On “Woke” Lists

This is a familiar pattern to me: Some community catches my attention because indie creators are bringing in fresh, interesting ideas. Months after I get involved, reactionaries come crawling out of the woodwork because those ideas also challenge the politics implicitly endorsed by the old guard. So I'm not really surprised to see it happening with tabletop RPGs.

I won't link to it (because why send them traffic?), but some self-appointed gatekeeper on one of the popular RPG forums has posted a traffic signal-coded list of RPG publishers, sorted by the “wokeness” of their politics. Publishers who are outspoken in pushing back against chauvinism end up on the red list, meaning: Avoid. And, of course, the red-list includes some publishers putting out the games that drew me back to RPGs in the first place.

In some ways, the revanchists have already lost. The innovations left-leaning indie designers are bringing to the community are compelling enough that the old guard is already incorporating them into their games. They're generally not some ideological Trojan Horse for converting players into leftists, but many of them do encourage inclusion and cooperation as modes of play, which serves to make tabletop role-playing more inviting to a broader range of both persons and politics. The audiences they've brought into the fold are large and vocal enough that they're already tilting the demographic balance of the hobby for the better. The biggest name in the business, Wizards of the Coast, has clearly taken notice, and made it onto the red list as a result. As Cat Elm points out, the very existence of a woke list is likely to make some publishers rethink their prima facie apolitical status.