Thu

04

Sep

2014

Next on stage... 

So apparently this happened today...


I don't blog much, in fact, I really rarely ever write anymore.  I used to, and I should do it more as it was a passion of mine a while back.  Heck, I once wrote an epic short story about this crew of Navy misfits who head into the dark depths of the ocean to... well, hang on, yeah, this is why I don't write much... begin digression... 

Now, before I digress, I need to say something.  I love the Artipia Games that are available today.  Most every title is one I own, have backed, or, have played and enjoyed.  Sure, their catalog, like most publishers, has a few "not so amazing" titles in it, but they have all, to date, been done with what I considered a rather elegant touch, in terms of artwork, design, and creative concepts.


I also understand that in posting this I very well may alienate some of my own followers and fans.  Those that stick with this to the end of the post though will hopefully, more likely than not, understand where I am coming from.  If I offend you in this post though, know, that is not my intention, and I do humbly apologize.


So... enter Lapdance, and ablaze goes the interwebz...

And then, the company fires back with this, well, actually quite logical counter argument... 

The posts go on, and you're welcome, and I invite you, to read them all.  Amazingly, it's not all internet trolling as one would think with such a topic, but that's one of the many things I love about our hobby/industry; we're intelligent and, well, quite frankly, pretty informed consumers.


And, speaking of said consumers (you... and me!), I thought heavily about this today, so... here are my thoughts... 


(Oh, and no, I don't frequent establishments who provide these services, but I have, admittedly, been to one in my storied and epic past. As I have long said though, "That's a longer story for a taller beer...")


First, as a colleague of mine pointed out to me earlier, anyone who owns Cards Against Humanity and has an issue with this, well, they are hypocritical to the Max and off their rocker.  See, Cards Against Humanity is this game where you... well... you... ok...


Second, Mai Star, from AEG... yes, Mai Star... 

Now, I'm sorry AEG, as I love you, TRULY I love you, but "A card game of beauty and guile"?  I actually own and like playing Mai Star.  In fact, with the right group it's a heck of a good time... but beauty and guile it is not.  This game is about serving up a concubine to any customer who comes along.  That's pretty much it.  Yup.


If you're wondering...

Concubine:[kong-kyuh-bahyn, kon-] noun

1. a woman who cohabits with a man to whom she is not legally married, especially one regarded as socially or sexually subservient;mistress.

2. (among polygamous peoples) a secondary wife, usually of inferior rank.

3. (especially formerly in Muslim societies) a woman residing in a harem and kept, as by a sultan, for sexual purposes.


While this discussion isn't about Cards Against Humanity or Mai Star, they are excellent points leading into my major one... that this industry has a lot of mixed signals it sends on what's good, what's bad, and what's "appropriate" when it comes to public consumption and participation in "fun" social settings.


I could even turn the microscope on myself and my own games, just to be fair, and believe me, I do!  The art in Mage Wars is not for everyone, and admittedly so.  Also, akin to Coup, Resistance, or Werewolf, not everyone thinks "bluffing" or "lying" is a good theme as with our newest game, the Sheriff of Nottingham.


When we developed Sheriff of Nottingham it was originally going to be a "Family friendly game" and when we developed it into the full on bluffing game it is, I realized very quickly, there's no way I'm trying to sell this to "Mom" when the goal is to "smuggle goods" and "lie to the law", basically speaking.  No, instead we went with what we thought was best, just like AEG did with Mai Star (successfully I may add) and many other have.  We listened to the market, understood the market, knew what it would accept and what would, potentially, return the most on our investment in said games, and turned them out with a style all our own.


See, it's not up to me, you, or any ONE individual to set what type of games come out and are for sale. In the end, the Free Market will either bear (pardon the pun) Lapdance and support it, or they won't.  They demand and the businessmen of the industry listen.  Sometimes they are loud shouts like "We want CAR WARS now!" and sometimes they are quite ones like "I wish there was a game about entertainers going from table to table, topless..."  In either case, it's up to the publishers to decide where their dollars are best invested to hit said markets, and, well, strike while the iron is hot.


I for one believe heavily in the free market.  I think it's awesome that we live in a day and age where anyone can think up anything, and if they need the means to make it, can ask others to believe in their cockamamie scheme, get them to pay them for it, and then deliver on it (or not, depending who you are).  


As a businessman in this industry, I am constantly plagued by the fact that any decision I make will more than likely disappoint, or upset, at least one fan, somewhere; and that kills me inside.  I strive to make everyone happy, even knowing I more than likely can not.  I see this decision today and my heart goes out to Artipia as I know they are getting inundated with "not so kind mail".  For me, I want to give everyone who is a fan of my games and my company the best experience every time they play or mention my work among friends... which is why as a businessman, this decision both totally baffles me, and inspires me, at the same time.

As I mentioned, Artipia has an impressive line up, and, until this announcement, had a style all their own. From Among the Stars and it's artistic alien world, to Drum Roll, making gamers want to run away with the circus all over again, to Archon (a widely underrated game in my opinion) with it's unique style and execution. They were, and are, the "cool kids from Greece". Most everyone I know who has met Konstantinos loves the guy, and for good reason.  He's passionate and he loves his customers. I've always enjoyed working with him through Crits Happen, and, seeing them support their community so well.


Today though, this decision takes them down an interesting path.  They are fully admitting that they know this is going to polarize their fans.  My inner "suit" is screaming "WHY!?" There's never a reason to alienate a great community, especially given how hard it is to build one!


This knowledge though, that they brazenly, Max Temkinized their brand (yes, I just made Max a verb, deal with it) means they are doing so with purpose and, with purpose comes plans.  But what are the plans at Artipia games?


Perhaps they are just doing this to get attention.  I doubt it, but maybe.  I think their response about "one more game about violence..." is spot on.  There ARE too many games about violence. And yes, they ARE aimed at children.  Heck, I'll admit, my 9 year old has played Zombiecide with me.  Now I'm a parent, and I try to be a good one;  I explain the reality of fact vs fiction, that this is "Fantasy" and all that, but seriously, we're still "blowing away the dead... who were once people!"  Does that mean that making a game about strippers, or entertainers (pick your poison), makes it all better?  No where near at all, but, it is a good point, even if one to divert the discussion slightly.


Perhaps Artipia is actually going to go down a road less traveled, one where they make their own decisions, knowing full well that there is a free market, no matter how small in a niche, and it shall decide for itself.  How "corporate" of them to do such a thing.  You mean they may actually want to make a profit in this industry?  That's radical thinking that the "suit" in me likes to see in a business.


Maybe they are doing it as an agent of chaos; all one big wild plan to do something so different, it'll be both noticed by everyone and horrify the masses, all the while, gaining them press?  As a wise man once said, "Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos."  This is about as chaotic as one could get in this industry, and it will more than likely provide some major data points to study and ponder for future projects.


See, here's how it is... I live my life by a pretty simple idea...


"If it's not my cup of tea, no one's forcing me to drink it, but even so, no one's forcing me to spill it on anyone."


Think about that for a moment and then click this...


Sorry!  I had to do something to lighten the mood for a second after that heavy line.


But seriously, even if I don't like, nor agree, with a game about strippers (male or female) serving their customers, well, it doesn't mean I have to buy it right?  I don't even have to look at it?  I certainly don't think it's something worth taking up arms and going to war over (for that matter, not much is)... but, if I did (I don't), and if I was curious (and honestly, I am), would it still be my banner to raise, my trumpet to blow?


No, in the end, this is all Artipia, and self served on a silver platter; most likely, in my opinion, part of the plan.  Some will laud it, some will applaud it, and many will probably end up in the middle.  Either way, you have to admire the confidence in which they are coming out with it, and, in an industry driven by the minority voice (more often than you'd think), sticking to their guns through the hail of bullets coming at them.  Back it, don't back it, or baby got back it... it's here, it doesn't look to be going away, and like many others, it will be a roller coaster to hang on to and enjoy the ride.


PS - I am still a fan of Artipia Games, I still own and play Mai Star, and DO love AEG... and I think chaos is a good thing... in moderation.

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Comments: 7
  • #1

    Indygnome (Friday, 05 September 2014 09:40)

    Wow, surprised that my twitter comment actually made your page.. My tweet was made because i own pretty much everything Artipia have released. It was genuine disappointment that a game with a theme i find so distasteful is the next release. It won't stop me enjoying their other games, and hopefully will be backing them for future projects that are of a theme that isn't something I find personally offensive. I firmly believe that if you don't let somebody know you dislike something then they will either repeat the action, or will at the very least be unaware of the depth (or lack of) feeling against it. For clarity, I have the same theming issue with the new Sons of Anarchy game. Drugs, Gangs etc.

    Your blog here doesn't offend me though. I welcome the debate. It think its important that all points of view are welcome and aired so that they can be better understood by the people reading them. Twitter, sadly with its limit of characters doesn't tend to allow for any depth of a cohesive debate.

    In short, sometimes there isn't a game with a certain theme because really there doesn't need to be one.

  • #2

    Tox (Friday, 05 September 2014 14:18)

    Well said Indygnome. Well said :)

    I think your tweet summed up what a lot of Artipia dans may feel, hence my inclusion... hope that's ok. Excellent point on the SoA game as well. Humans, especially in America, tend to overglorify violence, sex, and drugs. Thanks for reading and commenting

  • #3

    Suzanne (Friday, 05 September 2014 15:14)

    Thanks Tox for your well-written post. This whole product announce has driven me nuts for a few reasons - and only a couple are because of Artipia.

    1) Because I was an early Twitter responder I've gotten a fair amount of flack for being anti-open-market, prudish, over-sensitive etc. I can't believe how many people took my initial statement (which was simply "the theme is a complete turn off to me") and chose to inflate it into something it was not. Many seemed to be happy to claim my personal opinion was somehow more, that I had stated that the game shouldn't be sold. I absolutely NEVER stated or implied that. The internet is a confounding place and having meaning put to a statement that was abundantly simple and clear is part of the problem with the whole dialogue that ensued.
    2) "There are men too!" is an argument that completely fails to acknowledge a centuries' long history of objectification and subjugation of women. Sure, maybe adding men to the cover is their attempt to start to even the scales. But without acknowledging a broader context, the gender equality argument is ridiculous on so many fronts that would need a larger forum than this.
    3) The Violence vs Sex is a false argument to me. Absolutely - there is too much violence in games. And absolutely sex is a good thing and a completely viable theme for a game. But if Artipia is claiming they published this game in an attempt to combat violence in gaming - I'd completely challenge that. They had a game. It has a theme. They knew it would draw attention and wanted it. There's a larger discussion around sex and power, stripping and economics, and the dynamics of gendered interactions when financial transactions are at stake. But I seriously doubt any of those were behind the production of this game.
    4) The cover depicts a darker skinned man with an African-style shield and wear. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly racist this is. It's the biggest grievance I have with the cover/game. Moreover, it emphasizes the tone-deafness of the game's cover.
    5) I kept any statements I made about the game, the content, the imagery, the theme. I did NOT say that people who wanted this game were hyper-sexualized, deviant, sexist, etc. On the other hand, numerous responses to my statement and others criticizing the people who objected and placed judgement on their opinions. It's an odd imbalance but pronounced.
    6) I haven't seen/read anything about the mechanics or content of the game. This could be an awesome game with thoughtful and humorous content. I am absolutely willing to believe that until I see otherwise. It doesn't mean I like the cover anymore. But I also don't like Zombies.
    7) Artipia completely accomplished what they set out to do with their announcement. They got people talking and I guarantee more people know about the game and are talking about thanks to dialogues like this. And that's a good thing. The discussion, the thought, the assessment - that's what we want. It'd be nice if we left more of the judgement of each other out of it.

    None of this is pointed at you Tox. You created a post and I trust your site more than others trying to grab hold of this conversation. So these are my greater than 140 character thoughts. (But far fewer characters than I could write.) :)

  • #4

    Zeke (Friday, 05 September 2014 16:08)

    Very well thought up. I had all sorts of reactions when I saw the cover. Suzanne covered a lot of them. But after lots of reflection, I really have no idea what kind of game this is going to be. I mean, this could be a real convention-defying game. Maybe you will take the role of a smart, savvy dancer, taking control of your body and trying to maximize your point scoring potential to retire at the end of the game with the funds to pursue a law school degree or start your own business. But probably not. I am somewhat predisposed because EVERY game I have played UP to this point in history has treated strippers as objects to be manipulated. Maybe "Lap Dance" with change everything. Or maybe not.

    This is the negative side to Artipia just releasing the cover. They want it to get attention, but they are going to face a pretty significant amount of folks who are going to draw every conclusion they need using only the cover as evidence.

    My completely unfounded prediction: this is going to be a terrible game, and Artipia grossly miscalculated.

  • #5

    Tox (Friday, 05 September 2014 17:42)

    Hi Suzanne, thanks so much for that. Great response, and I agree, I think your initial reaction was blown up purely as being "first in line" so to speak.

    Your second point is correct and spot on. If someone said, "But there's no slavery now..." doesn't erase the years of pain, discrimination, and hate in an instant.

    On your third point, yes, I made a slight comment on it my article, but I think that "one more game about violence..." comment was more a distraction statement than truly defending themselves. It raises a point, but doesn't address the current one.

    Number 4... well noticed, and amazingly not commented on as much as I'd expect it to be. Now, in fairness, everything I've seen in movies (like Magic Mike and the Full Monty) has always "stereotyped" male dancers... like the Village People or something, but still, you're spot on again

    Number 5, odd imbalance is a nice way to put it. I've never been a fan of pushing judgement on anyone, less I be a judge, and last I checked, I'm not. Still, in the end, personal opinions are exactly right, for that person with said opinion.

    Number 6.... that is true... it is somewhat expected though that they would rather raise a raucous with the theme first, then release info on the game, which is what I'm thinking we'll see.

    Number 7 is exactly what I think their goal was as well. Generate buzz. And I COMPLETELY agree on the judgement of others being left out. The game should be the focus. If I don't like Lords of Waterdeep (I do, but if I didn't) I shouldn't be harassed on Twitter for liking say Village more. And I surely shouldn't be told things like, "Oh, you must just not like city people then" or some other absurd judgement.

    Great thoughts, and thank you!

  • #6

    Tox (Friday, 05 September 2014 17:46)

    Good thoughts Zeke. they should release info soon on the game, less too many judgements preclude their original goal of interesting people. My bet is it's more tongue-in-cheek style, but who knows really. The cover doesn't seem to invoke serious game play... it might even be a party game for all we know. With as audacious as Cards Against Humanity is, it's not something I'd put past anyone to make a party game around this... maybe a card game where you have to make up the most ridiculous costume for your dancer, along with a song name to dance to... like, "Coming to the stage next, it's your favorite, 'The Cyber Poodle' dancing to 'Meeples in the Moonlight'" or something nutty like that. Time will tell for sure... for sure...

  • #7

    Indygnome (Saturday, 06 September 2014 22:54)

    I really hope its very innocent and we all wonder what the fuss was about. Upon reflection i am not sure how worried I should be that they mentioned 10+ as an age range. Does that mean it is much more light hearted than I feared, or is the age range perhaps a further issue. More details needed before I decide, but no matter how light hearted I am still uncomfortable with the theme in general.


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