Are fantasy RPGs inherently conservative?

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AuthorTopic: Are fantasy RPGs inherently conservative?
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #25
Just because something is labelled poorly or inaccurately, as is so often the case with ideologies and movements, does not invalidate the label; it makes it unfortunate, perhaps, but when enough people use the label, it is the labelling word that has to stretch its definition to accomodate the change in use, and not the faction or school of thought that has to find a new name. My description of this (unfortunately) is not descriptivist, it's simply the way things are. "Conservative" and "liberal" at least lasted longer (in the US) as meaningful words than "democratic" and "republican" did.

If the word "conservatism" was suddenly being used in this way, then I'd be right behind you, but this is an old habit.

In the case of this thread, Zorro was actually quite clear in defining his use of the word. The fault lies with everyone else, who apparently did not pay attention to that and assumed Zorro was talking about things he wasn't.

Meanwhile, I think "romanticist" is a telling way of describing Final Fantasy, but the Bush administration? Puh-leeze...

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #26
quote:
Originally written by Good-Looks the Playboy:

In the case of this thread, Zorro was actually quite clear in defining his use of the word. The fault lies with everyone else, who apparently did not pay attention to that and assumed Zorro was talking about things he wasn't.
If we can't agree on the definition of a label, what's the use of a label? The terms Zorro used - conservative and liberal - are loaded and not well-defined terms, regularly used for other purposes.

What Zorro is really doing is asking whether it is the case that most RPGs adopt the ancient Greek paradigm of kalos kai agathos, which was evident in Homer's Iliad. The answer to this rhetorical question is: yes, most do. That he associated "kalos kai agathos" with "conservative" is what I objected to - it's apples and oranges.

[ Tuesday, April 11, 2006 14:57: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Nuke and Pave
Member # 24
Profile Homepage #27
Let me see if I understood people's definitions correctly:

Zorro:
Liberal - reformer fighting established order
Conservative - supporter of established order

Aran - ?

Slartucker - ?

Smuggler:
Conservative - "right wing" in American politics

Zeviz:
Liberal - the kind of people who look at a fairy tale and see an example of racist and sexist propaganda. :P More seriously, I meant people calling themselves "progressives" - "far left" in American politics.
Conservative - "right wing" in American politics
(I consider myself moderate: leaning to the left on some issues and to the right on others.)

Alorael:
Liberal - "left wing" in American politics
Conservative - "right wing" in American politics

CPeters:
Liberal - reformer
Conservative - supporter of established order

TM:
Liberal - liberatarian (opposing any government regulation)
Conservative - supporter of established order

Drew:
Same as TM?

So we have 3 definitions of Liberal: reformer (Zorro and CPeters), "political left" (Smuggler, Zeviz, and Alorael), and "liberatarian" (TM and Drew)
and 2 definitions of Conservative: opposing change (Zorro, CPeters, TM and Drew), and "political right" (Smuggler, Zeviz, and Alorael)

Note that by TM's definitions, "Liberal" is not the opposite of "Conservative" (if a Liberatarian party was in power, its members would be "conservative", because they'd be the ones fighting for current order).

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However well placed word, unlike a well placed sword,
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Posts: 2649 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #28
RPGs often involve toppling the evil Empire (liberal) or preserving the good kingdom (conservative). In some cases, it's restoring the good kingdom after an evil faction or individual takes power. If the faction is simple highly restrictive and not engaging in wanton slaughter of civilians, it could be theoretically as legitimate as the preceding regime.

How do you label this last case? Are the heroes liberal or conservative crusaders for bringing down the oppressors?

—Alorael, who thinks most RPGs sidestep the issue by making the "new regime" a front for an organization or individual trying to bring about the end of the world in a horrible way. Liberals and conservatives by all definitions agree that the end of the world is bad.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
BANNED
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Profile Homepage #29
There well and truly is no left wing in American politics.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 5969
Profile #30
The violence in fantasy games in general could be a type of conservatism. You wouldn't see Our Heroes coming back from an encounter with Grah-Hoth or Emperor Hawthorne or Rentar-Ihrno or what have you, waving a document and proclaiming "I have in my hand… peace in our time!" (Right there under Special Items. =D) Liberals see negotiation as the solution to so many problems, but appeasement and/or negotiation often won't work. For example, when they just plain want to kill you. (Talk: Select someone. Creature is hostile.) Although I've never played the registered portions of any Spiderweb games (alas, alack), I think it's safe to say from the little I know of Exile that the Empire is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes, with the dissidents being imprisoned (or, in this case, Exiled) and such. Negotiation with such powers in the real world has proven mostly useless.

However, I've noticed a lot of fantasy games and novels with very liberal messages. Take Tales of Symphonia, for instance. It has fighting in it (notably, for different reasons from Exile, i.e. the main characters are trying to regenerate the world, and the world is dangerous– since it needs to be regenerated and all, that's what you'd expect), but look at the story line: without giving too much away, the motivation of the bad guy is that his people were discriminated against by the rest of the world, so he hates everyone back, and the moral of the story is basically not to hate people for no reason.

Also, a major religious organisation in the Tales of Symphonia world turns out to be an instrument created by the bad guys to control people (they think they're engaging in religious rituals, but they're actually achieving something the bad guys want). The novels of Philip Pullman also come to mind for their deliberate anti-religiousness. So, no, I don't think fantasy RPG's are inherently conservative. The author can change the storyline and concept of the game to fit his ideological needs.

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A C, an E-flat, and a G walk into the Tower of the Magi.
Ambrin walks up to them and says, "Hey! It's the Triad!"
Kelner snorts and says, "Pretty minor Triad if you ask me."
Posts: 242 | Registered: Thursday, June 16 2005 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #31
quote:
Originally written by Erika Maroonmark:

You wouldn't see Our Heroes coming back from an encounter with Grah-Hoth or Emperor Hawthorne or Rentar-Ihrno or what have you, waving a document and proclaiming "I have in my hand… peace in our time!"
That is exactly the ending of A3, though, with Prazac.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #32
False religion as a force of evil is an ancient cliché of fantasy in general, RPGs included. It's been established almost as long as the benevolent god(s).

—Alorael, who has come to approach RPGs similarly to Kaplan's alleged approach to standardized tests. Context isn't necessary to know the answer to a question, and context isn't necessary to spot the hero, the villain, the villain who will become a hero, the hero who will become a villain, and so on.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 5969
Profile #33
quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

quote:
Originally written by Erika Maroonmark:

You wouldn't see Our Heroes coming back from an encounter with Grah-Hoth or Emperor Hawthorne or Rentar-Ihrno or what have you, waving a document and proclaiming "I have in my hand… peace in our time!"
That is exactly the ending of A3, though, with Prazac.

Wow. >< *absolutely DIES* Well, in *most* games you wouldn't. Man, I really need to buy the whole thing of these games...

[ Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:02: Message edited by: Erika Maroonmark ]

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A C, an E-flat, and a G walk into the Tower of the Magi.
Ambrin walks up to them and says, "Hey! It's the Triad!"
Kelner snorts and says, "Pretty minor Triad if you ask me."
Posts: 242 | Registered: Thursday, June 16 2005 07:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #34
quote:
Originally written by Zeviz:

Let me see if I understood people's definitions correctly:

Zorro:
Liberal - reformer fighting established order
Conservative - supporter of established order


Well - I hadn't really intended for a definition of "liberal" to be extrapolated from my definition of "conservative".

I guess I'm more with TM on this issue. I see the Liberal/Conservative axis as a false dichotomy used to distinguish political differences among modern western politicians and the public. In that sense, I prefer the word I used instead of liberal - revolutionary - to describe the stereotypical evil forces in an RPG. They seek not to reform the good kingdom, but overthrow it completely. The rallying cry is "kill the lot of them!"

And this is also at the heart of what bothers me about a number of RPGs, especially those in which the perfect little white and pretty kingdom is being menaced by the dark and ugly evil forces. And, It also seems that in RPGs that do have an evil empire to overthrow, do so on the pretext of reestablishing a bygone era in which the perfect little white and pretty kingdom ruled before being overthrown by ruthless and evil usurpers. That's one of the things that makes Exile/Avernum and Geneforge more attractive to me - they may be stereotypical RPGs in a lot of ways, but they definitely do not buy into the above-described trope.

I used to be a pretty big fan of RPGs, but I'm definitely not such a fan anymore. Part of it is that I'm beginning to think that video games in general are becoming more and more influential as storytelling mediums and sometimes those stories (consciously and unconsciously) are pushing an agenda of which I may not even be aware. For instance, was the game "Civilization" designed by politically conservative or politically liberal people? A lot of the basic in-game responses might change depending on the response to that question. How angry do people get if you raise their taxes? What is the cost-benefit of choosing communism or fascism as your form of government?

The problem is not that games have political content (I think this is, on balance, a very good thing since it introduces a level of conversation into the medium that isn't possible if you restrict yourself to the political content of pong). I'm troubled that I, as a gamer, don't often question the underlying assumptions that drive the games I play.

So I've begun to question, and now I find it difficult to enjoy the typical RPG fare. I find most to be relentlessly juvenile, often genocidal and sometimes racist. I don't mind it when it involves over-the-top silliness in a shoot-em-up game, or even an "actionRPG" like Diablo. But in games that ask me to engage with it on a deeper level, like a typical RPG, all too often reminds me of the famous Pogo cartoon ("We have met the enemy, and it is us."). And I find I can no longer really enjoy the game on a more basic level in the same way I can't enjoy a Tom Clancy novel (despite loving a good spy thriller) because of the political baggage.

Z

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Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #35
quote:
Originally written by Butt Paladin:

There well and truly is no left wing in American politics.
For the purpose of the debate, I suppose we can take "American left wing" to mean the closest American equivalent to a left wing.

Which is a joke when compared to any other country, of course.

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Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #36
quote:
Originally written by Alorael Seven:

Kaplan
Ewwwwwww. TPR fo' life!

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

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The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Dollop of Whipped Cream
Member # 391
Profile Homepage #37
quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

quote:
Originally written by Alorael Seven:

Kaplan
Ewwwwwww. TPR fo' life!

I'll have to agree, my friend took Kaplan 3 times, not once or twice but three times and only improved her score by 200.

[ Sunday, April 16, 2006 14:51: Message edited by: Dominican Desire ]

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Infiltrator
Member # 5410
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Kuranes:
quote:
For the purpose of the debate, I suppose we can take "American left wing" to mean the closest American equivalent to a left wing.

Which is a joke when compared to any other country, of course.

a canadian friend of mine studied at penn state, where he had the audacity to defend universal medicare and was promptly labelled a communist. in canada he votes for conservative/reform parties and is a strong proponent of market forces. the american left wing is every other countries right wing (liberal extension of thought not to be directly applied)

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Posts: 687 | Registered: Wednesday, January 19 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by Astatine:

the american left wing is every other countries right wing
This might be true now, but keep in mind that European Social Democracy has been all but obliterated-- it's a hollow shell-- and it doesn't look like things are going to improve for a good, long while.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #40
quote:
Originally written by Zorro:

I used to be a pretty big fan of ...
Z

Well, your reasons actually fit for a lot of toys (RPGS are toys) that have existed in the 20th century. Toys guns have been dismissed or desired. GI Joe and Barbie, Legos, 101 in 1 Chemistry sets, etc. all teach some social conformity which is desired by the parents or other gift giver. The social agenda of the toy manufacturer may be less direct than with the written or spoken word, but it is still there.

My parents exposed me to a wide spectrum of toy options (except guns, because they were anti-gun) and let me decide on my own. It may be more difficult today, as society has changed some and the choices can typically be between bad and less bad.

As far as you original hypothesis, I see Vogel's world as being essentially static, with an established and long-lived political structure. It always offers the PC the option of fighting against an established order (E.O.), and occasionally of fighting along side the established order. I'm thinking of ASR, Geneforge, and to a lesser extent DwtD. VotD was an interesting case, where you are retained by the E.O. to clean up a mess, which ends up (maybe) making the PC have negative feelings toward the E.O.

I guess Jeff does hail from areas of the country that have had hazardous waste problems of their own...

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quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

Well, I'm at least pretty sure that Salmon is losing.


Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Guardian
Member # 6670
Profile Homepage #41
By Zorro:
quote:
I used to be a pretty big fan of RPGs, but I'm definitely not such a fan anymore. Part of it is that I'm beginning to think that video games in general are becoming more and more influential as storytelling mediums and sometimes those stories (consciously and unconsciously) are pushing an agenda of which I may not even be aware. For instance, was the game "Civilization" designed by politically conservative or politically liberal people? A lot of the basic in-game responses might change depending on the response to that question. How angry do people get if you raise their taxes? What is the cost-benefit of choosing communism or fascism as your form of government?
Alpha Centauri is a perfect example. Not an RPG, I know, but take a look at the faction choices, and the way they are portrayed.

By Scandium:
quote:
a canadian friend of mine studied at penn state, where he had the audacity to defend universal medicare and was promptly labelled a communist. in canada he votes for conservative/reform parties and is a strong proponent of market forces. the american left wing is every other countries right wing (liberal extension of thought not to be directly applied)
So true, although this is a (relatively) recent development. Before Tommy Douglas and others, anyone in Canada thinking the same would be labelled the same. Now, anyone in Canada thinking that portions of medicare should be privatized is labelled American.

Meh. I really can't think of an RPG model that doesn't involve Baddies that either control the world, or want to take over. Unless the developer is overtly pushing a political agenda, I don't mind playing a game that has an ideological viewpoint for or against my own.

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Darth Vader was so bad/And by the way, he's Luke's dad/He kissed his sister/His hand got caught cut off/In a galaxy far, far away/Luke has had a bad day
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Posts: 1509 | Registered: Tuesday, January 10 2006 08:00
Electric Sheep One
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I suppose it probably is more often the case that the evil side is threatening the established social order. This is probably because an established social order must have a lot of characters in it. If the player had to fight them all, the GPU would explode — or the player would get bored and never buy the expansion packs. Whereas the social order can be threatened by a few big polygons, and killing big polygons builds a desire to kill bigger polygons in the sequel.

Of course, a game could try to leave out the social order completely; but asking the player to save thousands of faceless peasants is cheaper motivation than creating a few NPCs worth saving. (Make that, quite a few worth saving: your motivation has to suffice for killing hundreds of bad polygons, without worrying that maybe orcs have needs, too.) So you always end up fighting the few, for the many. And since your game can't properly represent the many even as good guys, the many are loyal subjects of some Good King Polygon.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
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I don't know anything about any test prep companies except for an article about Mr. Kaplan a while ago that described how he could do moderately well on tests without reading the questions at all. Gaming the system is a learnable skill! (I'm sure TPR also teaches it.)

Alpha Centauri is more parody of all political systems as extremes than any serious commentary. I've always been a bit puzzled by Civ 2's government decisions, though. Communism is enormously efficient and quite powerful. Fundamentalism shines in everything but growth and science.

—Alorael, who happens to be an Alpha Centauri fan. What other game lets you nerve staple your citizens and then recycle them? Some (and only some) of its atmosphere is rather reminiscent of Fallout in a good way.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00

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