A Post on Gaming, and Humanity, and Hate

Hi.

I want to talk to you about something.  And it’s unpleasant.  And I’m not going to be particularly cool about it.  I’m going to use some pretty aggressive language.  I’m going to speak in absolute terms.  I’m going to show you some upsetting pictures, or at least pictures which should upset you.

This is going to be some serious shit.  Like, ‘blatant racism and misogynist’ shit.

See there?  Already bumped this article up to PG-13.  It’s going to get a lot worse by the time I’m done.  I want you to stay with me, because I think this is worth talking about, but I didn’t want to spring any of this nastiness on you without a bit of a warning, ok?  Cool?  Cool.

So, again, hi.  Andrew here.  I’m that guy in the orange dot you glanced over when you started reading this article.  I’m the main reviewer and chief editor of Gameosity, and with the exception of Jess’ wildly prolific news coverage, very little appears on our tiny corner of the internet without me having touched it in some way.  I take a tremendous amount of pride in this site and in the work we do, and if you’ve ever bumped into me at a convention wearing Gameosity Green, you might know that I love games and am happy to talk to anyone about them for any length of time.

And the reason I love them so much is because of the way I have watched them bring people together.  I love playing games, I love having fun with my friends, I love the way a good game leaves everyone feeling great.

And it seems so innocent – Screengrab from the Guilty Facebook page

“Hello.  My name is Dino Cotton.  I love games, having fun with my friends, and pissing people off.”

That’s how the Guilty!: A Shamefully Fun Card Game Kickstarter preview started.  I’m 11 seconds in and already I know this game is going to be a dumpster fire.  Gameosity gets a lot of requests for Kickstarter previews these days.  We’re one of the sites that doesn’t charge (we just request a finished copy of the game), and lots of KS hopefuls find their way to us monthly.

And that’s great!  But for every Dr. Finn or Daily Magic brilliance we’re psyched to review, there are dozens of, well, duds.  And I cannot tell you how many of them pitch like this – ‘It’s a crazy party game where one person reads from one card and then other people read from their own cards and then do or say something outrageous and then everyone laughs and points are awarded!’.

Look people, the “Trying To Be Cards Against Humanity” genre is BURSTING.  Morbidly obese.  It’s seeing a specialist with the love and support of its family.   We get requests to review them at least once every other week (and we are permanently too busy to do so).

Because we’re sick of them.  Honestly, we’re sick of games about making your friends sound like assholes, or being assholes to your friends, or exposing your friends for the assholes they are, or exposing your asshole to your friends, or whatever.

Look, you can do that last thing all you want if your friends are cool with it, but it doesn’t need to be a card game, ok?

But our exhaustion with this petulant mutation of college drinking games is not why Guilty!: A Shamefully Fun Card Game is trash.  It’s not that my tender sensibilities can’t endure yet another ‘game’ where people say outlandish things that Absolutely! Shock! Everyone! into a fit of non-politically correct laughter, as though transgressive humor were a) rare these days and b) somehow defined by being as putrid as possible.

No, it’s because when designer Dino Cotton sent us an email requesting coverage for his upcoming Kickstarter (and offering us a copy of the game after it was finished, which was nice of him), he included a link to 1) their Kickstarter video, and 2) the game’s webpage.  And here is the actual email I sent Jess after reviewing these materials:

Why would I have that reaction?  Well, because I went to Dino’s website and I read up on his game, a game wherein – look, you know what?  I have no desire to waste my words on describing this steaming pile of excrement.  Here’s a screenshot of the text on the Guilty! web page:

So, I know that some of you are probably wondering where all my indignation is coming from.  What could have been on that page that would have pissed me off enough to write the third takedown article in our site’s history (Never Have I Ever and that awful Stranger Things Eggo Game, for the record)?  I mean, this game sounds dumb, sure, but that hardly merits all this fuss, right?

Well, meet the deplorables.  Mind you, you won’t find these descriptions on the Guilty! website anymore – they got removed yesterday, quite mysteriously, immediately after some people in the industry saw them and threw a fit.  But screenshots are forever, assholes.

Yeah.

Full disclosure, there was a sixth person, a white-trash expy of the mother from Here Comes Honey BooBoo, but I didn’t manage to get a shot of that before the folks at Guilty bravely tore down the character descriptions.  But rest assured, her crime was that she stole tampons by hiding them in the folds of her fat, just as you hoped she would.  Hell, I wish I had gotten that screenshot.  I think you get a toaster for collecting all six.

So.

Where to start.

Ok, look.  There are two kinds of people.  The kinds of people who will read the above and be disgusted, and the kinds of people who will read the above, not be disgusted, and forever label themselves as wastes of carbon.  One way or another, that’s on each of us.

Since the Guilty! website has changed and no longer features these colorful character descriptions, I have no idea if these people intend to carry forward with their plans to Kickstart this smoldering bucket of fetid tripe.  In any reasonable world, they probably wouldn’t, and if they did, their stupid shitstain of a game wouldn’t raise whatever funding it was looking for.  But for industry veterans, we won’t be the slightest bit surprised if the reverse happens. And hey, they did get me to write about their meaningless waste of mental cycles.

So here’s some free press, Dino, and I don’t even want a copy of your game after its done.  And while I appreciate you telling me you’re one of our subscribers and that’s why you approached us for press, do us both a favor – unsubscribe.

Before I go any further, one quick thing – none of what I’m sharing had an NDA attached to it, was given to us with any expectation other than we would share it with our readership, or was intended to be held until the Kickstarter campaign.  The links weren’t private, and the images freely there for all to see.

And another thing – regardless of the degree to which my ego is prone to claim otherwise, I’m not ‘a government’, therefore I’m fundamentally incapable of violating Dino’s (or anyone’s) 1st Amendment rights.  So before we get into an art/censorship debate, just know that I’m not censoring anyone.  I’m just disgusted by them and think they don’t deserve to have their game exist.

Let my tender liberal heart be perfectly clear here.  My problem with this game is that it’s not only deeply unnecessarily from a game market perspective, but that it’s base premise is built on getting its players to first and foremost agree to the disgusting statements made about these characters.  That’s your ticket of entry – if you want to play the game, you’ve got to buy into the world it paints.

And that’s a world we need less of.

This isn’t the worst game ever; hell, from a design perspective, it’s pretty par for the course for these empty-calorie fast-talking games which have cropped up like barnacles on Cards Against Humanity’s aged, rusting hull.  But its attitude is particularly venomous.  It doesn’t matter that it manages to target a bunch of different stereotypes.  Your shit doesn’t smell less just because you’ve shit everywhere.

If your humor comes at the expense of human empathy, you’re not being funny.

Dino Cotton said he ‘loves pissing people off’.  He said that.  It’s in his Kickstarter video.  It’s part of his sales pitch for his game.  And that tells me that Dino and his game are exactly the thing that gaming need less of.  Because we need less media normalizing the degradation of humans, of casually reinforcing poisonous racial, gender, and cultural stereotypes.  We need less giddy reveling in this false cultural narrative that free speech is dying and only the brave stand up to the PC police.

We need less shitty games like this.

A screenshot from Guilty’s Kickstarter video

So when this game inevitably goes up on Kickstarter, don’t back it.  They’ve taken down these gross character descriptions from their website, but don’t let them rebrand it.  Don’t reward people like this with your money.  They are free to say and do whatever they want, but we’re free to not give them a forum to do so.

Maybe you disagree with me.  Maybe you feel that artists should be free to express themselves in any way they see fit.  I actually really respect that, but would counter by saying that freedom of speech isn’t freedom from reaction, nor freedom from criticism, nor the right to public support.

But maybe you think these things are harmless, and that I’m being one of those lib SJWs who needs owning.  And that’s your opinion, to which you are entitled. My opinion is that I want you to walk slowly into the nearest wood chipper.  We need less people like you, and I’m not feeling very kindly about it these days.

So where am I going with this?  What am I really trying to say?  Well, that we deserve better.  We deserve to be better to and for each other.  That games are a thing which can bring people together, even in competition, and that they can serve to be a tremendous creative outlet for all sorts of people.

Or they can be this.

“There’s no winner in Guilty!, only a loser…and nobody likes a loser.”

Well, at least they got the first part right.

Image Credits: Greg Willis via Wikimedia Commons, Dino Cotton

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9 comments

  1. Thank you for writing this. People creating games like this need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

    When all you have to offer the world is ugliness, you’ve lost your way. Scrap this game, try again, and learn from this.

    Thank you for not allowing this to go by silently.

  2. Thank you for this.

    As someone who thinks there can be great value in games for exploring and understanding the human condition, it’s appalling when my fellow game designers instead use it to convey their bigotry and hatred of others.

    I sent the designer a polite but decisively critical note about this. He answered back with an accusation that I was trying to deny his free speech and “it’s just a game!™”, as if that excuses everything. To his mind, it’s just “good old fashioned awkward fun”, no matter how hurtful and hateful.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and for being a designer who recognizes the inherent flaw in going after such a cheap, thoughtless theme. If you would care to share your email exchange, please reach out to me at andrew@gameosity.com. I’d be curious.

  3. Crass and juvenile stereotypes aside the games disrespect for basic American legal tradition should disturb those on both sides of the aisle. Public defenders are an intrinsic part of our system. Many Americans have died to ensure a trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty and Miranda rights

    1. Agreed entirely. The day after I wrote this post, I met an ADA at a gaming meetup and she was, besides horrified by the ridiculous stereotypes on display, absolutely disgusted at the way the legal system was represented. It’s a valid point that I forgot to raise during the course of my article, mostly because I was so distracted by the rest of the awfulness.

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