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BenjaminK

BenjaminKLevel 64

Hello, and welcome to my profile! I am a game reviewer and content writer here at Board Game Atlas, as well as a rule book editor. I also own Board Game Immersion, a website for reviews, various types of videos, articles, and more. I am a certified copyeditor and love writing (and reading) in the fantasy and science fiction genres--the deeper the magic system, the better! My favorite movies are, of course, Star Wars (all of them), and my favorite book is Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.

I love rugby as if it were my own flesh and blood, and I follow NHL hockey with a passion that my team--Calgary Flames--try to put out each and every season (one day we'll win the cup again...). I love watching Australian football (go Swans!) and I used to be on an actual, honest-to-goodness quidditch team (hey, it's a real thing!). I play ultimate Frisbee and was a stadium announcer for a professional team in the AULD.

I love board games (obviously) and have many favorites. Some of those favorites are X-Wing; Champions of Midgard; Heroes of Land, Air & Sea; Clank!; Tiny Epic Galaxies; Terraforming Mars; Flip Ships; and many more, mood depending.

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Recent Comments

I got to play some games this week!

Played #Enchanted Forest with my kids. This is one I grew up with, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Taught my kids (ages 4 and 5) to play #Takenoko. My 4-year-old is, as one might expect, not good at focusing while playing games like this. However, I wanted to teach my 5-year-old to see if he could grasp it, and he did very well! A bit of coaching at the beginning, but he picked up on it quickly. 

Then last night my wife and I played #Survive: Escape From Atlantis with her parents. It devolved into madness quickly (as is common in this game) and was a lot of fun. I hadn't played this one in quite some time and man, I just love it so much. Love the chaos haha

👏 👏 👏 

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.

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. 

#Tapestry does this with the #Tapestry: Plans and Ploys expansion. At least, it uses the solo variant as a mini campaign. I've played the first one (been wanting to finish for a while) and read through the others, and while it's not super storytelling, it's certainly a narrative, and I can appreciate that. Plus, Tapestry plays really well solo so these additional scenarios work to increase that awesomeness but changing things up.

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

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.

Yeah, this would be the one you want for sure. It's a great theme-park-themed game that really flows well.

It released last year...technically. I think it only made its Australia release and has yet to hit North American shelves. But it should be soon, I'd think. 

Fair is Fair: A Funfair Review image
ReviewFair is Fair: A Funfair Review [Funfair]Like| 5 comments | [+]

I hope so. I'd love to play a game set in that world.

I still need to learn more about it, but initial impressions are good. Although I thought for a moment it said "Randland" and I got excited about a possible Wheel of Time game haha

Great ideas! It'll be fun to see the "great game" deals as well. 

Duplicate responses are all good, in my opinion. Teaching is on my mind because I just started the MAT program this week to teach high school. 

Simpler games for me. For example, I've been enjoying #Herbaceous which is really not the type of game I would have thought myself choosing to play. I love the bigger, more complex games and tend to avoid the short, simple games, but I think I've been missing out. Besides, they're great for when you don't have more than half an hour to play (or less) but still want to get a game in.

Teachers? Classroom management? haha That one might be tough to impliment, but it could be a good educational tool if done well.

Antoher job could be social media manager. In this game, you would have to manage comments, reviews (good and bad), and use your resources to build an audience, appease irate customers, bring in sales, create content, etc. It could be a resource management game where time is a resource (i.e. be as effective as possible without working too much overtime, it takes x amount of hours to create a certain type of content). Could also be worker placement where you must assign a worker on a spot in order to fulfill that job requirement. For example, one spot could be to monitor comments on a live stream, write an article, or talk back and forth with the irate customer over DM about how you can't justify refunding the food they left on their counter for six months and now it's rotten and bad. You know, that kind of thing.

I think there could be a lot of fun games created based on "normal" jobs.