Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Self-Censorship

Note: Just read through this and it is a bit of a ramble.

Censorship.  A mild topic for an early morning wouldn't you say?  I'm focused on self-censorship, what you think should stay in and what should stay out because of content, not necessarily quality reasons.  Maybe its sexual content, a graphic description or something that maybe just didn't jive with the vibe of the project.  Example, B2 is a straight forward adventure, here are the good guys.  Here are the monsters.  Just a fun romp of hacking and hauling.  If someone would have written in a rape room or explicit sacrificial scene it wouldn't have matched the tone of the adventure.

I have a long background of working with others, especially children.  Because of this work I censored myself a lot during the early years of my game writing.  I kept my writing light, fun with a touch of sarcasm.  Okay, maybe more than a touch.  For the past few years I've been working more with adults and that automatic self-censorship is fading.  If you've downloaded Faces Without Screams you'll find it more graphic and kid unfriendly.  It's not something I choose to do before hand, it's brutality fit the tone of the work I wanted to write. 

I don't like things that are weird just to be weird, or gross to be gross, or sexualized just to add an edge.  When I read these kind of things I get bored.  There is enough room in RPG writing to explore all these subjects without needing to reach for them.  Connected to this thought is people who try to censor others.  More often than not when this happens, those who wish to censor something end up driving more attention towards the product.  I remember back when the 2 Live Crew got all their attention because of the explicitness of their lyrics and cover.  It was a shit CD, but because other censor wishing people wanted to ban it, the CD blew up.

Quality sorts out what should be on the shelves more than the content.  While I can't stomach a lot of mutilation, rape, or any violence against children I would never tell anyone else they couldn't.  If the details fit the context of the adventure and well done its a lot easier to take.  When its written just to be shocking the quality often sucks and uninteresting.  That is, unless someone gets self righteous and thinks it should be banned from the land.

I'm thinking of this because of the writing session Rob and I had yesterday.  We are working on a sandbox setting for LotFP.  It's set in England and I thought of having an incarnation of Jack the Ripper show up centuries before he gets big.  Jack the First, I call him, is a traveler, he targets women, drugs them with a sleeping potion then slips on his cock blade to murder them in the act of sex.  While not the most imaginative or gruesome it was graphic enough to make me hesitate.  That self-censoring kicking in.  Years earlier I wouldn't have written it.  But even today I bounced the idea off of Rob and asked if he thought it was too much.  (I'm also aware of the nature of many LotFP adventures and know that my encounter is well within its bounds.  I wouldn't write the same entry for a product for Goodman Games or Brave Halfling Publishing.)  Rob thought it was an interesting idea so I kept it in.  Whether it is written well enough to stay in when we start editing is another matter. 

I'm not really sure how to end this entry.  It feels like I should have some sort of summation, but I don't.  I guess I'll end it with a question.  Are there boundaries you won't cross in your writing?