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The Darker Side of Gaming >> Insensitive, Controversial and Morally Reprehensible Games
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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I like to think that I'm a fairly cultured, well-educated and contemporary person. That I'm socially conscious, spiritually grounded and make efforts to empathize with my fellow. As such, I am shocked (and slightly embarrassed) by the huge number of incredulously insensitive, politically incorrect and downright reprehensible games that eat away at the moral fabric of the boardgaming community. I can't possibly be the only person who feels this way.

Please, share my outrage.

I am baffled. How publishers can sleep at night while developing and distributing these social diseases and value-crippling pathogens. What ever happened to pride, dignity and compassion?

What do you think?
What other games are shockingly insensitive?
How do you sleep at night even knowing these games exist?
Do you know sarcasm when you read it? Do you? Hmmm?
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1. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:127] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Bias Against Farmers

I'm a midwestern lad, raised in Wisconsin, my wife is from Iowa and many of my inlaws make their living by farming. As such, I'm very aware and sensitive to the hard working men and women who toil endlessly to put food not only on their own tables, but ours, as well.

I can't believe that Carcassonne shows such blatant disrespect for farmers by only allowing them to score by laying them down on their sides. Farmers are hard working, not vagabonds lounging about their fields while the crops miraculously harvest themselves. Further, farmers tie up your options and only score at the very end of the game -- failing to appreciate the constant work and tireless hours farmers must put in to barely sustain themselves.

Shame on Carcassonne!
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2. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:66]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Perpetuates Negative Male Stereotypes, Ignores War-Time Contributions of Women

War of the Ring is one of the most controversial games of the past decade, and has done more to damage the social image of the contemporary man than any game in recent history.

First, the game is almost completely male-centric, showing individual males as bossy individuals who lead other men to violent acts with little regard for the consequences of their actions. The shadow forces are represented as brutish, thuglike creatures who solve problems with their muscles instead of their minds. How incredibly cliche is that? Haven't we moved beyond these stereotypes? We would have, if War of the Ring hadn't dragged us back.

Tied to this is the alarming absence of positive female role models in the game. Where are the female orcs? The female Southrons and dwarves? Strong women members of the Fellowship? Women deserve more credit for their participating and significance in war-time efforts, but War of the Ring has chosen to belittle these valuable contributions by failing to include women in the game.

Shame on War of the Ring!
 
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3. Board Game: Mall of Horror [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1075]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Prejudice Against the Developmentally Challenged

I have to carefully rethink my previous enjoyment of Mall of Horror. After further consideration, I became aware that I had fallen victim to the schemes of the publisher and put aside morality by playing this game.

Thankfully I know better, and won't make the same mistake again. The object of "surviving" and earning points is a flimsy mask trying to keep you from seeing the true purpose of the game -- to persecute the developmentally challenged Zombies.

Zombies did not choose to be the way they are, they are victims of circumstance. They did not choose to crave the taste of human brains, shuffle wearily in search of warm flesh, respond to only the most basic stimuli. It is outrageously unfair to create a game centered on taking advantage of these challenged members of society by running circles around them, featuring numerous "votes" to see who will be forced to interact with the poor zombies and frighteningly enough, even kill zombies!

Shame on Mall of Horror!
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4. Board Game: King's Breakfast [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:2315]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Flaunting Excess of Riches, Bias Against People with Eating Disorders

From the game description: "...during the feast the players will take portions of various dishes from the table to eat... The winner is the player who gets the most to eat..."

Does this not make your blood boil? To create a game that promotes Gluttony is shameful enough, but a game with so much excess of food that much food goes wasted is downright immoral! To think, there are millions of people starving who would gladly accept the leftovers and scraps that go discarded, unscored, unwanted in the game.

Not to mention the serious eating disorders and larger-framed players who have no control over their eating habits and can't help but eat what is made available to them. Tempting them with so much food is heinous to the point of being cruel.

Shame on King's Breakfast!
 
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5. Board Game: The Yeti Slalom [Average Rating:4.85 Overall Rank:13205]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Cruelty to Animals

I'm surprised PETA hasn't lobbied against the publisher of Yeti Slalom to insist they stop printing and distributing games that promote violence and cruelty toward animals. Don't let the cute graphics or mythical bigfoot theme fool you -- this is a game that rewards hurting animals.

It may try to deceive you by thinking the game is a clever race, leaving the fate of the animals up to dice in a harmless endeavor. But that is far from the truth. Players intentionally position their own animals and play cards from their hands to try and hurt their opponents' animals by hurling hard, ice-filled snowballs at the innocent creatures as they flee for their lives.

Only a sick, sick person could find this entertaining.

Shame on Yeti Slalom!
 
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6. Board Game: Cloud 9 [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1493]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Encouraging Unsafe Activities

What could have been a whimsical, delightful game turns into a gruesome cautionary tale for would-be extreme sports enthusiasts or hot air balloonists. For goodness' sake, kids play these games, and as we know from countless news accounts of kids getting hurt, they act out behaviors they see adults perform.

I was mortified to find no bright, bold warning listed anywhere on the box, rules or board declaring: "Out of the Box does not condone jumping out of a hot air balloon. Always excersise caution and judgment when riding in a hot air balloon and follow all standard safety regulations."

Would it have been so terribly difficult to include this disclaimer -- or do we need another painful reminder on the 6 o'clock evening news of how such careless negligence endangers our children?

Shame on Cloud 9!
 
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7. Board Game: Axis & Allies: D-Day [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1915]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Failure to Support the "Whole Story"

I know folks enjoy wargames and simulations for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the ability to review history and learn from the experiences of others -- or to roll back time and see if perhaps a different outcome would be possible had things gone another way.

I was at first encouraged by the release of Axis & Allies: D-Day, thinking that we would see a fleshed out retelling of the great conflicts of World War II, specifically around this particular theater of operations.

I was a bit surprised they decided not to start at the very beginning (where is A-Day?), but decided to give AH the benefit of the doubt. Considering the success of the Axis & Allies franchise and the solid following A&A: D-Day enjoys, I was certain they would follow up with E-Day through Z-Day to complete the entire telling.

You can imagine my surprise to find that Hasbro decided to share only this very small part of the entire story. But I suppose that only goes to show the sort of society we live in -- the rich and influential get to determine what "happened" in history, even when that means only promoting a distorted, narrow view like this.

Shame on Axis & Allies: D-Day!
 
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8. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:927]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Blatant Disregard For Human Life

Even if they are French, I can't believe the lives of so many people are trivialized. The game description at the BGG entry here sends chills up my spine:

"As executioners pandering to the masses, the players are trying to behead the least popular nobles. Each day the nobles are lined up and players take turns killing the ones at the front of the line until all the nobles are gone..."

Eegads! What could possibly be worse? Oh, I know -- let's make it about three days of mindless slaughter, instead of just a single day of mindless slaughter. The game is trying to prove the maxim "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic." Even if they are French.

Shame on Guillotine!
 
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9. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:220]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Undermining the Integrity of the Arts

Appreciation for all the arts -- music, painting, sculpture, drama -- is rapidly disappearing from our schools and our society. It's hard enough to lobby to keep the arts alive and healthy without a game like Modern Art reducing the vision and talent of artists into a cut throat business.

Instead of evaluating art for its emotional investment, for its aesthetic qualities, social commentary or creativity, we've reduced this once proud stantion of society to a marketing gimmick.

No longer can artists afford to create works based on inspiration. No more tapping into the soul of humanity to create masterpieces that capture the mind and the heart. It is now a relentless machine focused solely on the bottom line -- if it doesn't produce a high return on my investment, then your so-called "art" is useless.

Shame on Modern Art!
 
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10. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:349]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Belittling Gambling Addiction

This one hits too close to home for comfort. As a child of an addict, I was mortified to learn that there was a game being distributed that was not based on just gambling (repugnant as that is) but at how to encourage weak-willed and addicted people to cave in to their addiction.

The player who is most effective at manipulating people by developing the "best" den of immorality is the winner -- the more false promises, flashing lights and glimmers of hope you offer, the more gambling addicts you lure into your casino, bilking them of what little remains of their self-esteem, driving them into poverty and depression. The game could virtually be summarized as "who can force the most addicts to fall off the wagon?"

Gambling Addiction is a serious problem, a disease. Trivializing the trials and difficulties faced by gambling addicts in such a game is (at the least) very poor taste. The least they could have done would be to include a flyer on knowing how to set limits, and the toll free number to Gamblers Anonymous.

Shame on Vegas Showdown!
 
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11. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:823]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Bias Against Acromegaly Sufferers

I must admit, I have never played Gulo Gulo, but based on what I know of the game, I can't bear to play a game that is biased against sufferers of acromegaly -- a rare metabolic disorder which can result in swollen and disproportionately larger extremeties (notably hands and fingers).

Since the core mechanic seems to revolve around extracting small pieces from a small container, one may first think this game is positioned to encourage children and provide a means to level the playing field for smaller players.

But the opposite is in fact true. By relying on such small components, even a player with moderate acromegaly would find Gulo Gulo virtually impossible to play competitively -- let alone participate without suffering the anxiety knowing that their affliction is being taunted by the very nature of this "game."

Shame on Gulo Gulo!
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12. Board Game: Attack! [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:3966]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Failure to Provide Non-Violent Alternatives

The name says it all -- this is a game that spits on diplomacy, peace and the sanctity of life. This game wants you to shed your humanity, discard all rational thought and values, and simply Attack. No negotiations. No concessions. No working for the betterment of all involved. In case you missed it -- you should Attack!

And if that weren't enough, the manufacturers felt the original game didn't do a good enough job conveying just how strongly they want you to Attack -- to the point that they developed an expansion to help you find more ways to dehumanize by Attacking even more!

I... can't go on. I'm dazed by the audacity of this game!

Shame on Attack!
 
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13. Board Game: Scrabble [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:1356]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Bias Against Dyslexia

It baffles me how a game like Scrabble can still see constant production and precious space on store shelves while featuring gameplay elements that are clearly biased against people suffering from dyslexia.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines the disorder as such: "Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read." Dyslexia can manifest in a variety of ways, including the mental re-ordering of letters and words when visually interpreted.

This can result in difficulty in reading and spelling, problems which are compounded and ridiculed by Scrabble's insistence on individual letter tiles. How can a dyslexic player be expected to organize the tiles on his letter tray? How do you order and arrange tiles when -- no matter what order you put them in -- they always appear mixed up?

And don't get me started on Boggle....

Shame on Scrabble -- and you too, Boggle!
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14. Board Game: Cartagena [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:765]
Have faith
United States
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Transgression: Glamorizing the Criminal Life

In this game, you each play a band of pirates (the terroritsts of their day) and help them to escape their just prison sentences.

Just look at how this game affects impressionable youngsters. Before you know it, they'll be making games about gangsters.
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15. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:571]
David Brain
United Kingdom
London, UK
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Transgression:Wanton Psychological Torture of Animals

Not only does this game promote the idea of wilfully destroying another's property, it does so by proxy - you are positively encouraged to scare your neighbour's chickens into a state of nervous tension such that they will never be able to lay another egg in their short and terrified lives.

Shame on you, Loopin' Louie.
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16. Board Game: Fury of Dracula (second edition) [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:334]
Have faith
United States
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Transgression: Intolerance toward the Undead

It's hard enough for those unfortunate to be undead, without games like this rubbing it in. I would hope the publishers would make a large donation to the Transylvania Fund for the Livingness-Challenged, as partial recompense for their gross insensitivity.
 
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17. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:287]
Have faith
United States
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Transgression: Cruelty to Artificial Lifeforms

In this game, you take the role of supercomputers racing robots and encouraging them to fight - all for your own sadistic amusement. Enough said.
 
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18. Board Game: Niagara [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:997]
Have faith
United States
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Transgression: Encouraging Unsafe Activities, Part II

Since this game was released two short years ago, how many poor souls have met their doom, plunging hapless over the falls while trying to imitate the reckless treasure seeking portrayed in this game? Too many to count, I'm sure.
 
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19. Board Game: My Dwarves Fly [Average Rating:5.56 Overall Rank:10610]
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Transgression: Advocates Slavery, Diminutizes Little People

The name alone is enough to send me into moral seizure. My Dwarfs Fly? My Dwarfs Fly? There are so many problems here it's hard to know where to begin!!

First, the current politically correct term for short-statured people is "Little Person" and not Dwarf. Dwarf is an archaic and connotation-laced word that smacks of negative stereotypes and sizism. Masquerading all of this in a fantasy-themed game does not mitigate the impact of the negative terminology.

Secondly, I'm aghast that someone would refer to a Little Person (or any other person) as "My" -- implying possession, thereby reducing the status of the person to an object. The players portray slave owners who leverage their Little People for personal gain.

If they truly could fly, I doubt they would still be slaves. In an attempt to soften the sting of bias, they tease their slaves with the possibility of freedom that flight offers.

My Dwarfs Fly, indeed... Just saying it makes my skin crawl. Why not call the game what it truly is?

Shame on My Midget Slaves Thirst For Freedom!
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20. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:143]
Jonathan Takagi
United States
San Marcos
California
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<b><font color=#FF0000>Transgression:</font></b> Disenfranchisement of Undecided Voters

Why must any political system (in this case the German one) so blatantly disregard the feelings, preferences and rights of the undecided voters? Why must everyone choose "ja" or "nein"? It is like the designer had a personal vendetta against those of us who have mixed or conflicting political ideals.

I also take issue with the fact that rallies and political meetings automatically transfer into votes for a party. It's like we are brainless creatures that blindly follow along with whatever a political party may suggest.
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21. Board Game: Busen Memo [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:13273]
Mike
United States
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Transgression: Censorship

They try to withhold and cover up the truth!

And as proof that it is working, the most beloved Busen Memo photo is no longer there... *cries*
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22. Board Game: Primordial Soup [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:572]
John Reiners
United States
New York
New York
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Transgression: Advoctates Sh*t Eating

This game is just disgusting and wrong on so many levels. In this game players defecate and then other players actually eat the feces to survive.

What kind of message is this teaching children? that its ok to eat sh*t? That eating sh*t is fun, or somehow required for survival? Sorry, there are plenty of other foods out there that children could be eating to survive that have no feces in them. Why would game companies even think of promoting such abberant behavior? And where does it stop?

Stop spreading your pro sh*t eating agenda, game companies!
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23. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:975]
John Reiners
United States
New York
New York
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Transgression: Promotes Mob Rule

This game is promoted as a social game but its nothing of the sort unless you find lynching to be a social event. How on earth could game companies put out this game?

Innocent townsfolk are accused of being werewolves and then put to death, merely based on the whims of the crowd.
Theres' no trial by jury, they're not given any due process, its just mob Rule at its worst.

And all the slaughter is supposedly justified because of some imaginary werewolf threat. As if that would make it right. When the villager is killed and the mob realizes they killed a completely innocent person, do they stop and reflect on the disparity in the system or that they killed an innocent person? No, they start the whole process over and kill more people. And this is considered "entertainment".

Better to let 100 werewolves go free than to cause the death of one innocent townsperson.

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24. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:230] [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
I could be wrong, but probably not. I AM a Steve.
United States
Allen Park
Michigan
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Trangression: Encourages bestiality.

Surely you must realize by now that "wood for sheep" is no accident.
 
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25. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:193] [Average Rating:7.36 Unranked]
Greg Spears
United States
Unspecified
California
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Transgression: Failure to embrace diversity.


This game limits the number of non-human visitors to the town of Arkham. When the quota is reached, any other extra-planer visitors are escorted to the town line and dumped there. Its not until all of the human occupants of the town abandon their homes that the visitors are allowed to roam the streets freely.
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