Author Topic: Tracy Hickman's rant  (Read 8472 times)

Fellfrosch

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Tracy Hickman's rant
« on: September 13, 2002, 03:55:31 PM »
Apparently, the recent issue of Dragon magazine contained a sealed section for "Mature Audiences Only," probably as a prelude to the release of "The Book of Vile Darkness." The sealed section contains rules for some pretty vile necromancy and some overtly sexual necrophilia, among other things. Tracy Hickman goes off on the subject very emotionally, which you can read here: http://enworld.cyberstreet.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=24200

There are some of his points that I don't agree with (for instance, I think the Comic Book Code did more harm than good), but he also makes some undeniable and prescient points. So I ask--is there a way to include evil in your games without going over the top? Is it better to stay, as Hickman suggests, on the squeaky-clean, family-friendly side of the hobby, or is there something to be gained from a darker, more serious game? When does it become too much?
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2002, 08:00:45 PM »
The linking it to terrorists went a little far.  But I do agree with some of the things.  First off one thing he didn't mention was the fact that they sent out the "mature" section to all dragon subscribers.  And there are a decent amount that are under 18.  That's not good, If I was a parent and wizards sent that to my house I'd be furious.  It's almost like that Ambocrobie and Finch catalouge controversy.  I personaly don't have a problem with pepole playing that type of game.  I personaly wouldn't but as Bill O'Riley say: "I don't care what you do in private as long as it dosen't hurt anyone."  I think it is a liitle bad for D&D's image to have wizards publishing this.  It is different then a 3rd party.  It's saying the Wizards endorces maybe even engourages (in the extream view) that type of game.  I can see where Tracey is comming from (not just as a Mormon), he was with TSR from the late '70's on if I'm correct and had to deal with people constantly saying that D&D was evil and Demonic.  He worked to counter that view.  Now from what I udersatand (and I haven't read the dragon article) most of the book reads like a cheep horror flick.  But their appears to be detailed (how much, I don't know) necromantic rituals.  as well as sex cults and things like that.  I personaly think that If a person wants that stuff then they could add it, I don't think that Wizards should be supporting it in any way.
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2002, 08:16:50 PM »
I agree that the terrorist link is going a little too far but other than that I completely agree with Tracey Hickman. Books like that give all of role-playing a bad name. Sure it's just a game, but games are one of the most powerful learning and teaching tools available. Role-play is used A LOT by educators. Most studies find that role-playing helps in developing habits and retaining information. Role-playing games do this as well, but to a much smaller degree. I also find that the line between pretend and reality can be crossed over fairly easily. This isn't always a bad thing, in fact it can be a good thing. For example, role-players can learn social skills by pretending to do them in a session and then applying what they learn to a real situation. "The Book of Vile Darkness" doesn't seem to be giving that sort of encouragement.
Personally, I strongly discourage evil characters in my role-playing games and I give out punishments for performing evil acts (no matter what the rule-book says). I also try to avoid having completely evil villians, which keeps me from having to play evil characters and tends to make the story-line more interesting.
People that I have met who continually play evil players in role-playing games tend to be poeple I would rather not associate with and have some very bad habits and attitudes.
On a final note, I agree that "The Book of Vile Darkness" is for an immature-mature audience.
The Folly of youth is to think that intelligence is a subsitute for experience. The folly of age is to think that experience is a subsitute for intelligence.

Entsuropi

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2002, 08:55:02 AM »
*sigh*
this is why i make certain not to discuss tabletop, video games or roleplaying games with highly religious people. it just isnt worth the effort.
oh and what is the comic book code?
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2002, 09:01:24 AM »
oh and if i hear one more person defining people who swear as automaticly immature, there's gonna be hell to pay.
If you're ever in an argument and Entropy winds up looking staid and temperate in comparison, it might be time to cut your losses and start a new thread about something else :)

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2002, 10:32:35 AM »
Screw it, I'm buying crayons and paper. I can imagineer my own adventures! Wheeee!

Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding.


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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2002, 01:04:28 AM »
Why does that article have a reference to Roy Lichtenstein? It seems like they are scraping for some sense of false validation.
The Folly of youth is to think that intelligence is a subsitute for experience. The folly of age is to think that experience is a subsitute for intelligence.

Kid_Kilowatt

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2002, 02:48:15 AM »
What do you mean by "false validation"?  Comic books deserve validation as a proper art form - we're having a discussion elsewhere on this forum on the validity of video games as art, for crying out loud.  No video games have ever won a Pulitzer Prize as far as I know.  The reference to Roy Lichtenstein is, I believe, meant only to show the seeping of comic-book visuals into more mainstream media, specifically high-brow artistic media.  And, as far as the Comics Code goes, I think there's little question that the Code did, as Fell said, far more harm than good.  

The comparison as Hickman uses it is unfair, and the over-the-top, reactionary tone of the piece kind of undermines the validity of many of his arguments.  He admits that Wizards sets up a rating system, showing that a wide range of "grittiness" can be deemed appropriate depending on what's appropriate for the people involved in particular campaign, but then he claims that Wizards goes on to "dismantle" the vestiges of ethical guidance in roleplaying.  Obviously, Wizards is not espousing the use of "dark" elements in Lighthearted (LG) or even Standard Gaming (SG).  The purpose of the Book of Darkness is to provide resources for GMs wishing to run the more gritty Mature or Vile Games.  It's unfair for Hickman to misrepresent the motives of Wizards like this and it makes him look like an irrational moralist.

Not being familiar with the materials, I'd venture to guess that I would be okay with the idea of Mature Gaming but somewhat dubious about Vile Gaming.  I agree with Sprig that the materials are not appropriate for teen gamers, but I wonder if the policing of content in RPGs is not the responsibility of parents rather than the industry.  Should Wizards second-guess all their content because they know they have 12-year-old subscribers, or should parents keep better track of what kind of roleplaying their kids get involved with?  Roleplaying is a good vehicle for education and social development, but that doesn't mean that the industry should only produce PG-rated roleplaying resources.  For mature gamers wishing to explore darker subjects that are part of real life, resources should be available to help them accomplish this.

I seriously question the exploration of "dark" content with evil PCs, though.  There MIGHT be circumstances where a group of highly well-adjusted individuals could attempt to explore deviance and evil from the point of view of sociopathic individuals, but - well, what are the chances that well-adjusted people would be interested in doing something like that, right?  I believe that there is a place for mature themes in roleplaying, but - like normal people confronting such things (abuse, rape, extreme violence) in real life - I believe that, when such themes arise, they should be thrown up as something for the protagonists to react to and deal with.  I don't think I would ever tolerate a player wishing to do such things as a PC.  However, that doesn't mean that such themes should be excluded from roleplaying entirely - if roleplaying is useful as an educational tool, it can be used to educate individuals about real and difficult issues where appropriate.  I wouldn't be averse to participating in a standard (fantasy or scifi) roleplaying campaign where characters had to confront issues like pedophilia, genocide, or violent insanity in a realistic and mature way.

If Wizards have erred here (and I think they have), they're greatest sin is carelessness.   They should have been more responsible in their release of these materials and in the ways that they encourage gamers to use them.  I think that "vile darkness" is not something that should be removed entirely from the roleplaying market, but it should be marketed responsibly and maturely.  At worst, Wizards has figured that young adults and teens are into evil and they represent a great target audience for amoral and sociopathic roleplaying - if so, I would say, "SHAME ON YOU, WIZARDS OF THE COAST."

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2002, 04:27:37 AM »
out of interest, where would everyone say that vampire : masquerade and D20 cthulu fit in here? both are intended for mature audiences yet there is nothing stopping young people from buying them.
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2002, 12:13:34 PM »
Roy Lichtenstein used comic book images to mock the comic book industry. He wanted to show the stupidity of the comic book industry. He was an antagonist to comic books not a supportor.
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2002, 12:33:52 PM »
Vampire: Masquarade and Call of Cthulu are both examples of mature audiences only. I admit that I don't have a unbiased opinion about either. The only people I know who played Vampire were satan-worshipping drug addicts, really.
Also, parents do nothing to regulate what their kids are playing. Most just go into another room and go to sleep when their kids are playing an RPG. Maybe I'm already an embittered educator, but parents are often the least effective way of regulating media. Most simply are not involved enough in their kids lives to know what they are doing or thinking. If parents actually do something then why do so many high school kids listen to CDs with the explicit lyrics label on them?
From what I've read (interviews and announcements on wizards.com) about the Book of Vile Darkness, the designers really think that gamers think evil is something cool and are trying to market to that attitude. Even though it's labeled for mature audiences, Wizards still plans to make a large selling within the teenage market.
The Folly of youth is to think that intelligence is a subsitute for experience. The folly of age is to think that experience is a subsitute for intelligence.

Fellfrosch

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2002, 01:07:51 PM »
I know a lot of good stats for the video game market, but not RPGs, unfortunately. For example: 85% of video game purchases are mediated by an adult (meaning that an adult buys the game or that a child has an adult with him when he buys the game). Furthermore, 61% of video game players are 21 or older. So you could make a pretty strong case that parents are getting involved with their kids' media and helping to regulate it. On the other hand, you have to remember all the kids who bought GTA3 for their kids (despite the Mature rating and the hitmen and the hookers on the cover) and then complained that it was inappropriate for children. So some of the parents doing the regulating are really stupid.

What I do not know, but would very much like to know, is how involved parents are with RPG purchases. More than that, I want to know how involved they are with RPG playing (since an RPG, unlike a video game, can include anything you want regardless of the books involved). If the parents are making an effort to know what their kids are playing, and to restrict the "vile darkness"-style books that they object to, then I say good for them. The problem I see is that Wizards shipped their magazine to everyone, regardless of age. As a parent who would not allow my twelve-year-old to buy "The Book of Vile Darkness," (assuming I had a twelve-year-old, of course), I would be very upset if Wizards mailed an excerpt of that book directly to my child. If he gets the mail first, I've lost some of my opportunity to regulate that media. It's as if Playboy mailed a few sample pictures to my son and marked them "Attention 12-year-old boy: do not open this letter unless you want to see beautiful naked ladies."

At this point we arrive at a deeper level of media regulation--teach your kids proper morals instead of strict rules, and then in a situation like this they can make their own decisions. I agree with Kilowatt that there is a place for Mature gaming--I can't see myself enjoying an RPG that deals with pedophilia, but that's no reason for me to restrict other intelligent adults from making their own choice. That is why I think that rating systems (when properly applied) are so helpful--they let the individuals regulate their own media and that of their children. If the government or private industry were to enforce a new version of the Comic Code, it would cause more problems than it solved.
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2002, 01:32:07 PM »
heh. about the whole parents checkign what their children buy - if they dont do it with films and video games, do you think that they are gonna do it with what look to be textbooks? and remember that children often dont want to share info - i hate it when my parents try to control my every move and purchase.
i do agree with fell about the inappropriateness of sending out excerpts tho.

oh BTW fell. there is a strong argument for the linking of RPGs to tabletop. you play the most evil armies in tabletop. just a thought.

i would like to note here that "evil" is a very nebulous term. a drug dealer - evil. someone who murders that dealer to prevent drugs from getting to their children - evil. murder = evil. see what i mean? if a spy corrupts and subverts the population of a town to allow an invading army to destroy said town, that is also "evil".  if we were to look at it from a certain perspective, all PC's in DnD are responsible for murder, theft, handling of stolen goods, looting the dead, breaking and entering. it all rests upon a certain fact - that heros in fantasy often make their own definition of what is good - just as we all do. i feel that it is good if a person who sexually assaulted and killed young children is executed, but left wing people feel that it is evil.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2002, 01:33:05 PM by Charlie82 »
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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2002, 04:35:34 PM »
A few clarifications to add here and there:

1) I have played Vampire The Masquerade and Call of Cthulhu.  I've never worshipped Satan - I don't even like the guy.  I've also never been addicted to any drugs (beyond a casual acquaintance with a little demon called caffeine).  And I never wear my cape in public.  Stereotyping is an ugly thing, and people who stereotype others are all hunch-backed, cross-eyed twits.

2) Regardless of Roy Lichtenstein's motivation, his art represented a concrete reference to comic book art in the realm of "high art".  PBS's use of this reference as evidence of the gradual movement of comic art into the mainstream is entirely justified.  There's also plenty of room for debate as to whether he was pointing out the stupidity of cliche in comic art, or if he in fact loved the idea of cliche and combined the visual cliches of comic books with his training in abstract expressionism to create something thought-provoking.  He talked about having confused comic book ideals with reality as a child, and the affect that had on him later in life.  At best, I would argue that he had a love/hate relationship with popular culture, a la Andy Warhol.  It would be difficult to characterize him as an "antagonist" of comic books.

3) Evil is a nebulous term in real life.  However, in some roleplaying, evil is very concrete.  It is a defined point on a linear good-evil scale (well, not entirely linear if you account for lawfulness and chaos) in the D&D system, which is where a lot of the conflict about evil in roleplaying originates.  I think that the current views of the public on the morality of roleplaying would be much different if D&D had not introduced such a simplistic view of "alignment" with good, evil, and neutral personality types.

4) For the record, I never said I "enjoyed" roleplaying campaigns centering on pedophilia.  Or Boy Scout camp-outs, which amount to the same thing in my mind.

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Re: Tracy Hickman's rant
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2002, 05:12:47 PM »
Quote
I have played Vampire The Masquerade and Call of Cthulhu.  I've never worshipped Satan - I don't even like the guy.  I've also never been addicted to any drugs (beyond a casual acquaintance with a little demon called caffeine).  And I never wear my cape in public.

Really?  When we use to play D&D I could have sworn I saw you sniffing markers.  On second thought maybe it was Faith  ;D  Anyway Kid I don'y beleave 42 was sterotypeing.  A) he dosen't know you all that well and probaly had no idea you've played Vampire. b) Also I've herd his stories about some of the people.  But you have to admit a lot of people who play that game regulary are a little messed up.

Now to fells argument, one of the biggest things that help restrict the buying of explicit lyrics cd's and R movies and violent VG is that most of the stores are supposed to check.  It's not a federal law (one tries to get past every year or so but dosen't).  But there was a big initive by retail stores to try to limit who they sell thoes to.  big chains like Walmart and Target is comanie policy to check ID's.  And the mall stores (ie babages, suncost, Software ECT) are suppose to card to (from what I undersand it is thier companie policy to do so, but I;m not sure how strick they are).  point 2 is that both CD's, VG, have gotten a lota press time, so parents know more about them and know that's something to watch.
Now I would say that most people buy their RPG stuff in comic shops.  Most of these are small locialy owned stores.  Most of these stores probaly don't have any carding policy and unless they were trying to have a family frendly atmosphere (IE games people play or Hobby Town) I doubt they would check.  Most of those stores don't make a lot of money (at least  out here) and why deny themself the extra income.
And while RPG have had a little press now and then (none very good) they've never gotten as much or fearce of coverage as the CD lyrics and Video Game debate (both which still go on)  Both are billion Dollar industries and RPG aren't, so that's one reason that the others get more coverage.  My parents never questioned the RPG's me and EUOL have bought but I have gotten questioned on VG before.  Also my highschool friends who played parents never questioned the contenet of the books, and trust me some of their parents were super religous and got on their kids case about everything else.
Screw it, I'm buying crayons and paper. I can imagineer my own adventures! Wheeee!

Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding.