Poll: How much intolerance and/or tragedy should games have?


#1
  • The real world is full of unpleasantness, so negative things like intolerance, cruelty and natural disasters should be included if they fit the plot.
  • I don’t want to have to deal with social injustice like racism or sexual discrimination; I get enough of that in the real world. But conflict, tragedy and chaos can make the plot more exciting.
  • I don’t want to have to deal with huge tragedies like natural disasters or extreme cruelty, but injustice and intolerance are a realistic addition to a social setting.
  • I play games to escape the unpleasant parts of life, not hear more about them. I prefer my games pleasant and happy.
  • My fantasy world is all about darkness, cruelty, and suffering! I laugh at your feel-good games.
  • I like none of these options, and I’ll tell you why…

This is something I started thinking about during the discussion for this semi-related poll:

Poll: What kind of gender options do you prefer in games you’re playing?


Poll: What kind of gender options do you prefer in games you're playing?
Best darkest COG or HG games?
Discrimination and Escapism in Interactive Fiction
#2

Clearly it depends on the kind of game, but personally I prefer to play games where your character can stand up against injustice and personal problems. Wider world stuff would really depend on the sort of game - if you’re a super hero perhaps you could help thwart natural disasters or help in conflicts. There’s nothing wrong with realism but I think focusing on current major world problems carries a lot of risk in upsetting or distressing players if done incorrectly.


#3

I agree with derek, if your world is supposed to be a peaceful utopian were you mind control citizens and live in the sky, you shouldn’t face problems much… besides everyone is brainwashed… by @Dark_Stalker


#4

I really think the social injustices depend as well. Like, it’s usually fine if it’s in a fantasy context, like the usual oppression of non-human creatures, since it can serve the plot. If more ‘realistic’ oppression is present I typically don’t mind as long as it’s not over the top or just offensive. I certainly don’t want to be called slurs in a game because of what I identify as. I don’t think anything can justify something like that, especially with stories like this that people can really put themselves into.

In a game I’m working on, one of the characters tends to be somewhat politically incorrect at times, and at first it only served to be a quirk. I decided to remove that though, because it really just didn’t serve the plot positively, even if it could be an accurate representation of real people out there.


#5

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think anyone could honestly answer a poll like this. While people have their personal preferences, they’re also going to appreciate anything that’s good, whether it fits their preferred story type or not. Some of the best stuff out there is stuff that challenges one’s existing assumptions, or goes against the grain, or adds a genuine twist to a familiar tale.


#6

In regards to Choice of Games, I’d rather have equal opportunity discrimination.

I loved being able to play a swashbuckling female navy captain and not have to deal with any sort of discrimination at all. I love that Choice of Games supplies all of these stories which aren’t about ‘issues’ where I can be a gay wrestler, or superhero and that this is treated as not a big deal at all. That my female characters are every bit as kick-ass as my male ones and no one says I can’t do something just because of my gender.

Heroes Rise does feature discrimination as a strong thematic element. People are prejudiced against you for being infini-powered, there’s talk of camps, there’s the whole cure, and all players get to experience that equally. Same with Choice of Romance which replaced sexism with themes regarding your age, your social position, and the whole dark mage light mage deal. These games do have strong themes of prejudice, but at the same time they allow for an escapist fantasy where I’m not being beaten over the head with the same sexism and homophobia themes that are so prevalent in the media.

I don’t want to play settings that are filled with homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism and such like with people telling me that I have to just accept this because it’s realistic.

That said if people in said minority groups want to write games about their experiences with discrimination, I’m all in favour of that. I think the interactive medium of games provides such an immersive method of allowing people the chance to walk in others shoes, to see how they experience the world.

I hate stories that contain rape which is almost always included as part of the whole grim-dark experience.

I like being able to play the hero, to fix all the troubles I come across, to make a difference, to fight injustices where I see them.


#7

Chaos Walking, one of my favorite series ever, has genocide, torture, misogyny, slavery, and excessive violence, but the overall message is one of love, and you can see the main characters struggling to overcome and battle these atrocities. I think that without adversity or hardship, a story isn’t much of a story anymore.


#8

The game I’m coding is about monsters. I’d love to just focus on monster vs. human relations, and make those a metaphor for a bunch of other things. But I also want to make gender/orientation totally selectable (maybe unreasonably so… I have about six pages of coding about who you ask to a dance and how) and don’t want to gloss entirely over the idea that various individual traits make a difference to how you’re treated.

As of now, I think I’m going to tone the normal kinds of discrimination way down - it’s an idealized liberal non-judging kind of town - but mention at various points that it’s, e.g., progressive of your school to be accepting of same-sex couples going to a dance together. I could only go various school dances with a girlfriend if we went “as friends” and didn’t try to get in with a half-price “couple’s ticket”… which is definitely not something I want to stick people with if there are other plausible options.


#9

For big scale disasters, I am ambivalent. If there’s an earthquake, the plot is probably going to be about said earthquake and that’s fine. If the plot isn’t, I’m not going to be sad that no earthquake happened.

BUT for more minor injustices like racism and sexism, I actually get kind of put off by games that ignore them completely. Like, I get the whole escapism argument, but when I play games supposedly about lesbians but then those games never include the struggles that we have to go through, I start to feel like our ‘inclusion’ was more of a checking the box kind of thing instead of an actual effort to portray us as we are. Race especially gets me on this. If I’m playing an Arab in post-9/11 America and NOBODY bats an eye I get kind of mad!!

For your game in particular, using monsters as metaphor is good in theory, but here’s a suggestion: include some REAL prejudice (a white kid calling a black kids dreds dirty or something it doesn’t have to be huge) so that the comparison can be made. Things like True Blood claim to be using allegory but in reality the way they go about it rings homophobic simply because it never actually says anything directly about the LGBT community (not to mention likening us to literal monsters is kind of icky!), and feels a lot more like its just using the struggle for drama without any intention of making a statement. Hate is a serious thing, so don’t just use a sub-par amalgamation of it to make your story more exciting. Take the time and effort to show it realistically and acknowledge the reality of it, though, and it’s awesome!

IDK just be careful. As I said, using monsters in place of minorities is a dangerous idea, because minorities are not monsters. They are people, and more often than not it is the majority itself who behaves monstrously. If you don’t take anything else away from my rambling, at least remember this.

But, as with all opinions, mine is not that important. Do what you want! If you want to have an idealized monster highschool and ignore all that, go for it! I’ll still play the game.


#10

Hmm my opinion on the matter may seem cold but I really don’t care if there’s tragedy or injustice in a game. After all its only a fantasy land that we create with imagination. There’s no real damage done by words on a screen of a game that has no repercussions on real-life. (Or at least there shouldn’t be.)

Torture, death and all manner of unpleasant things in a video game, while not exactly fun to see, isn’t real. I mean I don’t want extreme details of what’s happening in certain situations but if unsavoury things add to the story itself I’m fine with it.

I mean if someone’s being discriminated against or beaten for blah blah blah I’m not gonna get all bent out of shape over imaginary people. But maybe I’m just a cold person in general.


#11

Personally, I see those sort of discrimination themes played over and over again that I’m fed up of them. It’s just overwhelming. I’m rather tired of it. I like an escape from the prejudice. With it one step removed, not dealing with real issues it becomes more manageable.

I am just fed up of stories with queer protagonists, in which they live miserable lives until they die. I want the same breadth and depth of stories that straight people get. I want to play the same sorts of games. I don’t want everything to be about issues and discrimination. I love my escapism.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t understand your point. It’s certainly wrong to have games/books/movies/shows that play on certain themes of prejudice, yet have no inclusivity. It’s not a substitute.


#12

I don’t like suffer until you die stories either! They are just as unrealistic as no suffering at all. I like stories that acknowledge the difficulty while STILL providing a satisfying and adventurous plot.

Example from one game I am writing: the player can be trans (male/female/nb), which results in the player having to expend extra resources on transition-related medicines, and people do bring it up semi-frequently, rarely in a positive way (court approval is also harder to gain). But at the same time, the player can call out every instance (even punishing them if the player is in a position of power in the story), none of the romances are stopped or stalled by it and are in fact completely supportive (some even prefer!), certain moments actually favor a trans character’s unique insight, and in the grand scheme, that trans character can save the world just as well as if they were cis, and (to me) it feels even more exciting when it happens because the character was able to overcome all the crap. OF COURSE, I also have an accessibility option at the start of the game that can turn all the casual hatred off entirely just for you escapist folks, leaving only neutral/positive mentions and the resource requirements (albiet much weaker).

IDK, I just feel like there needs to be a balance, even in escapism stories, to give people with those particular characteristics acknowledgement and solutions, unless the setting is 100% fictional/rose-tinted to begin with. I will say though, that I think with non-hetero sexualities, it is still realistic to completely lack examples of casual discrimination! Unlike race and gender, it really isn’t that much of a life-altering thing beyond a few specific aspects, so if the story never touches said aspects, you’re good to go!


#13

!!! Potential spoilers for Mass Effect 3 ahead !!!

I made a series of mistakes on a certain planet in Mass Effect 3 that resulted in me feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach with a Mack Truck. I felt so strongly I did not mind that I had to replay several hours of the game to fix that mistake.

I’m not an emotional person. I deeply respect writers that can take me on the emotional roller-coaster of the likes of Mass Effect 3. It makes up for the original ending where I feel they dropped the ball - but thats a whole other internet debate thats been and gone. The author of the CoG Hero Rise trilogy also achieved that.

If you include tragedy, let me recover from my emotional disemboweling once I’ve experienced the content.


#14

Entirely depends on the game. I enjoy happy and fluffy games, dark and serious ones, and Hanako Games (where everything’s so bright and cute to hide the fact that you’re destined to suffer and die in agony).

That said, pouring shit on a story for the sake of pouring shit on it, especially when it’s an interactive game and you can’t do anything about the shit being poured on you and called DRAMA, gets stupid after a while.


#15

For me, it depends on what I’m in the mood for. Usually, I prefer realistic portrayals of prejudice and tragedy as long as they’re relevant to the plot. Like @Ramidel so eloquently said, I don’t want the author to throw in misery for the sake of misery. Sometimes, however, I’ve had a bad day and I just want some light, escapist entertainment. So I guess the world needs plenty of both.


#16

I play games and read stories if they have a good plot. Therefore all kinds of bad things like tragedies, disasters, injustice and intolerance are welcome if they drive this plot.

In addition to the plot, a good story/game should have well-written NPCs and a consistent setting. I think @SpaceLesbian and @FairyGodfeather are both right.

If a story is set in a contemporary or historical environment which is/was intolerant, or a fantasy counterpart culture to such an environment, ignoring these inequlities it in order to allow everybody the same experience would be unfair whitewashing. For example Choice of the Vampire is set in the 19th century South and it has backgrounds based on race, gender and class and they affect the stats notably, some human NPCs thread MCs differently depending on their race, and Silas mentions “punishments for sodomy” if the male MC romances him. Same-sex relations are considered a social taboo in the world of Choice of Broadsides and therefore while the MC can have a full marriage with a opposing-sex partner, the relationship with Villeneuve is only an affair.

However if the author designs a world which is completely or largely fantasy, s/he has no obligations to repeat real-world intolerance there, but is free to include whatever s/he considers appropriate. Setting a story in a world with absolute tolerance and equal opportunities for LGBTQ people is therefore not a problem. Most of the official games which are set in a fantasy world or the future offer examples for such worlds and thus fit @FairyGodfeather’s definition of escapist fantasy.

As @Sashira mentioned that Monster High is set in a particulary liberal town which is additionally much more diverse than the real world because of the fantasy races. Therefore it would be justified if things like sexism, homophobia and racism are a non-issue in the game, but the difficulties of coexistance of different kinds of monsters could create a lot of own monster-type based issues and prejudice, are these things are worth being explored.


#17

Intersectionality, I can dig it. Prejudice against monsters, racism, sexism and other kinds of intolerance can stack - monsters who are successfully incognito as humans could still face some issues on other fronts.


#18

the polls are a very good idea, its much easier for an author to make a storygame if he or she knows what the majority wants.


#19

One thing I’ve learned from these is that there is no one consensus; also, the forum population isn’t necessarily the same as whoever will be playing or buying your game the most. But yes, it’s been great to get feedback and responses on these. :smile: I’m less lost on which options I think will work better. If nothing else, it tells me that if I write a good game, there will be people who will appreciate it no matter how I decide to code it.


#20

i will look forward to reading you new storygame.