Pimp: The Backhanding

As I said earlier, I had the unfortunate opportunity to play Pimp: The Backhanding. Had I known what it was all about, I might’ve passed it, as I didn’t quite enjoy it.

As a game, Pimp’s virtues are limited. I think it’s fairly typical take that -game. Nothing spectacular here; it’s not the worst game in that genre (it’s better than Munchkin) but not the best either (that honour goes probably to Chez Geek). I generally don’t like the genre, as the games tend to be pretty boring once you’ve had your fun with the cards. Funny and comical games can be great, but it takes good mechanics, too, and that’s quite untypical in funny games.

My problem with Pimp is the theme. Players control a team of pimps, who try to get prostitutes to work for them. First there’s a contest over who gets the prostitute: several pimps might try to get the same prostitute and the one who’s the sweetest talker (or uses crack to make the prostitute an addict) gets her (or him). After that comes backhanding, which has given the name for the game: players can send their pimps to beat the prostitutes the other players scored, as a prostitute in hospital can’t make money. Pimps try to protect their assets, of course, and if they succeed, they socre the money. Repeat three times, most money wins in the end.

I believe in free speech and of course it’s possible to make a game on prostitution. That’s fine. I don’t even want to ban this game (but if I had a game store, I wouldn’t carry it). All I’m saying is that I’m quite amazed White Wolf is producing this piece of garbage (technically it’s not a White Wolf product, but they are distributing it and involved in it financially).

First of all, I’m not too keen on painting such a nice picture of pimping. "Join the profession so highly regarded for its virtues — become a pimp!" reads in the Geek description. I guess that attempts to be comedy, but if someone can see any virtues in pimping, I suggest they get their head checked.

Second, I don’t like a game where beating women to submission is such a central element. For example, and I know it’s just a single card, but it displays the game’s attitude quite well, there’s a card called Community College Application. You can play it on someone else’s prostitute. She (or he) wants to go to college and leave the streets. If the pimp can beat her up, she won’t go, otherwise she’s gone.

Third, it’s really the players that offend me more than the game. The game itself is merely a combination of what I think is boring game design, inappropriate theme, sexist and stereotypical imagery and really low-brow sense of humour. However, seeing someone getting quite excited by the game and really getting into and enjoying the role of a ho-beating pimp daddy makes me cringe. If that’s someone’s idea of having a good time, I don’t want to be involved.

Finally, for the record: I’m not a politically over-correct wussy nor do I want to ban all games with violence, sex or drugs in them. Adult themes are fine. Actually, I would like to see more adult themes in games; what’s labeled adult these days is more often than not adolescent, not adult. Like Pimp, for example.

I do find it quite annoying how the insults start to fly whenever someone says they think this game (or some other) is inappropriate. It’s just too damn easy to go "it’s just a game" or "it’s just for fun, you politically correct idiot with no sense of humour". I just don’t find a game with this kind of attitude towards rather serious social issues funny at all. I don’t think this game is going to have much effect at all, if any, on greater scale of things, but the thought of people having fun with this game and seeing nothing wrong in the issues it reinforces still makes me a bit sad.

Ok. I’m off my soap-box now. Go on, get back to playing Pimp to all your hearts content if you wish.

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7 responses to “Pimp: The Backhanding”

  1. Mikko,
    I couldn’t agree more. When I get around to updating my list of the most offensive games — http://boardgames.about.com/od/news/tp/most_offensive.htm — this one will no doubt earn a spot. (Like you, I’m not a politically over-correct wussy nor do I want to ban all games with violence, sex or drugs in them. But there is a line somewhere — and a game in which it’s good strategy to beat up a prostitute is over that line.)

  2. I haven’t seen the game nor other reviews/discussion of it, but “Join the profession so highly regarded for its virtues — become a pimp!” sounds to me like obvious irony/sarcasm. I would be amazed if the writer of that text seriously meant it.
    This discussion reminds me of some I’ve had about Guillotine. Is Guillotine in poor taste? I theorize that because it involves direct personal brutality against the rich elite, people are less disturbed than if it was brutality against the powerless. Plus the fact that it portrays events far in the past instead of current-day events helps players feel more abstracted from the fact that they are playing the role of executioners decapitating people with the goal of assembling the best collection of heads.

  3. Do you think you’re giving the game too much credit by merely mentioning it in your blog? Because I do.

  4. Perhaps I’m giving the game too much credit, but then again it is distributed by White Wolf and not just by some unknown small publisher.
    What’s offensive is of course very personal question. It’s probably impossible to come up with a game based on some blasphemous religious idea I’d find offensive. I, for one, don’t find Guillotine offensive (even though I’m against capital punishment) and I’ve never met anyone who thinks that way. I think it’s far enough of current-day events to make it acceptable for most people. However, I have no trouble accepting that someone might consider Guillotine offensive. Its humour is certainly black, and while that’s usually the best kind of humour, it’s not for all.
    Many historical games have to deal with the possibility of being offensive. Puerto Rico tiptoes around the slave issue by calling them colonists; Settlers of Catan pleasantly forgets the natives of Catan (I know Madeira had no natives when the Europeans came, but that’s rare in history). However, in Shadow of the Emperor girls are born just to be given away in marriage or sold to the monasteries. Johanna found that offensive. It’s historically accurate, but still unpleasant, if you consider how women are bought and sold even today.

  5. Prostitution only has pimps, crack dependence, backsmacking, and other abuses because it’s illegal. Make it legal and pimps will lose their jobs and hookers can goto the police when they get abused.
    All this terrible stuff (like abuse and bad card games) related to prostitution is all thanks to our government.

  6. The key with Pimp is: Don’t take it seriously. Treat it as a fun no brainer game and if you have problems with the content don’t play it.
    Personally I’m a fan of the game, despite having friends who have been caught up in the illegal sex trade I can still see the funny side of Pimp: The Backhanding.
    There we are any way, a view from the other side on Pimp.

  7. I would say that you are a politically over-correct wussy, because usually when people say something and then turn around and say ‘but” they’re usually are exactly what they say they aren’t. It is just a game and if you think that this game has turned anyone over to the “dark side” (which would be the only reason to hate on this satirical game) then your a few cells short of a whole brain.