Art: Can the medium be seperated from it's creator? Should it be?


This past week or two has been interesting. For those of us who are US citizens or residents, it has been a very stressful and discouraging week. Unfortunately, the gaming space was not it's normal refuge from the sort of negativity that comes from news media. There were three big names that really were criticized this last week.

Daniel Tascini, one of the creator's of all the "T" games, i.e. #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, #Teotihuacan: City of Gods, and, etc.... Apparently had written some stuff, in Italian, where he says that he calls his "black" friends the "n" word. As a result of all this stuff, while publisher Board and DIce will honor their existing contracts with Tascini, they have, as I understand, cut off further relationships.

Phil Eklund also really came under fire this week. He is the designer of such games as #High Frontier 4 All, #Pax Renaissance, and #Bios: Origins (Second Edition). He has long been known as a person who didn't shy away from putting his opinions, often unpopular and often short sighted and/or wrong, in his rulebooks. He put long essays and lots of "historical" footnotes in his rulebooks. He came under fire this week for posting some stuff about Covid on his facebook timeline. As a result a bunch of people came out and criticized that as well as other things, and a LOT people criticized a specific line or two of authorial commentary in the Eklund game #Pax Emancipation. At first Ion Game Design stood up for him. But, then, bowing to community pressure, they went ahead and said something to the effect that they will run essays by fact and sensitity checkers as well as present alternative viewpoints to the essays.

Finally Funagain games came under fire when the (owner??) had some critical interaction with Jess from Heavy Cardboard. He criticized her for their strong statements against Phil Eklund, he then went ahead and "jokingly" criticized her for living with a man out of wedlock, as well as some other interactions. Some people, as a result of that, have pledged never again to buy from Funagain games.


Now, I am not posting this so that we can talk about the individual cases represented here. That is why I didn't include screenshots actual links and tweets. I don't want this post to just go to talking about these specific people/situations. My questions are much more general than these individual cases.

  1. What is the individual's responsibility in situations such as the above? 
    1. Is it our responsibility to call it out?
    2. Is it our responsibility to boycott the publisher, or the designer, or the store?
    3. Is it our responsibility put pressures on our favorite retailers to stop carrying products that benefit the guilty?
  2. Can the the art (the game) be separated from the worldview of the author?
    1. I think that this is an important question. For instance, if you believe that the art is separated from the message, you might be able keep on buying games from Eklund, or Tascini, if they clean up their act. But, if you believe that the product is inextricably tangled with the worldview of the artist, then it might be difficult to buy a game from Eklund, even if he is never given a public voice on social media or in terms of essays. 
  3. Is there a space for a game that pushes morally repungant ideology in one's collection?
    1. I have tried to design my library to include books that are true, and books that aren't. I have books that I think present pure unvarnished and compelling truth. I also have Mein Kampf. I have tried so hard to not live in a bubble. I believe that much of the current divisivness in politics, as with life, comes from people living in bubbles. But, at a certain point, one has to decide in what areas they are ok with having the their bubble pushed. I for instance, don't have any actual nazi friends. There I draw the line, even though I own, and have, read Mein Kampf. Where do games fall on that continuim? Is it an area that is ok, or even good, to have "bad games" or is it an are that we should steer clear from?

Anyways, I am interested to hear how y'all think about these issues. 

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6 months ago

It's times like these I'm glad I'm not on BGG any more. :)

Short answer: I don't care.

Nothing is going to keep me from listening to Michael Jackson. And I don't care if Phil Eklund eats babies - I'm still going to play #Pax Renaissance.

Owner6 months ago

I'm not at all organized or sure about my thoughts regarding some of these topics, but here's my rambling :D

1. What is the individual's responsibility in situations such as the above? 

I think the biggest responsibility is to be informed. Too many people are willing to pass judgment without properly understanding the context. After that, they can choose to continue to consume the material, simply avoid it, or actively protest it. In terms of putting pressure on creator/publisher, good amount of tension and pushback is a healthy thing. Both sides should keep an open ear and try to learn each other's perspective and change if needed. I feel that there isn't much dialogue that happens these days and it often resorts to whoever has the biggest voice or power. You might be able to force people to follow an expectation, but I don't think it's healthy when fear is the driving point in making someone change. I can see why it happens though, or why it's necessary at times. Social media placed a lot of power to the consumers, and now so many people are capable of enacting actual change in areas that have been slow to show progress.

2. Can the art (the game) be separated from the worldview of the author?

Sometimes. For example, I don't at all support Tom Cruise's beliefs in Scientology, but I thoroughly enjoy his Mission Impossible movies. But if many of his ideologies were sprinkled throughout the movie in not just a way to depict those ideas, but in an attempt to convince, then I would stop watching them. It would just be something that I'm not interested in at all and I wouldn't want to support it financially. And while there are times when I consume something out of curiosity to learn a different perspective, what I want is for the author to present his/her case and give me plenty of room to form my own opinions about it. No force-feeding. It's one of the reasons why I like #Pax Pamir (Second Edition). It helps me experience the power dynamics and the relationship between the international powers and Afghanistan, and it gives me room to wrestle with its ideas. With that said, there's plenty of hypocrisy in how I make these types of decisions. I don't take the time to learn everything there is to know about every individual behind the scenes, nor do I wish to.

3. Is there a space for a game that pushes morally repungant ideology in one's collection?

Morally repugnant? There's space in the industry, yes, but not in my personal collection. I'd draw the line once it goes past being informative or is a commentary. I think people are free to choose, and hope that most people will make good judgments so that it doesn't go mainstream. And that freedom of choice falls under the publishers to make the right call as well.

Questionable theme only? If it does the topic justice and presents a balanced point of view, then I'll be okay with it. I'd actually welcome it if it does its job right. But I'd also consider how it impacts those around me. I might be comfortable with the subject matter but it might be completely offensive to my friend for me to even own the game, let alone play it.

6 months ago

Very good points, Phil, and well said. 

6 months ago

I don't believe anyone outside of the direct situation bears any responsibility. How one handles it is completely up to the individual. I, for one, enjoy their game designs (being someone who really enjoys mid to heavyweight games). Their personal thoughts/politics/beliefs/etc hold no bearing on my desire to own or play one of their games. Funagain is a bit of a different situation in that it's a place I don't generally buy from to begin with except when they have something in stock and no one else does or they are having a really good sale. If I chose to not consume media based on those involved having different thoughts/beliefs than me or doing or saying stupid things, there would be precious little for me to enjoy.

Now, all that said, that's me. Yes, I separate the art from the artist so to speak. However, I hold no fault with anyone else who wishes to use such things to inform their purchasing decisions or even to then cull things from their collection. That's up to each person. I don't think anyone should be criticized for deciding that such things should lead them to remove games by those designers from their collection. I also dont think people should be criticized for still buying games by them either.

As a matter of fact, if anyone is wanting to get rid of any Phil Eklund or Tascini games, let me know. I'll take them off your hands. 

5 months ago

Sorry to arrive late to the party!

1. Individual responsibility

I believe our responsibility is to report anything that is unlawful. What about things we despise but are not illegal? Well, I think that we do not have any obligation to report that, but we can, and I would encourage everybody to do so.

2. Separation from art and artist

That is a personal decision. I do separate which allows me to enjoy music, movies, books, etc. that I would not be able to otherwise. Other do not separate and miss those works. I say it's their loss. They probably say I am not woke.

3. Repugnant ideology

Again, I think that is a personal decision. I do not think that slavery is more repugnant than assessination, rape or other abhorrent acts. However, there are hundreds of games where killing is a regular part of the game and it seldom sparks any controversy. The same can be said about music and movies. And even more so if we include stereotypes like Russians in Cold War movies, Mexicans and drug cartels, etc. Yet, nowadays, any gay or racial stereotype can cause the demise of a movie.

So, I personally withstand those issues and enjoy movies, games, music that include them, even as a central part but I will not criticize anyone that decides to draw a line.


What about publishers? Well, they have a tough decission to make. I would like them to remain strong and separate art and artists as well and keep on publishing but Twitter is a terrible beast and it is understandable that companies let ballast fall, be it Tascini. Eklund, Johny Depp, Woody Allen or Kevin Spacey. But they are unware that some customers, not as vocal as the Twitter mob, may as well take their business elsewhere if they see companies bowing to cancel culture-

Finally, I think that there is a very important point that can't be ignored: as has been clearly proven by the Parler disintegration, leftist thought controls the media and controls the means. Those that do not agree with the popular opinion will find less and less places to discuss and express themselves. This will probably be seen as a triumph by some people. I think it is a tragedy and a recipe for disaster. Those persons exist and will find a way to be heard, probably more hurtful than a Tweet.


Partner6 months ago

I think that we live in an era where we have finally come to a realization that words do matter.  I for one do not want this industry that I love to bemostly straight white men.  I want everyone to feel welcome, and as long as we allow people to continue to succeed in spite of bad behavior we are failing those who might want to join.

So for me, yes I CAN separate art from artist, however, I do not want to do that.  Actions must have consequences, so if someone wants to harbor hate in their heart that is their choice, but as soon as they start to make it public, I will make public my feelings, and condemn it by not supporting them any futher with my wallet, my small platform, or my voice.  

There are so many unknown, talented designers out there that do not spew garbage.  Let's let them come up, and push the others to the side.  

6 months ago

Yeah, it's been quite the week, hasn't it? I've been following along to all of this and have thought the same things. It's a messy world we live in. Like Brian said below, I'd much prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of these things. But, being part of the industry as I am (even at a miniscule level), this is part of my community. And, so, being blissfully ignorant is no longer an option for me. And now that I have this knowledge, what do I do with it?

That is the question, indeed.

I really enjoyed #Teotihuacan: City of Gods and #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar when I played them. In fact, I really wanted to play them again. They are good games. Mechanically speaking, they do very well. But now that the designer has shown his colors, what am I supposed to do? Well, I still don't know. But I do know what I know, and that is that his behaviour was inappropriate. 

That said, I understand he is Italian. Does that make him exempt? No! Of course not. But I do recognize that other cultures and speakers of other languages don't understand the meaning behind it and use the word because they think it's funny or for some other reason. (Spoilers: it's not funny.) But they don't know that! When I lived in the Philippines, I knew a Black man, from America, who had married a Filipina. Great guy, great family. But when visiting his home the few times I was able to, his neighbors and those on the street would point at him, wave, and use the "n" word. He smiled and waved back. He told us that he doesn't get upset at that because they don't understand what it is they're saying. And I get that. Heck, the Filipinos would say, "Hey, Joe! Eff you, Joe!" to us as we'd be walking down the street. But they did it with a smile and a wave. They knew it wasn't a "good" word they were calling us, but they didn't understand the extent of it's badness. Did it bother me? More than it should have, yes. But I don't condemn them for it, either.

Now, I don't say this to absolve anyone of any wrong doing. On the contrary, once someone knows what they are doing is wrong, they should stop, should they not? I think they should. It's common, human decency (which is, admittedly, lacking these days) to stop doing something that hurts someone else. And so I can understand, perhaps to a small degree, why Tascini would use such language. I do not absolve him of his crime, and I hope he does better in the future.

All that said, what of his games? Do I continue playing them? If it came to it, would I buy one of his games? Personally, I don't know. I'll tell you what, though, that this situation makes me think twice about doing so. But, say he doesn't change his ways. Say he continues on as he always has. What then? Well, that's where things get tricky. For me, I try to seperate art from the person as much as possible. Otherwise, all I'd be watching is ye auld The Ten Commandments movie on repeat. 

Just kidding. But seriously, so many people out there put out wonderful content (i.e. books, music, film, etc.), but in real life are scumbags. Fortunately, I don't keep tabs on those industries as much as I do in the board game industry (except maybe books, but only in the genres I read). And so, here I am, indulging in media created by closet-offenders.

Crap, I feel like I'm rambling. Am I rambling? I'm rambling.

Anyway, I said all that as background to my personal decision. I think there should be pressure applied to the guilty party to try and help them 1) see what they did wrong and 2) make changes for the better. I don't know if boycotting his games would do any good in those regards, but openly speaking out against such actions (note: actions, not necessarily people) can do a lot of good in the world. It can produce change. Dragging someone through the coals isn't the best way to encite change. Having an open dialogue with the person--or even in the industry where they "live"--is a better way. And we're doing that. The board game community--especially those behind the scenes--now knows more about Tascini's mindset. But we don't know much about him other than that. I'm sure he does good things, is a good person. At least, I'm sure he thinks of himself as a good person. We all make mistakes. I know I've made more than most haha But I'm willing to forgive when change is made. Hopefully he is changing because of this.

So that's my first answer haha In short, yes, I think it's important to call out that kind of behavior. It's hurtful, it's wrong, and calling it out shows the world that some people won't stand for it. But do we boycot? I think it depends on the crime and on the actions the person takes in the future. It's more grey than just black and white.

As for your second question (this is getting long, isn't it?), I think it's important to seperate art from artist to some degree. As I mentioned, it's going to be nearly impossible to do anything if we only let ourselves be entertained by people with a perfect past, present, and future. (And yet, the Cosby Show has been forever tainted, hasn't it?) So much grey in this discussion haha But, I also think it's becoming increasingly important to take a stand for what you believe in, so long as that stand doesn't violate anyone else's rights. And that stand could be different for me than it is for you. It doesn't necessarily mean that either of us are wrong; we're simply doing it the way we know how. 

So, in regards to your second question, I will seperate art from artist, to a point. My problem, though is knowing what that "point" is. And I think this week has really made me look inward as I try and determine where that line is. I do not appreciate or condone the use of such language, essays, or sexism (clumbing all three subjects into one). But, I like to see the good in people, and so I'm not convinced--not yet, at least--that these are "bad" people that should be shunned. Bad judgement calls? You bet they were! I'm actually more inclined to forgive Tascini over the Funagain Games guy due to my personal experience with word meanings in different languages. But, having read the exchange with the Funagain Games guy and Jess from Heavy Cardboard (it was on Twitter, and like a moth to the flame I went), I feel like he knew he was being inappropriate and sexist in his comments, yet said them anyway. So, I may avoid Funagain moreso than Tascini. But I like my evidence, and I like to give others the benefit of the doubt as well as second chances. But I can guarantee you that I'll be on guard from these people again.

That brings us to the third topic of discussion: games containing repugnent ideology.

This is a very touchy area, but I do have thoughts. Are they 100% correct with how they should be? I honestly don't know. I'm still a work in progress, but as a white male, there's a lot that I'm still learning. That said, I think there is a place for such games, conditionally.

If there is a game portraying some facet of human history that we'd just as soon forget, it had better be done tastefully and tactfully, using sensitivity readers/testers and getting all of your information correct. There is a lot to learn about history, and I think the example of Mein Kampf is a good one. That book can get you in a lot of trouble in some places. And yet, if we ignore history, we aren't learning anything from it. Truthfully, we're more apt to repeat it in some way or another.

There are plenty of books that talk about difficult subjects, but games? Not so much. Perhaps the word "game" doesn't lend itself well to such topics. But there are games out there that I have heard touch on subjects respectfully. #Freedom: The Underground Railroad is one I have heard about but have yet to play. From what I've gathered, it depicts the hardships of these people without glorifying it as something that was well and good (because it wasn't).

But, there are "bad" games out there (apparently) that I wouldn't have thought were bad at all. I can't remember any specifics, but I'm sure there are examples on BGG and the socials. But I try to avoid those places for these types of discussions haha I think, when speaking of games that push moraly repugnant ideology, we have to think abotu that. If it's pushing for those ideologies, then chances are it's not a morally good game to play. But who gets to decide whose morals are right and whose are wrong? More questions with even fewer answers. 

I suppose my real answer to all of these questions is, "I don't know." I don't know, but I'm trying to.  Hopefully I can learn quickly, and learn well.

Personally, I just wish everyone could respect everyone else in all things. Respect. Wouldn't that solve so many of these problems? Why can't we all just be decent human beings all the time? I guess our imperfect bodies struggle with the idea of perection. But until I'm counted as perfect (and that's going to take a loooong time), I don't think I can fully condemn anyone.

But I can use my voice to help make things better.

Supporter6 months ago

I appreciate that you brought up the potential language and cultural issues in the Tascini case. and I were messaging each other about this situation, and I wrote:

I don't want to judge Tascini to harshly. I'm not a linguist, but I do speak three languages, and am studying the fourth. And I do know enough to know that to judge to harshly what someone says in a language I don't know is foolish.

That being said, if he did say what it appears he said, some of it is deeply problematic. And, these are things that he doesn't publish in the rulebooks. It's a lot easier to enforce the underlying worldviews of the games designer if the designer doesn't explicitly explain what the underlying worldviews are.

Even if someone is fluent in Italian, and doesn't understand the Italian culture, it is still entirely possible that the situation looks quite a bit worse than it is. Now, I do believe that the situation here is incriminating. But, we do all need that reminder of the cultural and linguistic differences that do exist in this world.

Also, one other thing. Cultural things can be bad. And, we have to be careful that we don't excuse terrible ideas or behavior on the mere basis of cultural norms.

6 months ago

Yeah, a person's culture can certainly make a difference. I don't know the whole story, so I must refrain from judgement. All I can do is provide an opinion from what I do know, but recognize that there may be other factors at play. 

And yes, just because it's OK in someone's culture doesn't mean it's actually OK. We, as a global community, must learn from each other, especially what might be deemed offensive in certain cultures. That's not to say we all have to change so we are all one culture (what a boring world that would be), but there are certain aspects of certain cultures (including my own) that may be false traditions that could be done away with. 

Supporter6 months ago

Very nice post Ben. Respect and trying to be better. Something we should all try to do. 

6 months ago

Thanks. It's a process, but I'll get there haha

Supporter6 months ago

This is a really interesting question.

I had no idea that any of this was going on this week.

Guess you could say that I was blissfully ignorant.

And in that blissful ignorance I was able to enjoy games and very excitedly research and learn#High Frontier 4 All. Having learned some new information about the games designer... does this change my excitement for the game? Do I want to go out and learn more and get all riled up?

No, I don't think so. I think I'd prefer to go on being blissfully ignorant. But is this the right action to take? Should we enjoy games for what they are and not worry about the people behind them? Should we care about the actions the creators show outside of their games?

In a way it's similar to cheering for sports players. There are some undeniably bad men playing NFL football. Yet all that seems forgotten when they are in the game making amazing plays. Is this ok? I don't know. Do I find myself doing it? Sometimes. Are some things unforgivable? Definitely. 

6 months ago

I have been thinking about this for a couple of days because this is a thoughtful post that deserves a thoughtful answer.  I'm not going to make any claims to "organized" however but I will do my best haha. First, a couple of my background thoughts on my answer:

I too have been sort of interacting with this question in the realm of books albeit in a less educated way than .  I remember it coming to the forefront of the discussion in the scifi community a few years back when Orson Scott Card said something that a lot of people didn't like.  Honestly, I've forgotten what it was, but I remember a lot of people were questioning whether they could still continue to enjoy his stuff in light of his personal views.  Similarly, I follow the blogs/websites of several authors who I enjoy immensely, but over the past few years have come to realize that our political views are pretty far apart.  This is a bit different than the examples in the original post, as they aren't doing anything that I feel is morally repugnant, but it has made me less inclined to read every post they make or watch every interview.  I still enjoy their books just as much, in both examples. 

On the other hand, I also feel like this whole "court of public opinion" thing has been used too much and too harshly in recent years.  I don't think it is right for heads of companies to be forced to resign or fired because they donated to the "wrong" political group or cause.  And yesterday I found out that a baby sleep consultant whose blog my sister and I follow is getting all kinds of negative PR because people found out she donated to the Trump campaign.  I read one comment where someone basically said something like "I called her and she helped me, she seemed like such a nice person, but now I know I was wrong about her."  All this because the lady donated to a political campaign she disagreed with.  This makes me angry and I think this is wrong. 

Then I started thinking about moral standards.  The problem with humanity trying to enforce moral standards is that everyone's can differ.  What some people believe might be right, others might believe is wrong.  As a Christian, I believe that the moral standard comes from God.  He has told us what is right and wrong, and it isn't my responsibility to decide.  Indeed, I cannot, because I don't make the rules of the universe.  The Bible also tells us that humanity is sinful as a whole (i.e. not going to follow God's standards) and that the only way we can follow these standards is though the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  The Bible also tells me that I'm to encourage my fellow Christians to follow God's laws and, if necessary and I have a relationship with them, to call them out if they're not (Mat. 18:15-16).  I'm not responsible for pointing out when non-believers aren't following God's laws.  Of course, there is also civil law, which is something we're all supposed to follow, enforced by the police, etc.  The solution then, isn't to lead some public outcry or crusade, but instead seek to convert them, then their standards should become self-enforcing haha.  I jest, but that really is the only ultimate solution for trying to repair another human's behavior. 

In summary, because the world is a fallen world, I'm not surprised when non-Christians don't follow God's law.  This isn't to say I'm not saddened or angered by it, but why should I be expecting them to hold to a standard they don't believe in?  (Also, I'm not trying to say that Christians don't mess up, of course we do, the path of improvement is sometimes slow.  And then their fellow believers have the responsibility to try to correct them when that happens.)  I should instead be telling them about how Jesus died for the things that they do wrong and would like to restore them to righteousness if they would only trust in his way. 

So all that to say:

1.1 - I think maybe, depends on the situation.  Certainly if criminal things are happening then yes.  If someone is hurting someone else then yes.  But if some things that are just bad behavior then probably not.  But if I ever were the first person to find out about such behavior, then I would confront them in person and not blast it to the internet.  If I were to find out via the internet, I would not feel that it was my responsibility to inform any of the rest of the world who might not know about such behavior. 

1.2 and 1.3 - No, it is not our responsibility.  If you feel that it is the right thing for you to do then that's fine.  Certainly Christians have boycotted businesses that they feel are not promoting positive ideals.  But I wouldn't say that we have a moral obligation to do so. 

2 - For me I think yes.  If I were to limit myself to only those things that come from moral people (and again, who gets to define who is a moral person or not) then I would have very few options in terms of entertainment.

3. This one I think is a no because of Phil. 4:8 which reads: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  However, I would say that this is different from reading widely to learn about other worldviews as you stated in your example.  I think there is a difference between trying to educate oneself on different perspectives and enjoying "morally repugnant ideology" in game form.  I also agree with that there can be games that deal with tough subjects in a respectful way, but if its pushing the bad ideology then its not something I want to spend my time in. 

Supporter6 months ago

This reply really resonated with me. I appreciate it.

Partner6 months ago

Maybe the people who worked with the baby sleep consultant were gay parents, or trying to adopt, and hurt by trump's actions against them, especially his last-minute actions on his way out the door, just to make it clear how his administration felt about them.

Maybe they had family members who were no longer allowed to serve in the miliary, or family members who were afraid of losing their marriage because of the trump administration and the SCOTUS seats they put through, after blocking President Obama's SCOTUS nomination. Losing marriage equality would mean they could lose their health insurance through their spouse's employer, lose their tax filing status, lose their ability to visit their spouse in the hospital, lose their ability to inherit easily, and a bunch of other things that are about more than a white dress and a catered luncheon.

Maybe those parents had been afraid when the health care vote had taken place, how they could have lost their health care and/or prenatal care under trump's health care plan, or how, if they had a child that had issues and needed hospitalization, their child could meet their lifetime cap in the first months or years of life. Or have pre-existing conditions for which they could be refused health care.

Maybe they have veterans in their family, as many of us do, and were offended by trump calling them suckers and losers, or saying that he likes people who weren't captured. 

Maybe they lost family members and friends to COVID-19, and remember trump calling it a hoax, and blocking the USPS from sending out masks last April. Maybe, like us, they haven't seen their parents in over a year, and now, when finally it seemed like shots were going to happen, it turns out the trump administration was lying about there being a stockpile for second doses. trump never ramped up production with the defense production act, and didn't actually have any set aside for second doses, so people's appointments have to be pushed back, to get what's available to the people who had their first shot.

I could go on with four more years of reasons why someone could feel that way and choose not to support them, because of things that sleep consultant supported that would have hurt them and/or their family.

6 months ago

Good, thought-provoking questions.  Sometimes we all need something to cause us to reflect on our own thougths, motivations, and actions.  I've read all the comments posted here, and I appreciate the openness and viewpoints shared.

I am not familiar with the three examples you mention, nor the people involved, and am only somewhat familiar with some of the games you mentioned. So I'll go to my thoughts on the questions you posed.

1-1. I believe that human decency requires us to call out inappropriate behavior when one sees it.  I acknowledge times where 'peer pressure' or 'fear' causes one to not take action.  There are examples in my life when I have called out inappropriate behavior and times, sadly, when I didn't. I try to do better at doing the right thing every day, and time gives me more experience.

1-2. I think boycotting is a personal choice.  My neighbor, who I occasionally play games with, has decided to boycott a certain tech company for their recent actions regarding free speech.  I don't understand all his reasonings or the entire situation, but I'll support him in his decision regardless of whether I choose to follow or not.  If we choose to boycott, we have a right to give our reasoning, and so do those who choose not to boycott.

1-3. That is a challenging question, one that is closely tied to 1-2.  I think that here, too, we can voice our opinion.

2.  I think an artist/designer/creator's worldview is part of what they put into their creation-sometimes subtle, other times very obvious (putting them into rulebooks and footnotes makes it very obvious). As with all art, it can lead to further discussion if one chooses to pursue it.  While I think holding historical figures to our own current worldviews, condemning them for how they lived, and erasing their constructive contributions to their own and our current society (i.e. George Washington and Christopher Columbus being just two examples) without taking the time to learn more about the individual is a bit hasty, the specific examples mentioned here are all people who should be called out for their actions and given time to learn and (hopefully) change their actions for the better. I also think that some (as you mentioned in a reply to your own post here) are going to more easily recognize the influence of the artist's worldviews in their work than others.  I might pick up on religious referrences in the book of an author of my own faith than someone not of my faith.  Not knowing much about the game designers, I may not pick up on their worldviews from their game. 

3.  I don't know.  Is it used to promote such ideology or to teach about it so one can watch for and avoid it?

Supporter6 months ago

I thank each and every one of you who has responded thus far. But, as reminded me yesterday, I asked for your viewpoints without giving ya'll mine. So, I will do so here, now. But, before I give you my answer, I do want to give just a little bit of background.

I am a person who read a LOT growing up. In fact I averaged over well over 200 full length books a year until 2016, which was the year that my son was born. Something I always found very interesting, and even important, in books was to determine the worldview of the author. For me, analyzing the plot, the rising crescendo, the denouement, the whole fabric of the book is and was fascinating. I loved looking at the little literary devices that the author chose to use. But, for me, the most interesting part of reading was trying to determine what the worldview of the author was when he/she wrote the book. Reading does broaden one's horizon, in some very potentially helpful ways. And, it can change the way one thinks. I however have found that if one can identify the worldview, that does tend to armor you a bit against bad worldviews. I think most of us can do this to some point. For example, in my post I mentioned Mein Kampf which is Hitler's famous book wherein he lays out his views on all sorts of stuff. I will further mention The Communist Mannifesto the worldview in this book is super obvious. And, I think that most people with the bare modicum of logical thinking and historical knowledge won't have a problem reading it, they won't be swayed by it. They are aware of the worldview, usually before they even go and read it.

Why do I spend this time talking about books in a post about games? It is because I find many similarities between books and games. I do find that games are often, not always, expressions of a small part of the designers worldview. I think that it is a much more limited medium, but, in great games, there is often some sort of authorial intent behind the game. Again, this is a more limited medium than books, but, it is interesting to think of the authorial biases going into the design. If nothing else, even in the simplest games, there is interesting ideas of what the designer thinks of fun.


Why do I spend this time on this preamble? It is to explain why I really cannot seperate the art from the artist. I honestly don't believe that there is such a thing as a neutral medium. Any medium in which one communicates to another, be it books, or speech, or visual arts, or films, or etc.... is inherently subject to the biases and views of the communicator. Even if they are just "writing books for the money" the books that they write do give interesting messages about what they believe the masses want. The same goes for movies, or pictures, or, ..... Games.


So, if I cannot, or at the least find it very difficult to, seperate the art from the artist, what is my responsiblity in choosing where to spend my time and money when it comes to games?

  • I agree with that being informed is important. I think it is ok to call out bad stuff. I think it is even important to call out bad stuff. But, far more people pass judgment without understanding, or desiring to understand the context.
  • I will, almost necessarily, at a minimum, engage with people I disagree with in any medium I consume. This includes games. Of course, some games, were designed by people who's actions or worldviews whose views are actually repellent. I will  not find, I doubt that you will, find a game, or any other medium, whose creator(s) line up with your worldview.
  • G.K. Chesterton reminded us that "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." I do think that it is ok to draw lines and say that "everything on that side of the line, is something I won't touch." I don't think it is a problem to see cultural appropriation in Tascini's game, for example, and decide that you won't devote time or money to them. I, for example, have decided not to play games by Harry Wu A.K.A. John Bohrer because of the generally despicably way he has treated everybody in the game design industry who has worked with him. It is almost as if he really does see himself as adopting the worldview portrayed in one of his 18xx games.
  • Actively reject the bad. For instance, if you are playing a game by Eklund and you see racism, or you see praises for colonialism, reject it. Reject it personally, if you are playing with someone, point out the problem and dialog with it.
  • I think it disengenious to have huge problems with games that glorify colonial conquest, for example. But, then love a good fantastical or sci-fi 4x game. I recognize that there are some differences, in that in the colonial conquest one, real people were, and continue to be affected. That being said. Both games are representing and fostering the same worldview. I believe that you have a equal responsibilty to call out the problematic issues with the scifi game as with the historical game.


Do I think there is space for morally repungant games in my collection. I think, for me, yes. I cannot answer that question for you. I remember the first time that I toured the holocaust museum in Washington D.C. My overwhelming feeling was that real people, ordinary people, were the perpetrators of this atrocity. Ordinary people, conservative Christians, looked the other way during Hitler's rise to power, and they even enabled him, because he did institute effective economic reform. I was privilaged to speak with a survivor or Auschwitze one time. The stories he told were made even more chilling when I remembered that the horrors he saw and experienced were perpetrated by humans who were "merely doing their job." I do believe that this lesson is important. I don't think we are in some sort of special place in human history. I don't think that we are really at a higher plane than our slave owning ancestors, or our ancestors that enjoyed public executions, or our ancestors who viewed torture as the most expedient ways of arriving at the truth. I believe that when we lose sight of this fact. When we lose sight that we, as humans, are prone to ignore the suffering we are inflicting on others in the pursuit of our own good. For me, if I play a game that I violently disagree with, it does do a valuable service reminding me, that real humans perpetrated the problems I have with the games. We are often reminded that the slave trade was trade in humans. This is a lesson we dare not forget. But, neither dare we forget that this trade in humans was, in fact, perpetrated by humans. And, that, even people who rejected the slave trade, supported it by their tastes for commodities produced by slave trade. So, to the extant that games require me to examine my position, jostle my mind and remind me of a blind spot that I might have, than these games with problematic games can serve as a valuable part of my collection.

That being said, I would hesitate to play a game with problematic issues with, slavery for example, with someone whose life has personally been negatively affected by slavery or the after effects. I however would play it with someone who might be turning a blind eye to the after affects, and engage with them about it afterwards, to try to get them to see if they have some sort of complicity.

6 months ago

👏 👏 👏 

Great insight.

I want to comment on your point about colonial games vs. 4x games. I brought up this thread last night to my wife and we started talking about it. We even talked about how colonial games are frowned upon but fantasy games with a similar theme/mechanic are fine. One must remember that fiction--including genre fiction like SFF--mirrors our world. As a writer and reader of these genres, I have seen and heard countless times how such-and-such a theme hearkens back to this-or-that experiences in our world. That said, 4x games do seem colonial. My wife brought up some points such as in #Tiny Epic Kingdoms (in two-players, at least) where there is a "local" or, in this case, a Lost Kingdom, faction that you can harry and conquer. Some might say that this is colonialism. And yet, it somehow feels different because it's in a made-up world with fantastical races such as elves, dwarves, and creepy lizardfolk.

My wife and I also talked about lines in the sand. When is it OK to play a game with a certain theme, and when does it become too much? You mentioned how reading books with bad worldviews can be informative and, thus, be protective against such worldviews. I agree with this. Ignoring information because it's uncomfortable--even painful to recall--can be damaging. Knowing is half the battle, as they say on Saturday-morning television, and I think that's true. Learning about such worldviews can help us identify red flags in the future and, hopefully, avoid what happened in the past.

But I also think there is a limit to how such views are ingested. Media that actively promote bad things is media I will stay away from. However, media that touches on those same topics but in a different light is media I will consume, as it is not glorifying said attrocities but rather showing it for what it is. For board games, I enjoy combat-based mechanics and themes. From WWII games to arena combat games, they are interesting, engaging, and fun. But, there are games, such as #Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery, that I will not play due to the nature of the game. Was life like that back then? Sure, maybe (if this is historically accurate), but it's the way the game is created that keeps me from it. I'd play a different Spartacus--same theme, same mechanics--if the content were more family friendly.

This is an interesting subject with a lot of room for interpretation. And, honestly, I think the answer--and the extent of the answer--is going to be different for everyone.

Premium User6 months ago

I am quite fascinated by these questions.  I am definitely a centrist and recognize there are issues with the extreme left and extreme right viewpoint.  Anyone that tells you there is definitely one correct answer to these situations should be taken with a grain of salt.  I can give you my general thoughts and feelings on it but none of it is definite.

In a general sense, I don't believe in burying lies and liars but I also don't believe in supporting them.  I do believe in making sure their lies are exposed clearly for all to see.  I have no problem with social censorship as long as it does not extend to physical violence.  I don't want the government to arrest anyone but they are still responsible for what they do and say.

  1. What is the individual's responsibility in situations such as the above? 
    • Educate yourself on the situation.  Don't bury your head in the sand but instead get the information you can from various points of view so you can make an informed decision.  Once you make that decision own it.
    • Anyone who immediately crucified him based on a google translate has not lived up to their responsibilities.
    • Anyone who ingores the situation is also not meeting their responsibilities.
    • I am going to say something that left wing extremists will be very upset with.  There is debate around whether the Italian word he used is actually the same as the N-word in English.  It might be the difference between saying the N-word vs "black person" vs African Canadian/American. 
    • If it was the N-word and his friends were ok with it would I be ok with it then?  I wouldn't enjoy it but I would accept it.
  2. Can the the art (the game) be separated from the worldview of the author?
    • For me there are at least 2 facets to this.  Can you enjoy artwork this artist has created?  Is giving the artist your money morally wrong?
    • I enjoy the T games and I own almost all of them.  Is it wrong in some way for me to play them and enjoy them?  I'd say no.  I've already purchased the games and the game play itself seems pretty inocuous to me.  
    • For a non-boardgame take on it, google search for write ups on famous artists that were terrible people.  You'll see Pablo Picasso in there.  Can you still enjoy his paintings?
    • Now if there is an artist that after my best investigation I know to suport views that I find morally wrong do I give him my money at that point?  I wouldn't.  Would it be morally wrong to do so?  I think yes with the exact degree of "wrongness" up to debate. 
  3. Is there a space for a game that pushes morally repungant ideology in one's collection?
    • To define pushes I would say that the game puts a morally repgunant ideology in a positive light and extolls the "virtues" of such an ideology.  
    • If that's the case then no there is no room for it in my collection.