Social Techniques

At RSGpdx we have a specific set of tools to help ensure that the game space is safe and fully functional.

The purpose of these tools are to make sure that everybody is fully understood as we explore potentially sensitive issues. This means opening lines of communication, protecting and preserving each other’s creativity, proceeding with care and maintaining consent.

We have three specific tools for maintaining a safe gaming environment. These are I Will Not Abandon You,  Safe Words and Permission to Leave the Game.

Jesse Burneko discusses matters of sensitive play at great length on his blog, Play Passionately if you are craving a more in depth look at what this kind of play entails.

I Will Not Abandon You (IWNAY)

First, assume I Will Not Abandon You. I Will Not Abandon You is a mutual understanding of how we, as a group, will handle sensitive subject matter. This means that all participants will proceed with the knowledge that the intended experience of a game may be deliberately uncomfortable or challenging, and therefore the subject matter requires the care and genuine engagement of all players. I Will Not Abandon You works best when everybody is completely open about their reactions to in game events. Always say how something strikes you. Be an open book.

Read more about I Will Not Abandon you on Meguey Baker’s blog, Fair Play.

Safe Words

The two Safe Words at our disposal are Yellow and Red. These allow us to let each other know how we are being affected by the subject matter or the treatment of the subject matter in game.

Yellow says that the subject matter and/or the treatment of the subject matter is getting intense, and that it is having a strong effect on you. It says that we all need to tune in to the emotional status of our fellow players and proceed carefully. Yellow does not ask anybody to stop or even change their in game contributions, nor does it evaluate those contributions, but it does warn that going much beyond this point may compromise one’s game experience. In fact, depending on the thrust of the game’s thematic material, Yellow could mean that you are doing it exactly right.

When you use Yellow it is important to specify if it was the subject matter or the treatment of the subject matter or both that has caused you to issue this warning. Though you do not need to specify any personal details as to why you have used Yellow, you may if you like, and we would like to listen. In games where Yellow is most likely this is probably conducive to goals of the game anyway.

Red says that the subject matter or the treatment of the subject matter has gone too far and is immediately threatening to compromise your game experience. Red says stop. If one person’s game experience is compromised then the whole game is compromised even if the other players do not acknowledge or even realize that another player’s gaming experience has been compromised.

Before you use Red use Yellow if at all possible, though sometimes things do come out of the blue. It is only fair to let your other players know how you feel before things get out of hand. Once you use Red it may be time to call for a short break and clear the air before getting back to playing. Hopefully this issue was already discussed somewhat earlier when you called Yellow, but it is a good idea to mention now what it was that went too far. And of course, if you would like to share your personal reason for why you were affected so, please do. We will listen.

Permission to Leave the Game

Finally, if even after Yellow and Red your experience has been compromised you have permission to leave the game. Please use the Safe Words before you do this, as this may completely stop the game for everybody involved. It is important that we all understand each other, and if we do then we will sympathize with your decision to leave. But if we don’t then we will be confused and we won’t really learn anything about why or how the gaming experience was compromised.

It’s okay to leave a game if that is what you feel you must do.


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