POLL: Does This Image Offend You?

Have I overstepped the bounds of good taste?

To see what I’m talking about in context, please visit the 6d6 RPG store. Pay attention to the image for the One-Shots section and then come back and vote before reading the rest of this article. [NOTE: The image is work safe, containing no nudity, violence or swearing].

[poll id=”65″]

Select up to three answers.

Have you looked? Have you voted? Good, then read on.

The Art of 6d6

I knew when I chose the One-Shots image that some people would not like it. A fact confirmed within our own play-test group where reaction was decidedly mixed. Then, in response, to 6d6 newsletter promoting the store I got this response.

Your graphic logo for the One Shot Adventures section is a condom? Seriously!?  Sheesh…

My response was.

 And your problem is …?

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a reply or at least a coherent reply. However, I had underestimated the intelligence of my readers and was pleasantly surprised by this.

No problem. But I can’t understand why you’d chose it as a graphic. The website itself is informative and visually  pleasing, but then there’s a condom in the middle of the page. Sorry, but I’m afraid it put me off wanting to find out more about 6d6prg.  Just my tuppence worth, of course.

Why Choose It As A Graphic?

I have strong opinions about graphic design and art in RPGs. I think most companies are crap at it, making bad layout choices and using poor artwork. A lot of this comes down to small publishers not having the resources but there are plenty of products from big players that also fail.

As well as poor execution in RPG graphics, there is a remarkable lack of imagination. You could swap the art from Pathfinder with 4e and no one would notice. As long as you stay within the same genre, most RPG art is inter-changable between products. It is also consistently poor at representing women and any skin tone other than European pink.

This approach to graphic design and artwork creates two problems for the RPG publisher.

  • Your product is not distinctive so people are less likely to remember it.
  • Your product will only appeal to exactly the same people who are buying similar looking products.

These shortcomings will kill a product from any RPG publisher who wants to stand out or reach beyond existing hard core gamers.

The 6d6 Approach

When it comes to artwork within our rule sets and adventures, we completely opt-out. We do not have the resources to do it well so we choose not to do it at all. Our layout is plain and simple with a focus on readability and usability. However, we cannot opt-out of cover artwork or artwork for our website. For this, we took a different approach.

Our aim is to develop a very strong visual style to our products so that everyone recognises a 6d6 product even before they see the logo. This is not an easy task when you have no resources and need artwork that can be released under the Creative Commons.

This is why our artwork is abstract in nature and unlike any other in the RPG business. We focus on finding a distinctive image that, in some tangential way, fits with the title. FlickR is a god-send for this with thousands of high quality CC images available. When I start looking for a piece of artwork I start with a search on something fairly literal and work outwards until I find an image that works. This can involve a day or more looking through Flickr but sometimes it takes just a few minutes.

A Single Session of Fun

The original idea was for a shot glass but I failed to find any images that clicked with me. So then I started thinking about other single use items that where associated with fun. When I saw this image of the condom, I instantly knew I had found my illustration.

It is distinctive, memorable, recognisable and perfectly encapsulates the single session of fun concept behind the One-Shot series of adventures. The fact that it triggers an emotional response ranging from laughter to distaste is an added bonus because emotional reactions build strong memories.

The Cost / Benefit Analysis of Distinctiveness

When we set down the road of using distinctive artwork, we knew that there would be a cost. A certain section of the existing RPG buyers would be put off by our non-traditional approach and consequently we would lose sales. The flip-side is that more people will be aware of the brand and our fans will have a stronger connection to us. Both of which increase sales.

6d6 is about innovation and doing things differently. Our artwork reflects this and we are unapologetic about it.

21 comments

  1. I don’t like the graphic, you’re automatically thinking about sex, and used condoms when you see it, perhaps it would have been more suggestive to have a condom in a wrapper? To see it glistening there with all its spermicidal napalm is a bit ikk. I get you want it to be fun and stylistically tongue in cheek, but it’s a bit laddish and FHM.

    If you don’t want to turn off your more sensitive customers, and also if you want all the attention on your product, I’d either search harder for that shot glass image or find a pic of a condom in a packet.

  2. I’d have one of those toy guns that fire the flag saying “bang!” as my one shot image.
    Or the interior of a gun chamber with one bullet filled.
    Or an apple with an arrow through it.

  3. @Claire

    Interesting that you find it laddish. It is not an aspect that had crossed my mind. Presumably because I think of condoms as part of being responsible and organised.

    A lot of the other types of images suggested are perfectly workable but it is all about finding the right image. This is not just any image of a condom, it is a condom “glistening there with all its spermicidal napalm” . With the restrictions of copyright, there simple aren’t equally good image along the themes you suggest.

    Chris

  4. I think the issue here is that condoms don’t imply fun – they imply sex. Ans while sex is fun, there’s also a lot of other things associated with sex which aren’t exactly appropriate – for example, the fact that sex has been commercialised to the nth degree to the point that it just seems like you are putting a condom in for a terrible joke and very bad humour, more than anything else. It reeks of the GTA type pun of “shooting your load” that just makes some people want to roll their eyes and walk away. It reminds them was what the original FATAL was like. It’s puerile and adolescent, rather than offensive, and has all the tact of a fart joke in a Terry Pratchett novel. Although I’m far from sensitive – a firework would have been my choice for a one-shot image… and this would have atleast implied the adventures are also explosive and spectacular, in the right way, rather than a condom which implies the same in some very wrong, very sexist ways…

  5. I can not see how this could offend someone.

    I do however, find this image inappropriate as a condom can be used 3 times.
    Once normal, once inside out and finally as gum.

    But this aside, my question is “Why are people so afraid of offending someone?”
    There is no harm done, none at all.
    Yet people cringe in fear at thought of offending someone.

    I dare say that if you find yourself easily offended, the Internet is no place for you.

    Regards and all the best,

    Tsay

  6. As first I thought you were asking us whether we thought the pic of your own good self on the front page was offensive 🙂

    But a Condom? Funny and clever. Good one, Chris!

  7. Clever and eye-catching. In total agreement with you. Sex sells, or in this case it makes you stop and take notice. If it’s deemed as offensive and causes a stir, you have a greater chance of getting more attention to your work and more people will check it out to see what the fuss is about. It also shows you’re having fun with it and that energy carries on it your body of work.

    Good choice. NOW I’m interested in checking it out because someone was offended. Relax, lads, it’s just a Satan balloon. Mommy still loves you.

  8. I think it’s funny.

    It would be hard to offend me with an image, but I’m not you’re average person. Sex (and contraception) has a lot baggage in Western culture, which seems to include your primary audience.

    So, I would say if the goal is to make people uncomfortable or to be silly, then the image fits. But if you’re looking to communicate the meaning of a one-shot, sans bullshit baggage, I would say you made a poor choice. It’s about knowing your audience.

    Personally, I probably would have looked for an image of a singe round of ammunition. Hell, I have plenty laying around and could probably take a decent pic of one and make it Creative Commons.

  9. The image made me smile the first time I saw it. It made me smile again the second time I saw it. In fact, it keeps making me smile. For me, it’s a reminder of who Chris is… it’s very much his game, his humour, and his style. Remember: none of the products have the image on the cover, so what’s the big deal?

  10. The image doesn’t do it for me. I’m not offended by it, but it doesn’t form any positive associations in my mind. I guess seeing that picture of the condom makes me think of a used condom, which is not appealing to me in the slightest. I chose “Weird” in the poll.

    I love some of the other suggestions that have been offered – your shot glass idea, a firework, a round of ammunition, the “bang” pop gun… those are all clever and funny and tie closely to the “one shot” idea that you’re going for.

    The condom doesn’t do any of that for me. It’s about as effective as if you’d put a picture of dentures or a toupee or something else completely random. I don’t hate it or feel that you should take it down or anything like that – I just feel like it failed in its job on me (but maybe I’m not the target audience – shrug).

  11. I for one am certainly not offended by the image of a condom, and like Chris said, in the right context represents a responsible approach to sexual health. But the context isn’t promotion of safe sex, so for me, this reads like a slightly immature attempt at humour. I agree with Claire, it seems more appropriate in FHM than an RPG game. I understand the need to get a product talked about, but some gamers I know are already referring to 6d6 as the condom game. But wouldn’t you rather that perspective customers were talking about an interesting mechanic than the relative level of the author’s sense of humour? Finally, the image of a condom makes me want to have sex with my wife, not play an RPG!

  12. I’ll join the chorus: it doesn’t bother me but it sets up associations that you might not want – it’s misleading. And it *might* narrow your market in ways a firework wouldn’t.

  13. Hi, as a graphic designer I wholeheartedly agree to the reasoning behind the choice of not to follow the same old and trite paths, and trying to use art and layout in an innovative way should be one of the priorities both for large and small publishers. The choice of a simple image is often a better choice (less is more) but a difficult path to follow, a simple iconic image can convey a lot of meanings (mostly subtle) and a designer you have to detect and evaluate each one fo them.
    Knowing the typical gamer (young males) any image relate to sex can trigger the unexpected.

    Said so I remain totally astounded reading that weapons and spirits are better (?) alternatives than sex! What a strange word you lives where images and ideas associated to a tool of death and violence and to one of the main causes of addictions are “better” that safe sex (practice that not only pleasurable but “safe” for the health?)…
    Cultural bias anyone?

    As a side note: the Condom is used “anatomically” by lads but for the safety and sex enjoiment of the couple as a whole. So stop consider it “laddish”.

  14. @Everyone

    Thank you for taking the time to vote and comment. Your feedback, whether positive and negative, is much appreciated and will help shape future decisions about artwork.

    Chris

  15. I just think it’s a poor choice.

    The picture of the apple on you’re core book made me stop and think for a second.

    Whilst this picture carries on the idea, it’s just a poor choice IMO.

    It’s seems like you’re trying to hard to be funny or even controversial.

  16. I have not strong feeling with regards the subject of the image.

    I find that it is distracting my attention from the other images as it breaks the otherwise good tonal coherence that the surrounding [key] images have with one another.

    It may be that such a distraction prevents folks from clicking through to the other sections of the shop. Depending on the web tools your analytics report should be able tell you one way to the other.

  17. I think it’s a bit of an odd choice too to be honest.

    When I saw this poll though, I expected it to be about the nude lady-caterpillar thing that greets me every time I check the library of stuff I’ve bought from you. Now that really is a weird image, and one I’d like an option to remove. It certainly doesn’t encourage me to recommend the site to many people I know, though I’m trying to persuade a bunch of them to give ‘Mince Pies and Murder’ a go around Christmas-ish as an alternative to another Murder Mystery.

  18. Hmm… I suppose I can agree with your concepts on graphic design; what I don’t agree with I can at least appreciate. And I don’t find it, in itself, offensive. Condoms are good things, after all. And of course, copyright is a nasty beast, and you are smart to stay away from it.

    That said, I didn’t get it. But I think that is because I don’t view One Shot stories as ‘disposable’. If I bought one of these one shot stories, I would use it multiple times. I’d just find new audiences. That isn’t something I’d suggest someone to do with a condom. Even now, when the ‘joke’ is explained it doesn’t really click. It just left me wondering if there was something sexual involved. I do realize, at this point, you may be quite saddled in it. You me feel rather strongly, since it makes sense to you. But I suggest you at least consider what I find to be the greatest things about design: the inconsequentiality of being wrong and the void of emotional response in design decisions.
    Two cents from across the pond.

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