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On Thanksgiving Day, NSKN’s blog brought us some solid food for thought: how should game designers and publishers, not to mention gamers in general, consider the impact of thematic content in the games they design and play?  In this entry, NSKN presents the conflict that can sometimes arise due to various elements of theme in games.

It’s quite likely that every gamer has become involved in a game where some aspect of the theme struck a nerve with someone at the table.  A solid theme brings the mechanics of a game to life, allowing us as gamers to make connections that suck us in and immerse us in the experience of the game.  There are, however, elements of life, philosophy, morality, and the human experience, that we find unpleasant, disturbing, and sometimes quite revolting.  Whether the subject matter is as “in your face” as playing on a sheet of human skin in Chaos in the Old World, or something deeper and more subtle like the “colonists” in Puerto Rico, it’s difficult to be callous to others when a particular aspect of a game’s theme strikes that nerve.

A mature response in this area is to make one’s own decisions about a theme and to be careful to avoid pressuring others to play games with themes that are difficult for them.  However, even in this light, designers and publishers should carefully consider the impressions that will be left on others by the delivery of theme in their games, and be prepared for any negative reactions from thematic elements that come close to established social and moral boundaries.

The article makes observations about how a person can find one edgy theme acceptable yet be very bothered by another theme that could be considered controversial.  To read the article in full, visit the NSKN blog page.