Education is Activism

2008 Mar 19

Just something I’ve started talking about with Eero Tuovinen and Emily Care Boss, based on games they’ve previously worked on.


If this ever starts rolling, I want to talk to Julia Ellingboe, Gregor Hutton, and Jason Morningstar about it to, among others, as we consider using roleplaying to spread awareness about and better understand important bits of human experience. The Angolan Civil War is near the top of my list, after contemporary Tibet. What’s on yours? What global conflicts and issues could be better understood through game of Shock: or A Day in the Life?

4 Responses to “Education is Activism”

  1. Jmstar Says:

    Tiny bit confused – Mikkel Bækgaard wrote a game thing called A Day In The Life, but you are riffing on Emily’s game, right?

    I think a game/games that let players examine globalism from a variety of nuanced angles (for example, a game about global financial markets that played out like a Robert Altman movie) would be very compelling.

    I’d love to see a game about the Troubles where players were forced to smash cut between playing the RUC, Provos, and UVF in the 1970’s or something. Maybe that’s A Day in the War.

  2. Jason, I don’t know anything about Mikkel’s game. The title was an attempt to make Emily’s A Day In The War / Eero’s Zombies At The Door more generally applicable to all kind of conflicts, not just wars.

    The idea was there would be specific “modules” written by different folks that would allow you to examine different historical or contemporary issues. Both of your suggestions sound like things I’d play in a second.

  3. Jmstar Says:

    That’s what I figured. Mikkel’s thing is really interesting but not what you are talking about. I don’t see any problem with overlap because it’s perfect for both things in entirely different ways.

  4. Indy Pete Says:

    Gee, what a charged post. I’m not trolling here – honest – but I can’t help but feel that this would be dreadful to _actually_ play.

    The tagline of the proposed game is ‘Learn more about the issues real people face every day by imagining yourself there’.

    I’d feel like a tit roleplaying ‘real people dealing with real issues’. Please affect an upper-class English twit accent when reading the next sentence. “ooh, what jolly earnest fun Bunty. Let’s play at being nig nogs in the Congo! My my, they really do have it tough… can you imagine not having two square meals a day, let alone not having any lovely warm cocoa before retiring to bed for a barclays bank? Quite dreadful. I think I’ll go rest on the chaise-longue before this afternoon’s round of lawn-tennis, what ho?’

    It would just feel so incredibly patronising to a) be sitting in my apartment that has 24/7/365 electricity and clean running water and everything else we take for granted; and then to b) ‘pretend’ to be ‘real life people with real life issues’ when those actual real life people are dealing with real life issues just a short plane journey away. To me, that trivialises those folks’ lives into nice RP slots that we can play and then pack away nicely. Where is the moral-high-ground/fun/awareness to be had in sitting round a gaming table in my Nikes ‘playing’ at being sweatshop workers who work 18 hour days for a mere pittance? I wonder if there’s any way to monetize a game that we can sell to such sweatshop workers where they can ‘[l]earn more about the [hard] issues real people [in the USA] face every day by imagining yourself there [in their hard 9-5 jobs]. Imagine agonising over whether to buy Beck’s latest album or a latte-mocha-expresso-combo. If you succeed at your CreditRating roll you can narrate getting both the album and the coffee (Just The Way You Like It)!’ (Black humour alert there, and I appreciate that I am generalising.)

    What kind of person would it make me to play a goddamn ‘game’ about the Palestinian troubles, subsequent to which I leave with a raised ‘awareness’ of the Palestine issue which leads to me _doing nothing_ about that issue? (‘Great session there Jon. Cya next week… it’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay next sesh yeah?’) I guess it would make me human in the way lots of us humans are: cavalier, callous, unfeeling-except-in-a-superficial-way, and selfish. I just don’t want to play a game that highlights what a shitty person I am. (Apologies for swearing, but I feel it is appropriate in the context.)

    I know you can say ‘Well don’t play the game then’… but what is the point in playing such a game? To make folks feel like the crappy cowards they – we – are? IMO some nebulous goal of raising awareness is by itself not enough of a goal. Playing a game like this really changes the dynamic of an RP session, from ‘fun’ to something else entirely. I’m not an American, so the rich irony inherent in Yanks role-playing Palestinians suffering under the Israeli (American) cosh would bring some ugly truths to the table, and probably lead to nasty slanging matches between me and my Yank friends that would probably linger on long after the game was finished. (I appreciate that I am generalising.)

    I read posts and comments like this – – and I just don’t see the draw in making games about it. Throw me a bone here. Would the proposed game be wide enough in scope to accomodate nuances like… well, for example, my brother was posted in Afghanistan, and as far as he was concerned, the _whole war_ boiled down to him getting extra ‘danger money’ in his pay packet and a nice tour medal. The moral nuance: war is damned good for profit and pride. Is that the kind of education the game will foster? I’m not sure what kind of activism that leads to :|

    Again, what is the point in playing such a game? If it’s about ‘raising awareness’, then I personally don’t need – or want – to play a game about it: give me some literature/agit-prop about it and tell me what I can _do_ to address the issue you care so much about to bring up. If it’s about having ‘fun’, no thanks: I’ll take my Dwarf Trollslayer and go split some Orc heads and loot their stuff. (Joke.) Shucks, maybe I’ve just got the wrong end of the stick here? Have I? I am ‘open’ here, even if I have come across like a knob :o

    Glum Pete

    Please do excuse the uneven tone that veers wildly between irreverence and earnestness in the above text. I just kinda brain-dumped there.

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