Tuesday, June 4, 2019

My thoughts on Sword Dream

So, some OSR players left the OSR to found their presumably holier-than-thou new version of "adventure gaming". More open-minded, more welcoming to everyone and their dog, more inclusive, simply: so much more better and politically correct than that old scumbag, OSR. So much better. I mean, so, so much better.

"Sword Dream" is the name of that latest joke. Doesn't it sound like a mid-80s softcore porn flick featuring big haired ladies, and gentlemen with exuberant chest hair? Cue the 80s Casio soundtrack.

(In short: Leave your FUCKING politics out of the hobby, you geniuses.)

9 comments:

  1. Norbert, I love you, and this is why I won't just close this tab with a sigh like I do every time I read something long the lines of 'keep your politics out of...". Instead, I'll just try to explain why you can't say that anymore.

    While you, me, and a lot of gamers see the way we play games as apolitical, it is not to other, less privileged people. You, me, and a lot of gamers found the OSR welcoming because almost everyone was like us. People of colour, trans people, and other minorities have different views, experiences, and sensibilities.

    Is too much to ask to take these differences into consideration? Asking for politics to be left out of a conversation or community is a way to say "I'm happy the way things are. And I don't care if that doesn't work for you. You can stay out."

    Which you are entitled to say. Just know what you are saying.

    Peace, E.

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    1. Eric, brother, thank you for your comment. I really mean it. The problem I see with that kind of politicized OSR is as follows: In all the years I've been playing, I played with everyone who wanted to play. Heck, I invited people to play with us, and they were as diverse as they come in a university environment.

      I played with gays and people of color, and I play with people of wildly differing weltanschauungen (both political and philosophical). Good friends of mine are gay, I marry gay couples, for heaven's sake! And yes, even if this sounds too cliché, but yes, I have friends who are 'people of color'. We're all humans, I don't care of you're white, black, green, orange, straight, gay, multigendered or whatnot. I don't give a flying fuck about this. As long as you're a decent person, we're good.

      And that's also the experience BOTH I (male, white, straight) AND my gay and POC friends have made in all these years of playing: There has always been a huge tolerance – maybe just because rpgs used to be a hobby for people who don't fit into any perceived norm easily.

      Playing with all kinds of people was the norm up until a few years ago. And "all kinds of people" included those the (mostly white) self-proclaimed guardians of political correctness claim to be hated on or discriminated against.

      Eric, I'm not happy the way things are. Because the way I see it, the constant barrage of attacks against the evil old white men of the OSR (and in general) cause the schism between "us" and "them" – but before political activism in gaming, that rift did not exist (with a few minimal exceptions).

      Do you see where I'm coming from?

      Peace,
      Norbert

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    2. I see where you're coming from. And judging by what you're telling me, you lead a more inclusive life than I do =)

      From what I've seen, the idea of Sword Dream isn't so much an attack against white men, as it is an attempt at disassociation from exactly three arseholes: Zak, Pundit, and Venger, along with the remaining few trolls who follow them.

      TBH my eyes have glazed over several times reading the 'manifesto' everyone links to. I don't think it's a great starting point for a new movement. A lot of people have started to label their work Adventure Gaming, which I like just as much. Sword Dream does ring like a badly translated 1990s JRPG though ;)

      Anyway, the fact remains that whatever we do, a lot of gamers associate the OSR with nostalgia (the good and the bad kind), D&D clones, obligatory dungeoncrawl blood baths, and the aforementioned arseholes. Starting over would be an efficient way of welcoming new voices without having to explain everything every time.

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  2. Chest hair and softcore are cool. Stop being a baby.

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  3. There are some of us who are abandoning the OSR. Reasons I've given and seen others give:
    1) Too much artpunk.
    2) Not enough TSR D&D.
    3) An overly idealized and probably inaccurate definition of "old school."

    Is there a political element too? Sure, but it's not a core reason; it's more like the straw breaking the camel's back. When a loudmouth like Venger S. or RPG Pundit spews out some stupid internet screed aimed at politicizing the OSR, or claiming it for the Right, or whatever the crap they're trying to do, it makes those of us who lean to the Left, who might otherwise be inclined to ignore them, or maybe on a bad day to go argue with them, instead take stock of the whole picture (plus the Zak thing) and go, "eh, fine, you can have this crapsack" -- and then walk away and not feel so bad about having lost something.

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    1. John, thank you for your comment. Basically, you're making the same point here – politicizing the OSR (or any other hobby) is bullshit. And I absolutely agree with you, the foul spewings of the Pundit and others are just that – foul spewings.

      I've written about Zak here on the blog. I don't like him, I think he's a fucking coward, I've had several run-ins with him (after the last I kicked him for good), I think his art is totally overrated, and I think he's just not a good person to be around.

      But politicizing the OSR (and any other hobby) to turn it into a leftist hobby is the same bullshit. And Sword Dream is trying to do exactly that.

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  4. Screw those loudmouths. Who cares what those pseudo oh-so-awesome arses think? I've long ago started ignoring the names you mention (Venger, Zak and Pundit) and I don't miss anything in my life. None of them has ever added anything of value to my gaming table, but that's maybe just my personal preference for value.

    Oh and I agree that Sword Dream sounds totally ridiculous.

    OSR used to be a thing to categorize games, not the gamers. And that's what it'll be to me. OSR to me are the retro-clone games and the like derived from (O/A)D&D.
    There'll always be arseholes with arsehole opinions but instead of leaving anything, better kick them out and let them start their trve bullshit somewhere else.

    To me, any of those extreme politic views are OK to have, as everyone is entitled to their opinion. My opinion is, they're dumbasses, but hey, it's just my opinion, right.

    I don't see OSR as a group of people but as a group of games. There'll be bullshit games as well as fine games, but the label can stay the way it is, in my opinion. And you'll always have arseholes in any group, because people can be arseholes. No matter their political views.

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  5. My experience hasn't been as positive as the one you describe, Norbert. I've seen a gay player, a black player, and multiple women forced to deal with unacceptable situations in games. I've had to push back on a lot of bad behavior in this hobby over the past three decades. That said, I think "Sword Dream" ultimately boils down to misplaced good intentions. Abandoning the platform for a kinder, gentler clone will both decrease their visibility and diminish the spectrum of views being expressed in the original platform (the one new players will likely come to first).

    There is a fine line between being aware of the less desirable voices in the hobby and unintentionally amplifying them. I feel like most of these attempts to purge, or otherwise counter, the alt-right presence in the OSR have amplified it. I wish more of that energy were being put into content that provided an alternate perspective, rather than attempting to brand a new niche. I think that's where this idea fails for me. It is style over substance, where substance would have been a much more compelling way to get people interested in products that expand inclusivity.

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