Monday, August 31, 2015

"Tournament of Rapists" Creates Unpleasant Wave of Sick in The RPG Community

Gaming, as a community, has been going through some serious growing pains over the past few years. A big part of those pains have been how open and welcoming it is to women, minorities, the transgender community, and other communities who have not exactly experienced big hugs from gaming in the past. There have been arguments (some of them vicious) over just how women are treated in the community, or whether or not it's okay to make certain jokes, or to allow certain kinds of themes into a game.

The latest controversy is Tournament of Rapists.

If you experience extreme discomfort, just look at this silly goat for a bit.
So, if you're not familiar with the latest kerfuffle in the community, here's what happened. Skorched Urf Studios released a third-party supplement titled Tournament of Rapists. The rule book introduces players to a world where "An assortment of superhumanly powerful and inhumanly misogynistic men," compete in a fighting tournament where the loser is killed, raped, or some combination of the two. Given that this was created for the Black Tokyo campaign setting (according to the creator, who spoke about it on The RPG Site), the supplement seems like it's meant to tap into the fetishization of rape found in certain kinds of anime.

It should be clear that the players in this game are supposed to take on the role of the heroes, who are uncovering this brutal underground fighting ring and opposing the aforementioned super-misogynists. Even with that caveat, though, the supplement sounds like a terrible fan fiction playing on a loop in the darkest depths of a teenage sex offenders subconscious after watching too much body horror and doing peyote. While there is a market for this kind of fetishization (if the listings on hentai sites are to be believed), the reaction to it being put into the RPG market has been violently negative. It has even led to reputable RPG stores striking the game from their archives, making it much harder to find or purchase. Beside Notepad has more information on the sale of the game and some of the details.

That should be the end of it, right?

The Defenders of The Game

To be clear, this game wasn't something like Pie Shop, where rape might be an element associated with a single character's psychosis, or a game like Shadow of The Demon Lord where visceral horrors should be expected. In those examples rape is an element that can show up in the mix. In Tournament of Rapists, rape is the entire point. Sure, it's being done by the apparent villains of the game, but it is a necessary and central part of the overall premise. If you exclude rape from the game, you take away part of the title.

The goat required reinforcements.
As callous and poorly-presented as the subject is, there are people who have risen from the muck and the murk to defend it. A game like this, they may argue, is a test of the community's tolerance and respect for the first amendment. In order to prove how loyal they are to their ideals, it's paramount that we let this thing exist. And besides, we're clearly misunderstanding that if a game's villains are horrible rapists, then it's okay to have it featured so prominently in the game.

That sounds like a straw man argument on my part, but check some of the 4Chan forums about it and you'll see opinions that aren't too far off. Let's be clear here: this game is repugnant. As a product it sends all the wrong messages. Messages which the gaming community at large has demanded to be stricken from the shelves.

Which is, pretty much, how the first amendment actually works in practice. The top slot on the bill of rights stops the government for punishing you for what you say. No one from homeland security is coming down on the game designer's head for this. The publisher created a product, and that product has come under heavy criticism from customers, which have demanded it be taken down. When customers aren't happy, they demand changes. RPG sellers want to keep customers happy, so they get rid of games with the word rapist in the title.

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  1. Not something gaming needs. They have every right to publish this garbage, and we as a community have every right (and frankly, a moral imperative) to tell the publishers it is inappropriate and harmful to gaming as a whole and that they should immediately discontinue publication. No store should carry this product, and any which do must be boycotted.

  2. How does stopping me from making ends meet (because you want to feel self-righteous while encouraging broad boycotts) have any impact on Otherverse Games? You're anything but moral.

    1. While I appreciate the comment, Steve Miller, I don't actually have any context. Who are you?

    2. In this context, I'm the publisher of NUELOW Games, as well as the guy who writes a lot of the stuff we publish. Strictly small-fry, but the income generated does usually pay a bill and/or put gas in the car. Then there are the other contributors, who also benefit from the sales through--admittedly paltry--royalties.,, paltry, because, like I said, NUELOW doesn't exactly set the world on fire.


    3. And I can't type to safe my life today.

    4. Still not seeing the connection, Steve Miller. I can't seem to find the intersection between Skorched Urf and Nuelow.

    5. There isn't one.

      The reaction was to this: "No store should carry this product, and any which do must be boycotted."

      Why should MY releases (or those from the HUNDREDS of other publishers who aren't Skorched Urf, and who have released works from THOUSANDS of creators), be boycotted because our outlet also carries "Tournament of Rapists"?

      Why should the work I've done as a designer for other publishers be boycotted, because of "Tournament of Rapists"?

      I don't like the product--in fact, I said so before you posted on it--but I like the "let's boycott EVERYONE" attitude even less.

      But I'm sorry for any confusion I caused. There is no connection between myself and Skorched Urf. I just have some 200 releases for sale through the Onebookshelf sites.

    6. Gotcha. No problem, just wanted to be sure I hadn't incorrectly reported something, or that there were facts which needed to be added to the story.

    7. I fully support Steve on this point.
      There's been a depressing tendency, in recent years, to demand absolute obedience to a party line, and failure to do so marks you out as unclean.
      "If you don't forward this chain email to 100 other people, you love cancer."
      "If you don't respond to this post, then share it to your profile, I will know you are not a TRUE friend."
      And if you don't leap to join a cause the second you're asked, and act IMMEDIATELY, in the PRE-APPROVED manner, you are an enabler of hate crime doubleplusbadthink.
      Any attempt to question the effectiveness or validity of the response gets you tarred and feathered.

      In this week's drama, the mob is calling for thousands of products, by hundreds of publishers, be boycotted, because of the actions of one publisher.
      How is that relevant, proportional, or fair?
      They're not calling just for a boycott of the offending publisher (which is their right, and would make sense) and any that publicly defend the offending product, but to wreck the business of virtually every electronic publisher in the community, even the ones who have a spotless record of championing diversity and challenging abusive behaviour, including some who have publicly condemned the offending product.

      If your Grand Plan is to bankrupt the publishers who display solidarity with your position, then you're hardly part of the solution.

    8. I think it's perfectly reasonable to boycott business engaged in what you might consider immoral or destructive. Consumers have that right, and designers/publishers have the right to do business with companies based on their values as well. If you don't want your products to be caught up in a boycott, don't so business with those distributors. Or suck it up and enjoy capitalism.
      Boycotts aren't exactly laser precision tools of protest. Any boycott will affect many parties involved however tenuous their connection to the entity being boycotted. That being said they continue to be very effective in free-market economies, where voting is just so damn slow, and censorship is unwanted.

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