Covenant Game Design: Checking My Privilege

Before we go any further, I think that there’s something that you need to know about one of us (Sean):

  • I live at home with my parents
  • I have a full time job that provides me with a health insurance, a regular paycheck, and a way to pay my bills.

I’m telling you this because my opinions on this blog and this podcast are voiced from an area of relative security. I know people who have trouble paying the rent and who can’t afford food, utility bills, or medical care, and this has informed my politics and my thinking. I used to be in that position myself, too, but not anymore.

The same goes for Covenant, the game I’m designing with Sazzy. I’ve been able to think about it, prototype it in my head, develop mountains of fluff, and let it “cook” for years, all without it earning me a dime in sales.

Other game designers don’t have that luxury.

Game design is often their full-time job, and it doesn’t come with the security that I’ve enjoyed. They have to pay artists. Balance books. Deal with production headaches. Chase trends. Make compromises. Drum up publicity. Shift units.

They are exposed to the full effects of late-stage capitalism, which not only says, “Publish or die,” but “Keep publishing or die.”

This economy, and the society that’s grown out of it, breaks people’s brains and ethics. Most game designers manage to hold on to both.

And some don’t.

These designers get up to some pretty shady business. Others have practices that the wider society deems legal, even ethical, but that lefties like me decry.

Thing is, It’s easy to criticize from a position of security – you know, of privilege.

Look, I get it. I’m a dilettante. I’m looking for moral purity in an impure world and straight beams in a house built from crooked timber. I get it.

That’s not going to stop me from pointing out things that I do see, though. I might not go after them with the fury of a Jim Sterling, but I will point them out. I’ll even tell you how my observations have affected my game.

After all, I’m trying to drum up publicity and shift units, too.

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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