Sacrifice

I don’t know that anyone will ever read this. I post here, once a week and I don’t really have a blog community or an outlet to share my musings; though I did rejoin Facebook solely for the purpose of being able to share my blog posts once before.

But I quit Facebook again this week. And that very minor sacrifice is the inspiration for today’s post.

Several years ago, I went to my first GenCon. It was a weird experience, my first opportunity to go because I was going to work the Autarch booth. I was super excited. Autarch produced the Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) which was an OSR, B/X D&D style game that fulfilled the promise of those older games for me in a way that made me love them again. I was running ACKS games, contributing in the community, even have my name inside the credits of ACKS books for an (extremely minor) rules contribution.

But fast forward to the company’s Kickstarter for a new project and I learned some stuff I hadn’t known before. ACKS was heavily funded by and comfortable with Vox Day. Pretty much the antithesis of a company I’d want to be associated with. I wrote to the founder of the company, reached out to express my concerns to the community, tried to organize a response to the idea that a person with the track record of Vox Day would be contributing to the new books.

I learned two things.

  1. While there was support for the idea that I should, “do my own thing and offer to create content that countered Day’s contributions,” there was no support for the fact that such a terrible person shouldn’t be included in the project at all – because no one wanted to give up the prospect of “new gaming toys” even if those toys came with a tacit acceptance of the evil their creator did elsewhere.
  2. While I already knew this – I was reminded by the owner of the company that “money equals speech” these days. Because Day was willing to throw money at the project, his other actions didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much poison he spews online or who it hurts – as long as he’s willing to pay money, he gets respect. And a platform.

Quite frankly, this was disgusting to me. I cut ties to ACKS. I left the forums, sold my books, wrote about my decision, and will not run or endorse the game anymore.

And I loved this game. Realizing that I was never going to run or play it again was like giving up on a friend. The community online had come to mean something to me. I was an ardent fan and supporter and I spread my love of the game whenever I could. And that was gone.

It was a small sacrifice – in the grand scheme of things – but I realized that if I continued to support the game, I was accepting the bad underpinnings for the purely selfish reason that I wanted to play.

My decision to leave Facebook was similar. I wanted an outlet to post notifications of my blog posts; a way to extend my personal reach. But Mark Zuckerberg considers the willful spreading of hate speech and racist militia organizations to be an “operational mistake.” So how can I continue to support Facebook – for what I can get out of it – when it hurts so many others?

Again – a very small sacrifice – I’m not trying to make these feel bigger than they are. I just want to point out that even against the backdrop of knowing that Autarch and Facebook don’t even notice I’m gone as they carry on; it is still my responsibility to take these actions to push back in whatever small way I can against the rising darkness. What I can gain must be secondary to what is right.

And if you can’t even sacrifice the small stuff, you’ll be hard pressed to make the tougher choices when they come along.

But this is a gaming blog and I’ve wasted nearly 700 words of your time on my own story. Sacrifice is part of goodness. Major or minor – giving your life or giving your support – making a sacrifice is about putting something else ahead of your own gain.

Gaming offers us a million ways to indulge our imaginations. Sometimes, we like to imagine ourselves as heroes. I mean, too often I hear from gamers that good is boring… but I’ll never believe that. But gaming often puts us in situations where the fantasy demands that we rise to a challenge.

Many modern, mainstream games make that a prospect that is rooted in power fantasies of being able to overcome the evil with little permanent cost to ourselves or what we hold dear. And hey, if that’s what you’re into, I’m not here to say you’re wrong.

But the most powerful hero stories are ones of sacrifice; where the hero suffers for their decisions because they know that what they are doing is the right thing, even if no one else ever knows about it or if it fails to win the day.

Look at our classical myths and our modern myths. From Jesus to Captain America and Superman, the most powerful, most personal stories we tell are about sacrifice.

Now again, I’m not writing this to paint myself as a hero or to tell you that you are “gaming wrong.” But I guess, if I do have a message it’s this:

  1. Consider the things you support and consider why you support them. If you support them for your own convenience or gain even when you know they are wrong – can you truly continue to support them?
  2. Consider, during your next game, what your character may stand to lose for their beliefs and their values. Consider what they may stand to lose by taking a more difficult road.

Finally, just think of this as a plea to realize that by accepting the ills in our society for the conveniences that they may grant us, we make those ills stronger. In your games, it might be easy to say that you’ll do whatever you can to stop the spread of the influence of an evil wizard or demonic plague – but are you willing to do that away from the gaming table?

Think on it – in these times of unrest – and consider what you are willing to sacrifice for a brighter future.

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