How Awful ‘Goodness’ Is – Privilege Check design diary

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Despicable racism… oh wait, that’s not my game.

Having suffered the slings and arrows of ‘outrage fortune’, I’d wanted to do something to ‘kick back’ in some way but nothing quite felt right for a long time. A system wouldn’t really gel and the timing never felt particularly right. That and, of course, I was working on other things, long term projects and didn’t have much time for personal projects.

A few things conspired to make it feel like a good time to go ahead.

  1. I came up with a system that worked and had some surprising depth to it, that would work for other things.
  2. My erstwhile writing partner of days of yore (Munchkin’s Guide) had a similar idea and proposed it to me.
  3. Things around ‘social justice’ got even more ridiculous.

On the face of it the system is quite simple, you’re playing cards – revelations really – about yourself and the other players in a way that has to be compatible with what’s already in play. You’re trying to win by getting the best score while sabotaging others. Early in the game it can be good to play cards that might otherwise harm you or aid your rivals, simply because they’ll block other cards that could be worse. The same is true of cards that contradict your ‘trump’ card, but you have to be careful in that you don’t want to tip anyone’s hand as to what your trump card is. Gameplay is surprisingly deep with the combination of randomisation, blocking, compatibility and bluff making for interesting play, especially over several rounds.

To further complicate matters, I kept some of terms and the scale of points relatively small on this one. The game is deliberately designed to lead to stalemates and – thus – the very kind of bitter arguments that so plague Twitter and Tumblr with people fighting to see who is ‘more oppressed than thou’.

AgnosticSo I had the game together, ran a few playtests, all seemed to work, the humour has pretty close to the edge but mostly understood. I worried a little that the culture I was satirising was not too well known. Then it hit the mainstream in a big way. Suey Park in particular being an insane case of unintentional self-parody.

It being Everybody Draw Muhammed day was just good fortune, though a good reminder of the value – and dangers – of free expression and the utter vacuity of ‘I’m offended’ as a criticism.

See, I really do believe in free expression. I really do think we’re facing some serious problems and I don’t think it’s valid to think of groups that can access mainstream media for bullshit campaigns, bring trigger warnings into academia, engage in public shaming, drive people out of jobs for their personally held views and try to force social and corporate censorship.

Yes, I genuinely believe this is a problem and I also believe that the Tumblr style ‘social justice warriors’ are a blight and an embarrassment to anyone who genuinely does believe in equality. They represent the worst of social media, all the vile spite, venom and bile of trolls, but while actually believing in their ’cause’. Worse than trolls because of that last bit.

And yes, I believe satire is a good way to attack this problem. Satire is used to prick the egos, self-importance and presumed ‘immunity’ of public MiddleClassfigures. Typically this has been politicians, celebrities and others considered individually powerful but it has also been used to prick at the ridiculous beliefs of those who aren’t necessarily, conventionally, powerful.

Who, or what, could be more arrogant than the self-appointed social justice warriors? What better way to prick the egos of the Tumblrinas than to make their oppression olympics explicitly a game, rather than only metaphorically?

That the very people the game is satirising have walked right into it – fulfilling the long form of its title – is strangely gratifying.

There’s links to buy the game HERE, the hardcopy version CAN be bought, but hasn’t been proofed yet (but should be fine). Still, you’re buying at your own peril!

3 responses to “How Awful ‘Goodness’ Is – Privilege Check design diary

  1. “Typically this has been politicians, celebrities and others considered individually powerful but it has also been used to prick at the ridiculous beliefs of those who aren’t necessarily, conventionally, powerful.”

    “Who, or what, could be more arrogant than the self-appointed social justice warriors?”

    I think this is where you’ve hit your snag. Generally speaking, it’s not arrogance that deserves satire, but arrogant power. Just because someone’s arrogant doesn’t mean they’re safe to satire; they also have to be powerful. (And no, having a few bazillion followers on Twitter or a popular Tumblr doesn’t make someone powerful.)

    Generally speaking, safe targets for satire are people who are at about the same level of privilege on some axis or another.

    Now I know you’re not really into doing the safe thing, and that’s fine. But when you do something risky, you should expect to experience pain.

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