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Theme too offensive?

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bhazzard
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I had an idea for a game combining deduction and resource gathering with a somewhat religious (anti-religious?) theme. It is based on the idea that nobody really knows which religion is "right", until "the end".

So like Clue, a religion would be chosen randomly and anonymously at the beginning of the game from a deck of possible religions. It would be set aside in envelope or something.

Throughout the game players would do "good deeds", which count for a subset of the possible religions. Players will also be able to take actions to learn which religions are not "real" thus being better able to direct their good deed efforts.

The game plays out over a specified number of rounds and at the end the "real" religion is revealed. Players will get victory points for deeds they have done that are recognized by the "real" religion. The player with the most points wins.

So I have two questions:
* At a purely mechanical level, does this sound interesting?
* Is my proposed theme too offensive to work?

rcjames14
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Will the Real True God Please Stand Up

In the abstract, the design concept reminds me of two games: ingenious and colossal arena. In colossal arena you bet on creatures to survive the competition and in the end only bets on three of those bets payoff. In ingenious, like many Knizia games, the goal is to have the most of the least... So even collection of colors is rewarded.

As a hedge against chance, a wise person would diversify his bets amongst all of the god equally, like ingenious. But if you could somehow find out information about which ones are more likely to survive, then you can focus your bets more intelligently on specific gods. It's not clear from your description exactly how players will obtain information on the 'real' god. But, I think that whichever god that turns out to be, it will only be interesting if that god is determined somehow by the collective decisions of the players over the game.

As far as the theme is concerned, I'm not sure you have a meaningful game without the theme. But, you'll have to embrace the parody fully and play on it through out the whole design. Nobody wants to plY a serious game about religion.

hotsoup
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To mitigate the

To mitigate the offensiveness, and make the game more accessible, I would use an assortment of mythical gods. Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Aztec, etc. Would make the game funnier and have more interesting artwork IMO. There are games about competing modern religions (see http://drakesflames.blogspot.com/2008/11/board-game-review-playing-gods....) but they tend to have a very limited audience.

ilta
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Makes me think of that South Park episode

Speaker: Hello, newcomers, and welcome. Can everybody hear me? [taps the mic a few times] Hello? Can everybuh-? Okay. [the crowd quiets down] Uh, I'm the hell director. Uh, it looks like we have about 8,615 of you newbies today, and for those of you who are a little confused, uh, you are dead, and this is hell, so, abandon all hope and uh yada yada yada. Uh, we are now going to start the orientation process, which will last about-
Man 4: Hey, wait a minute, I shouldn't be here. I was a totally strict and devout Protestant! I thought we went to heaven!
Hell Director: Yes, well I'm afraid you were wrong.
Soldier: I was a practicing Jehovah's Witness.
Hell Director: Uh, you picked the wrong religion as well.
Man 5: Well, who was right? Who gets into heaven?
Hell Director: I'm afraid it was the Mormons. Yes, the Mormons were the correct answer.
Crowd: [disappointed] Awww.

---------------

But I agree with the previous poster. You'd be best off using long-dead religions. And rather than Clue, where the "answer" is determined ahead of time, individual choices making the final "religion" the most powerful is the most interesting from a gameplay point of view. This also allows you to ditch the religion thing entirely, if you want, since if you are throwing your allegiance behind game group X (be that Protestantism, The Cult of Isis, whatever) it could just as easily be a political party, or a competing culture, or a specific form of plant life on an alien planet. sky's the limit!

of course, if mormonism IS the right answer, as the show jokes above, then at least you're latching on to the biggest religious board game market in the US.

bhazzard
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Thanks for your comments

All are great ideas, but I have questions about how they affect the theme.

Ancient or Dead religions: I had thought about this and I like it from an artwork and theme standpoint. My concern is that the game thematically makes the most sense with religions that were around at the same time. Perhaps going with gods from a particular pantheon would work best in this case, but it would be hard to be faithful to the mythology of a pantheon, AND make the theme make sense.

Letting user actions decide the "real" god: it was said twice that this would be more interesting. Perhaps you are right, but doesn't it make very little sense thematically? Lots of people wishing a religion was true doesn't mean it definitely is...

I will say that the comments have me thinking on a political party type of game, but that feels more complicated than this.

Dralius
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Go for it

bhazzard wrote:

So I have two questions:
* At a purely mechanical level, does this sound interesting?
* Is my proposed theme too offensive to work?

Mechanically i don't have a problem with the religion being chosen ahead of time so that the players must deduce what it is.

Thematically its fresh and certainly will offend some. You can’t do religion or politics without getting someone’s panties in a bunch. Personally I like the theme.

ldebacker
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I can see this being very

I can see this being very witty and am very intrigued. I think if you veer into politics it would be dry. About the religions coinciding, I don't think that's a big deal, seeing as civilization [the video game] isn't selling too badly and there all races or religions come into play at different times and doesn't take away from the gameplay at all. Plus, there're are probably some people out there that still believe in Babylonian gods or Greek gods, is a religion ever dead? I feel in that aspect that Lord of the rings might be seen as a religion :)

short answer IMO: yes to your first question, no to your second.

ilta
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Theme

I don't think having players influence the final "correct" answer is too out of theme, especially if the game uses ancient religions instead of modern ones. After all, if players "support" Zeus over Athena (whatever that "support" means in your game) then it would make sense that Zeus is going to be the most powerful god on Olympus by game end.

Digression alert: Basically it comes down to the original form of monotheism - that there are many gods, it's just that mine is the most powerful of them - vs the later belief that there is only one real god, and the others don't exist at all, and their followers are deluded/lying/tools of an evil force. You can see this change in attitude in the Tanach (which Christians call the Old Testament): most of the first five books posit God as simply the deity Hebrews happen to worship (the 10 Plagues being a systematic smackdown of the Egyptian pantheon, Pharaoh's sorcerers able to do sone miracle-wrangling themselves); the later books describing the Prophets show that other gods (notably, Ba'al) don't answer the requests of their followers, and therefore don't exist.

Sorry, this sort of digression is what you get when you ask a Jewish History teacher about a religious game. :)

cottonwoodhead
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Monotheism vs. Polytheism

I think that mixing up time periods would be fine and that it wouldn't hurt the overall theme much. My only suggestion is don't mix monetheism and polytheism, a monotheism game would work best with a prechosen god and a polytheistic game would work best with competing gods with one coming out on top at the end of the game. The monotheistic theme would seem to me to be a strait deduction game, guess who's god is the right god, while the polytheistic one could allow for more interesting elements to come into play.
I would suggest a polytheistic theme because it would allow for interesting mechanics like a god's likeliness to "win" being based off the number of followers he has and players being able to recruit followers for their gods and act as prophets. This would also allow for in game competition between different groups, in a monotheistic game there would be no competition because there would be only one true god but in a polytheistic game you can do everthing from miracles to inquisitions.
As to it being offensive, I agree with polytheistic gods it would be much less offensive but I don't think even with monotheistic gods it would be offensive enough to deter most gamers providing you kept the level of humour high and the theme either way sounds interesting enough to attract a lot of players, myself included.
Also I should note that part of the reason I don't like the preset monotheistic god is because it sounds like Clue and I dislike Clue.

hotsoup
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You could get he polytheistic

You could get he polytheistic pantheon to work by doing a Neil Gaimanesque take. All the gods are real, and their degree of power depends upon how many people acknowledge their existence and worship them. So you could have them competing for attention.

Yamahako
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OK so each player is a

OK so each player is a congregation, not a religion.

And you are taking actions to try to get your congregation to follow the tenets of the "real" religion

and in a clue like manner you are attempting to determine which are the "wrong" religions so that you can be the correct one.

Once you think you've got it, then you can declare for a particular one and see if you're right - if you are you win if not you lose - OR you could have a specific end date of the game, and whoever is closest wins (or if no one gets it no one wins).

So for example - one religion might be "Polytheism, Sacrificial, Evangelistic" And another might be "Monotheistic, Meditative, Secretive". Your congregation has to try and acquire tenets, or philosophical elements or whatever to match what is on the hidden religion card.

If that's what you're kind of talking about (though might be mechanically different) - it shouldn't be TOO offensive - as long as you aren't purposefully trying to offend (which would be really easy to do if you want a 'funny' game). The people who would be offended at a game like that likely would be offended at ANY game that mentions religion without there's being the "true" one, and is not cast in a negative light.

You could go over the top on this - and then it might be not-offensive by nature of parody - but to the very devout with no sense of humor it wouldn't go over well.

Stick with old religions - and you're safe. But personally I think throwing in "Christianity" broadly, and some of the other major monotheistic religions, can be done without too much trouble. Once you get into the different branches of Christianity, Islam, Judaism I think you're likely to offend too many people.

sir_schwick
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Include Philosophies

You could do modern religions, if you separate them operationally. An example would be Interventionist-Deist, Good-Neutral-Evil, Free Will-Deterministic.

On to mechanics. All the god cards are dealt out to the players at the beginning of the game. Each card describes how players would be scored if that god ends up winning. During the game you have rounds where you commit certain types of actions to earn certain types of points(this could be simply be cubes of color).

Every few rounds each player would then simultaneously cast out one of their cards. Whichever god(s) came up with the most cards would then be ejected from the game(they turned out not to be real). Anyone who has that god still in their hand must discard it. On the round someone lets out their last card, then these rounds continue until only a single god or pantheon of gods composed of the least number of cards exist.

Scoring in the case of a god is easy to see on the card. In a pantheon you would simply score for each god and then combine that score.

cottonwoodhead
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Too Black and White

I think that sounds excellent but I would suggest against using the Good-Neutral-Evil axis, not because it's offensive but because I think it's overly simplistic. A better measure would be Forgiving-Fair-Harsh or something like that, after all no sect views their own god as evil.

furcle gurcle
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Hasidic Jew

I am a Hasidic Hebrew and i find this of great offense, this makes me think of the atrocities of the past 100 years.

jeffinberlin
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What's the point?

Sorry if this is too direct, but the original idea sounds like Clue--with a pasted-on theme.
Most of the suggestions I bothered to read were also borrowed from other games in order to make the theme work.

So what is the point of the theme? To laugh at how ignorant more than 90% of the world's population is?
It's not about whether the theme is too controversial--it's about whether or not you are showing respect to others who might think differently than you do. My faith is about exactly that--not "showing up" others or trying to disprove them so that I can feel better about myself. I would hope that would matter more to you than worrying about offending a large share of the market.

ilta
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the above

two responses showing exactly what you were afraid of -- out of proportion to your intent, and distracting from what you're trying to do.

one person seems to have joined bgdf solely so he could leave the comment that this game made him think of the holocaust (why? does EVERY discussion of religion make you think of the holocaust? if not, why this particular one?)

the second seems to think your intent is to mock his faith, and then based on a glancing breeze-through dismisses all the thoughtful responses as consisting of elements of other games, mostly so he can post about his indignant reaction to the game. again, little information but a lot of emotion.

this isn't to say that these comments are garbage for being emotional and fact-free, but they do reflect the sort of responses you're likely to get, and why it's important to stay away from current modern religions.

bhazzard
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Confused

I have to admit that I am confused by the previous couple of responses. I have asked because i personally would not find this offensive, but I want to make sure I'm not being entirely ignorant of something as personal as a person's faith.

As for this:

Quote:
So what is the point of the theme? To laugh at how ignorant more than 90% of the world's population is? It's not about whether the theme is too controversial--it's about whether or not you are showing respect to others who might think differently than you do.

To the point of this being like Clue... Yea, it shares a deduction mechanic with Clue, which I pointed out in my initial post. The difference mechanically is that you don't win by being the first to figure out which religion is "right", but by racking up the most "good deeds" that "count" for that religion. Other folks have suggested other variations, but most of them add mechanics to the base deduction game... Clue doesn't own the deduction mechanic.

As for laughing "at how ignorant more 90% of the world's population is". This is meant to be a tongue in cheek parody. And I posit that this celebrates the fact that no one knows which one is "right" if any. If a person is unwilling to have fun with that , this is not the game for them :)

jeffinberlin
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let's slow down and re-read...

ilta wrote:
two responses showing exactly what you were afraid of -- out of proportion to your intent, and distracting from what you're trying to do.

one person seems to have joined bgdf solely so he could leave the comment that this game made him think of the holocaust (why? does EVERY discussion of religion make you think of the holocaust? if not, why this particular one?)

the second seems to think your intent is to mock his faith, and then based on a glancing breeze-through dismisses all the thoughtful responses as consisting of elements of other games, mostly so he can post about his indignant reaction to the game. again, little information but a lot of emotion.

this isn't to say that these comments are garbage for being emotional and fact-free, but they do reflect the sort of responses you're likely to get, and why it's important to stay away from current modern religions.

Funny, I wasn't particularly emotional when I wrote my comment, but that is unfortunately one of the weaknesses of internet forums--no opportunity to hear tone of voice or read body language.

I was actually trying to look at this from an objective standpoint, even though I also wanted to be honest about my own personal position. Believe it or not, I am actually offering helpful feedback--not as a sampling of those who would overreact, but by putting myself in the role of a discerning gamer/designer/publisher.

I've had enough experience with criticism, both as an architect and game designer, to know how to take it constructively, even when it is not exactly what I was expecting. "What's the point?" is a fair question, especially when designing and critiquing a game, and from the brief description offered, my comments reflect what seems to be the message of your design. For example:

Quote:
And I posit that this celebrates the fact that no one knows which one is "right" if any. If a person is unwilling to have fun with that , this is not the game for them :)

People have worldviews because they believe them to be true and "right", not because they randomly select them and hope for the best. I can't imagine anyone would want to celebrate their own ignorance in a game, whether or not it is a parody.

If that is not your point, then you might reconsider your design choices--not because you are worried about an "oversensitive" audience, but rather, because your game is not communicating the intended message.

As for the mechanics, it is, of course, not necessary to have something completely original. Most games include variations of known mechanics, and I would even recommend surrounding innovative mechanics with well-known ones, in order to increase accessibility. Deduction games are great, but very difficult to design as there don't seem to be as many possible variations with the mechanic as, say, worker placement, etc. And, like trick-taking games, they are very difficult to sell, as there are so many already, and most are very similar in their gameplay. In my humble opinion, although the comments have most certainly been thoughtful and well-meaning, I did not see anything that, for me, would elevate this above other deduction games. I could be wrong, of course.

And that's where I made the conclusion that this game was much more inspired by theme than mechanics, which brings me back to the original question and the intended message of the game (if, for example, your real point was to demonstrate that literally no one has the answers to life's big questions, and it will be decided randomly at the end of the world/game, then why not include atheists, esoterics, etc. in the mix?).

If there was any emotion in my comment, it might be more from the frustration that any thoughtful critique of potentially controversial themes are often unilaterally dismissed, rather than taken advantage of as a doorway into a healthy conversation, better understanding, and, of course, improving game design skills. That was my intent.

jeffinberlin
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another theme suggestion

If your design goal is not necessarily to promote the message in your original theme, I do actually have an idea that I have been working on for years now and then (as I wrote--finding something new in the deduction game genre is difficult!).

I once saw a silly Mel Gibson film called Conspiracy Theory. Afterwards, I thought that would make a nice deduction game, with the players representing rival newspapers trying to determine the who-what-how of world conspiracies. My prototypes for this idea have also always included a more light-hearted, humorous approach.

In any case, the theme is not copyrighted, and if you can make a game out of it before I can, more power to you (first come, first serve). And if you are interested in pooling your ideas with the ones I've accumulated over the past 5 or so years, I'd be happy to attempt a co-design with you.

cottonwoodhead
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Conspiracy Theories

The answer to the conspiracy theory game would always end up as Aliens or the Illuminati. Seriously though that sounds like a cool idea, do you have a seperate post hiding somewhere with more on this game?

bhazzard
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Detailed Response

Thanks Jeff for your more detailed response. I also like your conspiracy theory game concept and would certainly enjoy helping you with it for the exercise of codesigning.

As for this idea, I'm going to let it marinade a little longer. I think there is something here to build on, but I have other ideas I am more excited about at the moment.

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