Syphilisation Update - 2020-05-03
You can read about what Syphilisation is here and the manifesto for the game here.
This week was all about getting ready for the first playtest, so lots of bugfixes and lots of playtesting myself. I also took this week to replace some of the placeholder images that had persisted until now. This is also an iterative process. Some of the new images look terrible and need revision, but it’s good to at least have everything be closer to what it actually should be.
This playtest only went through the eXploration phase, which is naturally the part that I’ve played most myself. The game is good to go for the eXpansion phase as well, but it’s already a good couple of hours to get through the eXploration part and that’s a pretty heavy session in itself. It went okay, but it’s always good to get someone else to look at the game. I’m going to try to get it into Early Access fairly soon. I need to sort the diplomacy out, sort the end-game out and just iterate a ton, but I’m optimistic about getting it done reasonably quickly.
Also, my article on how games fail Gandhi is up on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. You can check that out here
I started a couple of very interesting books this week, Orientalism and Under The Deodars. The former is famous as one of the great explainers of the colonial mind and the latter is a very well-written collection of short stories about colonials in Shimla. Kipling was a terrible racist, but I personally still like a lot of his work and I found Kim to be surprisingly sympathetic when I read it in college. I’m not sure how it would hold up now though.
There’s a short story at the end of Under The Deodars though that’s just shocking racism. It lets Kipling attack the nascent Congress in 1888 and it’s absolute tripe. It’s never good, it’s not even readable for its skill like White Man’s Burden manages to achieve. The story is just complete garbage, both in writing and in thought and that’s without getting to the worst point, where Kipling has the arrogance to put his words in mouths of the Indians of the story. It’s useless trash, and so has me a little stuck. I feel that the game needs to do a better job of presenting the British arguments for colonialism to the player, but I don’t know what to do when the arguments are so often worthless. I don’t even want to present them to the player because these arguments are not only unsophisticated, but very often false and deeply rooted in racism. I can try presenting them with the counter-argument right after, but even that feels unsatisfactory and possibly irresponsible to me.
I would like players to be able to make the pro-colonial argument in my game, but to have it be going against the grain of the game. However, so much of that argument was simply rooted in pernicious racism and I don’t want to put that in my game uncritically. There are plenty of people who find it much easier to latch onto racist arguments than counter-racist arguments and I don’t want to feed them. I’m going to try putting the argument in with my disdain for it included and put some rebuttals in right after, but let people use these as pro-colonial game pieces if they want. I’m happy to let people knowingly choose to be stupid and I do want players to see how ugly the racism that underpinned colonialism is.
On this note, I’m going to go with a quote from Orientalism for my fact of the week as it deals handily with a lot of colonial writing; “Mill, for example, made it clear in On Liberty and Representative Government that his views there could not be applied to India (he was an India Office functionary for a good deal of his life, after all) because the Indians were civilizationally, if not racially, inferior.”