Friday, March 26, 2010

Still more on controversial topics

Again via Boardgame News and the Paper Money podcast, there's a protest planned on the upcoming game based on King Phillip's War. I wrote about this in an earlier post here. The protestors seem not to know much about the game - one of the comments indicates that they think the goal of the game is to repeat the massacre of Native Americans, while the real game looks to have an Indian side and a colonist side and replays the military struggle between them.

Obviously, King Phillip's War is a tough subject historically, and is viewed by many as a crime perpetrated on the tribes involved. I'm not sure that view is historically accurate - not that there weren't war crimes committed by colonists, since there certainly seem to have been, but that there was a broader context and conflict in which these crimes were undertaken, and that conflict wasn't about the massacres, and involved bad actions by many participants on two distinct sides. The game focuses on the military struggle, which was apparently instigated by the Wampanoag chief Metacom, known by the English as King Phillip, albeit in response to colonial expansion and domination. Given the complex nature of the conflict and the focus of the game, I don't see the culpability there for the game designer. But then I'm descended from the colonists, not those who were murdered, displaced, and ill-treated. Maybe any reference to this event is painful, even 330 years later, and having it reenacted in something as trivial as a boardgame is an insult. But there are many, many games based on historical events, often bloody ones, especially in the realm of wargaming, and it's unusual that any of them attract protest.

I guess there would be two ways to respond here as the designer and publisher. One would be to try to point out that the game (if I understand it correctly) doesn't attempt to excuse the colonists' massacre of Indian families, includes both sides of the conflict, and that it's actually an opportunity to educate about these historical events and their sad outcome, and that the protesters don't seem to know what the game is actually about. That's the current approach, I think, and I'm not sure how successful that is going to be. The other is to cave - to pull the game, apologize, and give up. That's easier to do here, because they're only in the pre-order stage - if they actually had 3,000 of these in boxes, you're looking at a big loss. They might also try just waiting to see if the outrage is sustained or fades away. None of these options is attractive, I'm sure. Not a good choice to be facing.

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