Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thawing Fantasy: Dismantling Colonialism

As an April Fool's day prank someone posted a quick and breezy questionnaire for "tabletop RPG and LARP makers!" With only thirty questions, these questions under the pithy, duck's nut title of "#AprilTTRPGmaker" how could it not be any fun? Unwary readers thinking that anybody wants to casually ask them 30 damn questions about their views reposted it. What the process was about was actually about kicking the participant in groin as often as the survey could. And it puts a ribbon on the self torture with the tag "No Imposter Syndrome allowed." Then it implores the reader "Use any social media" wanting me to spread a meme like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or something.

It starts out a little strange. It's like an application. The first questions instill a little bug of trying to prove oneself to the unseen author, hopefully one day the recipient of the answers:
"1. Introduce yourself." Umm, to whom? Everybody on my feed knows me.
"2. Describe your work." Is "I already one have with each product that I have for sell" a good answer? Once again, everybody on my feed knows me already. Who am I applying to?
"3. Key to your making process?" Yes. Descriptions are indeed key to selling making money when releasing items. Or is the poster asking "What is key to (my game-)making process?" The answer to that question is the ability to talk about what I want to.

Then it asks a few questions every "TTRPG Maker" likes to answer:
"4. Favorite type of game scenario?" Ones where I enjoy myself running them.
"5. Character or World Building?" World Building through the roles of the Characters.
"6. Long or short ttrpg texts?" On my phone? The shorter the better. Or is the meme designer asking how much prep? I write scenarios based off of designed setting notes. Quantification depends on the product and audience. It's not a binary process.
"7. How to increase accessibility?" By providing the products I write for sale on-line outside of the people that have sat down and played with me. I also use a hard copy distributor to game stores as well. That is what the question is about right?

Then things get a little detailed as well as a little pointed:
"8.  Favorite collaborators?" Whoever is working or has worked with me on a collaboration. Once again everyone knows me on my feed. I wish the meme provider would check out my website.
"9. How do your games distribute power among your players?" Depends on the setting. FRPG its usually magical items and level advancement, but that's wholly system dependent. The more a player is involved, I try to reward overcome challenges with perks afterwards so to speak though.

Then comes a loaded question. It's "Have you stopped beating your wife?" but for gamers.

"10. How are your games dismantling colonialism?" This is the first time that I have heard colonialism applied to RPGs. While Forgotten Realms paperbacks got into their fantasy worlds equivalents of central American colonialism by the Spaniards it was really sympathetic with the indigenous culture being oppressed. And Space 1889 got a little English, well talk to those writers specifically. Are you talking about paladins fighting demons and other PCs fighting goblins and orks? Who are the demons, goblins, and orks in the meme constructer's mind?

Like an amateur interrogator, the meme then throws in an innocuous question, still asking you to name names. The author is picturing the reader with a nail in their left palm, so they demand.

"11. Shoutout an unloved creator." I am not sure "shoutout" is a word. I would recommend Charlie Fleming of Rarr! I'm A Monster Games, but I swear he isn't guilty of whatever I am being accused of.

Having gotten a name to be listed by the interrogated when discovered, the meme gets down to soiling your soul.

"12. How to make work inclusive?" My answer has to be, "Work inclusive by including."  I speak both German and English poorly despite wanting to be a writer but this is poor grammar. Is the author a chatbot? A bit more seriously, come on already. FRPG and RPGs in general have been inclusive to the point of being full of cultural appropriation since TSR did some big book full of samurai and Shaolin monks sans any Yogi from south Asia. I think it is up to the gamer themselves to meet people on their own terms and work from there.
"13. Participate in streamed games?" Thank you for asking and not just yelling. 
"14. How are your game mechanics and Characters intersectional?" My Crawlspace scenarios are noted for bringing PCs starting from disparate starting points together through means of their Character motivations and plot obstacles. (Looks up "socially intersectional") That's not what the author wanted answered, I wasn't supposed to get this right. They need to get a better grasp on vocabulary.
"15. Favorite tropes to subvert?"

That last question, I can get back on my feet again.
"15. Favorite tropes to subvert?" Orks and half-orcs you asshole meme author. I've have David Carridine as a half-orc monk. I always thought of them as Germans raiding Roman territories or Vandals trying to claim north Africa from well founded elves of the Sahara, not oppressed minorities. Of course we never got to have a real empire so much for for your "colonialism" crap.

I spit out a tooth and realize that we're at the halfway point.
"16. How does your environment inform your work?" Paperback distribution and comic books available on-line. I also save social media for roleplayers as contacts.
"17. How does your identity influence your work? " It's easier for me to get through airline checkpoints so I have gotten to travel a lot? I swear I'm not guilty!
"18. What are some underlying messages in your work?" One in particular is that you should buy my work then make you own conclusions.
"19. Favorite themes to explore?" Yes. I have them. Once again my friends on my feed already know them.
"20. A game that you want to make you think no one would play" The life of the meme's author in third grade English. I suspect she is from Slovakia.

So we're at the 2/3rd's point, so the questions change tone. A little softer, more personal once again, thinking that my discomfort reading their presumption and incoherence here has somehow been a discovery for me.
"21. What external factors do you struggle with to create?" Mostly folks trying to grab a few bucks by getting money from on-line accounts while promising services to a big public that would rather play in decent RPG sessions. RPGs swerved out to card games and now to board games, but somehow the concept exist beyond brands. Not because of the this or that of merchandising trend but because of the work of the creator and the audiences's experiences.
"22. How are you trying to improve the ttrpg community?" That is not an FRPG that I want to play in.
"23. Mentoring/Being mentored by?" Once again I am speaking to a feed that already knows me. No names anymore, just take me to the gallows.
"24. Favorite RPG thing to create?" This decade? Pyramid-heads. Just awesome.

And then things go into a kind of fishing mode for 6th-graders.
"25. A rad diversity consultant?" Me.
"26. Favorite on-line community?" Mine.
"27. How do you market your work?" I'm thinking about poorly worded questionnaires presented as social network memes now.
"28. What tools help you create?" Free time and a means to write down ideas.
"29. Exciting 2019 RPG trends?" Everything that I plan to publish.

Before the meme can release the participant it has to admit that it needs help.
"30.  What would you change if you were in charge of  TTRPG LAND!!! ?" To which "There is no such thing as a ttrpg community." I answer. "I'd like to see my hobby devoid of consultants and sycophants." Failing that, I'll settle for great times at conventions and in private.

And now it's time for a shower and a drink.

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