Aid & Comfort
- If you want to support me there’s a variety of ways you can do so.
- In regard to this issue you can email OneBookShelf and express your concerns (do so politely).
- You can buy my stuff (Hardcopy of GG card game included) from RPGNOW, Lulu or – there’s free stuff there too. Feel free to leave a review.
- TheGamecrafter has hardcopies of Gamergate The Card Game and others by me.
- As is now traditional, for a victim of harassment and hatred I am obligated to mention my Patreon.
- If you want the PDF copy of the Gamergate Card Game, you can still get it here.
- If you want to know what I actually think about anything, rather than relying on what people tell you I think, you’re welcome to ASK and you’ll get an honest answer.
- The big thing I really want people to support at the moment is my memorial art scholarship for fantasy and SF art students. If you can donate art to be sold to support the scholarship or can give money, please do! Also, if you’re a budding fantasy or SF artist in College/University or high school, please enter!
I’ve heard some, unconfirmed, reports of harassment/doxxing of OBS employees. While this is almost certainly, yet again, the actions of 3rd party trolls stirring up trouble on the off-chance anyone IS harassing them on my behalf, please don’t. Thank you.
My fellow gamers,
As you are probably now aware, OneBookShelf (which runs RPGNOW and the Drivethru* series of sites for digital and PoD delivery) have elected to ban my title ‘Gamergate the Card Game’ from their store. Their letter is attached below this statement, for ease of access for those who want to peruse it.
This is a disappointing turn of events. OBS has previously been an open house, with little or no interference in the operations of those who use their digital distribution. To see them take a censorious stance in this way simply shows how serious these problems and pressures have become for creative people in this – and many other industries.
The question one has to ask then, given the ban, is why this product? Why out of many products that various people or groups might consider questionable was this one banned? It contains no violence, no sex, while it alludes to people nobody is mentioned directly. It is not graphic. It does not encourage hate speech, discrimination or anything else of that ilk. So why?
There are titles depicting sex, prosecuting personal attacks against people, treating modern and ongoing wars as fodder for game scenarios. There are erotica books, there are adult comics. There are, or have been, titles that include many ‘horrible’ things – and quite right too. They should be there, they should be hosted, and they should be available to those who want them.
So why this one and why set a terrible precedent of censorship on a previously free and open platform? Despite their statement I don’t believe we have had a good answer.
While I am a free speech radical I don’t expect everyone to necessarily agree with my position that anything legal should be allowed. Still, the comparison with Ferguson, made more than once in this situation, is ridiculous hyperbole and demeaning to the institutional problems around policing in the US.
Gamergate is nothing like that issue.
Gamergate is, indeed, a current and emotionally fraught issue. This is all the more reason to have a bit of a laugh about the whole thing, in my humble opinion. Humour is cathartic and the situation would benefit from everyone taking themselves a little less seriously, which is why I took aim at both sides and exaggerated things to the point of ludicrousness in the game. Current affairs are always good fodder for satire, just ask The Daily Show or The Colbert Report (just don’t mention #CancelColbert).
- Gamergate is not related to violence. Why anyone would say that, other than because they are woefully misinformed, I cannot say.
- Gamergate does not have its basis is misogyny or bigotry, a great many women and minorities have spoken up in support of it and the issues it raises via #NotYourShield. Again, this would appear to be misinformation.
These smears are popular narratives about this consumer revolt, but that doesn’t make them true. Silencing alternative viewpoints, and thereby furthering these hateful smears and attempts to discredit a much needed consumer revolt is part of the problem.
While I have had to step back from the Gamergate community, I found it welcoming, caring, supportive and enthusiastic while I was involved. It gave me a great deal of hope for the future of free expression in geek media.
The truly concerning part here, for me, is the pressure coming from other publishers and from ‘brigading’ by activists. As much as it might be claimed this was not considered it should never have happened and it will have had an effect. As a creator myself it would never even occur to me to try and control the content someone else put into distribution, unless they were violating intellectual property, stealing art, breaking the law (and perhaps not then) or reselling someone else’s product; nor would I ever consider wielding threats (now confirmed by the OBS statement) to try and force someone’s hand.
Creative people cheering on, even demanding, censorship is simply mind boggling.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall, of Voltaire.
I welcome OBS’ stated commitment to free speech and I hope they live up to it, from now on.
There are a couple of related points I should like to address.
I have had to disconnect from Gamergate, not because I wanted to but because the pressures on me; personal, professional and health-wise had been becoming too great. I still believe in its causes of ethical journalism, freedom from censorship and freedom from overt politicisation of reviews (especially given the current power of Metacritic over video games).
I would encourage anyone and everyone to do their own research, perhaps starting at gamergate.me and to make up their own minds once they have all the facts.
There is always a lot of talk about ‘free expression’ and ‘censorship’ when things like this happen, especially around the interface between the free expression of the creator and the freedom of businesses to decline to provide services to those creators – or customers.
This is a minefield but it’s one we are increasingly going to have to deal with and to debate in a mature and productive fashion.
The narrow definition of censorship as some little man in a government building with a rubber-stamp loaded with red ink is simply not applicable any more. The main arms of communication in our wired-up world are privately owned and operated and there are dangerous ‘choke points’ that seriously threaten free expression (Amazon, PayPal, Banks, CC processors, in niche markets even companies like OBS).
Censorship doesn’t only come from government. The ACLU defines it thus:
“Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.”
The increasing pressure on both government and private groups to censor, typically prosecuted by small by committed groups of activists, is a threat to the liberties of every consumer and producer and it seems like we need to bolster the right to free expression, perhaps in law in a similar way to how we act as a guarantor to the rights of minority groups.
Net Neutrality is part of this, activist censorship another, government another and we now face serious threats to internet anonymity in the name of fighting trolls and abusers but at serious risk of placing people with good and genuine reasons for staying anonymous in peril.
Thank you for your attention.
Lastly, I don’t think people appreciate the level of threat that robots represent. I’m doing my part, are you?
We elected to ban a title from our marketplaces. Of the tens of thousands of titles that we carry, and after operating for 13 years, we have never before banned a title (other than for legal reasons). I hope those numbers make it clear this is not an action we have undertaken lightly, nor is it one we will undertake frequently, if ever again. Nonetheless, as this is the first time we’ve decided to ban a title, I thought a letter of explanation was in order.
The title in question is a card game whose theme is the Gamergate issue. The game attempted to present the issue in a satirical manner.
Normally, satirical works would be welcome on our marketplaces. However, we feel that there are situations where satire is inappropriate. For example, we do not think that a game released today that satirizes police killings of minorities in the USA would be appropriate. Regardless of how one feels about an issue like that, we feel that it is too current, too emotionally charged on both sides, and too related to real-world violence or death to make it an appropriate matter for satire.
Similarly, no matter how one feels about Gamergate, it is likewise too current, too emotionally frought, and too related to violence to be an appropriate subject for satire. Additionally, we considered that the violent element of the Gamergate issue has a basis in misogyny. For these reasons, we felt that this card game title was not welcome for sale on our site.
Note too that this is a card game, not a roleplaying game. Some may feel that if we were to ban an RPG from our marketplaces, that action would levy a significant economic penalty on that title since we have a long reach in the overall RPG market. This is not true of card games, where OneBookShelf is currently a tiny corner of the card game market. Our not carrying a card game should have minimal impact on that card game’s economic viability.
While we also considered the customer complaints on both sides of this issue (we are a business, after all, and we cannot ignore customer complaints and survive), these were not a major factor in our decision. Not surprisingly, given the gaming fanbase, many of the complaints we received were intelligently written and provided us with additional, thoughtful perspectives on the issue. Unfortunately, most customers were not in a position to review the content of the title itself and were therefore forced to be “judging a book by its cover” only.
Some publishers also complained about this title, and a few publishers let us know they would not be interested in continuing to work with us if we carried it on our store. We will not allow any publisher to dictate content policy onto any other publisher, explicitly or implicitly. If any publisher ever decides to discontinue business with us because our content policy errs to the side of being too open, rather than restrictive, then we will respect their decision to leave our marketplaces and wish them well. To be clear, no publishers’ comments had any bearing on our decision to discontinue selling this title.
Having now banned a title for the first time, we asked ourselves if we needed to establish any explicit policy for banning of future titles for reasons other than legality or production quality. Given that this is the first time such a thing has happened in 13 years, and given the difficulty of defining policies of this nature, we elected not to invest the time in creating a policy that would probably end up a poor guideline anyway. Our time is better spent getting back to retailing your titles to fans.
We carry a lot of titles on our marketplaces that some or all of the members of the OneBookShelf staff find morally distasteful (and we’re generally a pretty open-minded lot), but we find anything that smacks of censorship even more distasteful. We will continue to have a content policy that is more open than will give many of our publishers and customers comfort.