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Thread: Mafia games, ethics etc.

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Mafia games, ethics etc.

    My suspicion is that it wouldn't bother people so much if there were anthropomorphic Ebola viruses to battle. I think that's why people feel comfortable picking on North Korea and the mafia-- they make fun of the people in power in those situations, and at worst, the powerless people (villagers in the case of mafia) are seen as collateral damage of the main joke target. This isn't a game suggestion, I'm just thinking aloud. It's interesting.

    Anyway, the disease itself (as opposed to its human costs) doesn't frighten me, so I'm confident about my odds. Confidence wins, you can fake it til you make it even if you're dead. I've always been frightened of prion diseases, like Mad Cow Disease and the one where you lose the ability to fall asleep. Ebola is such a Twilight Zone illness-- it's too campy to to be scary.
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    Not meaning to rain on your parade, but am I the only one who finds the Ebola reference rather offensive in the light of what's going on with actual human beings in West Africa at the moment? What's next: an IS game? A Holocaust game?
    Risk, Chess, football (any type). There's never been a shortage of wars or wargames. Are they any less sensitive? Either way, they're often fun. We play mafia yet there are real people dying as a result of organized crime; real populations being manipulated by informed minorities.

    What would be offensive (to me) would be if we were running a pool on the number of fatalities or something.

    Meanwhile, one of my favorite casual games puts you in the role of a virulent infection with the goal of infecting and killing the entire world's population through strategic mutation--with little tweaks to playstyle depending on what type of infection you are: bacteria, virus, prion, parasite, etc. Yes, it's fun, and while the name of the bug may be up to you, the symptoms and methods of transmission are real, and at the end of the day, the goal is the genocide.

    I have another game, Prison Architect--that could easily be seen as a vector for roleplaying concentration camps.

    I think games are just a method of psychological coping, (and more than a few psychologists would back me up), and so long as the victory conditions aren't predicated on actual human suffering, then it's probably not a terrible thing. It can even be a good thing, like say a game meant to be a subversive educational model. Or this plushy:

    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Risk, Chess, football
    Yes. They almost always involve inanimate, inhuman, or overtly dehumanized targets.

    Either way, they're often fun.
    I agree. I just don't like to pretend that there's some highfalutin cathartic moral value to this game. I'm comforting and entertaining myself by exploiting other people's tragedies, distancing myself from the reality of their situations. Fun, yes, moral, certainly not.

    What would be offensive (to me) would be if we were running a pool on the number of fatalities or something.
    I think that would make it better. I think you're confusing moral unease for moral offense. Including a running number of fatalities would highlight the jarring disconnect between tragedy and the game we've made of it.

    We play mafia yet there are real people dying as a result of organized crime; real populations being manipulated by informed minorities.
    In addition to what I talked about in my previous post-- the power dynamics are different in mafia than they are in this ebola game-- mafia is a pulp/camp term. Like chess and risk, though to a lesser extent, it's distanced from political realities; according to the implicit definition of "mafia" we use in the game, it's a pop culture fantasy. If I were to invent a game that directly involved the Chechen mafia and their non-mafia target populations, there would probably be some unease. That's real, and it trivializes the suffering of real people. As far as I know, the themes we've chosen for mafia have always involved fantasies rather than real, vulnerable populations.

    I have another game, Prison Architect--that could easily be seen as a vector for roleplaying concentration camps.
    I think it's a disgusting game. I would play it because I'm bored and morally bankrupt, but I'm not going to deny that it's fucking awful. There's no excuse for making the American prison system palatable.

    I think games are just a method of psychological coping, (and more than a few psychologists would back me up), and so long as the victory conditions aren't predicated on actual human suffering, then it's probably not a terrible thing. It can even be a good thing, like say a game meant to be a subversive educational model.
    This makes me irritated, sorry. It's as if I see a human who was hit by a car, but still alive, and I "psychologically cope" by driving past them without a second thought. I see no reason to pride myself for "psychologically coping" by making games inspired by other people's suffering. And yes, of course this game is predicated on actual human suffering. It's a direct, indisputable surrogate for a catastrophe that has ruined countless lives and continues to do so while we sit back and play games about it.
    "Subversion." come on.

    ugh. now I'm upset.
    Last edited by Blorg; 01-04-2015 at 06:27 PM.
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Risk, Chess, football (any type). There's never been a shortage of wars or wargames. Are they any less sensitive? Either way, they're often fun. We play mafia yet there are real people dying as a result of organized crime; real populations being manipulated by informed minorities.

    (...)

    Just because other people capitalise on others' very real misery doesn't mean it's acceptable to do so.

    The difference between joking about the Mafia and diseases is that if you get killed by (real-life) Mafia, it is to a large extent your own fault. Source: half-Sicilian here. Also, what @Dot said.

    And @Utisz: while I admire your ability to come up with popular threads, I will not congratulate you on this idea, with or without feeble excuses to its name. I cannot wrap my head around the general nonchalance here with which a recent real people's struggle gets turned into a form of very questionable, and cheap, entertainment. This is precisely the mindset which rendered possible the cruelties in WWII concentration camp, and I am ashamed to find it so ubiquitous in what I thought was a rather enlightened crowd.

    If you think I'm being a preachy killjoy, why don't we pick something closer to home for illustration? Like "Cancer: The Game" or "AIDS: The Game". Why, that would be offensive? Well, there is no fucking difference.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dot View Post
    Yes. They almost always involve inanimate, inhuman, or overtly dehumanized targets.
    *symbolically speaking. Obviously football involves real people, but it's not as if football players are pretending to kill or seriously endanger each other.
    Ah. So dehumanization makes it all better?

    I agree. I just don't like to pretend that there's some highfalutin cathartic moral value to this game. I'm comforting and entertaining myself by exploiting other people's tragedies, distancing myself from the reality of their situations. Fun, yes, moral, certainly not.
    I'm not adding pretension, just observing possibles. Not all games have catharsis. As moral value, that's a highly personal valuation. I find nothing immoral in this or most abstractions of human suffering for entertainment value. Hell, I enjoy most of them (by type if not an actual majority--which I could never conceivably consume let alone process): movies, plays, tv shows, board games, card games, RPG's, video games, music, etc.

    I think that would make it better. I think you're confusing moral unease for moral offense.
    If it doesn't produce unease in me, it clearly doesn't offend me. What is there to confuse?


    In addition to what I talked about in my previous post-- the power dynamics are different in mafia than they are in this ebola game-- mafia is a pulp/camp term. Like chess and risk, though to a lesser extent, it's distanced from political realities; according to the implicit definition of "mafia" we use in the game, it's a pop culture fantasy. If I were to invent a game that directly involved the Chechen mafia and their non-mafia target populations, there would probably be some unease. That's real, and it trivializes the suffering of real people. As far as I know, the themes we've chosen for mafia have always involved fantasies rather than real, vulnerable populations.
    What does it matter what masks we put on the players if the play remains the same?

    There's no excuse for making the American prison system palatable.
    I don't think it does that. At all. It does provoke thought about the effort and thought involved in designing such a place though. I don't think that that is a bad thing.

    "Subversion." come on.
    Let's say a game is made predicated on the concept of infection, and that game models communicability of diseases in a way that is simultaneously an entertaining and harmless exercise (in the sense that the participants aren't in any real danger) while elevating a person's awareness of the risks involved and how rapidly an infectious disease can propagate? Could that not be a positive end result?

    I'm not saying every game has a valuable lesson to be learned. I am saying that I am averse to new taboos.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    If you think I'm being a preachy killjoy, why don't we pick something closer to home for illustration? Like "Cancer: The Game" or "AIDS: The Game". Why, that would be offensive? Well, there is no fucking difference.
    I agree, there is no fucking difference. And I'm not offended by either of those options. Both those ailments were what first sprang to mind when I was thinking of alternate and inoffensive disease themed games, and I think both have the potential to be educational and promote empathy--though it would be a tough thing to do without getting preachy.

    As for it being the same mentality as that which lead to the cruelties of concentration camps--I don't think it even touches on that other than at the fringes--which is a place every human interaction touches on it.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

  6. #6
    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Ah. So dehumanization makes it all better?
    Yes, of course it does. I would rather pretend to kill zombies or the opponent's chess pieces than, say, Roma. The target matters.

    I'm not adding pretension, just observing possibles. Not all games have catharsis. As moral value, that's a highly personal valuation. I find nothing immoral in this or most abstractions of human suffering for entertainment value. Hell, I enjoy most of them (by type if not an actual majority--which I could never conceivably consume let alone process): movies, plays, tv shows, board games, card games, RPG's, video games, music, etc.
    I think the word I'm looking for is "absolutist," but I'm not sure. That's how this quote strikes me. I doubt that you'd be willing to take your argument too far, but maybe you would. Because a Godwin seems inevitable at this point: would you be comfortable with a game in which you played Nazis killing concentration camp victims?

    If it doesn't produce unease in me, it clearly doesn't offend me. What is there to confuse?
    You said that adding a tally of the real ebola death toll would offend you.

    What does it matter what masks we put on the players if the play remains the same?
    well, that's basically how our culture and moral systems tend to work. I for one would feel more comfortable playing a game in which I pretend to kill zombies than a game in which I pretend to kill my parents. Of course the "masks" matter. I guess you could say that mask the same drive if you look closely enough-- if you really wanted to twist words till they lose all their shape, I'm pretty sure you could say that just about every human entertainment is a sublimated expression of a desire to kill, dehumanize, and assert power over "Others"-- but I think the "details" are important.

    Let's say a game is made predicated on the concept of infection, and that game models communicability of diseases in a way that is simultaneously an entertaining and harmless exercise (in the sense that the participants aren't in any real danger) while elevating a person's awareness of the risks involved and how rapidly an infectious disease can propagate? Could that not be a positive end result?
    Yes, that's a positive end result, but imo if the game involved a disease like ebola, it certainly wouldn't have a net positive result, considering the trivialization of human suffering I mentioned before.

    I'm not saying every game has a valuable lesson to be learned. I am saying that I am averse to new taboos.
    I get that. I don't really care either-- I want to play this game and it sounds fun. I'm just not going to pretend that it serves a moral purpose.
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    ^^^ @Dot: I more or less agree with the above--except the implication that there was a claim of serving a moral purpose. I don't even know the rules of the game yet, so I can't argue as to any potential beneficence--not even as a circus. Though, the dialog has been interesting (less the Godwins, but as you said, they were on the precipice of inevitable simply from the stated objection) so there's that.

    I didn't say adding an ebola death toll would offend me btw, I said a game predicated on, reliant on the death toll as a core mechanic would offend me. I still don't see where that implies confusion between moral unease and moral offense.

    Query: why couldn't a game predicated on educating about communicability and dangers of a disease produce a net positive result if the disease were ebola? What diseases would you anticipate a net positive result, and what do you think the distinction is that makes the difference?

    I think a game could be made, with ebola and survival of an ebola outbreak as the theme, which fostered empathetic concern. I have no illusions that this game was built for that purpose, but I can see how it could be done. You work in the symptoms and the horror of the event, then provide information on the current issue.

    After the game, you could provide an ebola fact sheet and possibly an explanation of how the mechanics modeled the real deal, and discussion of emotional responses to plays in game and any verisimilitude that occurred. In that context, you could use a current death tally as part of that information in a way that was inoffensive, and might help humanize those for whom it isn't a game and losing doesn't mean just sitting back and watching the rest of the game over a beer.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    I didn't say adding an ebola death toll would offend me btw, I said a game predicated on, reliant on the death toll as a core mechanic would offend me.
    this is what you said:
    "What would be offensive (to me) would be if we were running a pool on the number of fatalities or something."
    To me, it sounded like you were suggesting that the more realistic the game is and the more closely it's associated with the real horrors that ebola has caused, the less fun it would be for you to play-- you'd only be comfortable playing a game about ebola when it's sufficiently abstracted from the signs of human misery that it has caused in the real world.

    (less the Godwins, but as you said, they were on the precipice of inevitable simply from the stated objection) so there's that.
    hey, you're the one who always takes a stand against taboos and "off-limits" content It was relevant to raise one of the most extreme/charged topics because I wanted to see how far you were willing to go. The implicit ad hominem in your statement is less appropriate, but whatever.

    Query: why couldn't a game predicated on educating about communicability and dangers of a disease produce a net positive result if the disease were ebola? What diseases would you anticipate a net positive result, and what do you think the distinction is that makes the difference?
    You're right, it's not the nature of the disease that causes the distinction, but the tone, content, and purpose of the game. I'm pretty sure the aim of this game isn't to promote ebola survival advice, like "make sure you drink lots of water."
    Last edited by Blorg; 01-04-2015 at 07:35 PM.
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Anyway, that was a tangent. When are we starting?
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    @Dot: no ad hominem was implied. Or were you referring to the implied ad hom of Godwins in general?

    Not meant as snark or rebuttal. Actual question. From a phone.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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