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Slavery, Include Or Not?

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Hi

Im doing a (as a hobby) boardgame about trading and shipping in the carribean around the year 1650. You run ships with sugar, tobacco etc between the Americas and Europe, invest in infrastructure, market prices fluctuate etc.

 

Historically, these plantations was largely powered by african slaves (part of the triangle trade). Im not sure if I want to include that or not. It goes two ways:

 

1. Including slavery and slaves as a commodity will definitly make the game more somber. After all its entertainment and meant to be fun to play with friends. Do you want to be reminded?

2. There is some gameplay benefits to include it (slaves and weapons as "goods". Another continent makes travelling more complex etc). Also, it seems almost LESS respectful to the suffering to simply pretend slavery didnt happen (and especially in this setting, where it was a HUGE component).

 

What are your thoughts?

Erik

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Ouch, that's a tough one.  You kinda screwed yourself when picking that time/setting.  I'd normally say no, never put the player in the position of buying slaves unless it's a fantasy or science fiction game.  But people who go for historical games like that dislike inaccuracy.

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What sunandshadow said. Suliman, consider the educational game "Playing History 2: Slave Trade." Just Google
the title, and read about the "Slave Tetris" controversy. If you're making slavery a fun activity, expect
to get a lot of reactions of various types. There is such a thing as bad press. Edited by Tom Sloper

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Well that game is in quite bad taste! My game is a financial / business game. Nothing will be "extra fun" with slaves as a commodity in the boardgame. It would be a commodity like sugar or cotton. There could even be event cards like epedemic on a slave ships, or slave rebellions. That revenue of income could when slavery becomes outlawed close to the end (around year 1800).

 

But me I always thought it was strange that there WASNT a discussion when games like "sid meiers pirates" or "colonization" or "port royale" completely skips the whole slave issue.

Games such as rome total war includes genocides / population extermination / prisoner massacres. That seems to be ok:) Becouse that is also historically correct.

 

Im not sure myself what style im going for. Im just saying that including nasty stuff that acually happened isnt immoral in itself. This is what baffels me with "moral outcry". If anything it seems immoral to perpetuate the myth that europeans amassed all that wealth simply from entrepreneurship or "hard work".

 

And then you get a pat on the back when making a story where everyone is friends and nice to eachother. That borders falsification of history (if you use a historical setting i mean :)

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But me I always thought it was strange that there WASNT a discussion when games like "sid meiers pirates" or "colonization" or "port royale" completely skips the whole slave issue.

I would recommend that you also skip the slave issue.

During that time there where a lot of commodities for sale, I doubt you will use all of them so just put slaves on the don't use list. If for some reason slaves are important to the game mechanics, if they are needed for powering a ship, then call them workers.

 

Im just saying that including nasty stuff that acually happened isnt immoral in itself.

Including it controversial topics into your game by itself isn't immoral, however people will then look at your game with a critical eye to see what your intent is. The worst part is that any creation reflects it's creator, if you treat slaves as just a commodity then people could start to think that is the way you look at slaves, like they where not human just some object you could use and trade with.

 

Slavery is such a complex topic that if you include it in a game you can't just add it in as some offhand thing, unless you spend a large part of your game explaining your stance on slavery people will start interpreting every detail to get an idea of where you stand. Games are like clouds, different people will see different things.

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If you wanted to cover slavery in a serious historical way, your best bet would be having a viewpoint character who was a slave.  But that doesn't fit with your game concept.

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I guess it matters more about your implementation than the actual subject manner. Assassin's Creed Black Flag dealt with slavery and plantations, but it was done in a tactful way, it may have also helped that they included an ex-slave as a friend to the main protagonist. I don't exactly remember there being much of an uproar about it, and I as a black man didn't see anything wrong with it. Giving the player the ability to own and trade slaves may be a tough thing to sell. Even though it would be historically accurate, I don't know of many that feel like historical based games are missing the ability to own slaves. It seems like one of the issues where people are okay with ignoring historical accuracy to maintain their own moral compass.

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Eh, a quite popular game, Mount & Blade, which spawned sequels (the more polished M&B Warband, upcoming M&B 2) and spinoffs (M&B Viking Conquest, M&B Napoleonic Wars, etc) has "slavery".

 

You can just capture people at the end of each battle. Sell them to "slave drivers" in the cities, which gladly tell you exactly what they do with the people (ask for ransom, if no relative pays up, sell them as slaves somewhere). Literally no actual consequence beyond maybe some companions (iirc) kinda disliking it. But thats it. Its a nice source of gold in the early game.

 

No one ever batted an eye at it.

 

How fucked up is everything that you have to think about including slavery or not in a game about ships, set in the Caribbean, in the 1600s of all times. Of course there is going to be slavery. Thats half the reason those ships are there in the first place! If you want to pretend it never existed I'd choose a different setup or time period, maybe fictitious happy archipelago where all you trade is fruit and rainbows or something. Throw in some gnomes/elves and stuff so no one doubts its fantasy.

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Everyone knows the primary purpose of mount&blade's slave system was to force hundreds of forest bandits to join you and do a robinhood playthrough.

 

At least that's what I did.

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