This blog poses a good question about Wil Wheaton’s new show ‘Titansgrave’, which is trying to do for RPGs what Tabletop did for boardgames.
Personally, I’ve found Tabletop interesting, but it hasn’t really switched me on to any games or helped me understand any of the games that it has covered as a learning aid.
RPGs do need ambassadors. Games as a whole and RPGs in particular have almost always been targets of scorn and panic and so they definitely need people sticking up for them. Is Wheaton the guy to do it though?
I’m afraid I’d have to say no, and I’m going to go into why.
1. He Breaks his own Commandment.
Admittedly I’m horrendously biased on this score, but the short version is that Wheaton is a dick, while professing ‘Don’t be a dick’. I’ve suffered this directly from him in relation to him inciting dogpiling and abuse (he publicised that I made a very brief mistake of exchanging in a whole four tweets with a Twitter bot, idiotic, but no huge deal) and I’m sure I’m not alone on that score.
2. He Came Down on the Wrong Side of Gamergate.
You can’t be a consumer or hobby advocate if you’re anti-consumer or if you’re attacking the hobby you’re supposed to be advocating for. Wheaton is supposedly not an idiot, yet didn’t do the bare minimum of research to successfully identify Gamergate as a (big, and remarkably successful) consumer revolt and instead went with the flow against it, buying into the false narrative of harassment and abuse.
Imagine if Rob Halford had testified in court that heavy metal was genuinely Satanic and that Judas Priest had intended to incite suicide, or that John Denver and Dee Snyder had testified before the PMRC against free expression. If those references are too old for you, imagine if Gabe Newell has sided with Jack Thompson.
Maybe via these, slightly hyperbolic examples, you can grasp some idea of the scale of betrayal we’re talking about here.
This single act has smashed his reputation to tatters amongst the broader gaming community and annihilated his credibility outside the ‘SocJus’ circles, eg, amongst your ‘common gamer’ (just ask #NotYourShield or #Gamergate).
Gamers as a whole, let alone RPG gamers, have long memories when it comes to moral panics against them. Wheaton is participating in a moral panic and this alone, quite apart from anything else, would disqualify him as an advocate for RPGs.
3. He Bottled it on ‘Spiritgate’.
He apologised for something which required no apology, to people who will never be satisfied by any apology, and didn’t learn the hard but important lesson about outrage culture that he should have. The same thing happened more recently to Joss Whedon who, again, failed to learn the necessary lesson.
The new show probably won’t do any harm, but also probably won’t appeal beyond the existing RPG audience. Wheaton, however, is a terrible ambassador for RPGs. Perhaps a year or more ago I’d have thought differently and while I have a personal bias against the man as a hypocrite and bully I think the reasoning is valid there and on the other points.
You can’t be a hobby or community advocate and, at the same time, lie about and defame members of that community and hobby. It simply doesn’t work.
Somebody call Vin Diesel.