Onebookshelf Buckles

Onebookshelf, owners of DrivethruRPG and RPNOW appear to have buckled to the threats and fainting of the usual mob after the recent ‘Tournament of Rapists’ issue.

You can read their blog on the issue HERE and take the following notes.

  1. The blog makes a somewhat spirited defence of the sanctity of free expression…
  2. …but then buckles.
  3. The existence of the adult filter was acknowledged, but why this isn’t/wasn’t enough/sufficient was never really explored.
  4. They’re making a change – though it’s not justified or understandable in the context of the earlier comments.
  5. They’re keeping it simple ‘I don’t know what offensive content is, but I’ll know it when I see it’. This is better than hard and fast, gameable rules, but gives a publisher no solid ground to stand on when developing.
  6. They’re relying on complaints – which is going to encourage brigading and faux outrage.
  7. They’re not grandfathering old content, which puts any and all existing products under threat.

I’m slightly relieved, but mostly incredibly wary. This is the comment I left on G+

This sounds reasonable, but we’re already seeing the creep. The ‘slippery slope’ seems to have started with the actually inoffensive GG card game and that led on to this.

An open marketplace of ideas is simply too valuable and OBS occupies a position akin to Steam, just for TTRPG material. ‘Lord’ Gaben recently intervened to save the controversial game Hatred from being knocked off that platform.

Obviously I have some skin in this, controversial topics are a flame to my moth. I’ve made games about school shootings, mischaracterised online controversies, tongue-in-cheek tentacle sex and I have a huge, potentially ‘offensive’ project in the form of the Gor RPG imminent any day, which I now have cause to worry about.

People brigade products trying to get them banned or censored all the time. So automating the process could well be a bad thing.

You already have an ‘adult’ ghetto. As I understood it adult products shouldn’t get the full auto-promotion treatment and this product was not initially tagged.

Why isn’t this ‘back-rooming’ enough? How much of this is down to pressure from white-knight companies and why do they feel entitled to interfere in this way and why are they allowed to get away with it?

I’m now in a position where I don’t know if some of my all-time best selling products are going to be attacked, whether new products will be at the mercy of the fake-outrage mob and upon what bases you’ll be making decisions!

Perhaps it might have been better to keep more separation between RPGNOW and DTRPG to allow one to be more corporate and the other more indie and open.

Real talk, there aren’t a lot of other effective sites to sell on. e23 and Paizo sales never remotely match sales on OBS and other options like Gumroad don’t remotely match them. IMO this gives OBS a position of great responsibility to creators and it remains endlessly disappointing to me that so much of this pressure comes from creators – who should know better.

I guess we’ll have to see how things shake down, but this is incredibly worrying for anyone who likes ‘controversial’ (interesting) topics.

This may not sound like much, but it’s a significant defeat for free expression in tabletop gaming and will encourage the kind of censorious prigs what have been causing so much trouble across all manner of media in recent years. It’s not a good day.

2 responses to “Onebookshelf Buckles

  1. I’ve found OBS to be a very difficult company to deal with from the Publisher side. They make sweeping decisions and hand-wave their mistakes. They often don’t even know the why of a decision, only that it’s been made. “We’re not sure why your product was removed, but that’s final.”

  2. Not sure about all the stuff that happened over in OBS land, but it sounds absolutely awful. I am not defending the product in question, or even mentioning its content or anything, but I completely agree at some point there can be gray lines that could be dictated as being anywhere and at some point we have to re-learn everything about free speech all over again. It’s not just wasted effort, its periods of silence that could eclipse entire publishing companies (obviously the small ones, but still).

    It seems like a pretty obvious thing; here’s my example, just to echo: If I start a game company and make a game about something terrible and controversial and disgusting (like say, you play a group of Christians where the object is to make everyone in the world become and obey all the particular nuances your religion, and torture and kill etc. otherwise), but it’s tagged as adult (for violence, because who would ever want to think about such an unrealistic and ridiculously violent thing) … and people object, do the objectors get to …what? Do they get to have my company de-listed? Take down my printer? Hide my socks? Whatever?

    I agree, I am NOT saying we can’t object … I’ve certainly had my share of sharing my objections (and even thought twice about what I just said afterwards), but if this community chooses not to learn from this lesson it will be sorry times indeed.

    Because: at what point will this end?

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