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"Offensive" words and themes you would avoid?


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Hi. I know that there has been some talk in past about things that were included on sites that are offensive.

 

For example, Marapets' Mental Costume (http://www.marapets.com/petcolours.php?do=colours&id=Mental) as well as other pet colors on that site and other sites that depict different cultures like Native American and Chinese. There have been some people that dislike seeing pet markings like tribal patterns that are inspired from existing cultures.

 

Additionally, some words like "Crazy" and "Gypsy" and (I had never heard this one was offensive until a few years ago) "Spook", among others, have upset people.

 

My question is: how much do you worry about offending people with different things on your game? And to what length would you go to appease your userbase if they become offended by something?

 

 

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23 minutes ago, SingSong said:

My question is: how much do you worry about offending people with different things on your game? And to what length would you go to appease your userbase if they become offended by something?

This is one of those issues of just how far do you go to not offend anyone. In today's world you will find categories of individuals who are offended by anything. We live in such a polarized society where this is a difficult issue.

The real thing to consider is whether it was intended to be offensive or not. Intent is important I think in all actions. If you have a tribal styled pet, but your intent is just that - to have a pet that appears to be tribal - I think communicating to anyone who would be offended the fact that it is indeed innocent.

I do not feel compelled, as long as your intent is not to harm, to remove said pets or art from the site in the case of someone or a group being offended. I feel this opens up a can of worms, and it generally doesn't end well for the community, since these type of things divide communities. I think the issue is one where having good solid communication skills comes into play.

If you are honestly not out to cause harm, communicating this clearly and openly will defuse a majority of the offenders complaints. It is hard to continue to be offended when there is defined a clear open dialogue of there being no offense intended in the first place. As long as you remain polite, do not feed into the static or any drama that occurs, and keep to your clear honest representation of doing no harm, the issue is usually moot.

Having been part of huge communities in an administrative position, many of which being very polarized and very dramatic at times, this type of response to any perceived offense has always defused it, clarified it, and demystified it in a clear and concise way. Compromises are okay, only if they are minor and not detrimental to other non-offended users. This should also be clearly communicated to everyone, as it also helps to solve the issue further (no one, even if they are offended loves the idea of offending a larger group against themselves after all).

It comes down to continuing to move forward, and not allowing a few to move your game or game's community somewhere else because they feel offended when that is not your intent. Remember, your game is your manifestation of the world, and you as a game owner have to own that, including your intentions of what is inside it. Your community provides insight, and that can change stuff, but they should never be able to derail your game over something you never intended.

If you are out to make fun of, undermine, upset, or offend, then good luck with that. /shrug

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I agree with a lot of what @Digital said. I dont think intent is all that matters, as sometimes things are said or done that may need correction after learning and understanding it's offensiveness. But at the same time our society is very easily offended by all kinds of things that I don't agree are offensive and while I won't try to offend in those cases, I also am not going to cater to groups finding offense in everything. 

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On 5/4/2017 at 6:34 PM, Digital said:

This is one of those issues of just how far do you go to not offend anyone. In today's world you will find categories of individuals who are offended by anything. We live in such a polarized society where this is a difficult issue.

The real thing to consider is whether it was intended to be offensive or not. Intent is important I think in all actions. If you have a tribal styled pet, but your intent is just that - to have a pet that appears to be tribal - I think communicating to anyone who would be offended the fact that it is indeed innocent.

I do not feel compelled, as long as your intent is not to harm, to remove said pets or art from the site in the case of someone or a group being offended. I feel this opens up a can of worms, and it generally doesn't end well for the community, since these type of things divide communities. I think the issue is one where having good solid communication skills comes into play.

If you are honestly not out to cause harm, communicating this clearly and openly will defuse a majority of the offenders complaints. It is hard to continue to be offended when there is defined a clear open dialogue of there being no offense intended in the first place. As long as you remain polite, do not feed into the static or any drama that occurs, and keep to your clear honest representation of doing no harm, the issue is usually moot.

Having been part of huge communities in an administrative position, many of which being very polarized and very dramatic at times, this type of response to any perceived offense has always defused it, clarified it, and demystified it in a clear and concise way. Compromises are okay, only if they are minor and not detrimental to other non-offended users. This should also be clearly communicated to everyone, as it also helps to solve the issue further (no one, even if they are offended loves the idea of offending a larger group against themselves after all).

It comes down to continuing to move forward, and not allowing a few to move your game or game's community somewhere else because they feel offended when that is not your intent. Remember, your game is your manifestation of the world, and you as a game owner have to own that, including your intentions of what is inside it. Your community provides insight, and that can change stuff, but they should never be able to derail your game over something you never intended.

If you are out to make fun of, undermine, upset, or offend, then good luck with that. /shrug

@Digital: Well I just discovered a surprising offensive word that will get you banned from the servers.

15 hours ago, Anoua said:

I agree with a lot of what @Digital said. I dont think intent is all that matters, as sometimes things are said or done that may need correction after learning and understanding it's offensiveness. But at the same time our society is very easily offended by all kinds of things that I don't agree are offensive and while I won't try to offend in those cases, I also am not going to cater to groups finding offense in everything. 

@Anoua: Its a really strange word that might cause you to scratch your head.

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13 minutes ago, Digital said:

@Boltgreywing I can honestly say that any offensive word you may find was not used to be offensive or cause offense. I am sorry you found work offensive, perhaps a better word can be used next time instead of that word you are offended by? :) 

@Digital Nothing here mind you but I prefer Neopets is a bad word. :)

http://joyreactor.com/post/935253

 

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I dom't agree with it being a matter of intent. I could joke about cancer with the intent of cheering up a cancer patient, I'm still in the wrong for being insensitive to a serious problem.

Most 'offensive' things only affect certain people. It's a matter of having empathy for serious topics and treating them with properly.

For many people, mental illness isn't a joke. I have PTSD and get flashback. I've been told I'm mental and to 'just stop being crazy" by my closest family. It's alienating when people make trivial jokes about something that's so devastating and out of your control. It says to me 'I don't mind laughing at your expense, Mental illness by itself is a joke."

i don't mind more sophisticated mental illness jokes that show some insider understanding of it. Just 'haha its crazy therefore funny' is shallow and Family Guy level unclever. 

 I'm disappointed by the crazy/mental pets on Marapets. I think it's tactless and shows a level of either ignorance or insensitivity to anyone struggling to be taken seriously. You can not intend to  stomp on a dog's tail, that doesn't mean you should keep doing it. If the harm is unintended, don't continue to stomp your foot knowing the dog's tail is under your shoe.  At that point is is in fact intentional because you know the consequenses and choose to continue.

As for cultural themed pets, racism has a deep and disturbing history of dehumanization.

The thing I don't get is... There is no reason to do it. Whether it's the crazy pets or cultural themed pets. You could very easily name them something safe. Find a movie character that has the 'crazy' you want and make it a parody. Like Madete Moody from Harry Potter. Call it Angryeye Aggry. Make tribal markings into more of a fantasy elf or pandora-like thing. Bam. No longer a problem. With a little creativity, you can have the 'cultural' pets too. I believe Neopets did this with their island pets.

Taking a few minutes to think of a non offensive way to name things will show your players that you are an educated person and don't want people to feel like serious issues don't matter, it will go a long way.

Edited by Hare
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Wanted to add to the above post since I'm on a bus and didn't get the chance earier... 

The other side of it. I totally get where people are coming from when they're frustrated over what's offensive and what's not. Especially as a creator, having people be outraged overly seemingly artbitraty or trivial things after you put so much work into your content. 

One of the problems I believe has arised in recent years is the 'trigger' warnimg culture that is oversensitive, reactive, and demanding of an environment devoid of 'emotional triggers.' This 'trend' is toxic not only to the very people with anxiety that it is supposed to protect, but anyone with mental illnness in general and any subject of offence including racism, sexism, etc. 

Here is an article about it: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

I believe there is a very big difference between content that is offensive by nature due to insensitive depiction, and nonspecific content that is 'triggering' to people with anxiety regardless of nature. 

Being triggered by the mere sound or sight of the word 'violate' is an example of something that has gotten way out of hand.
It hurts people with anxiety by trapping them in a bubble where they cannot be exposed and learn coping mechanisms that will be required once they leave the bubble.
It hurts other people without anxiety by creating a 'walking on eggshells' feeling.
It again hurts people with anxiety by creating resent towards them by the eggshell people.
It hurts anyone else with other issues because the resent spills over onto them, too. 
Jimmy. who has been avoiding the trigger word 'violate' for a year, gets fed up and no longer has patience for Billy, who's sister comited suicide. Jimmy tells Billy to 'get over it and stop being a snowflake' when Billy asks that mental illness not be joked about. Maybe Billy's sister wouldn't have comited suicide if people had been more sensitive to her issues and taken them more seriously. A lot of people with mental illnesses feel stigmatized and ridiculed.

So that's my case against the triggers... 

And back to my case for taking offensive content seriousy: The reason why those 'Mental' and 'insert specific culture' pets are offensive is because it creates an alienating environment for the people it represents. It turns them into a joke, a stereotype, or an object. This perpetuates a mindset that tells other people not to be respectful towards them. Mostly anything that is generalized/stereotyped and can be a source of controversey or ridicule for an afflicted person fits this category. Topics like adoption, obesity, mental illness, disability, race, religeion, etc. have the potential to be offensive. These are real problems. 

But again with the anxiety, I suspect it has a huge role to play in the confusion and controversey over 'offensive' content. As someone with anxiety and bizzare triggers (the sound of chewing and phone calls can induce a panic attack), I'm well aware of how devestating it can be. I'm highly aware of where the line is crossed with this and of how difficult it might be even for people who have anxiety to know these boundaries. 

Having anxiety is not easy, but it is inappropriate to get mad at or blame others and create an environemtn where they need to tiptoe around your anxiety. The proper way to handle anxiety is to find coping mechanisms. I wear earplugs under my hair (people don't even need to know) and can still have conversations over dinner without hearing any chewing. Mental preparation is needed, too. 

The person with anxiety needs to cope with their problem. The world will not change for them. Anxiety can be a serious, debilitating issue that needs to be treated, not sheltered. I know this is easier said than done, but there is no other option. 

There's been times when I've not had earplugs or am unable to leave the room. I've asked family and apologized for the trouble, I highly appreciate when they're willing to do this for me in times when I really need it. This is a rare, very last resort, though. It's a matter of "Please help me with this problem I'm trying to cope with," not "You need to stop that because you altering your life is easier for me than treating my problem." 

It's not appropriate to demand other people avoid doing what they normally do because of your anxiety. 

I do not like to call my issues being 'offended' either. I am not offended by the sound of chewing or phone calls. Certain words bother me too, but I wouldn't say I'm offended by them. They cause panic attacks, not moral unrest. 

I know the word 'offended' might technically be viable by dictionary definition for anxiety triggers, but it just doesn't sound like the right word to me. Anxiety triggers are a very different thing from being offended by the 'Mental' pets on Marapets.

Going on protests and acting entitled to a world free of anxiety triggers is unfair, unrealistic, and damaging to everyone. If loud noises are triggering, wear earplugs. Clapping is not alienating like making fun of someone with a mental illness, and any harm it causes can be avoided with sound blocking items (I combine earplugs with lawn mower muffs) or other coping tricks.

If your coping mechamisns are failing or unavailable, don't make demands, get help.  

Overall, I think a trend in recent years to be 'offended' by unusual things has caused a lot of resentment and confusion about what should really be censored or avoided. This is just my opinion on what should and should not be avoided. It's a really complicated situation and there are a lot of other factors to consider.

Edited by Hare
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The culture of being offended is really silly in my opinion. I'm a big believer in free speech and that means I don't have agree with what you say but I support your right to say it. So I might not like jerks but they have the right to be a jerk, and it's not your duty to change the behavior of someone who offends you. 

Unfortunately there is absolutely no way to avoid not offending everyone all the time. Even slightly related but totally irrelevant things (like a personal belief of an owner) can get people offended enough to do serious harm to a business. I don't see anything wrong about that Marapets costume or using pieces of real cultures to mix into your games. I personally would not be overly concerned with offending the user base of your game. If you're game is also a business that adds a little complexity but I think as long as you have a good understanding of your base you're fine. 

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@Hare great posts! What I was trying to say is that if the creators intention is innocent and means no harm, then there should be little to worry about if someone is offended. Because it is what it is, innocent and there is no reason to defend it as anything else making the situation worse.

In the case of the mental pets at Marapets, well, that is where I said good luck because they are kinda asking for it.

It is all basically a scale. And I do believe it isn't all about intent, I think intent plays at the core of how it is perceived by others. An honest mistake is usually forgiven, a conscious mistake usually is not.

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Personally I hate people being offended on behave of other race, genders or cultures. I think it's rather insulting to think you have a right to speak on behave of a large group of people and tell them how offended they should be. It's impossible to run into drama because people look to be offended. Be it taking things out of context or going out of their way to find something.

 

As for marapets they at lest went out of their way to fix some of their colours like Native making more like neopet's to a questionable degree. It's not like they can remove the pets because a upheaval.

Mental on the other hand is offensive because it presents a very outdated view of mental illness that people very much are struggling to distances from mental health. If it was say called loopy it would not be any better but mental and them having straight jackets is pretty bad. Kind of makes me worry a player see it and feel afraid to talk about their metal health. Sorry to say this but that is more dangerous to me. Maybe it's because my brother's friend killed himself when I was quite young or maybe it's my own struggles with suicidal thoughts but I take mental health very seriously. The word "crazy" is meaningless, it's a word but when your using outdated imagery of insanity with the word "mental" your drawing a clear connection to mental illness in it's worst form. Mental illness is more complex then that. See saying "crazy" is not the issue, it's the stigma that is the issue. 

 

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@Digital I agree! As long as the intent was innocent and they make adjustments to fix the problem, it's totally forgivible. I don't hold any ill will towards people for just being ignorant (unless they refuse to change, then ignorance is a choice and not as innocent). As long as they don't keep doing it with the understanding that it causes harm. 

And thank you @Corsair for your point on the issue of being offended for other groups of people, that's a good point too. I would hate to assume that someone else is offended for something that has nothing to do with myself. It's important to talk to them and hear their opinions before making assumptions.  

Maybe a good way to judge whether something is offensive, as a site developer, would be to run a poll and ask everyone 'Do you think *insert race being portrayed* pets are offensive?' and 'Are you a *insert race*?.' That way, if you don't have enough people of that race who think the content is offensive, you can go offsite and get more more feedback to make sure that you are not just removing something because a bunch of people are assuming its offensive to someone else. 

Edited by Hare
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