#RPG – Soooooon…

While I rest amd recover, let’s show off some cool things.

First, a mock up of a possible/likely configuration of the first Gor cover, with completed art.

GorCoverMockUp

Second, a glorious cover for an OSR project, thanks to the efforts of the man, the artist, the legend, that is Gary Chalk.

Covermock

#Gamergate – Escapist/Desborough Interview Disclosure

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TL;DR – Yes Alex backed my project. No it doesn’t breach their ethical policy. No it doesn’t compare to Gamergate’s complaints. Yes I think they should have disclosed. I asked them to but I defer to their decision.

So Alexander Macris is getting some flak from people who are anti-gamergate because they think he has violated the same ethics issues Gamergate has been about by me being interviewed for The Escapist.

Let me say from the first that I agree there should be a disclosure in the item. Not because anything that happened was wrong, unlike in the cases Gamergate is upset about, but simply because in the current atmosphere things need to be whiter than white.

Full disclosure, I know Alex – at least online – and we have ‘shot the shit’ some of these issues for a while. I think The Escapist is one of the few sites that has treated Gamergate remotely fairly in allowing discussion and in showing all sides of the argument. They also revised their ethics policy and fully disclosed it and have otherwise done a lot of things worthy of praise and support.

Here’s the relevant part of The Escapist Ethical Policy:

Site staff are permitted to contribute to crowdfunding campaigns and subscription services like Patreon. If editorial content is derived from these contributions, disclose the contribution. However, staff may not create content surrounding a crowdfunding effort if they are a contributor to the effort, and the effort will not be funded if it fails to reach its goals.

The crux of the matter is ‘editorial content’.

The interview was not about the project, Alex had no byline in the interview – I think it’s Greg who has been managing the interviews on the site. The interview does not support or promote the project – which has closed in any case.

The things that Gamergate has been concerned by are explicated in the ethics policy quote above. Specifically:

  • Editorial content derived from contributions.
  • Creating content surrounding a crowdfunding effort (if they contribute).

The instances Gamergate were pissed off about were cases where people in positions of power were promoting individuals that they patreoned or projects that were underway. Places were the conflicts of interest were obvious and massive, once you understood the relationships involved.

My interview is one of many, providing a variety of views and does not promote my project – which closed out successfully by the time this came out anyway.

Still, I felt it should be disclosed because of the kind of attention everything is getting.

TL;DR – Yes Alex backed my project. No it doesn’t breach their ethical policy. No it doesn’t compare to Gamergate’s complaints. Yes I think they should have disclosed. I asked them to but I defer to their decision.

There’s another couple of side issues here.

1. They misrepresent Gor and what they say amounts to failing to understand the difference between reality and fantasy and kink-shaming. In a world where 50 Shades of Grey is a bestseller (despite being awful) I don’t think it’s safe ground to point and laugh at people’s BDSM fantasies.

2. The following is the extent of my involvement in the ‘Burgers and Fries’ IRC channel, an open channel that I clicked on to try and find out more about what was going on:

Sep 04 14.47.48 *	grimachu (cgiirc@Rizon-4B2EF135.demon.co.uk) has joined #burgersandfries
Sep 04 14.49.00 <grimachu>	Yeah, that's been problematic for me as a far left lib, but these people aren't any sort of left/lib I'd recognise.
Sep 04 14.49.27 <grimachu>	Is that streaming anywhere Noire?
Sep 04 14.50.01 <grimachu>	Ta.
Sep 04 14.59.23 *	grimachu has quit (Quit: http://www.mibbit.com ajax IRC Client)

3. Also, for the record. I said good things about Depression Quest, used to follow Zoe Quinn, I donated money when she was mugged. I regret this now, due to her actions. Not the configuration of her chromosomes. As a sufferer from depression myself I thought it was a good thing, sadly, made by a person who it turns out is not good.

If you want any more clarification, detail or explanation, please leave a comment.

***

UPDATE

The interview has since been removed, apparently for ‘harassment towards Escapist contributors’. I have no idea why, and have no idea who I might have ‘harassed’ (though the bar these days is set so low it could be anything).

James Desborough GamerGate Interview
THE ESCAPIST STAFF | 10 OCTOBER 2014 5:30 PM

James “Grim” Desborough is a game designer, author and blogger who has worked primarily on role-playing games, as well as card games, board games and social computer games. He won an Origins Award in 2001 and has been a pundit on men’s issues. Follow him on twitter @Grimachu. We interviewed Mr. Desborough over email.

Have any public comments by you about GamerGate triggered or abuse or harassment from games or game journalists? If so, please share what you deem appropriate.

I’ve been shocked by the contempt many games journalists seem to hold for their audience and my comments have met with some hostility. I haven’t paid that much attention to the “who” and the “where” and have tried to follow my own best advice and ignore it. A lot of it comes from people who aren’t anonymous trolls or new accounts though and that-to me-is the striking difference between the #GamerGate side and whatever you might call the opposition. There are trolls on all sides, but the ones that are public about the abuse, name calling etc., certainly seem to be more on the anti-GamerGate side.

Gamer Gate Harrassment has been doing a good job of logging a tiny a portion of the abuse.

Some developers have reported to me that they are being blacklisted or stonewalled by journalists over comments they’ve made relating to #GamerGate or similar issues. Have you experienced anything similar?

Tabletop gaming has been undergoing similar upheavals, but without anything like as much opposition. These kinds of arguments can be two-edged in that notoriety can bring money and attention to your projects in the short term but can make people unwilling to work with you in the longer term.

I have had to operate under a pen name on occasion because of the faux controversy and hatred directed towards me, other creators have not wanted to work with me not because they disagree with me necessarily or don’t want to work with me, but because they’re afraid of – and I quote – “The crazies.” From my point of view the harassment issue – as is reported in the media – is 180 degrees from what really goes on, but then the media is often in on the harassment.

I’ve also had interviews evaporate or it has taken weeks longer than necessary to talk to the right people. That’s either disorganization or, well, something else.

What does being blacklisted or stonewalled mean?

It makes it harder to get work, harder to get exposure. If you’re not part of a larger company that makes promotion of your material more difficult and it makes it hard to be part of the conversation. A very one-sided and caricatured ‘debate’ tends to appear in the press so the other side of these arguments doesn’t get as much airing.

How was the blacklisting or stonewalling communicated to you? How did you find out?

It wasn’t. I found out via friends or doing a little digging and prodding.

Did they give a reason for your blacklisting/stonewalling?

The aforementioned issue of ‘The crazies’ – or similar – has been brought up several times. The article I wrote defending the use of unpleasant tropes in stories (rape in particular) has been cited a few times. Rather absurd to be living in a world where fictional bad things happening to fictional people has such an impact in life.

What do you expect the consequences of this to be?

It just makes everything that little bit harder, but it also makes the fight more important. On a broader scale I think the right to free expression is being severely curtailed both by this atmosphere of slacktivist orthodoxy and by issues around private ownership of communications media.

Do you know of any developers who have been silenced or self-silenced by concerns of how gamers or journalists will react to their opinion of GamerGate?

There are plenty who hold their tongues over issues like this, and this in particular, out of a sense of self-preservation. I think they really should stand up for their consumers and community though. It just goes to show how bad things have gotten if they don’t feel they can actually side with their fans.

Have you ever been subjected to criticism of misogyny, racism, or similar because of your actual game development or other work in the industry?

Yes, though it doesn’t take much to be accused of misogyny these days. Merely disagreeing with someone who happens to be a woman seems to be enough. It’s a form of apophenia [editor: the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data] in my opinion. You go looking for something to be offended by and you’ll find it.

Are there particular articles, journalists, sites, or communities that are considered particularly egregious in their criticism by developers?

RPGnet, Yourdungeonissuck, http://wouldyouagreethat.tumblr.com/. In the tabletop RPG community much of the ‘social justice’ criticism comes from the developers and writers themselves, such Tablehop (a known troll and abuser) with a definite split which, again, is related to certain indies. Evil Hat are quite ‘SJW’ish, the Eclipse Phase people famously banned ‘MRAs’ from their site, without really defining what one was exactly. Machine Age Productions actually do a good thing in that they make their own games, but they spoil it by slagging off and hating anyone and everyone that doesn’t share their views.

Some developers have reported that #GamerGate is a situation that has been brewing for years. Do you agree?

Absolutely. There’s a conflux of issues here coming together. The Indie scene was vulnerable to a particular kind of ‘social justice’ infiltration because it was smaller and dealing with the right kinds of subjects. Corruption in gaming journalism goes back almost as long as computer gaming, but the death of the magazines and the rise of the sites was supposed to make that better. Now it’s the turn of the YouTubers it seems, and sooner or later they’re going to have their scandals. The abuse and criticism directed towards ‘mainstream’ gaming (consoles, PC) has been building for years and many gamers have become heartily sick of everything they love being torn apart on dubious ideological bases. I think this was just the last straw that took them past questioning themselves.

When did the distrust begin?

Things have been going wrong since the 80s I reckon, but the ‘social justice warrior’ issue seems to have kicked into high gear around 2010.

What are the primary concerns that developers have, vis a vis the game press? Vis a vis gamers?

I want people to be able to make anything and for consumers to be able to buy anything. Whether that’s Gone Home or Battle Raper, I don’t care. When I read a game review I want to know about the graphics, the specs, the sound, the options, the game details. Not whether it ‘objectifies’ women (I can judge that for myself, thanks) or what Bell Hooks or Simone de Beauvoir might have had to say about the strip club level. As a writer and developer I want what I work on to be judged on its artistic (or fun) merits, not whether it conforms to a particular political orthodoxy. The game is what matters and it’s the game being reviewed. Not speculation about my private life or beliefs.

Are developers changing their interactions with the game press or gamers as a result of GamerGate?

I used to try and interact as much as possible, even with the haters, to try and understand where they were coming from. Not any more.

What could the press do to restore developers’ confidence that they will treat them fairly? What could gamers do to restore relations with developers?

The Escapist seems to have made the biggest step in adopting some professional guidelines. I’d like to see other sites doing that and I’d like to see opinion clearly marked as such and, perhaps, separated out from the ‘meat’ of a review so that those who are interested can read that and those who aren’t can skip it.

Gamers need to be conscious that any creative act is putting a part of yourself out on show and that they need to be twice as positive about the good things as they are negative about the bad things. Tell people what you like about their games, not just what you hate. #GamerGate has been heartening to me as a game maker, even in another field, because it shows that developers and writers aren’t alone in their frustrations.

Is there a perception of corruption among the game press? If so, is it primarily perceived as mercenary (pay to get a good review) or primarily ideological (toe the party line to get a good review) or something else?

There’s not that much money in game press, so I think it’s more ideological and unprofessional favors. That doesn’t make it any less worrying though.

Any other comments?

This whole thing is a tangled mess of issues and they, perhaps, need to be untangled. The Zoe Quinn issue was merely the spark, though recent questions have brought her – and Sarkeesian – back into focus. There were clear conflicts of interest there, even if nothing actually wrong was done. It’s not sufficient to be innocent when it comes to public opinion, you must also appear to be innocent.

From there concerns about DiGRA, IGF, Silverstring and a whole host of other issues with clear conflicts of interest have been found out. Both of these concerns tie in to existing worry about issues such as Colonial Marines and a dev at Gearbox essentially admitted biased coverage.

The SJW issue is one that impacts creativity as a whole and ties in via the indie games scene and a biased games media that has been pushing these particular agendas hard for years, not waiting for things to change organically – which they have been doing – and even heavily criticizing games that advance the form. I think, really, gamers’ patience has just run out.

UPDATE

The takedown message has been updated, and reveals that the interview was taken down merely on the basis of accusations. As a fan of logic and due process I find this unacceptable.

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#Gamergate – #OperationFairAndBalanced

Here’s the video just shown on MSNBC. Obviously and blatantly it is utterly, utterly biased and launches a false narrative right from the start. It doesn’t get any better than there.

I encourage you to watch the video and then to contact MSNBC to complain.

Letters will be the most effective method but any and all complaints will be useful. With luck we may be able to get them to do a follow up show providing the #Gamergate side of the argument.

  • Be polite!
  • Focus on the bias.
  • Ask that the balance be redressed.

Contact Information

Twitter: @MSNBC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msnbc
G+: https://plus.google.com/+msnbc/
Tumblr: http://msnbc.tumblr.com/
Email: contact.nbcnews@nbcuni.com
Phone: Phone: 1-212-664-4444
Address: NBC News, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10112

Also contact/CC Accuracy in Media:
4350 East West Highway
Suite 555
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone: (202) 364-4401
Fax: (202) 364-4098
E-mail: info@aim.org

#Gamergate and Depression Quest Made me ‘Code’

LGBSo after thinking good things about Depression Quest, despite various antics and the ensuing explosion of controversy, I was inspired to take a look into TWINE (the ‘game engine’ that powers Depression Quest).

I cannot code to save my life. The most I could ever really manage was Logo, a little basic and splitting my head open with a coffee mug rather than deal with the complexity of FlashScript.

I’m a writer, an artistic personality, code breaks my fragile little mind.

Still, starting from absolute scratch I managed to put together this little bit of interactive fiction based on an old game of mine and you can now enjoy it:

The Little Grey Book: IF Edition

Gor RPG and World/Art Book Funded!

Gor, Games & #Gamergate

CensorshipSavesTheDay-2368

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
– Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

TL;DR: I have been, and am, a victim of many of the same forces involved in #Gamergate in its broader sense as a culture war between artistic expression and what might, generously, be called concerns of representation. I, and other designers and writers of similar style, have come under attack, boycott, rumour, suspected blacklist and the chilling effect of the mob. This has had an impact on my capacity to work and to complete projects and, as such, I’m asking for your help to hit the funding target on my current project. Here’s the LINK

I hesitate to even ask, for more than one reason. Firstly the howling mob will get great mileage from the fact that I am ‘cashing in’ on an existing outrage to try and draw attention to my projects and work. Secondly, the suspicion will be – from within #GamerGate, that I am trying to use the momentum of the movement to cash in on it.

The first lot of people will just have to go hang.

The second lot should, hopefully, have seen that I have been an honest and earnest participant in #GamerGate who shares their values and concerns and has stood up for the right thing throughout this turn of events.

You see, the thing is – as we’ve seen from #ComicGate – this battle is not limited to computer games.

My ‘battleground’ has primarily been tabletop games. I’m a game designer of board games, card games and – mostly – roleplaying games (like Dungeons and Dragons, which I have worked on, but mostly other things). Roleplaying games have been a battleground for various moral panics, just as computer games have been, but going back to the 1980s and the fallout from The Satanic Panic.

Having lived through that mess in the 80s and having lived through a similar, smaller, mess in the 90s when Vampire roleplaying came in for similar flak and was dishonestly associated with some murders and other nastiness.

Perhaps that has left me biased, but multiple incidents of this sort tend to leave an impression, as they’re always bullshit and the arguments are the same, time after time, after time. This is just another battle in a long, long line of battles.

I’ve paid a price for sticking to my guns, not wanting to compromise and not apologising for things I am not sorry for. As you all know, resisting censorship and defending free expression is taken as endorsement of any and every social ill or nasty attitude you care to think of. I get abuse on forums, I get hate mail, I appear to be semi-blacklisted some places (which in a niche industry makes things… interesting) and have had to adopt pen-names to get by.

As a writer, and sometime writer of erotica as well, I’ve also seen the problems there. Erotica writers have been pressured and censored commercially and via payment services, and yes, it is censorship. Science Fiction and Fantasy have become playgrounds of the excessively ‘politically correct’ often to the detriment of the genre itself (look up Jonathan Ross and the Hugo awards for a recent example).

So I’ve fought this fight, and it has cost me dear and it continues to do so, but it’s wearing and has gone on for years now.

My current project has been negatively impacted by this, making it hard to raise the monetary goal of $5k, with only four days left to raise the remaining money. This was always going to be a controversial project – Gor – but the fact that it plays to a lot of the classical fantasy tropes and involves a more overt sexual element than has been traditional. The novels got in trouble over this in earlier decades, and the atmosphere wasn’t anything like as repressive as it is now. Still, it’s been like getting blood from a stone to get any publicity, we’re short of our goal and having seen what #GamerGate has done for TFYC and others, I hope that we can get a last minute boost.

So I’m willing to take the risk, wincing, even as i know I’ll get crap for it.

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive the ask, but I need to explore the options available in order to keep commitments to the artist working on the project. If you’re not interested in a tabletop RPG, or an art/world book, but know someone who might be – please pass this on.

Cheers,

G

PS: Other ways to support me:

PDFs of analog game designs: Postmortem Studios / Chronicle City

Hardcopy books, including fiction (and ebooks): Lulu and Chronicle City

Card & board games (hardcopy): The Game Crafter (Privilege Check may interest you especially…)

And yes, Patreon… I know.

LUMENERA: Destiny Roleplaying Using Numenera

lumenera

Despite something of a lukewarm reception from many, I’ve really been enjoying Destiny and it seemed, to me, to be a perfect translation into a Tabletop RPG for a deeper experience. Numenera seemed the most obvious fit, given that it already slotted neatly into three classes and the degree of player agency that it provides.

Here’s a rough, raw, document version for now.

This is purely a fan thing, but if you feel like supporting me in producing game material personally and professional you can support me on Patreon or support my current professional project, a Gor RPG and world/art book.

DestinyFinal