What is "offensive"?

Continuing the discussion from Ron declares he is working on a new Monkey Island:

Yes, and I think that it’s likely the same difference between “this isn’t offensive” and “this doesn’t offend me”, because both comparisons implicitly introduce a concept of “intrinsically offensive” which might not actually exist.

If we really want, I think it would be fair to apply that logic in both directions, but in my opinion we should resist the temptation of defining ourselves what’s intrinsically inoffensive or offensive because, again, it depends a lot on how culture changes.

By the way, we shouldn’t assume that social change goes towards directions that we would consider positive today. For all we know, the future might reserve to us some kind of Idiocracy universe, where people are less skilled at detecting satire or sarcasm or generally more abstract communication devices.

What that society might consider offensive might be very different from what we consider offensive today and, still, neither society would be more or less correct (or entitled) at defining what offense is or isn’t from an intrinsic point of view and for all the cultures involved.

Also, in my opinion “intent” is a quicksand environment, because while in many occasions it can be easier to assess it, in context where people don’t have enough information about it (was an author being intentionally X or not, in his work?) human nature leads people to assume what they would like the intent to be, sometimes to feel comfortable, sometimes to get an opponent to vent their emotions at.

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That, my friend, is an explosive by-the-book mix between a Straw Man fallacy and “appeal to fear”. It doesn’t take the form of an “appeal to extremes” but an extreme scenario that nobody mentioned before was introduced to the discussion. If you really want me to drink that stuff, I ask at least that someone serves it to me with a Bloody Lip Bar and Grill Original Crazy Straw™! :stuck_out_tongue:


I wasn’t replying to any of you… in fact, I wrote that exactly because you were not talking about what I think is the point.

But even assuming that there is a main point, why do you think it should be an hyperbole like “all minorities should be protected from criticism or ridicule”?

It’s not clear to me if you want to present a new point through an hyperbole (and if so, why? hyperboles generally don’t facilitate the understanding of a topic) or if you’re implying that this hyperbole was the underlying though of some of the people discussing the topic. :thinking:

To be clear, I was replying to what Troels said :

Troels said “so far we have ridiculed a person with a toupee, a person who dresses as a woman… this was fun in 1990, when minorities were silenced.”

As if the reason why those jokes are bad taste is that they are addressed to minorities.

In general I was replying to what I perceive to be a current of thought that really exists. My perception comes from twitter, so I can’t offer any specific example.

Except, of course, the current of thought by which religious minorities cannot have their beliefs criticized, of which you are certainly aware.

As I wasn’t replying to any of you , or deforming anything any of you said, it was no “strawman”. (As for “appeal to fear”, unfortunately not all appeals to fear are wrong.)


I’m not very familiar with the social environment in Twitter, so if you have actually observed a widely shared “all minorities should be protected from criticism or ridicule” position there, then I agree that your statement makes sense.

I didn’t know that you were referring to discussions happening in another environment. I apologize for assuming that you were referring to the discussion we had here and for concluding that it was a straw man fallacy. :slight_smile:

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I should have been more clear, it looked like a reply to some of you :slight_smile:

This led to a change in a puzzle in The Will of Arthur Flabbington, and you know it. I didn’t want to face backlash. Namely, you had to fish the poop out of the toilet using the dreamcatcher in the waiting room. In retrospect, I made the right choice. But not because I feel that the puzzle was too disrespectful, but because I would absolutely have faced backlash :stuck_out_tongue:

Because if you look at the intent, my goal wasn’t to ridicule dreamcatchers and those who hold beliefs in them. My goal was to ridicule psychics who don’t give a *beep* about other people’s beliefs and collect anything that’s fancy and mysterious from exotic cultures just because it looks cool, and also to portray and convey the distress of a skeptical person, fed up with what he thinks is utter BS, resorting to use sacred tools to fish out poop from a toilet just because he wants to get to a treasure real quick. This had nothing to do with dreamcatchers in themselves and it could have easily been a crucifix* for all I cared - the problem is, crucifixes aren’t cool enough for psychics.

But would the general public have understood that, or would they have stopped at “he’s using a Native American element in a derogatory manner, so he’s racist”?

I mean, I’ve been scolded for using this hand emoji :+1 :+1:t5: because… it’s darker than what I’m allowed to use. They call it “digital blackface”, and I’m not joking. How can a discussion about respect and equality be carried out like that?

*and yes, I did have a “disrespectful” usage for a crucifix in Where Wolf?, because as I said, I’m all for equality :stuck_out_tongue:


Relevant to Monkey Island: In Curse of Monkey Island, I think Madame Xima is referred to as a “gypsy” fortune teller on occasion (though I could be wrong). If Curse were to ever be remastered/rereleased, would they want to mute that bit of dialogue? Would it be feasible in a voiced game, as opposed to a text-only game like MI2 where something like “white slavers” or “midget wrestling” or “Zonker Harris” can just have written words changed?

The Belmont family agrees that crucifixes are best used for boomerang related tasks, but they might recommend you try holy water to physically destroy the toilet causing trouble.

EDIT: I misread your last sentence as, “Crucifixes aren’t cool enough for PHYSICS”, which set my brain to Castlevania.

lol, I did the same thing.

I am not aware of any impediment at criticizing religious minorities specifically, actually. :neutral_face:

I have always assumed that no religious group would like their beliefs being criticized, regardless of the size of their community.

Without information about your real intent, the people in that group would have acted in different ways, including jumping to the conclusion that the author did it because he didn’t assign any value to a symbol dear to others or because he intentionally wanted to show disrespect towards a religious group…

…which means that the author didn’t want to make a blatantly intentional, The-Producers-level fuckerfest of stereotypes mocking game, which would make the intent of satire almost universally unequivocable. :stuck_out_tongue:

And still, even after having observed recently a backlash that targeted a production that is dear to me (RtMI), I don’t think that there is anything intrinsically wrong with either the backlash that happened or the one that you might have prevented.

That’s interesting. I’ve witnessed a complaint for the new (alleged) Melee Storekeeper having a skin darker than the one he had in MI1.

I’m not sure it was a result of a similar phenomenon, but I’ve studied the original blackface phenomenon and I can understand why a digital version of it can be associated with stereotyping.

I think that it would depend on who would remaster it. But it might happen, yes.

In the remaster of Sam & Max Save the World, the developers changed the voice actor for Bosco, who is a black character that was initially voiced by a white actor.

[Italian mode on]
Quante menate inutili.
[Italian mode off]


I wasn’t talking about physical impediments. But, since you mention them, I’ll note that they do exist: try criticizing Muhammad in Brussels muslim area and see how long you survive :wink: . Or see what happens if a Muslim tries to leave his religion; he is most likely to be murdered, even in the most moderate parts of the Muslim world.

But all this is besides the point, because, as I was saying, I wasn’t talking about physical impediments, but about the mindset that you shouldn’t criticize or make fun of certain things. This mindset is so pervasive we don’t even notice it anymore. For example, if someone says Jesus was born of a virgin, or he was resurrected, and you ask “how can you possibly know that”, that response is considered inappropriate and very unpolite. Though, if you think about it, is a completely natural thing to say. It is as though religious people deserved a respect that’s greater than the one granted to normal people during the rest of their lives. (Political views, for contrast, are not granted such a big protection from criticism.)

Anyway, I don’t want to look like I’m interested in initiating a discussion about religion… in fact, I regret deviating the discourse over it. Rather, I am irritated by a broader movement I could call the “politically correct mob”, a kind of attitude I saw on twitter, of which I’ll give some examples:

  1. some girl posts a selfie showing face and cleavage, clearly intentional. You make an ironic compliment about how difficult it is to focus on her face, and 50 people on twitter come to her defense, call this harassment, and send you death threats; “if I find you I’ll kick your ass”. Everything seems to be harassment, nowadays.

  2. A reporter (a McNeil) was fired because he was reporting that someone else used the N word, and in order to report it he used the N-word himself. Just to report it. And such a hell was raised by the mob that he had to be fired.

  3. people are so hysteric that, if a game makes fun of someone wearing a toupee, someone (like Troels in the video) frames this as an act of bullying on minorities. What on earth do minorities have to do with this? The fact that minorities were even mentioned is to me a clear indication of people losing their minds. Once there was the idea that you shouldn’t make fun of people for things that are not a result of their choice (such as being handicapped). And that was sacrosanct. But today, you can’t even make fun of choices. If you can’t criticize anything , how can comedy exist?

  4. in Denmark, this mindset has led to a law by which, in order to have intercourse with a girl, you first have to ask her explicitely “do you agree to have sex with me” and she has to say “I do”. Otherwise it’s illegal.

  5. the musical movie “cats” was accused of “whitewashing”, and it failed financially arguably because of this. This means that a person of mixed race had white makeup, because she played the part of a white cat. In my game, I had a scene where the protagonist had to “change color”, to prove to a wizard that she had the magic power of changing color. The solution was she had to cover her face with coal. The comedy was in the silliness of this solution. I had to remove it because I would have been accused of “blackfacing”. So we have “whitewashing” on the one hand, and it’s bad, but also the opposite is bad :slightly_smiling_face:


In general I’m always surprised people will have problems with games being politically incorrect for <insert your favourite sensitivity here>, even retroactively expecting PC’ness from old games like MI2, but have no issues with shooting another person in-game. Yeah, yeah, I know- there were and still are people who also like to see all violence in video games banned. But after all: it is just a game.
The pick-up lines you can use on Kate Capsize were as awkward 30 years ago as they are today.
Having to steal the helping aid from a disabled midget to solve a puzzle: it is part of the puzzle design. At least one object you might not immediately pick up and have in your inventory. (Be honest: did you pick it up before knowing what you had to use it for? I sure did! Does it make Guybrush a jerk? No. Does it make me a jerk? No. I am quite polite and friendly and a helping-thy-neighbour person in reality.)

Even in the Monkey Island book, there are “articles” where the games get a bad review on having aged badly because of today’s sensitivities and PC-ness.

Again: it is a game. Laugh at the jokes, even the cringeworthy ones. It won’t make you a worse person now or then. Or do you believe shooting at living things (or zombies) in a game increases the risk you’ll do the same thing in real life? Or playing race games make you speed in real traffic?

For me “PC” means firstly two things: something you can play Point & Click games on and those games too.

To no one in particular: in 1990, we didn’t care about hurting your feelings. In 1990 I would not even have to add the “to no one in particular”. It was good enough of you didn’t mean to offend others and it needn’t to be spelled out. Happy times.


See. I am sure there’s people who get offended by this. Me living closer to Brussels than you do almost am… :wink: But others will just shrug and say: clearly this guy has some stereotypical bias.

And you don’t need that with a boy? What an outrage!
I’d make it mandatory to have a written contract first, with a 14-day withdrawal right (pun intended).

The same guy who couldn’t say two sentences without swearing whenever he was on the Upper Memory Block podcast…

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Related: It’s a lot harder for Disney to make universally praised Star Wars films/shows, than it is to accuse haters of not liking women and minorities.

I just gotta say I never thought of MI2 Guybrush as a jerk. I thought he was a blundering doofus trying to find his way, for the most part. Maybe I never got as immersed as I ought to have, but stealing Wally’s monocle, as @Someone mentions was never more to me than a piece of a puzzle. A great piece.

It’s truly bizarre to me to think of silly games and their characters and puzzles as morally or ethically relevant. Do some people think this game will encourage our youth to steal corrective eyewear?

Maybe the ending is how our propagandist gets a pass; kids don’t understand consequences and they’re generally more selfish and irreverent.