew Torrens [mailto:drewtorrens@...]
            > From: "Brandon J. Van Every" <vanevery@...>
            >
            > > I think we're starting to zero in on the difference between
            > > morality in RPGs and *moralizing about* RPGs.
            >
            > Here here! When I originally posted this thread, I was
            > looking for ways in
            > which we could introduce moral choice and moral ambiguity
            > into rpg's, more
            > than discuss what most of us realize is already there...
            >
            > So, any ideas?

            Someone asked Bruce Lee how he could learn to punch harder. Bruce Lee
            said, "Punch harder." Well, how do you *kick* harder? "Kick harder!"
            Then the guy shut up and stopped asking him questions.

            If you want moral choice and ambiguity in a RPG, you must provide it.
            That's the short course.

            I will make a pitch for looking at what screenwriters do. Not that they
            all provide morally ambiguous stories... quite often they don't, they
            often provide structurally predictable stories. But I do think you need
            firm notions of setup-payoff if you're going to communicate something
            about morality in a game. Even in a 'user generated events' or 'Jerry
            Springer' approach to moral discourse, you need to know where the
            morality is coming from. I think the sophistication of your moral
            dilemmas is probably going to come down to your skill as a writer.

            There are some concerns with forcing players into characters they don't
            want to play, though. Character buy-in has to be secured; otherwise the
            player says, "*I* wouldn't react in these narrow ways. Why should I go
            along with this?!" I don't advocate the player playing himself, though.
            I think that's a limited and naive framework of personhood, spouted by
            simulationist engineering geeks who don't know a thing about authorship.
            Screenwriters, again, routinely get audiences to buy into various
            characters. It's not that different a drill for games, it's just more
            work to deal with interactivity.

            You get the player to play Hitler because at some level, the player
            *wants* to play Hitler.

            It also helps not to write stupid dialogue that throws a player out of
            character. How can we believe the moral imperatives if we don't even
            believe the characters?


            Cheers, www.indiegamedesign.com
            Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

            "Desperation is the motherfucker of Invention." - Robert Prestridge
            ---
            Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
            Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
            Version: 6.0.572 / Virus Database: 362 - Release Date: 1/27/2004
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.