I recently posted about a Deadlands game that one of my players started. As I was reviewing the rulebook, I came upon a sidebar where the authors explain that racism, slavery, and sexism are all things of the past in the world of Deadlands. Keep in mind, Deadlands takes place somewhere around 1877. Granted, this game is not supposed to be highly historical... after all, the Civil War continues to drag on and monsters/magic/steam-tech exist. However, I find that I have a bit of a problem with the notion that all the unpleasant historical tensions that our country grappled with are simply gone, poof. The book acknowledges that not everyone has transitioned into this new, enlightened Old West, but those people are in the minority....no pun intended.
Something about revisionist/apologist history rankles me. I know Deadlands is just supposed to be a role-playing game, and it is a game I enjoy. I can certainly understand the reasons for omitting some of the unpleasant historical social models. For one, this is supposed to be a recreational hobby, and a game with those elements present might be quite unpleasant for some players. (This is the part where I expect at least one of you sitting behind your monitor to say, "Coward!", since that's what seems to happen any time anyone expresses opposition to controversy or squickyness in their games.) Another reason is that it can limit character concepts. Imagine playing a female character in a Deadlands game that adhered strictly to gender and race politics of the U.S. in 1877 (on the other hand, I can think of at least a few gamers I've known who would enjoy such a thing.)
Perhaps this entire blog entry speaks to my own personal cynicism about human nature. After all, I am admitting that I can suspend my disbelief in a world full of monsters, crazy-ass technology, and supernatural powers, but I have trouble swallowing the notion that the Confederacy just up and quit slavery, or that the human race is capable of putting aside bigotry on a societal level. When I ran Deadlands, I had the unpleasant elements present, but I did not beat the players over the head with it, nor did I use it to make some kind of statement... to me, it's just how society was in late 19th century America. I would hope that the kind of people who I would game with are able to acknowledge that the US could be a pretty ugly place back then (and still can be) and to recognize how far we have progressed as a society since then, and that they wouldn't need to have such elements ignored completely for the sake of playability.
At the same time, I have that tiny but persistent voice in the back of my head that says, "Oh, just shut the fuck up and enjoy it, will you? Why must you analyze and nitpick everything? "
I do intend to enjoy this game, but I can't help but mull this over.
Josh, if you happen to read this, just ignore this entry and chalk it up to my compulsive over-analysis of everything. Run your game how you run your game. I will be in my seat, dice in hand, ready to blind people with Science!
...hmm, now I want to flip through Vampire: the Dark Ages. I wonder if they had a similar sidebar in there somewhere...