The Daily Grind: What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMORPGs?

Last week, MJ and I were discussing a stream she was planning on Conan Exiles where she planned to help friends capture “thralls” to bring back to their bases and put to work. The term “thrall” is the game’s way of softening what it really is: slavery. The slaves are NPCs, mind you, not other players, but honestly, the idea creeps me out a little bit anyway, far more than, say, Revival’s long-ago proposed NPC prostitution design.

(But the mechanic is cool. Wouldn’t it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.)

Interestingly, as I reflect on why I find it mildly unsettling, I am thinking back to folks who roleplayed slaves, usually twi’leks, in Star Wars MMOs, and while I might roll my eyes, somehow that bothers me even less: Even though they were human vs. AI, there was a voluntariness about those storylines, play-acting instead of making an uncomfortable social statement via NPC. Conan actually rewards people for enslaving NPCs — if you opt out on a server with the mechanic, you’re at a disadvantage.

I don’t know. I’m conflicted. What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMOs? Are Conan Exiles’ slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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207 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMORPGs?"

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AvelWorldCreator

Despite the appearance of slavery it creates a mechanism for recruiting NPCs for your base(s). It’s consistent with the storyline as well. I’ve run my own Conan Exiles server experimentally and the lack of PCs and the current bugs with land ownership when there are “clans” involved often make them necessary. FWIW, historically, until about the 18th Century slavery was not seen as an immoral practice. This is a complex topic in philosophy and there are no easy answers to this one. This is a game that strives to be authentic and consistent with the framework it is based on right down to nudity and realistic genitalia. It could have been made even more disturbing if they had added young children to the mix. Be happy that they drew the line at simple adult slavery for now.

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Melissa McDonald

My backstory as a dancer/entertainer in Galaxies was an escaped slave/concubine from Corellia who was essentially hiding out in backwater Tatooine/Mos Eisley and pursuing a career in the one thing she’d been trained to do as a kind of space-age geisha. So, this type of thing doesn’t bother me at all, as Bree stated, it was voluntary roleplay. And how things happened was that an Imperial colonel there took a fancy to me, and we ended up having a wedding (since there were lovely wedding dresses in the game) and he treated me to the lovely Spanish mansion on Naboo and the enviable BARC speeder. And a space yacht, my favourite of all. So the story ended well.

Until the NGE.

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DM Bluddworth

Slavery plays an important and reoccurring role in Robett E Howard’s Hyborian Age setting. Conan himself was enslaved and forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena. His future wife and Queen was a slave that he had freed. He had served on ships that had slave oarsmen.

Slavery was not a matter of race, both in fiction and in reality, it was almost always a condition of circumstances. Al races, and most ancient cultures had some form of slavery.

I have no issue with slavery in this game, it is completely appropriate based on the setting.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

As long as it fits the narrative and the world then I’m fine with it. It’s a touchy subject but if it bothers you that much then you’re likely unwilling to enjoy any type of media that includes it and I don’t want creators to stop writing books, making movies, or developing games that include it. Again, as long as it fits the story and isn’t a huge focal point of the game-play then it’s fine IMO.

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MrNastyButler

If I makes sense in terms of the world and story, I can’t really complain. I’m curious to see how the mechanics fully play out in Conan Exiles.

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wakkander

So I have been chewing over this for the last couple of days, made my posts, and this will probably be my last on the subject.

“Are Conan Exiles’ slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?”

Addressing the actual mechanics and gameplay involved, the answer is no.

I do not mind the concept and have no sense of guilt, squeamishness, moral outrage, etc, etc. But is it ‘fun’? I don’t think so.

It is far too easy to accidentally kill the target instead of knock them out, its a bit of a grind to find a good version of whatever you need, or to just find it period really. The conversion process is slow and tedious as it seems whenever I log out the wheel also turns off. It was/is bugged so that my wheel of pain that can do four at a time had a single guy taking up all the slots defeating the purpose and he was taking forever to be finished. The actual effects of the thralls once done is vague at best. I have a thrall thrall trainer and have no idea if its actually improving the speed of the wheel or not, and the same goes for my smith and my leathermaker. I play on a PvE server so I’ve never tried a combat thrall, no idea how they work, but I suspect melee ones are about as feeble and useless as the melee raiders I’ve killed.

So while I don’t mind the thematic choice of thralls vs say, pokemon, problematic, I don’t think the current mechanics are ‘fun’. I would much rather be able to train individuals I enthrall in specific tasks, maybe they could then have randomized stats at what they can do well, keeping the loot mechanic aspect but when I need a smelter and cannot find a smelter aside from the one that is still in the damn wheel taking up all four slots and not having been completed over the matter of days.. ahem, I should be able to have someone else take the role.

I don’t use combat thralls as I’ve not needed to but being able to equip and they themselves having a light leveling mechanic would be nice, but probably more depth than the game will allow.

The capture and use enemy unit mechanics has been done better, and more enjoyably in other games.

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Schmidt.Capela

This one is kinda complicated for me.

I’m not against slavery existing in a fictional universe, but I’m never going to play a slaver; if I get into a situation where I need to deal in slavery or leave the game, I will leave the game.

This even goes for helping slavers, be them player or NPC; whatever help I render a slaver needs to be framed in a way that ultimately helps their slaves, and even that is a sub-optimal development as I would very much prefer to be fighting uncompromisingly against the slaver.

End result, I’m less likely to play a single-player game if there is any incentive to dabble in slavery (as I won’t touch at all any story lines where I’m helping slavery happen and will treat the game as if those were big holes in the plot), and I’m nearly guaranteed to avoid any online game where slavery is mechanically rewarded unless there are ways for players that refuse to deal with slavery to get equivalent rewards unavailable for the slavers.

But then, well, I’m someone that can’t bring myself to even start playing the GTA series because I can’t quite bring myself into playing a criminal (unless it’s a so wacky setting that my brain just never relates what I do in game with the real world, which is why I can actually play Saints Row 3 and 4; by being wacky and unreal to the point of being immersion-breaking, they avoid making me uncomfortable for playing a criminal).

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Archebius

It does feel wrong to me. But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

Ultimately, it feels worse than flat-out killing them, but I think that’s because killing them is an abstracted process, whereas enthralling them is involved. The more involved and intimate a process is, the more you’re going to identify with the actors involved. Think about it in action movie terms – deaths in a move like Red barely register as an act of killing, but that knife scene from Saving Private Ryan is buried somewhere deep in my subconscious.

Imagine that they changed the process so you just took a club and hit a guy over the head, and when he wakes up he’s your thrall. Would you feel bad about that? No, because you didn’t drag his body back to base and break him on your wheel of pain. And imagine they changed the killing process to an involved minigame with haptic feedback as you desperately hack at your enemy’s vitals, trying to sink your blade deep enough to kill them while their screams sound in your ears. Suddenly, it seems a heck of a lot nicer to just take the poor guy as a thrall.

I guess what I’m driving at is, I don’t think it’s the end result – death versus enslavement – so much as it is what your character is required to do in order to obtain it. We’re used to deaths in games being quick, painless, and easy. When you make us deal with an NPC in a more permanent and pervasive way, suddenly it feels… weird.

That’s also why Elementals or Robots or Spirits feel like a better alternative. They’re less human, even if conceptually you’re still enslaving a free being.

(P.S., if “Hacktic Feedback” isn’t copyrighted yet, I’m copyrighting that.)

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drew saunders

It fits in with Robert E Howard’s Hyboria .

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Much as I hate to say it, this is the publisher staying true to the lore established by the original writer of the series. Like it or not, slavery IS part of Conan’s world. Hell, Conan himself was a slave at one point, forced to fight in arena style battles.

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Cypher

Can’t believe this is even an issue… I see further down, someone mentioning they’re not ok with this as a Black gamer… as a black gamer myself, (yes, there are black people outside America!) I don’t see the issue… Slavery is not a Black/ White thing!
In Europe the issue of [sex] slavery is a very real and modern issue in pretty much every country and Britain is no exception despite the moat that separates us, people trafficking is as real today as it was 2000 years ago, and I’m pretty sure its THE oldest industry, not that other thing :-p

Chukii

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Archebius

I appreciate you bringing up sexual slavery. It’s a huge issue in the US, as well, but it doesn’t seem to get as much attention as it should.

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John Falconio

So, I’ve thought a lot on this.

In short, I decided to avoid Conan Exiles because of their thrall mechanic. I’ll also try to comment on some points I’ve read so far:

1.) “You’re okay with murder/mass murder but not slavery?”

-Don’t use the term murder/mass murder in a sensational manner to further ostracize the opposition to slave mechanics. It’s more accurate to just call it killing, as that applies to most video games, from Mario and Kirby to new games of our current days. Secondly, death (whether it’s yours or your opposition’s) is a game mechanic that is the clearest (and easiest) mechanic we have in video games which decides whether someone wins or loses. We are okay with that because it’s absolute. Mind you, this is about games that rely on combat, which an overwhelming majority of games are. How that is decided to be represented within the game, however, is another story.

This explains it pretty well in about 6 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QJVGtKPjNc

2.) “Because it’s true to the source material”

-A couple of posters already touched on this, but yes. Slavery, rape, mutilation, torture, etc. all were within the original Conan stories. However, they were NOT detailed within the writing. They were insinuated, of course, as a way to emphasize the miserable, brutal world of Robert E. Howard. But you never, ever saw in-depth descriptions of said atrocities. Again, this is about representation of immorality within a setting. Exiles chose to represent this atmosphere with a direct and mandatory game mechanic in a more detailed construction that doesn’t sit well with me. As an alternative example, why not have the npcs as “followers” who choose to follow you after you rescue them from torture racks/cages in hostile camps? Wouldn’t you feel the same worldly brutality and misery? Wouldn’t you feel that same atmosphere? (I did read further down that Funcom may be adding a way to hire npcs instead of enslaving them. I hope that is true at least). To me, the current thrall mechanic is designed to be indulging, not immersive.

3.) “Because it’s historically accurate”

– That goes both ways because bone dragons and demons talking to you through stones are NOT historically accurate. But the bigger point is, Howard’s setting takes place no later than 10,000 BC specifically because he wanted to use an era in time that had no historical records of human civilization so that he could straight up invent his own from scratch. Sure, history has plenty of recorded evidence of slavery and torture. But claiming historical accuracy in a fictional word based on an unrecorded real world era is a little silly and weak.

Honestly, the main point is representation. I’m not saying the thrall system is bad because slavery is bad and shouldn’t be represented in games at all. I’m saying how they chose to represent slavery was poorly done. I also will not play combat games that are over-exaggerated with blood and guts flying everywhere, because I feel like it’s a representation of combat that’s meant to indulge into some sort of power fantasy I don’t want a part of. Mount & Blade (and Warband) had a prisoner/slave mechanic, but do you notice how it’s implemented? There’s no complex system for it. You capture them, you choose to let them go, sell them, or recruit them all within a simple button menu. You aren’t dragging them through the sand, putting them on a torture device to “break their will”, then forcing them to serve you. Both concepts are actually similar, but how they are represented in their games is completely different. One is more abstract, and one is meant to indulge.

#OpinionOnTheInternet #VideoGameOpinions

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Totakeke

Number 2 brings up a good point. It’s mentioned in the series but never really touched upon. I mean, FFXIV has/d sex trafficking in it. And no one really payed attention to it.

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starbuck1771

We have historical records going back further then 10,000 BC in the form of things such as the hieroglyphs in the ancient pyramids. Civilization was believed to have started around 12,000 BC. So your argument in 3 holds no water as the great pyramid Khufu was constructed from 2560 to 2540 BC by slaves. We also know Cimmerians have a place in history during the Iron Ages while we have no origin date for their culture they first appeared in history around 714 BC.

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John Falconio

I apologize for writing my counter sloppily there. What I mean is Howard specifically, several times, emphasized that the Conan series took place “sometime after the sinking of Atlantis and before the beginning of recorded Ancient history.” And further editors and authors made well educated estimates placing it at 10,000BC (L. Sprague de Camp and Roy Thomas, with a few pushing for 32,000BC).

But the point I was aiming to make here is the setting is, by design, suppose to take place during a “vanished age”, with those fictional civilizations having inspiration from, but not bound to, our actual recorded ancient history (actually mostly in just name). So proclaiming historical accuracy -in this case- is rather weak to me when there’s no point of reference for that accuracy. It’s more convincing to just straight up say “this world sucks, it’s unforgiving, so there’s slavery.” I’m not saying there shouldn’t be slavery within his world. But it exists there more as a design choice rather than Howard feeling bound to put it in there for accuracy.

From the wiki:

“Howard had an intense love for history and historical dramas; however, at the same time, he recognized the difficulties and the time-consuming research needed in maintaining historical accuracy. By conceiving a timeless setting – a vanished age – and by carefully choosing names that resembled our history, Howard avoided the problem of historical anachronisms and the need for lengthy exposition.”

This is sourced from Patrice Louinet’s “Hyborian Genesis Part 1”. If you’d like some audio to listen to while at work or something, here’s a neat thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3eKoGg73WY

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drew saunders

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/11/great-pyramid-tombs-slaves-egypt

Actually now there is some conjecture about whether the great pyramids were built using slave labour at all . It seems that the assumption they were slaves might be completely wrong and that they were built using paid labour instead .

I guess it is possible they did use some slavery but it is now being called into question by archaeological evidence of recent years .

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Fair Mores

Interesting question because I am playing a sith juggernaugt and I was given an npc companion who is very clearly a slave and I have an option to remove a shock collar she has but thus far I have chosen not too…I Can’t help but be curious about where this is going. In addition there is this whole theme about siths and the empire where they have a superiority complex. Very interesting because I’m compelled to play my sith as not a modern day progressive but as a member of the empire. This involves me making very questionable choices. Of course I can always chose not to.

Slavery is bad but I’m interested In exploring it further in a safe environment, for me anyways. As to wether the game should penalize you or put you at a disadvantage for not participating in its slave gameplay…sounds complicated. For now I’ll consider the source; the makers of this Conan game. I think they just want to recreate the Conan world as faithfully as possible and just as this world involves brutally murduring people with crude weapons and giant snakes, it also involves enslaving them.

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Estranged

I logged off when the decision came concerning that companion and decided to free her the next day, but not to participate in a romance. Felt like it was crossing a line, RP wise.

However, I am curious to how the story goes if the player has chosen to keep her in bondage.

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Khalith .

You CANNOT complete her storyline, at all, unless you set her free.

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Fair Mores

I’m glad you understand, it makes me very curious.

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wakkander

What if it isn’t slavery per se, and at the risk of things going political, it is more of a prison system. You control your thralls after all. You can choose to set them free.

Since they are all hostile to you and come and attack you as soon as you are in range, you could treat it as bringing law and order to a chaotic land. Rather than simply executing them you are giving them a chance to reform, offering them a chance to work off their time in service to you.

With a simple change in perspective, and semantics, you could choose to role play your thralls as just that. Once these vile law breakers have been rehabilitated and paid their time to society, you could choose to release them. It adds more work to replace to thralls you release, but it is a easy solution perhaps to your dilemma that the game would easily allow you to do. For that matter the minimum modern sentence for attempted murder of a public official (Which you are, the king of everything within your swords reach.) is 10-15 years. If you are still running a server in 2027, log on and release the thralls.

Moral dilemma side stepped, you are no longer a slaver, but a judge…

083111judge_dredd[1].png
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silverlock

I like this. It’s not a wheel of pain it’s a wheel of contemplation.

Also you don’t typically arm slaves and yes I know that the Janissaries where slaves but that was a rather special case.

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wakkander

Not entirely unique though, you also had the mamluks and helots.

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Sean Maker

I’m quite familiar with the Conan Mythology/World. I understand it implicitly. It makes total sense and is appropriate from that perspective. That still doesn’t change the fact that what you (the player) is doing is essentially the game-mechanics of ARK with humans instead of dinosaurs.
Even understanding all of this, I still have a visceral, emotional reaction to the tools players are being equipped with as it relates to this feature/mechanic in Conan Exiles.
I find it more than a little numbing and speaks directly to the history of things that have occurred (and still occur, depending on your geography) — so it’s difficult for me not to feel SOMETHING about it.
If it existed as a backdrop to the game (i.e., quests, NPC/story engagements, etc.)
It would probably sit better with me. But giving players the “keys to that particular car” leaves A LOT of room for potential abuse. It’s naïve to think otherwise.

I was fairly excited at the possibility of this game until learning about that particular feature. It’s very much akin to rape to me–and yes, I know this exists in Conan’s Mythology as well, but I really don’t see the developers adding that kind of game interaction at any point in this game’s development.

That said: I am not advocating any boycott towards FUNCOM or this game’s further development. What I am advocating is that their is more research, understanding and evolution in the possibilities of how “thralls” actually work in the game, if they’re insistent on keeping it as a key mechanic in the game world they are developing for this IP.

When my fantasy, gaming entertainment encroaches itself in areas I’m at odds with, it’s no longer entertainment of any kind to me.

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johnwillo

For me, the inclusion of slavery in the game is appropriate for the following reasons:
1) It is a major feature of the source material; both Howard’s stories and the movies.
2) It is not race-based, or based on any particular real-world culture. A thrall is as likely to have European features as Asian or African features. A game with races that correspond to real-world cultures and with race-based slavery could not help but be offensive.
3) Slavery is morally and ethically wrong. Yet a great majority of real world ancient civilizations had it. I am able to accept that it was not seen as intrinsically wrong in Hyboria (though I don’t believe that the Cimmerians had much use for it), and play accordingly.
4) While some may decry the murder/genocide in other MMO’s, the fact is that for most of them killing is very much a part of the game play. I find the argument that characters are generally killing in a good cause, so it is less immoral, to be a weak.

I can understand how people might find the issue repugnant. I am not sure if I am going to be able to enthrall anybody in the game myself. I would certainly not fault anybody who refused to play the game for moral issues.

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PurpleCopper

People who are squeamish about slavery but have no problem with murdering people and stealing their shit are hypocrites or have a very strange moral code.

And I simply don’t buy into the whole “context matters” argument either. These kind of people get their jollies of murdering people but then try to justify their murders by being holier-than-thou and putting a positive spin on it. Because at the end of the day regardless of context, you just killed a guy without a morally good reason.

As for people who are squeamish about slavery AND murder…that seems reasonable.

As for me I wholesomely approve of slavery in MMO games because it makes feel like a politically incorrect villain.

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Duey Bear

Slavery sort of adds to the realism since before 1800 all civilisations employed slaves. Besides the moral arguments, slavery ended because slavery was no longer necessary with the advent of steam power. Why force people who could revolt to work for you when you can have machinery do the same task without argument?
It’s easy for us to be squeamish about slaves or servants, but remember that next time you pop a hotpocket in the microwave that that tool replaced a house servant.

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Estranged

+1 for knowing your economic history.

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sandboxsurvivalist

“Wouldn’t it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.”

Summoned spirits? Spirits of what? Would these be the souls of former denizens of this fantasy world? If that’s part of the fiction, wouldn’t it actually be far worse to enslave someone’s immortal soul than their frail, mortal flesh?

But now that I think of it, I do feel bad. I’ve felt bad ever since I played Pac-Man as a child. I mean, we had those poor ghosts roaming around the maze, protecting those dots. They were just going about their business when suddenly this terrifying yellow dude shows up and starts eating all their dots! Even worse, he was eating their special dots which caused them to flee in terror and face the possibility of being eaten alive! Oh god! He’s coming right at us! Waka Waka Waka Waka

Anyway, I’m going to change my ways. From now on, it’s going to be the Wheel of Fun! *Weeeeeee!* and my thralls will only eat the best roasted haunch while getting free job training and a shot at the Hyborian dream!

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Cosmic Cleric

But now that I think of it, I do feel bad. I’ve felt bad ever since I played Pac-Man as a child. I mean, we had those poor ghosts roaming around the maze, protecting those dots. They were just going about their business when suddenly this terrifying yellow dude shows up and starts eating all their dots! Even worse, he was eating their special dots which caused them to flee in terror and face the possibility of being eaten alive! Oh god! He’s coming right at us! Waka Waka Waka Waka

I always felt the same way about Murloc’s in WoW, especially in the human starter Elwyn Forest zone.
They’re minding their own business, running and playing by the stream/lake, and all of a sudden huge metal clad humans come out of nowhere, and mows them all down, killing them brutally. I imagine a mother Murloc, at home by the cooking pot, wondering why her husband/children are late for dinner.

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wakkander

So here is a question. You ask if modders could change it to be spirits, elementals or automatoi, and that this would negate your personal issues. (The answer to that would seemingly be yes, unless there are some hidden restrictions I didn’t notice in the mod tools.)

But a rose by any other name is still a rose. In the world of D&D, and for a specific and mmo related example let use Eberron as seen in DDO, airships are given the ability to fly thanks to the summoning and binding of a fire elemental. In that setting elementals are sentient, sapient creatures. Does this make you squeamish about guild airships? After all we can and do see the elementals do not like this, and will given the opportunity attempt to free their brethren in one of the questlines.

If these creatures are sapient, but are not anthropomorphic, does that alone change your feelings on it? Presumably these creatures no matter how alien do not wish to live a life of servitude anymore than you or I would. (Insert job related joke here, then feel mildly depressed at its accuracy.)

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Josh

Yea, I find it pretty creepy…but w/e. Conan Exiles isn’t the game for me anyways.

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Asterei Starcaller

I think it’s a different and interesting mechanic to have so I like it, but I am uncomfortable with the capturing and slaverying mechanic for my own playing, as I cant see myself roleplaying characters even lightly that would do that. At least (I think) I read that the devs intend to add peaceful ways to recruit thralls in the future

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Estranged

Yeah, I’ll won’t be participating, but respect the mechanic.

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NeoWolf

Games are not real life, they are make believe. Excluding something that is real and horrendous and happened (and still happens to this day) is blurring the line between make believe and real life by implying the presence in a game is some how referring to the real life issues and saying theyre okay.

However the presence of this in game is not soft soaking the real issue, or saying its okay, or in anyway promoting the real thing because a game is a game and life is life and people who cannot separate the two probably shouldn’t be playing games for FAR more significant reasons that they need to deal with than the presence of something they may feel uncomfortable about.

If I read a fantasy novel that had slavery etc..in should I not read books because doing so promotes those issues? I think not.. Censorship promotes ignorance not understanding. You cannot protect people from the truth you can only help them understand it.

Of course these issues need to be given context anyway so as to not have people whose only exposure to them be a light approach that entertainment provides when they have no knowledge or exposure of said issues but that is supposedly a school education comes in and I cannot promote the importance of education enough!

History is important, it is how we ensure we do not repeat past mistakes.

So as long as the noted topic is dealt with sensibly and contextually I have no issues with them being in game.

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SmugglerSteel

A few points, I’ve seen mentions they are innocent NPC we are capturing. Hardly true, the only NPC you can capture are all aggressive. Meaning they will just as soon gut you as look at you. At least if you capture and put them to work they get to live. Just a thought.

And if you are squeamish on the thralls concept, Funcom has mentioned they will be adding NPC you can rescue then pay as a Merc or free lancer to do work. So, other options will be open to you, eventually.

As for the issue, it doesn’t really bother me. I as a person I have no inclinations to have thralls and serious moral disgust with the notion of real world slaves. My character is not me, what would my character do given the life they lead. If survival is on the line what steps, and how far would they go? As others have said it’s an adult game with adult themes, and as adults I think we can distinguish between reality and fantasy. It’s also normal and I think good for us to explore our darker side in safe ways. Since it’s only a series of 1’s and 0’s it’s about as safe and harmless as it gets.

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Bobuliss

If games are supposed to be in some way a mirror to aspects of real life, then slavery has a place in certain games. That said, I haven’t played Conan and I usually play a whitehat in any game I do play that gives those kinds of choices. My latest alt in EVE is Minmatar, so I guess DOWN WITH SLAVERS! Hehe

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Sorenthaz

Don’t really care, doesn’t bother me as long as it’s an interesting mechanic and it makes sense for the setting.

Same goes for killing cops, stealing cars, blowing up buildings, etc. I don’t get bugged by that stuff because I know it’s just a game.

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Scrungle

Meh, as many have pointed out we do tons of terrible things in video games.

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MikeInTheLab

I haven’t played Conan: Exiles but I have some thoughts. Are the thralls the same skin color as you? Different skin tones from each other? If yes, then to me it’s less reflective of the racial slavery of U.S. history, which we usually think about. Also, as long as you can’t have sex with the thralls then it does not correlate with sex trafficking/slavery which we find today.

In the short stories King Conan ends slavery in Aquilonia. Up to that point however the world is fully portrayed as one of Strength and Skill as being necessary to survive. If your trying to establish your area of dominance and conquering surrounding people’s then yeah you take some slaves.

In Rome Total War after sacking a city I could let the populace live, exterminate them or enslave them. Was that easier to swallow when I couldn’t see my slaves or watch my soldiers slaughter a populace? Sure and it’s easier to buy meat at the store but when you are trying to survive you will do the bloody/dirty work yourself or you will die. The game is about surviving and thriving, so yes unfortunately this system fits or as you said the game like surviving is harder.

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Grimjakk

In Conan, it really doesn’t bother me. It’s true to Howard’s Hyborea and fits the brutal, anarchic tone of the game. And it doesn’t involve kidnapping girls and selling them to brothels like Age of Wushu.
Now THAT bothered me.

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Nordavind

But you people don’t get upset when you impale a humanoid on your lightsaber, decapitate them with your axe, burn them to crisp with your magic or blow their brains out with your gun?

You don’t think about that you’re probably killing off someone’s fater/mother/son/daughter/sibling?

Double standards.

The only thing I ask of the game is that it’s OPTIONAL. Conan would bash slavers heads in.

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mysecretid

Well, games aren’t real, so that’s the biggest factor which comes to mind for me.

But, that said, I do pay attention to the attitude a game demonstrates toward its subject matter — so the themes and messaging do affect what I think of a game, and my enthusiasm for playing a game.

Personally, I don’t find the idea of playing a slave-owner interesting or fun in the least, and this contributed to my decision not to play Conan: Exiles myself.

As above, I fully realize it’s a fiction and a fantasy; it’s just not a fiction and a fantasy I’m drawn toward.

My opinions, anyway,

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McGuffn

To me the question is when does omitting slavery contribute to a lie. I think there was a big controversy when Firaxis decided to remake Colonization. I think all the “slaves” there are actually indentured servants or something, and to me that is contributing to a lie. Colonization is a more or less historical game and in an attempt to not offend it makes colonization of the new world seem better than it was.

Regarding something fictional like conan, I don’t know if having slaves contributes to the grit of the game and setting or not. I suspect it is minor at best without some sort of active story component.

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Ysayle was right

It’s the reason I won’t play the game.

Valen Sinclair
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Valen Sinclair

Fine with the concept. It’s a fantasy world, a game. In a genre where murder, torture, selling drugs, mutilation, prostitution, sometimes genocide, and (real or simulated) cybersex is the norm…I’m not going to get worked up over make believe slavery.

I should also add that I’m not playing this game because it’s garbage (regardless of the inclusion of nudity and/or slavery). I’ve watched enough streams to determine this.

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wratts

The only thing that really gets me is that while in Howard’s work Hyboria obviously had slavery, I’m pretty sure Conan opposed it. Been years since I read the stories, but I don’t think the character would have been a fan. He definitely wouldn’t have been a fan of elementals or magical minions either for that matter. Hirelings would work, and I don’t think would offend anyone. Does seem like to be true to the world lore, and the noble-savage fantasy of the game, that hired workers should be an option

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Rottenrotny

It’s gritty, mature, violent and completely fictional game world that remains true to the movies, comics etc.
I guess it’s better that I just hack them in half at the waist instead of taking them as thralls? Haha.

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Mewmew

How many people do you murder non stop in video games? Seriously, how many do you think? Why are you totally okay with killing people, but not enslaving them? I’m sure you’ve killed people in games who are “innocent” or just have a differing opinion, humans that haven’t been hostile to you. Why are you okay with murder in games but so worried about enthralling people in games?

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Pedge Jameson

I read a study that said practicing devious behavior games may make you more morally sensitive. Sounds like a load of crap but you never know.
I do know one thing. When I played Skyrim and killed innocents I was always guilt ridden afterwards. But that king’s son would never shut his mouth about “licking his father’s boots.”
Oh the killable children mod HAD to be mine that day.

Estranged
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Estranged

My decisions in these games tend to fit my personality, unless there is no other option. Even my dark side characters in SWTOR had a strict moral code. Light side Sith was fun.

I think having practice with moral decisions in a simulation could be productive.

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wandris

Conan is high fantasy with parallels to ancient rome. Slavery really fits into the setting. I think it is far worse for a society to simply pretend like slavery is not a thing by keeping the concept out of culture. Slavery is a real thing historically and in the present. You have global sex slavery and human trafficking, you have a quasi-slavery or perhaps at best indentured servitude in places like Qatar, and to an extent you arguably have economic slavery in many parts of the world. I am sure there are even more instances of which I am unaware. Still I do not see how these realities have any bearing on enslaving NPC’s in a digital and fictional RPG. Capturing thralls is not going to perpetuate or enable or endorse the enslavement of others in the real world.

If enacting slavery bothers you in a game then good, it should bother you to an extent. However just because something bothers you and has historical and real world implications does not mean we should shy away from including the concept in culture. Seems like a good way to bury your head in the sand.

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Chosenxeno .

I can already see these ignorants running around with names like “Massa”.

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John Kiser

I find it is okay if it is conductive to the setting it is in. Most of us are adults and should know the difference between reality (slavery not being okay) and a game. Slavery exists in media in some form or another and the thing is that with the right game it makes sense. Conan setting without slavery makes no sense as it is a part of that world setting. I think the concept and execution of it is fine if it is in the proper context of the setting as stated above.

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Robert Mann

I think it really depends on the game. Conan is aimed at being extremely brutal, taking everything from the stories and lore (which was really aimed at our own world history) and translating that to the game. It fits perfectly there. The over-sexed part comes from the movies, of course. Hollywood is Hollywood.

The issue mostly comes because we have such a cultural issue about this right now. The problem isn’t being reduced in any way, and hasn’t been for a long time (since the early 70s, at best.) Because of that focus in our society, this probably hits a little harder for many people than, as others have noted, things like murder.

The thing is, a game is a game. We can and do separate that from reality on, in many cases, a daily basis. Further, it is relevant to the history of our world, and the lore of the world of Conan. Thus I don’t really have a problem with it. Of course, it was never really on my primary playlist, but so long as it is NPCs I don’t care that much. If it were PvP and players, then I would be sure not to play the game (I don’t care if it offers servers without, if you can capture players and force them to suffer I’m not going to support your game.)

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rafael12104

I’m not conflicted, but I do understand, Bree.

On the one hand it is a game. Violence, and over sexualized toons and NPCs are par for the course. We don’t even think about those things to be honest, well… not much anyway. Lol. And many of the games we choose are not Willie Wonka. There are adult themes and situations. Vengeance, murder, betrayal, are all quite common. But it is a game. And going dark side is fun, right? Because it isn’t real and you can take on a evil role.

BUT, on the other hand, there are certain topics or situations that bother me. Because even in jest or in gaming there are things that are taboo. There are situations which I find repulsive even as imaginary. Slavery is on that list and it is a very short list. The idea of one being owning another is not something to be brushed aside. And I feel that uncomfortable itch every time I run across it. Mass Effect, SWTOR, you name an IP that doesn’t have some semblance of it and it will be a short list.

And yet, I move on. Because it is just a game my disapproval is mitigated and I choose not to go down the paths that make me a slave holder or owner. That’s me. My personal choice.

Now, if there were a game where slave ownership was the whole purpose and focus, that would be another story.

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CloakingDonkey .

Murder though, that’s ok. You guys really have some strange morals.

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rafael12104

Hmm… Morality doesn’t play into it, in my view. It is just a game and doesn’t make me moral or amoral. However, there are scenarios that I’m more sensitive too, sure. But that doesn’t validate, abdicate, or measure my own morality.

And that is why I see this as a personal thing. I think Bree’s article is great because there are moments in MMORPGs when you hit the third wall. Where that wall is might be different for everyone, but nonetheless most of us have smashed into it. And what we are left with are those sudden reflexive moments that give us pause and remind us that there is a world outside of gaming.

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Pål Einar Jensen

Locking Pokemons inside tiny balls. Its even more horrific.

Games.

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Bannex

What do you think about killing in an mmo?

What do you think about gearscore in an mmo?

What do you think about religions in mmos?

What do you think about thieving in mmos?

Cutting trees down?

Eating pork?

Trapping animals in the wild and forcing them to fight for you?

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Bryan Correll

What do you think about gearscore in an mmo?

Gearscore is pure evil.

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Bannex

It was meant kind of tongue in cheek but in all honesty gear score is far more detrimental to human behavior in video games than slavery, murder or sex

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Nordavind

More or less than raid parsers?

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Tithian

For RP and such, where people choose to roleplay as one? Sure.

And then there’s the shitty side of it, with games like ARK where players are given tools to enslave other players and treat them in the most sadistic way. That’s pretty disgusting.

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Fisty

I think you’re taking this a little far. I don’t think anyone here believes slavery is right (unless it’s a bedroom thing) and by asking the question you almost lend the idea more credence than it actually deserves.

(Comment edited by mod.)

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agemyth 😩

Why can’t we have a casual discussion on social psychology? You’re trying to tell Massively what they should or should not do just like you think bringing the subject up is them telling developers not to mess with these issues.

I don’t have to play Conan Exiles if I don’t like something in it and you don’t have to participate in a conversation you don’t like.

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CloakingDonkey .

Because it’s a stupid discussion we’ve had 100s of times before.

Does violence in games promote real world violence? no.

Does sexism in games promote real world sexism? no.

Does murder in games promote real world murder? no.

So why the balls are we even pondering if slavery in video games promotes real world slavery? o0

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RJB
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agemyth 😩

Relax, it’s just a discussion. Nobody is being attacked.

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J. J. Sándor

In Conan’s world, human life is worth nothing. Flaying, crucifixion, dismemberment, cannibalism are facts of daily life. If you think about it, being a slave actually makes those people worth something, it gives them a value. If they are lucky to have a good master who will care for their needs, they might be better off than being free…

Well anyway… after all those murders, genocides and other atrocities we commit across the MMO multiverse on a daily basis, simple enslavement actually feels like a humane act.

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Robert Mann

Going there is ridiculous. If you can’t say something outside politics, then maybe try not saying anything?

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