RPGs Can Survive Learning Some New Tricks
A friend responded to my articles on artwork in RPGs being sexist and the sexism that I felt was apparent in my review of an RPG aimed at children with the following:
While I agree with you that sexism is bad, I don’t think it’s something that can be divorced from RPGs. RPGs are essentially an attempt to vicariously emulate leisure class status gaining behavior and unfortunately clannishness (racism and sexism) and treating others as property (sexism and slavery) are very tied into those concepts. I think the difficulty is that if you remove those elements from RPGs, they become less effective means of emulating the leisure class and thus less desirable games to play. ie: it makes them less desirable RPGs.
Now I feel that my friend is wrong. In fact, my response to him was “Bullshit. Total bullshit.” I think that he is good person though, despite being way off base here.
The issue I have with this response is that if in order to survive RPGs must have elements of racism and sexism within them then let RPGs drop off a fucking cliff and die already. Seriously, I will gladly let them rot in a ditch if they are products that must contains sexist and racist elements. Luckily RPGs do not need racist and sexist elements within them in order to survive. I feel that in order for RPGs to survive those racists and sexist elements need to be removed.
This is not about the bullshit of tolerance. I do not expect, nor want, everyone holding hands and agreeing with each other while avoiding anything that might hurt another person’s feelings. I do not want false fronts put up like “Well it is okay for the Catholic church to be against homosexuality, because that is their right to believe what they believe.” Fuck that! It is not okay to be against homosexuality. It is wrong, but they do have a right to believe that and to believe that I am wrong. I am not going to tolerate that crap in my house though. I do not expect you to tolerate my superior wisdom (that is code for saying “my crap” by the way) in your house.
What I am talking about is that these elements of racism and sexism make RPG products less appealing to a larger audience. You want RPGs to survive? Do not keep those elements, but eliminate them. Then maybe after you lose any douchebags who actually want sexism and racism in their RPGs you might gain a whole bunch of customers who are women or of other races.
Look, we RPG tabletop gamers are already a niche market. We claim to be “super-friendly and accepting” people (I have met many gamers who are not), so why would we lose players and GMs if we were to actually eliminate things that keep others from perceiving us as “super-friendly and accepting” people? We would not. Or maybe we are not all that fucking “super-friendly and accepting” (GASP!) and how would it hurt to make our products less appealing to people who want sexist and racist bullshit in their RPGs when we might then attract new players and GMs by doing so? It is a win either way!
You can even keep those “classic” elements by just calling them what they are in the actual texts. Instead of “Dwarves do not get along with Elves, and Elves look down upon Dwarves.” change that line to “Most Dwarves and Elves are racist towards each other. It makes no sense that they are, but that it is why it is called racism. Use this as an element to cause social tension in the game with.”
Or maybe “The female warriors in this game must expose their cleavage and suffer armor penalties, because the people who produced this game just want to see boobs.” At least if you are honest I can then make an informed decision as to why you put Madam Hooters on your book’s cover.
I am so freaking tired of those types of covers on RPG books.
“Oh. They could not be creative, so they are using the appeal of breasts to sell me on their book. Hmm. I do like breasts, but my wife will show me her breasts if I ask nicely. I think I will get the non-boobs on the cover book instead because that one looks like the publishers are trying to do something different.”
Anyhow, RPGs will survive if we start thinking outside of the box of tradition. They may change and they may not have same appeal as they used to for some customers, but they will survive. If you believe differently you are wrong. Trust me.
Now go have a good game and think about that, eh?