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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


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Wolf Baginski

I'm reminded of an infamous book by John Norman, Imaginative Sex. It managed to both argue that it was OK to be imaginative, even kinky, and to demonstrate John Norman's own lack of variety in what he could imagine.

In the end, this sounds like another batch of bondage porn, with the same rather superficial attitude to people as people. At least in Second Life you are dealing with real people behind the avatars. This sounds to sit uncomfortably between SL's active meeting of minds, and the wholly passive storytelling of written erotica.

And it isn't because of the graphics. I get the same feelings in pure text, ranging from Fifty Shades of Gray through Leather Goddesses of Phobos to the still-running multi-user games such as Tapestries.

A good author can show us the characters, and the multi-user games have us interacting with real people, but the fake people of interactive fiction can be so totally inadequate.


What's next? Maybe people will even start enslaving other people in second life with collars, chains and loincloth OH WAIT.


John Norman's vision is as basic as human instincts are, see Muslin religion!

Cicadetta Stillwater

@zzpearlbottom: There's a religion centered around a particular sort of cotton fabric? Who knew? (All hail the plain weave...)

Pussycat Catnap

"What's next? Maybe people will even start enslaving other people in second life with collars, chains and loincloth OH WAIT."


Yeah basically this.

This brand of power-trip fantasy is pretty disturbing, but at least in Skyrim the only person involved is the lone individual. In SL, you have a perfect storm for abusers, enablers, and victim-personas that overlay and disrupt any attempt at a community fantasizing around lines of 'consent'. With real people's emotions on the line, but not real physicality: its is easier to fall into an abuse cycle than in 'the real world'. In the real world, the physicality of it can be a check for people that never occurs in a virtual world.

So on a scale of things, long before I went on a rant about solo-player Skyrim, I'd be, and have, looked at SL.

Arcadia Codesmith

I'd be a little concerned about anybody who didn't have any ethical concerns about people owning other people as property.

That said, NPCs aren't people. And even if there's another person on the other end of the line, it's not slavery if you can turn off the computer and walk away.

We ought to be doing more to fight real-world human trafficking without worrying about computer geeks in consensual scenarios playing make-believe.

CronoCloud Creeggan

The name Paradise Halls is a reference to Paradise Falls, the outpost of Slavers in Bethesda's post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3.

I don't know about you, but the first time I entered Paradise Falls in Fallout 3, I left it with slaver corpses littering the ground.

And I wiped out the slavers in the Lincoln Memorial immediately upon discovering they were slavers.

Emperor Norton

Enslaving Skyrim NPCs is just pure justice. Almost all of them are jerks, yes I am looking at you "Do you get to cloud district often?" Nazeem.

Anyway, why are you wallowing in the sewer of the modding community? They do much better stuff than this.

Emperor Norton

and while I am at it, how about Ulfic "may I kiss your south end Mistress Elenween" Stormcloak? (yes, for those who don't know THAT Ulfic has a BDSM relationship with the arch-Thalmor herself) They might mask it but there is a lot of hooky pooky in Skyrim.


I so enjoy reading diatribes of sanctimonious moral types complaining that their is an "ick" factor to enslaving bytes of data in the privacy of one's own home. Yet they miss the glaring hypocrisy of running around the same virtual countryside slicing heads off bandits, bifurcating Foresworn, lacerating cultists, and doing God knows what else to any other human that displeased their childlike egos. So for all of those people I say, get off your moral high horse. You are no better.

Major Johnson

It's so amusing that people are totally fine with non-consensually inserting sharp steel objects into other people's abdomens until they die of it, but enslaving and beating them is oh so awful.


I have mixed feelings about this review/essay. I share the general personal distaste, mind you. I'll try any game role once, but I tend to return to the same "generally ethical, but may steal from the exploitative" style in the end. I just don't do well as an assassin, vampire, bounty hunter, or kill-'em-all rampager. Or slaver.

However, you're conflating BDSM with non-consensual slavery, beatings, and rape, and the two are the furthest thing from synonymous. The fact that BDSM adapts the look-and-feel of some aspects of non-consensual subjugation as roleplay elements is immaterial. Obvious analogy: If you like to cosplay as Captain Marvel you do not have real superpowers and will not really save the world, you'll just excite your partner who likes you in colorful tights. Anyway, back to the game stuff.

NPCs not being real people, on the other hand, may also be immaterial; the more dismissive responses above seem wide of the mark to me. The entire point of non-player characters is for you to suspend disbelief enough feel as if they're real. So, if being a slaver really, really appeals to you in a game like this, you may have some issues. (If this verges on the "kink-shaming" I'm being critical of, oh well. If your kink is banging animals or corpses or children, I don't feel any kinship with you either!) The overall point that the mod is probably going to be uncomfortable for the average person is surely correct. This will likely also be true of the Dark Brotherhood (assassins' guild) quest line (in the Oblivion version you get to listen to your fellow guild members brag about how fun it was killing a bunch of children, etc.).

The counter-argument, of course, is that everyone has a dark side, and exorcising it by exercising it in a harmless fantasy setting is a good release valve. These games are mega-violent for this very reason. If you're angry at your boss, you'll probably feel better after slaughtering a dungeon full of necromancers. Given that one's general goal in the game is to quickly kill everyone who poses a challenge bigger than a riddle, a gamer objecting to not killing them but making them carry some stuff seems a bit forest-for-the-trees, as some previous commenters noted. I know I would rather have someone who harbors a deep desire to enslave, rape, and murder people get their vicarious jollies out in a video game than go do it in real life. Too much of that already happens for real.

Slavery at least existing in the game really is a realism factor. Slavery has been employed around the world since pre-history and throughout the vast majority of written history. It's a sordid part of the story of civilization, like like war, and religious intolerance, and racism or other ethnic conflicts, and political coups, and crime, and poverty, and other things integrated into games like this that aren't all primroses and bunnies.

It's also important to realize that a mod like this, in a game like this, is just a framework for open-ended gameplay. Even the original Morrowind game included a slavery economy with an option to fight it or do nothing about it (and a non-optional quest that makes you participate in it as a customer, albeit with an eventual happy ending). A mod like this can as easily be used for killing slavers as using slaves. When I was playing Morrowind, I installed several slavery "enhancement" mods, just because they provided more slaves to free. (I ended up with too much in-game money, and buying all the slaves, executing the slavers, giving the slaves good gear, then letting them go was a way to do something charitable with the gold and with all the gear mods I wasn't actually using, in a game that has too few NPCs wandering in the world.)

Another quibble I would have is that while there are fantasy-genre games with very stereotyped sex roles, the Elder Scroll series is not among them. It's so gender-neutral in so many ways it verges on immersion-breaking at times. While there are some everyday "femme" women in the games, in dresses and living as homemakers, any given bandit, ruler, supernatural nemesis, or military unit commander has a fair chance of being female, and if so is just as powerful as a male equivalent.

(A relevant aside on sex/gender and this subculture: Most people don't realize that many of the "make the women look like strippers" mods and the tools for them are actually women-authored, including thousands of skimpy outfits, numerous pretty-girl follower mods, the very chesty CBBE body and texture set (probably the most popular for Skyrim), and BodySlide, Outfit Studio, and TexBlend for creating all that stuff. People's assumption about "sexist mods and the men who make them" are often wide of the mark. If you've ever been involved in real-world BDSM scene, fetish clubs, sex parties, etc., you know they're also chock-full of women, including on the dominant not just submissive side, and often organized or co-organized by women. In gaming, many of the sexualized mods are also gay-oriented; the underlying TES games since Oblivion are gender-neutral with regard to relationships, and even some of the sexualized male outfits are woman-authored not gay-male authored. So, leave the assumptions at the door, folks!)

Anyway, lest I sound all-critical, I repeat that I agree with you that the primary market and clear intent for this slave mod is slaver role-play, and that this may be cringe-inducing from a "why would you write and release this?" perspective. It's certainly going to be an uncomfortable role for the average gamer, not unlike the original assassin quest lines, to which it is conceptually very similar.

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