March 23, 2010

Dialog on King Philip's War game

After the weekend protest of the King Philip's War game, the following exchange ensued via e-mail:Ms. Jennings,

We are currently working with members of the Wampanoag Nation, including a woman you may know who goes by the name Yellowfeather, whose husband and several other tribe members are playtesting our simulation on King Philip's War. Squa-Sachem Yellowfeather is not opposed to the nature or publication of this game, and her consultations with MMP about this game are invaluable.

My understanding is that Squa-Sachem Yellowfeather is a direct descendant of Massasoit, and we are confident that the final-production version of this game will meet her approval and will be a fine addition to MMP's line of games.


Brian Youse

Vice-President, Multi-Man Publishing, Inc.
Jennings's response:Brian,

Thank you for writing to me.

What about giving other tribal groups in the region an opportunity to test the game and also give recommondations as we are not totally opposed to the game, but content and learning outcomes. Yellow Feather only represents one faction of the Wampanoag Nation as there are several (Pocassett, Wampanoad, Seekonk, Wampanoag, Nimpmuck, Wampanoag, Assonett Wampanoag, etc., Pequot, and the Narragansett Nation) each with there own concerns. Maybe you would be willing to organize a game demonstration held at the Rhode Island Council in a few weeks for the learders of these groups to help us understand more.

Thank you,
Julianne Jennings
Another round

Youse's response:Ms. Jennings,

We are interested in demonstrating the game in Rhode Island and would love to meet the Rhode Island Council. We would welcome the input, and I am sure there would be a beneficial exchange of ideas. However, neither the designer nor the two active owners of MMP live anywhere near New England, and we all have day jobs and families with commitments that often interfere with our ability to travel. Additionally, MMP is a very small company with our only full time staff being the office help who answer phones, pack orders, arrange shipping, etc. The expense of a trip to RI, and the time away from our "day jobs", is prohibitive. Expenses such as additional pre-production copies were not included in our budget and so must be limited to those that have already been produced. We would gladly offer to demonstrate the game to those who have an interest if we could do so at our facility here in Maryland.

We welcome input from all areas, but game design and development cannot be conducted by committee. We cannot commit to including the particular views of anyone outside the design team, and I don't think that anyone can realistically expect us to obtain input from every tribe or faction who might be interested. As far as testing the game play is concerned, we are fairly happy with our current playtesting process and do not see the need at this point to expand that process. I hope you can understand that we do not want too many pre-production copies of the game floating around, especially if one considers the expense involved. If we run into any problems down the road, we will certainly consider your offer.

Thank you again for your interest. For what it is worth our intent is to educate with a historically accurate game, provide entertainment, and balanced competition between players. We believe that we have done so in a manner that is reasonably sensitive. We will be reviewing the game materials before final production with an eye towards content and accuracy of the events portrayed.


Brian Youse

Jennings's follow-up message to her supporters:I am having conversations with MMP. I am taking the role of educator on this. I don't think we are going to stop the game, but creating dialog to make improvements maybe the best compromise as people do enjoy playing war games. If this game is truly an opportunity to teach about the conflict, I am concerned with content and learning outcomes. I have no reservations about the historical material they collected to make the game as this is widley available. However, I am concerned about certain language. Due to having conversations with MMP, they seem to be willing to remove the word "eliminate" for "captured and defeating King Philip and other leaders." By changing the words it supports our continued existence and that all tribes were not "eliminated," and that many have sought re-acknowledgement post war. Also, I want to add a piece in the instruction/educational manual about post war/slavery and the affects of "blood mixing." Many living "outside" Indian communities see this as a dilution of blood and culture, when in fact membership was always based on community and society.

I am arranging a visit to meet with them personally. I would like 2-3 leaders to join me in this campaign. This is an out of pocket expense, driven by the heart.

Comment:  Glad to hear people are talking. Let's hope Jennings can get some learning outcomes into the educational manual, or whatever.

Also good to hear MMP consulted with one Indian while developing the game. But relying on one person is a little fraught with danger. Several tribes were involved in the war, and each has clans and factions. A few Native participants would've been better.

Also, MMP should avoid getting someone who doesn't like to be critical or rock the boat. And someone who isn't sensitive to stereotypical themes and language. I don't know if Yellowfeather is up to the job, but Jennings probably is.

Discuss first, then protest

As I said to Jennings or someone, this game isn't that big a deal to me. I see equally questionable things in the news several times a month. If I got as deeply involved in each controversy as she did in this one, I'd quickly burn out.

As I also said, I would've limited myself to a blogging and letter-writing campaign. A public rally against a game that's still in pre-production seems a bit much to me. I'm all about discussing and debating first and marching and boycotting last.

For more on the subject, see Gamers Defend King Philip's War Game and Reactions to King Philip's War Game.

P.S. Is the company called Multiman Publishing, MultiMan Publishing, or Multi-Man Publishing? Standardize your spelling, people!

1 comment:

John said...

This seems like we're getting towards a fair resolution of the conflict. Maybe all that was needed all along was for both sides to sit down and talk to each other, explain their perspectives, and hopefully learn enough from each other to provide a finished product that can satisfy both sides.