My letter of protest…
With great distress, I note the removal of The Red Room from your online store (DrivethruRPG). While I certainly acknowledge that there has been a degree of deliberate ‘nipple tweaking’ by The Red Room in their marketing and positioning, this outcome is precisely what I was concerned would happen when you changed your policies regarding controversial content and ‘hostile marketing’.
Put as succinctly as possible. I was concerned that your policy changes would result in the following:
- Malicious reporting of products (even by people who had never bought or read the product in question).
- The inability of publishers to protest poor decisions or to mobilise their fanbase to counter those decisions.
- Increased censorship, whether self-censorship or otherwise.
Every one of those concerns has now been borne out.
We have a product maliciously reported by someone who didn’t even purchase or read it, subject to the censor’s eye – despite adult labelling – resulting in the loss of a publisher from a site that is a near monopoly in the space.
Your policy of taking products down to be cleared impacts release profit, doing damage whether or not a product is deemed ‘safe’ or not. This policy is wide open for malicious and abusive reporting.
Your refusal to allow publishers to protest publicly, or to face their accuser, undermines confidence, increases self-censorship and removes certainty from what is already a very precarious profession. It further exacerbates the malicious reporting issue.
We work in a field that has known the ire of more than one moral panic. We should know better than to indulge the moral entrepreneurs of such hysterias, even if they come from inside the industry.
Your job is that of a middleman, to sell products by publishers to customers. Your job is not that of a censor or moral busybody. Provided that a product is not illegal, I see no reason why you should not sell it. To censor such a product is an abuse of your monopolistic position and, more broadly, a betrayal of the values of the hobby and the arts.
It is especially disappointing following the industry-wide rejection of Wizard’s new OGL and its morality clause, which you are de facto enforcing on everyone’s games unbidden.
For those disturbed by such material (adult material, horror material, or anything else), the best option remains not to buy something if they don’t like it.
It is as though we invited Pat Pulling into the industry to act as a watchdog rather than mocking, deriding and countering her ridiculous claims.
Unfortunately, given your degree of monopolistic power in the industry, my protest is limited to this letter. As a disabled creator with an uncertain income, I am forced to prioritise that income over my principles, at least in this case. Still, as a producer of somewhat ‘edgy’ content, I’d like to know if you’re going to pull the rug out from under my feet on the arbitrary say-so of some crank with more time than sense.
Still, I appeal to you to return to the free expression values we were all assured of when we originally signed up for the sake of art and concerning your powerful position in the hobby.
There is one other matter that needs addressing. Before Miguel and Silvia set up on their own,
The Red Room was published through me on the site. Given that their earlier work has not been subjected to such a witch hunt, I trust those older projects released via Postmortem Studios will not be affected. Would you regard the future release of (compliant) products by them via me as ‘ban evasion’ or some such?
I will be releasing this letter publicly in support of Miguel and Silvia but unattached to any marketing. My anti-censorship and pro-free expression stance is already a matter of public record since before I even started working in the industry (even for people I violently disagree with), so it cannot realistically be called ‘hostile marketing’.
James ‘Grim’ Desborough