The discourse over the past week has led to numerous people on both sides declaring they feel hopeless about the TTRPG community, scared of engaging, and defeated. I have yet to see anyone really say, “Gosh, that went well.”
I’m not good at being hopeless, but I also don’t want to lean into unearned optimism that things could be better/are better than they seem. So I want to step back and analyze some of the larger dynamics in the discourse. Specifically, the role of Twitter as a platform, the role of ambiguity, the role of bias, and ways we can start to improve how we manage these elements.
The experience of trauma is unfortunately common. In a previous post, I discussed some ways we can incorporate the principles of trauma-informed care into the way we play games and relate to each other in gaming spaces. In this post I want to start a conversation for how these principles could look embedded into game design.
There will be some repetition in this post to catch up people who haven't read the earlier post about trauma informed care.
Why Should Game Designers Think About Trauma?
As revealed by the ACE study traumatic experiences are common: 66% of respondents experienced at least one adverse event in childhood and more than 20% reported three or more different kinds of adverse events. This study focused only on childhood in the U.S. Another study found that worldwide, 70% of respondents experienced a trauma in their life and 30.5% experienced four or more traumas.
Not everyone who experiences a trauma develops posttraumatic stress disorder. The absence of PTSD doesn't mean, however, that they are unaffected by it. There is a wide range of expected and normal reactions to severe stress.
There is also growing evidence that chronic stress causes changes to the mind and body's reactions in ways similar to PTSD. So even people who do not experience trauma as we might think of it can still experience PTSD-like changes from being in a fight-or-flight state on an ongoing basis.
The reality is, when we design and release games we are engaging with a group (humans on this planet) who likely have experienced trauma or chronic stress and will react differently as a result.
CW: This post references a game that has been criticized for promoting power imbalances in sexual relationships and pedophilia. While I do not discuss the game's content in any detail, the post does include links to Twitter threads which talk about the game. The post is also fundamentally tied to those topics as I process the situation below and it may be upsetting to read.
Before last night I never saw or read Hot Guys Making Out. The title made it clear the game wasn't for me (I don't play romance TTRPGs). After reading the game, all the Twitter threads I can find, and past discussions/comments, there is a lot to unpack.
This blog is a mix of game design analysis, commentary on issues affecting indie dev spaces, and some personal reflections.