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Author Topic: The Importance of Prejudice  (Read 9239 times)

Malanowitz

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The Importance of Prejudice
« on: September 27, 2017, 10:15:41 pm »

Hello everyone, long-time lurker, first-time poster here. I recently read the September FotF reply, and amidst
it all found something that I feel should be addressed.


So we'll be entering that room with the embark scenario release, and it's not clear where we're going to
go.  In a non-earth world, we don't need to necessarily grapple with racism and sexism, but on the other
 hand, DF has humans, and humans have a track record.  That said, if it starts generating prejudices
based on, as you listed, appearance, is this even going to be a game people want to play?  If you are
playing adventure mode and the game says you are the wrong color or sex etc. to speak to somebody, or
 your dwarves start spitting no certain people, or worse, I think we incur a deeper obligation with our
players out there in the real world than just saying "oh the generator did that, no big deal".




There are a few notions in the paragraph that got me thinking. What I read in on is the supposition that
any form of cultural bias would have no place in the fantasy worlds generated by Dwarf Fortress. This, I
think, would be a huge misstep in terms of the worlds and emergent gameplay generated, and here are
some thoughts as to why this is.

We can observe the detrimental facts of unwarranted prejudice, and can observe the effects it has had on
humanity throughout history. We have to still account for the fact that Dwarf Fortress is not real, and
part of the intrigue in it comes from the fact that we can explore unsavory themes and see their causes
and effects in a contained sandbox environment. If we were to completely shy away from the notion of
cultural prejudice, preferrential treatment of in-groups and by proxy discrimination in the generation, politics,
and social dynamics of the world of Dwarf Fortress we would be making a mistake and gloss over those harsh
realities in favor of being oblivious to them. They are not comfortable things, very much so to someone who has to
 experience them, however choosing not to allow the option of including these dynamics would be detrimental to
 the overall experience. The effect of these tribalistic notions would have on nations, civilizations, the entities
and how they interact would add depth to their interactions, and even give the opportunity for heroes to rise,
 championing their cause, and putting players in to a position where they could see, feel and experience those
 concepts directly inside their world. These trivialities have an impact on the world, and glossing over the fact
just seems off.

Imagine a scenario where you generate a world where during the early years, a homogenous civilization of
humans with cultural values that enabled cruelty and glorification of the destruction of elves caused a divide
between human civilizations and elves that lasted for hundreds of years, all starting from one disgruntled elf
ruler insulting a particularly sensitive king's intelligence after trying to advocate him to accept a proposal to
restrict logging in the area in effort to preserve nature.

During this period, elves and by association elvish features in fellow humans, prompted a shift in cultural norms.
Humans would not deal with elves, and those with elf-like features in more prejudicial communities were shunned,
 forcing elves and people who happened to have the misfortune of being born in the wrong place and wrong time in
the wrong type of way to leave these areas in favor of more open and welcoming pastures. The elves affected by
this civ, and their human brothers in exile, then began to speak of these acts of senseless cruelty to other
civilizations, some of which listened and chose to ally themselves against them, and some who refused out of spite
or indifference. Some of the victims who felt them and their people wronged rose in to positions of power and began
 levying armies against the civilization, while those who took more kindly to peace and forgiveness searched for less
 destructive means such as a trade embargo, art and literature, whatever means possible to shift the hate away.
This all ended with this human civilization crumbling from the inside out: the more neutral proponents realizing that
there is no merit in staying here and move out causing a production crisis, the more radical opposition forming plans
 and educating the neutral masses of these horrors with some extreme radicals even attempting to assassinate the
 governing officials, and those who held their civilizations beliefs grabbing the sword and sparking a civil war that
 destroys the civ and leaves it as a footnote in history, to be read, engraved, acted out in plays, and used as an
example that shaped the notion of evil for all the rest of history.

Everyone did what they thought was right and justified to their values, and it ended up how it ended up because of
the generation and variables being a certain way. Imagine seeing this in your game, hearing of it and seeing how it
shaped the world and the people, drawing parallels of it to life and thinking of the vapid context of such acts.
Without prejudice in-game, this would not have ever happened.

Prejudice is an incredibly impactful mechanic on how civilizations interact with their citizenry and one-another. It
bands people together, forces people to choose sides, and most of the time it all started from one stupid thing
happening to someone powerful enough to cause a ripple that echoes to this day. Leaving it out would make the
experience more hollow in a way. Regardless of ideological or political alignment, we can all agree that to know evil,
we need to see evil.

Of course, if someone wants to play without it, make it a world-gen option. I've said my bit, and I hope this prompts some level of discussion on the subject.
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PlumpHelmetMan

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 10:26:23 pm »

Magnificently put. While I can see why some people would be more comfortable without it, I too think there should at least be an option for procedurally-generated prejudices of certain kinds. It would add great potential for highly interesting and complex stories in worldgen.

Also, welcome to the forums Malanowitz (I'm relatively new myself too). Hope you find this community to your liking.
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Lovechild

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2017, 06:29:36 am »

This reminds of the debate a while back about whether the game should feature feces - a real thing that has historically had an important impact on civilization. Also a shitty thing that a lot of people don't want to think about when playing a game for fun.

Prejudice could no doubt create depressing complex worldgen stories about people suffering unjustly, but I'm not interested in those stories. Just as I'm not interested in getting the sewage system exactly right or all my dwarves get sick and die. I'd rather have exciting complex worldgen stories about wars, adventure, and magic.
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Shonai_Dweller

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2017, 06:45:08 am »

But prejudice causes wars and adventures and magic (when 'lesser' gods are discriminated against, maybe?). If you're going to go with worldgen flexible enough to support completely mundane worlds (which is what's happening), you're going to need 'human' story arcs of slavery, defiance, exodus and love that transcends traditional boundaries to liven things up.

And if you're going to go that far, it only makes sense to let the fantasy races indulge in their oppressive beliefs too.
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PlumpHelmetMan

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2017, 09:00:27 am »

At best we could have it downplayed so that it only occurs between civs of differing species. I can see how having prejudice between, for instance, two human civs of differing skin colour would probably hit a bit TOO close to reality for most players to be comfortable with it.
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KittyTac

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2017, 09:06:15 am »

Personally, I'm for prejudice. Although this comes from the guy who found the supposedly "horrifying" DF stories such as Obok Meatgod... rather "meh"-inducing.

PlumpHelmetMan

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2017, 10:55:31 am »

It should also be pointed out that prejudice already exists in limited form in DF. Most of the wars in worldgen are based around differences in culture and ethics, and let's not forget the "short" puns the elves crack about dwarves.
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feelotraveller

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2017, 02:21:15 pm »

"Prejudice is an affective feeling towards a person or group member based solely on their group membership. The word is often used to refer to preconceived, usually unfavorable, feelings towards people or a person because of their sex, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, beauty, occupation, education, criminality, sport team affiliation or other personal characteristics. In this case, it refers to a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prejudice

First up, thanks for an informative and well written original post.  :) 

I guess my response is to wonder what need Dwarf Fortress has to use sex or the colour of skin as a driver of conflict (and narrative richness)?  Is it, for example, also neccessary to include 'ageism'? 

Given that there are a number of options available for use as drivers of prejudice (some already exist in the game now) I don't have a problem with some making the cut and some not.  Am I missing something?

Now, a hauler revolution, that would be something to behold!  ;D


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vvAve

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2017, 02:46:47 pm »

At best we could have it downplayed so that it only occurs between civs of differing species. I can see how having prejudice between, for instance, two human civs of differing skin colour would probably hit a bit TOO close to reality for most players to be comfortable with it.

Here we go again. Not safe! Reality is BAD! Might feel offended! You either have realistic views or pink glasses.
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Shonai_Dweller

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2017, 03:42:11 pm »

At best we could have it downplayed so that it only occurs between civs of differing species. I can see how having prejudice between, for instance, two human civs of differing skin colour would probably hit a bit TOO close to reality for most players to be comfortable with it.
There are no different species in all-human worlds. That's why Toady started us on this discussion of prejudice. Dwarves hate goblins is easy, can start a thousand stories. 'The gods are at war' is another great excuse.
But what launches stories and grand histories of human civ 1 vs human civ 2 but oppression, slavery and prejudice?

On the other hand, I can see how sex discrimination could just end up annoying. Spend 6 hours generating a world only to find everything much harder to do if you want to play your favorite female characters (or male if they're being discriminated against).
'Don't go out at night! There's a curfew'.
'I killed some bandits!' > 'Did you get your husband's permission first?'
Etc...
« Last Edit: September 29, 2017, 03:51:34 pm by Shonai_Dweller »
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PlumpHelmetMan

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2017, 04:19:50 pm »

Yeah, I think most of us can agree sex discrimination would get in the way of gameplay in a way that few would likely find much fun (to each their own however, I could still see it being an option for those who are REALLY interested in realism).

Also I feel like my above suggestion was misread. I never said I thought prejudice HAD to stay outside the species barrier, that was merely my attempt at a compromise seeing as some posters in this topic expressed discomfort with the idea (but I admit I probably should've just stayed quiet since making prejudice optional was already discussed). I would ideally prefer totally randomly-generated prejudice, as with everything else.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2017, 05:02:08 pm by PlumpHelmetMan »
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Malanowitz

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2017, 05:00:06 pm »

Hey, thank you for all of your input and welcoming me in!

Well, I've had a good look around the thread and quite a few valid points have been made for one side and the other. PlumpHelmetMan has good point for full randomization. I don't believe there should be any intrinsic bias for or against any particular values, but to be able to generate bias or prejudice based on world-gen events would be a great addition in my own personal opinion. I'm the type of DF-player where I generate something, set my own goals and roll with all of the punches in the parameters that are given. If I'd like to play something with more of a specific flair, I'd tweak it, modify it, set parameters, what have you to generate what was needed.

I'm more on the favor of a slider in this case, as I'm well aware of people having different sensibilities towards the matter. The gameplay effects of superficial segregation and sexism would definitely be things that would turn some people off of the whole experience, but I'd personally roll with the punches, see if there was something I could do in the genned world to change these notions. Debate ethics with a town preacher to change the opinions of him and his parish, maybe strike down a fair number of people to rule minds with fear, or then in turn rule it with kindness, slowly shifting opinions the opinions of many by the actions of a few.

All in all, I'd believe that a slider of some caliber would be good for this so that you could set in how far the rabbit hole you would go. How prevalent would traditionalist ethics be, and how much influence could they garner? Would they only affect it on a macro scale, such as the relations between humans and goblins on a political level, or would it go deeper to affect individual ethics. Would there be sexism, would there be disdain for sexual minorities, all of these could be options that would have an effect on the way the world works and the citizens and civilizations interact with one-another.

I think it would be worth it to allow for these options, but not make them mandatory. The possibility of what could be generated and experienced would only add to the depth and wealth of the stories generated by Dwarf Fortress and the emergent gameplay. It could be as simple as peasants passing down stories that shape the ethics of their offspring, that then pass them onward. The more logical and critical ones could possibly see that superficial attributes do not correlate with behaviour and learn to separate superstition from fact? Many ways to go about it, but I do not think that it is a reason to shy away, seeing as it could add a good chunk to the experience, in terms of good, bad, interesting, horrific to the simply silly and mundane.
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bloop_bleep

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2017, 08:06:04 pm »

I'll just give out my two cents on this subject.

I'm against prejudice. DF is, first and foremost, a game. It's designed to be entertaining. Adding more depth makes a game more fun, but only up to a point. If you decide to play as a woman or a dark-skinned person or whatever, you wouldn't want to deal with this. I mean, it can get quite annoying after a while, and start to spoil your experience. In my opinion, adding prejudice would use up too much of Toady's time for too little a gain. Even if it could be turned off, I don't think Toady should spend time on this when he could be developing mythgen or boats.
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Shonai_Dweller

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2017, 08:15:08 pm »

I'll just give out my two cents on this subject.

I'm against prejudice. DF is, first and foremost, a game. It's designed to be entertaining. Adding more depth makes a game more fun, but only up to a point. If you decide to play as a woman or a dark-skinned person or whatever, you wouldn't want to deal with this. I mean, it can get quite annoying after a while, and start to spoil your experience. In my opinion, adding prejudice would use up too much of Toady's time for too little a gain. Even if it could be turned off, I don't think Toady should spend time on this when he could be developing mythgen or boats.
A fantasy world generator in which everyone is the best of friends. Dwarves and elves and goblins sing happy songs together as they build stuff.

Well, yeah, as an option maybe. Would hate for that to be the default mode...
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Bearskie

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Re: The Importance of Prejudice
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2017, 05:25:47 am »

I think bloop bleep is implying that prejudice, even if it enhances the simulation, is decidedly low priority in comparison to say, sailing, economy, magic, and a hundred more items that arguably enhance the simulation and game in much more significant ways.
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