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Steve Jackson Games Writers' Guidelines: Libel and Obscenity


The general philosophy at SJ Games is that, if you have to use obscenity or direct insult in order to get the reader's attention, you probably can't write your way out of a paper bag, and we don't want to know you.

Obscenity

Nothing which might be construed as obscene will appear in any SJ Games product. The fact that a word, phrase, or description is not "legally" obscene - as that term is defined by any particular court at any given time - is not enough to warrant its use. Bear in mind that many of our readers are pre-teens. Whether or not they are upset by "adult" material, their parents will be! Minimize vulgarity and eliminate items of questionable taste, whether in text or art. In character dialog, where appropriate, stronger language is permissible, and slang is perfectly all right.

This doesn't mean we want to be conservative with our language and illustrations. Colorful writing and exciting graphics are vital - just be aware that the line between "colorful" or "exciting" and "tasteless" is a fine one, and tends to move around . . .

Libel

In writing games or adventures, there is no reason to risk libel by needlessly mentioning, let alone lampooning, living individuals. For example, if you are writing an adventure involving a motion-picture director, do not give him a name similar to that of an existing director. This holds true even if your fictional character is a wholly admirable person. It is not enough to change the first name, or even change the spelling of the last name. Don't use names with any similarity to those of living public figures!

When a living individual must be mentioned by name, play it safe and avoid statements (or illustrations) that might be considered libelous. Any printed item that damages a person's reputation or ability to earn a living can result in a libel suit. The only safe defense against such a suit is the truth of the published item. In the context of gaming material, there is no reason to defame living individuals, even with the truth. Don't do it at all.

It is true that in certain circumstances, writers have a degree of leeway. Reviewers may express their opinions in a context that makes it clear that the writer is dealing with opinion and not fact. Thus, a reviewer can describe a game as bad without having to fear a libel suit, no matter how firmly the negative opinion is stated. (Saying the designer of a game is a no-talent hack who sleeps with camels is another story entirely - unless you can prove the truth of your statements.) However, SJ Games' editors will not permit potentially libelous remarks even if the writer feels they are "opinion."

It is the policy of Steve Jackson Games not to publish anything that might personally insult an individual, let alone lead to an actual libel suit. It is simply not necessary. Both writers and editors must make sure every reference in every published work is both necessary and checked for accuracy.


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