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Politics, Gaming, Modern Times

In a recent Monster of the Week mystery, I made the Big Bad an incel. I thought about it a bit before making the decision to go for it. I was careful to humanize him; he had family who loved him, and I explicitly didn’t make him a killer. But I didn’t mask his motivations and I gave him a couple of alt-right tropes.

The players were definitely a touch taken aback. Nobody objected, and while they were careful not to kill him, that’s generally how they deal with human threats. I think the momentary uncertainty was more because it’s a pulpy game that got a touch serious all of a sudden — it was the reality of the Big Bad, not the specific fact that he was an Intel.

I also have a Delta Green campaign percolating, set in the PNW, that revolves around white nationalist movements. That feels safer, since most Delta Green players are expecting some dark material.

I think all this is appropriate gaming fodder. I mean, you’re not obligated to stuff political extremism front and center in your games. However, I also think that a lot of these slimeballs get a lot of milage out of secrecy. I’ve had so many fruitless online arguments with people who just aren’t convinced white nationalism is a problem. Gaming is a way to tell stories to each other, and some stories are worth telling.

Conversely, in the same Monster of the Week game, COVID-19 doesn’t exist. That was an explicit decision at the start of the game; we don’t need to be reminded of it and we wanted to escape that aspect of reality. I can easily imagine a modern game in which it does exist, but it doesn’t feel dangerous to avoid it.

Which is interesting, since there are certainly people who deny how serious it is. But I’m not gaming with any of them, and that’s a matter of denial rather than lack of awareness.

Parenthetically, while I was writing this, the back of my brain spit out a campaign frame for Monster of the Week in which the group is an anarchist mutual aid group, and I really want to play in that. So if someone could run it for me that’d be great.


  1. Ginger Ginger

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of the journal gaming I do with millennials. They have a very different take on stuff like this to the one I think you and I roughly share. They believe subjects are off limits if someone else who might find out about the game would be hurt, especially if the GM/moderator is not an own-voices sufferer under the oppression. That is, since you’re a dude, you shouldn’t GM stories about incels because you’re likely to hurt women players.

    In general they seem to think bringing in tough political/moral topics is verboten because it’s mocking the suffering of others or exploiting it for pretendy fun times, which … I think RPing isn’t therapy but it allows you to explore moral choices you might not explore in real life.

    Yet the same group of people don’t have any problems role-playing the Hunger Games as both victors and murderous kids, and don’t see anything hurtful about it because no child soldiers are going to read their games.

    As you know, I’m pretty much a live and let live no wrongbadfun player, but I have definitely come to the conclusion that my pretendy fun times and theirs do not generally intersect.

    • Yeah, that’s a different take. I have never recorded any of my games for public consumption (although the Gauntlet does this routinely, so now that I’ve done a few of their games I’m up on YouTube); if I did, I’d have to think a bit about how viewers might be affected. But I think it’d come down to content warnings as a protective element.

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