Designing for Difficult Subjects

headthames

An excellent post by Chris Bennett of the Game Design Thinking Research Group at Stanford University.

Main subject is depictions of slavery in tabletop games but moves on to the broader subject of the player’s offhand engagement with experience of violence, trauma and immersion in subject.

Go have a read!

Games cited:

  • Freedom: the Underground Railroad
  • Puerto Rico
  • This Guilty Land
  • Labyrinth
  • Washington’s War
  • The Grizzled

https://gdt.stanford.edu/designing-for-difficult-subjects

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The myth of the apolitical game

https://www.grimme-game.de/2019/01/17/der-mythos-vom-unpolitischen-spiel/

This very good piece is written concerning video games, and the coyness of their publishers and marketing people in “not taking a side” when they very clearly have done, but it goes for manual games as well.

The “translate this page” will work well on this one, but here is the money quote for me, at the conclusion:

Alles ist politisch

Es scheint absurd, dass es dezidiert ausgesprochen werden muss: Kein Werk entsteht unabhängig von seinem Schöpfer, dessen Ansichten, Meinungen und politischer Überzeugung – auch und besonders dann nicht, wenn es behauptet, “die Realität” zeigen zu wollen. Der Wunsch, sich Spiele als unpolitisches, reines Unterhaltungsprodukt zu “erhalten” – mit dem Schlachtruf “keep politics out of our games” -, ist deshalb nicht nur illusorisch, sondern auch problematisch, weil er die vorhandene, unweigerliche Politikhaltigkeit jedes Mediums negiert und deren damit verbunden Botschaften somit unbewusst, und damit noch wirksamer, ihr Werk tun lässt.

Die Kritik, die der Industrie heute angesichts als absurd erkannter Rechtfertigungsmanöver zunehmend entgegengebracht wird, lässt hoffen, dass Spiele irgendwann auch hier zum Kulturgut wie jedes andere werden. Es gibt kein Buch, keinen Film, kein Album und kein Spiel, das frei von Politik wäre – wie bei jedem Kulturprodukt ist die ganze reale Welt ihrer Schöpfer der Stoff, aus dem sie entstehen.

Alles ist politisch; diese Tatsache in vollem Bewusstsein anzuerkennen, ist ein notwendiger Schritt für Macher wie Konsumenten auch des Mediums Videospiel.

Autor: Rainer Sigl

or:

Everything is political

It seems absurd that it has to be decidedly stated: No work is created independently of its creator, his views, opinions and political convictions – even and especially not when he claims to want to show “the reality”. The desire to “get” games as a non-political, pure entertainment product – with the slogan “Keep politics out of our games” – is therefore not only illusory, but also problematic because it negates the existing, inevitable political content of each medium and their Associated messages thus unconsciously, and thus more effectively, lets do their work.

The criticism, which is increasingly given to industry today in the face of absurdly recognized justification maneuvers, gives hope that games will someday become as much a cultural asset as any other. There is no book, no film, no album and no game that is free of politics – as with any cultural product, the whole real world of its creators is the stuff of which they emerge.

Everything is political; Recognizing this fact in full awareness is a necessary step for doers as well as consumers of the medium of video games.

I have said as much, many times.

Back to Blighty

presentation

Nope, not this time.

On Saturday I’m leaving for London, to attend this year’s Connections-UK conference at King’s College London. I’ll be chairing a plenary session on “wargame design and analysis”, and participating in some other shenanigans!

Other than that, I am taking a couple of extra days to see friends and collaborators, and play some more games – I am taking Colonial Twilight, Caudillo, the Brief Border Wars quad, the Freikorps re-do (still haven’t decided on a name) and Nights of Fire for show and tell and test-driving.

Really looking forward to seeing London again! Hope the jet-lag isn’t as bad as last time.

Posting may be spotty as I will be working off a tablet and it’s hard to type on it. I’ll be home on the 13th. Be good, now….

“Breaking the fourth wall”

JAntley tweet

Jeremy Antley, a very clever man (see his blog Peasant Muse, he also writes for Play the Past) recently Tweeted (if that’s the word I want) his reaction to receiving his copy of Colonial Twilight. I hope the text is readable. The “Sartre” card text reads:

15

Jean-Paul Sartre

Writes a play, donates royalties: +2 FLN Resources.

Signs manifesto: -1 Commitment.

Either way, he and Albert Camus are not friends anymore.

The card is on the surface “another of Brian’s little jokes”, and on the surface perhaps it is. The historical context is duly supplied in the Playbook:

This card reflects the actions of French intellectuals and cultural figures in opposing the war, particularly the use of torture by French forces. The “Manifesto of the 121”, a declaration published in September 1960 is an example of this and helped to mobilize public opinion and action against the war. Sartre was very vocal in support of the FLN and was the target of at least one assassination attempt by the OAS. Meanwhile, the writer Albert Camus, born in Algeria, defended the French government’s actions and supported the idea of co-existence and peaceful negotiation. He was ostracised by left-wing intellectuals for this.

But Jeremy does make a point about games and their self-absorbed nature as they try to recreate history through mechanical means. Designers occasionally break this “fourth wall” through humourous asides in the rules or their notes, but it is not often done.

If I knew more about what I was doing I could probably talk more coherently about this, but I’ll leave it here as an example of a time where a player tickled me back. Enjoy the game Jeremy!

 

Interview at Grogheads!

kidchicken

The inestimable Brant Guillory (okay, maybe he’s about 129.5 but don’t quote me on that) has interviewed me for his excellent website Grogheads!

http://grogheads.com/?p=14569

Thoughts on my favourite games, innovation in games, and my favourite Hasil Adkins song… plus the first announcement of my latest project (well, it will be the latest one for a week or two yet).

(He keeps calling me a “theorist”, and I don’t know why… but if it makes you happy to know one Brant, I will play one for you.)

Thanks Brant!

“Who controls the present controls the past” – part many of many, many

THE DANGERS OF BEING A HISTORIAN IN ORBÁN’S HUNGARY

Something extraordinary happened yesterday. László Tüske, director of Hungary’s National Library, launched disciplinary action against János M. Rainer, head of the Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (’56 Institute), and three of his colleagues. Two were charged with making their views public on the factually inaccurate billboards used to advertise the sixtieth anniversary extravaganza staged by Viktor Orbán’s court historian, Mária Schmidt. This was the by now infamous case in which a fourteen-year-old boy who was one of the “pesti srácok” (urchins of Pest) was misidentified. A third was charged with complaining about photoshopped images used in the anniversary celebration. The fourth was charged with behaving improperly during Viktor Orbán’s speech on October 23.

The rest of the story is at http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/03/24/the-dangers-of-being-a-historian-in-orbans-hungary/  The blog post is written by someone who was 16 at the time of the Revolution, and lived through the events in Budapest.

Briefly, Viktor Orban, who along with his compatriots has a view of the Hungarian Revolution that is very much at odds with historians inside and outside Hungary, looked to shut down the ’56 Institute when he came to power but failed… instead, individual members are being punished professionally for pointing out the difference between facts and invented facts (including a real live “Lieutenant Ogilvy” created through a deliberate misidentification of another person),  alteration of images of the past, and disrespectful personal gestures… in short, for doing their jobs as historians, or as citizens.

Again, as happened with the WW II museum in Poland (“Who controls the present controls the past.”), the question must be asked… who gets to remember, and how?

“Who controls the present controls the past.”

orwell_1984

An old Ingsoc slogan.

An interesting question raised below, though it’s as old a question as museums themselves… who gets to remember the past, and how?

Court allows Polish government to take over WWII museum

 VANESSA GERA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JANUARY 24, 2017 08:09 AM

WARSAW, Poland – A Polish court ruled Tuesday in favour of the government in its standoff with a major new World War II museum fighting for its survival.

The conflict revolves around the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, which has been under creation since 2008 and was scheduled to open within weeks.

The decision by the Supreme Administrative Court is a victory for the populist and nationalistic Law and Justice ruling party, allowing it to take control of one of the last public institutions that had remained independent following the party’s rise to power in 2015.

“This is very bad,” the museum’s director, Pawel Machcewicz, said. “This ruling means that the Museum of the Second World War will be liquidated on the last day of January. It means that I will be gone and that the new director can try to change the exhibition or delay the opening.”

The ruling party opposed the museum because it takes an international approach to telling the story of the war, focusing on the civilian suffering of the many nations caught up in the global conflict. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski had for years vowed that if he ever had power he would change the institution to focus it exclusively on Polish suffering and military heroism.

The move is in line with what the ruling party calls its “historical policy” of harnessing the state’s power to create a stronger sense of national identity and pride.

After assuming power in late 2015 Culture Minister Piotr Glinski moved to try to take control of the museum by merging it with another museum that exists only on paper, the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 — a legal manoeuvre aimed at pushing Machcewicz out.

That sparked months of legal wrangling as Machcewicz resisted the merger.

After the court’s decision Tuesday, the Culture Ministry issued a statement saying that it would move ahead with its merger and that on Feb. 1 “a new cultural institution will be created — the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk. The combination of both Gdansk institutions with a similar business profile will optimize costs … and strengthen their positions on the museum map of Poland and the world.”

Machcewicz says that even though he is losing his job he still plans to keep fighting for the survival of the exhibition, one created with the help of some of the world’s most renowned war historians.

“The culture minister can come with heavy equipment and destroy an exhibition that cost 50 million zlotys ($12 million). But he can’t just change some elements, because the exhibition is like a book that is protected by copyright laws,” Machcewicz said. “And I am ready to sue the minister if he tries to change the exhibition.”

On Monday the museum was presented to a group of reporters, historians and others to let the world get a glimpse of the nearly finished museum before it is too late.