• BigThoughtDropper
    38
    Hi guys,

    A bit of applied ethics for you.

    I am a massive board game enthusiast and I was recently gifted a board game called "Archipelago" by a friend. Said friend rates it very highly and it seems to have interesting mechanics.

    Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, I have found this game is a bit racist. A big part of the game is "settling" areas of the Caribbean and "handling" the unrest caused by the indigenous population. There is also a playing card called "slavery".

    To be clear this theme is not meant to be educational - it is incidental. A theme the designers chose.

    Obviously, I couldn't play this game in good conscience the way that it is.

    But I was planning to, since the bare game mechanics are not inherently racist and actually quite interesting, censor the bits I don't like with my arts & crafts skills.

    I could replace the black token representing native settlers with a red one to denote British settlers, and I could also replace the "slavery" card with a "piracy card", etc. etc.

    What do you guys think? If I change the theme of the game would it be morally acceptable to play?
  • Hanover
    6.2k
    What do you guys think? If I change the theme of the game would it be morally acceptable to play?BigThoughtDropper

    Your question is whether it would be immoral to engage in an activity that was previously immoral but it has been purged of its immorality, right? I'd think it'd be fine. To hold otherwise would suggest there is something within the activity's essence that is inherently racist that cannot be cleansed regardless of effort.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    211
    Sounds fine to me. I like complex war games. Axis and Allies and Hearts of Iron are enjoyable, and generally more of a challenge playing as the Axis, so I like to take that on if there isn't a better player because otherwise the Allied steamroll to victory, but that doesn't mean I'm endorsing Nazis. At the end of the day it's a game of rules and chance (or just rules with Diplomacy), and the historical setting is just for form. You aren't supporting industrial warfare by playing IMO.
  • Baden
    11.8k
    Seems more a question of taste than morality.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    In Archipelago, players are Renaissance European powers competing in the exploration of a Pacific or Caribbean archipelago.  — Google

    Teaching the history (of European exploration), despite the countless ways it went horribly wrong, in an entertaining way isn't all that bad. In fact, this might be exactly what's needed in a history class. People would get a good handle on how the world, from the Americas to Australia, fell under European control. That said, it's quite insensitive to make a game that fails to give adequate consideration to the suffering that was a part of the historical events it simulates. :chin:
  • counterpunch
    1.4k
    Obviously, I couldn't play this game in good conscience the way that it is.BigThoughtDropper

    It's a mistake to impose one's modern day values on the past. This game does that by relating fictional game mechanics to real world history:

    "Each player portrays an explorer and his team commissioned by a European nation to discover, colonize, and exploit islands."

    Can't I be a refugee from centuries of European religious conflict - fleeing across the oceans to unknown lands, with a dream that men should be free to worship, or not, as they choose, and be free to think and speak as they see fit?

    To be clear this theme is not meant to be educationalBigThoughtDropper

    You're wrong about that.

    "A balance must be found between expansionism and humanism, between commercial goals and respect for local values, between knowledge sharing and unbridled industrialization."

    These dichotomies are heavily value laden; and anachronistically so, and far from being incidental, are typically slanted toward criticism of western civilisation. This is a criticism you seek to emphasise with your confected moral qualms.
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    I appreciate everyone's thoughtful and respectful responses, thanks guys :)
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    Yeah, that is what I was thinking, e.g. we burn effigies of Guy Fawkes in the UK on the 5th of November even though, a long time ago, people used to be burnt alive in England because of their religious convictions. Not a perfect analogy, but I think it illustrates the point.
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    it's quite interesting how some, shall we say, "militaristic" games are not subject to the same scrutiny as "colonial" games. The deciding factor seems to be the mores of contemporary society.
  • Hanover
    6.2k
    Seems more a question of taste than morality.Baden

    I did consider that, but I do think it might be immoral if there were a game that was over the top racist (and not just politically correct) like if it involved a competitive venture to see how many slaves you could transport and whether you could get a good price for them. The same would be true if a game defined a winner based upon how efficiently they could eliminate a race. It's not just crass, but it's racist, and it makes light of devastating event, so that would make it as immoral as any racist expression.
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    exactly - it's always rather clear whether a piece of art glosses over inconvenient truths. They do not need to be "in your face" but at the same time they should not be glossed over. I think Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" for example does this quite well. The misery of slavery is more the background to the story then being part of the film's message. The audience is under no illusions as to the moral character of slavery despite it not quite being the main theme of the film.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    Seems more a question of taste than morality.Baden

    Agree.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    It's a mistake to impose one's modern day values on the past. This game does that by relating fictional game mechanics to real world history:counterpunch

    I agree. To a certain extent, I think it's disrespectful to pretend that European colonization was cleaner than it really was. On the other hand, if I were black or American Indian, I would probably feel differently. Would @BigThoughtDropper be comfortable playing this game with people who's ancestors were slaves? I wouldn't be. Which means I wouldn't be comfortable playing this game at all.
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    @counterpunch

    A balance must be found between expansionism and humanism, between commercial goals and respect for local values, between knowledge sharing and unbridled industrialization.

    I think that is just their PR. This game has gotten a lot of criticism. The PR doesn't quite match up with the "unrest" score that you have to keep low or risk losing the game. In other words, unless you crush the indigenous population you cannot win the game. Not sure if that fits "respect for local values".

    However, on a broader note,

    It's a mistake to impose one's modern day values on the past

    This depends on what kind of history we are engaging in. There are 3 types of history:


    (1) empirical. We only wish to know the bare facts, e.g. a 500 page book on battle formations at Gettysburg.

    (2) polemical. We wish to use history to make an argument about how things should be in the present.

    (3) entertainment. We wish have fun without regard for (1) empirical, and, (2) polemical. However, the types of fun we can have are subject to the morality of our society.

    So, I think you are saying this board game is (1), but I think it is (3).
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    exactly - it's always rather clear whether a piece of art glosses over inconvenient truths. They do not need to be "in your face" but at the same time they should not be glossed over. I think Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" for example does this quite well. The misery of slavery is more the background to the story then being part of the film's message. The audience is under no illusions as to the moral character of slavery despite it not quite being the main theme of the film.BigThoughtDropper

    Well, to be fair, even though I'm probably inviting strong criticism, back then people...didn't know any better...right? Yes, ignorantia juris non excusat but, at the same time,

    Until 2007, the California Penal Code Section 26 stated that "Idiots" were one of six types of people who are not capable of committing crimes — Wikipedia
    .

    There's something wrong in finding an ignoramus guilty, right?
  • counterpunch
    1.4k
    I agree. To a certain extent, I think it's disrespectful to pretend that European colonization was cleaner than it really was.T Clark

    I don't think we agree at all.

    "A balance must be found between expansionism and humanism, between commercial goals and respect for local values..."

    "Hunters herded the bison and drove them over the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. Tribe members waiting below closed in with spears and bows to finish the kills. The Blackfoot People called the buffalo jumps "pishkun", which loosely translates as "deep blood kettle". This type of hunting was a communal event that occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500, around the time of the introduction of horses."

    What do you mean by cleaner?
  • BigThoughtDropper
    38
    Thanks for the thoughts - I would refer you to my reply above to [counterpunch]
  • counterpunch
    1.4k
    So, I think you are saying this board game is (1), but I think it is (3).BigThoughtDropper

    No. I think it's 3 with a hidden 2 - entertainment with a polemic agenda you seem blissfully unaware of!
  • Baden
    11.8k


    Maybe worth being nuanced even there. Take video games; they regularly involve obviously immoral activities, e.g. murder and other criminal behaviour, even torture and rape, all immoral because they involve inflicting unjustified harm on others with the degree of harm largely defining how immoral they are. This also applies to acts of racism. As fantasies though, the moral argument becomes more slippery. Surely, voluntarily placing yourself in the virtual position of someone committing a racist act does not necessarily make you a racist any more than placing yourself in the virtual position of a murderer makes you a murderer. Because racism denotes a despicable attitude as well as behaviour (covering prejudice and actual discrimination), the above distinction can seem blurry. But I reckon it holds. If it didn't, there would be some odd consequences.

    it makes light of devastating event, so that would make it as immoralHanover

    Jokes that make light of devastating events, we usually refer to as in bad taste rather than immoral though. So, this kind of segues into my original take.

    EDIT: Having said that, so far as jokes propagate racism, I'd call the act of telling them immoral, just as I might condemn the designers of a racist board game or violent video game rather than the players.
  • Baden
    11.8k
    (Hope it's clear, you can burn that game and choke the designers with the ashes far as I'm concerned. Same for the wankers who designed GTA. Trash, all. But there is a debatable point here re the players.)
  • Hanover
    6.2k
    As fantasies though, the moral argument becomes more slippery.Baden

    A video game depicting killing of computer generated enemies is generally accepted (although some argue otherwise in that it leads to actual violence), but you could imagine the moral outrage if a game depicted the killing of Palestinians by Israelis. The morality is in the statement, which in a generic videogame is hard to decipher, but in other examples not.

    And the slippery slope then asks about what about a video game where the object is pedophilia, rape, domestic violence and all sorts anti-social activity. I don't just see that as being in bad taste, but I do see a moral component there.
  • Baden
    11.8k
    but you could imagine the moral outrage if a game depicted the killing of Palestinians by Israelis.Hanover

    What if it depicted both sides doing this to each other? How would that be different from any war game?

    Maybe it's a matter of degree. Like, if there was a game called "Concentration Camp Commander", or something like that, I mean, outrage would be absolutely justified. Again though, I'd direct it at the designers mostly. It's possible your average ignorant moron could play that just by virtue of being an ignorant moron.

    And the slippery slope then asks about what about a video game where the object is pedophilia, rape, domestic violence and all sorts anti-social activity.Hanover

    There are games like this. I suppose my general attitude to morality centers around the infliction of harm. In a way, the players are victims here and the virtual victims, by virtue of being virtual, cannot be.
  • Hanover
    6.2k
    There are games like this. I suppose my general attitude to morality centers around the infliction of harm. In a way, the players are victims here and the virtual victims, by virtue of being virtual, cannot be.Baden

    A statement can be immoral due to its offensiveness. For example, if the Grand Imperial Wizard takes the stage and explains why his race is superior and why others are inferior, that is an immoral act. The victims are those within earshot as well as those whose life is impacted by the influence of the statements made on the stage.

    Playing the videogame can be a statement. The victims are those who see those games at stores, see the glee in the eyes of those who play the games, and those whose lives are negatively impacted by the societal attitudes that are changed by the acceptance of such behavior.

    None of this is to say that such statements should be illegal or prohibited, but free speech can be immoral. I accept a broader definition of statement than likely you do here.

    Like, if there was a game called "Concentration Camp Commander", or something like that, I mean, outrage would be absolutely justified. Again though, I'd direct it at the designers mostly. It's possible your average ignorant moron could play that just by virtue of being an ignorant moron.Baden

    Lack of intent is a defense to everything, including actually killing someone, so it could also be a defense to the virtual sport of online genocide if you truly didn't realize such things happen in real life. But should it be you, for example, who was playing that game, don't you think it'd be immoral?
  • Baden
    11.8k
    A statement can be immoral due to its offensiveness. For example, if the Grand Imperial Wizard takes the stage and explains why his race is superior and why others are inferior, that is an immoral act.Hanover

    I agree with this. This would be more analagous to the game designers. As I've said:

    Having said that, so far as jokes propagate racism, I'd call the act of telling them immoral, just as I might condemn the designers of a racist board game or violent video game rather than the players.Baden

    As for:

    Playing the videogame can be a statement. The victims are those who see those games at stores, see the glee in the eyes of those who play the games, and those whose lives are negatively impacted by the societal attitudes that are changed by the acceptance of such behavior.Hanover

    Theoretically, yes. The devil is in the details though. I wouldn't want to argue that playing a video game can't be such a damaging statement, only that it doesn't necessarily have to be.

    My position is probably best summed up here:

    voluntarily placing yourself in the virtual position of someone committing a racist act does not necessarily make you a racistBaden

    You can raplace "racist act" with your alternative of any immoral act and "racist" with its corresponding descriptor.

    Do we agree on that much in principle?
  • Baden
    11.8k
    But should it be you, for example, who was playing that game, don't you think it'd be immoral?Hanover

    It's weird to try to imagine putting myself in that position. I'd think I was a cunt. Not sure about immoral if I was playing alone.

    EDIT: I mean if you asked me is it immoral to eat human faeces, it's almost the same feeling. It would be the mental equivalent of that.
  • Hanover
    6.2k
    Theoretically, yes. The devil is in the details though. I wouldn't want to argue that playing a video game can't be such a damaging statement, only that it doesn't necessarily have to be.Baden

    "Necessarily" no. I agree with that. It's sort of like showing up at a Trump rally. You can properly vilify the speaker (analogous to the video game designer). That much is easy. I don't think you can absolve the attendee at the event either. I get the guy cheering along isn't as malicious as the speaker and as immoral as he is, but he does get some moral blame. I will also excuse some of the attendees, like the saps who go along with whatever they hear because they know no better, but, again, if they do know better, then moral blame goes to them.

    Would you not go to the rally for moral reasons or do you just equate it to eating shit, just not your taste?
  • Baden
    11.8k


    It's a little different if I'm actively partaking and influencing others. If I'm sat at home watching a Trump speech then that's just tasteless, like eating shit, yes. We probably more or less agree here.
  • Baden
    11.8k
    Again, for me, immorality comes down to actual harm inflicted on others. Bad taste can be broader, more like dishonourable behaviour even if not involving others.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    Just shooting from the hip without any real thought, but it seems to me you'd be doing an honor to effectively remake the game. I once saw a piece of art defaced and torn down. It was a good thing, and a real improvement.

    The dilemma of whether one should look past the artist and only appreciate the art is an entirely personal decision. Many a POS writer, producer, director, painter, politician, etc. has created masterpieces. The owners of those masterpieces get to decide who gets to consider the piece. If the owner is the public then, at the very least, context should be provided.

    1. If it's yours, do with it as you will;
    2. If it belongs to another, you can boycott or not;
    3. If it belongs to the public, there is a two-fold consideration:
    a. Is it displayed for the art? If so, place the artist or the subject in context;
    b. Is it displayed for what the art represents? Tear it down.

    If a statue of Jefferson Davis, Hitler, Osama, et al, is displayed because the work itself is genius, then juxtapose the genius of the artist with the POS subject matter. If the subject matter is innocuous but a work of genius executed by an artist who was a POS, then juxtapose the genius with the artist. But if the statue is displayed in honor of the POS, tear it down.

    But it's your game; do whatever you want. If you play with others, you could tell them, or not. Your call. But painting a Hammer and Sickle or a Star of David on Hitler in pink panties is perfectly fine.
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