This was a very interesting post to read. A perspective from what was probably a generation after I came up in gaming. It’s – perhaps – hard for people outside the UK to understand but Games Workshop has always pretty much dominated hobby gaming in the UK. This hasn’t always been a good thing. Up until around 1990 it probably was a good thing. White Dwarf was a general gaming magazine, the Games Workshop stores stocked games of all kinds and were great place for people to meet up, play, network and chat.
Then they hit on the great idea of going exclusive, ditched anyone else’s products and set about single-handedly gutting the UK RPG scene and driving many indy stores out of business. That fucked off a hell of a lot of people especially as they seemed so unrepentent and many of the people running the stores became downright hostile.
The internet kind of fucked that business model – as is noted in the article – but I still can’t help but feel that they’ve fucked over the hobby to the point where it’s irrecoverable. GW is still pretty much the only game in town, the only thing people are exposed to at a young age and they don’t treat their customers that well. I’m sure it turns a lot of people off. They don’t even stock their own related RPG products.
Something’s got to give at some point and I think it’ll be GW, but I don’t see how anything can come up to replace them in the environment as it stands. Oddly, the best thing for both GW and for the hobby, might be if they wound wind the clock back to 1989.
I’ve praised the Machine Age guys for what they’re doing with Farewell to Fear but Filamena’s new post seems to run counter to that and what I’ve praised them for, which is a rather healthy take on dealing with difficult topics/prejudice etc in game settings. Which is to treat them just like monsters (kill them and take their stuff).
A fantasy world needs sources of conflict to be engaging. It needs challenges, environmental, social, combative, political, moral, whatever. In that sense fantasy worlds do need to be unequal, nasty, full of injustice and problems of all sorts that our heroes can then step up to and sort out.
Both ‘sides’ can have their cake and eat it in this context because while the world may mirror our own in some ways it can be freer in others. It can be both free of dogpiling social censure and delicacy around certain topics AND provide the opportunity to kick arse – which is itself an impolitic solution to social ills. A mix of fantastical cultures that embody the best and worst of our ideals and devotions gives us a lot to decry and exalt as our alter-egos.
No setting is zero sum. That’s the great advantage that RPGs have over computer games. You can make meaningful and unique impact upon the game world. That’s where the fantasy part really comes in. It’s not the magic or the orcs, the fantastical settings, the technology, it’s the fact that in these worlds we can have genuine and impacting agency in a way you simply can’t in the real world.
I find it hard to understand the complaint that fantasy art normalises anything. It seems as outre to me to claim that the idealised humanoid images of men and women in fantasy (as opposed to fashion) normalise objectification etc as it is to claim the images of dragons normalise the concept of giant fire breathing lizards.
All games run by player consent.
All games have the capacity for things to change.
Explicitly saying X, Y, Z is not as effective, IMO, as leaving it implicit. Plus it confounds one of my creative principles, not that I expect anyone else to follow them. Indeed I wouldn’t have thought it would even NEED to be made explicit.
Railing against fantasy worlds that contain these ills but are based on fundamentally different physical and metaphysical ideals also strikes me as pointless. In a setting where good and evil are explicitly laid out black and white concepts and where gods exist it seems… silly to complain about it. I don’t find it enjoyable myself, so I hack the game or play a different one or play a character that rebels against and confounds it. That’s good fun.
I can’t overthrow a corrupt and moribund political system. Citizen Top, the Brujah Anarch, he can.
I can’t out a corrupt corporate official who is embezzling funds meant to go to charities or to low level workers. Og the cyberpunk hacker can.
I can’t end the exploitation of women in sex trafficking, Chains of Liberation the sky pirate from the western island can.
My depression is a weakness, an affliction, in ImagiNation it’s going to be a strength. Something I can use and my writing talent will be something that can directly affect the world.
Worlds with nasty shit in them are interesting and exciting to play in and we, in our groups, have the agency to make cathartic change within those worlds and that is what a lot of people get out of it. Men and women alike.