Freelance Writing/Editing/More

2.26499708Links to my profiles on Fiverr & People Per Hour (these will be expanded as I add services):

Fiverr

People Per Hour

Direct services:

Currently, my 2017 plate is clear (from April) and free for freelancing and consultancy. I’m pretty reliable and can offer reasonably fast turnaround. I can, perhaps uniquely, provide detail and grounding to scenarios – even dungeons – to humanise them and give them a bit of depth. Give me a try, see what I can do for your games.

I am a 17+ year veteran of the tabletop game publishing world with lots of experience in freelancing and self-publishing.

I’ve worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Nightfall, Cubicle Seven Entertainment and more. I have also written fiction and worked on social media computer games, packing a lot of meaning into short pieces of text.

As a self-publisher, I have overseen every step of the publication process from concept through to publication including writing, editing, layout and modification. I also produce Youtube material and have begun producing audiobooks. If you need some narration for a video project or an audiobook reading, I can help.

Here’s some of the services I can offer, and the minimum prices offered – though anything is negotiable up or down depending on the client. I will work pseudonymously if that is a concern for you.

  • New writing (raw text): $0.03c/word (minimum)
  • Proofreading/Light Editing/Commentary: $0.01c/word (second and third deeper passes are possible).
  • ePublishing/RPG Publishing consultation. Skype/Hangout/Call: $20/hour.
  • Consultation on your game project: $20/hour.
  • Layout (InDesign): $11 an hour.
  • Stock Art Shopfront: Postmortem studios have a huge stock art catalogue from multiple artists and we’d love to add you to that storefront. If you’re an artist who wants to sell your stock art but doesn’t want to deal with the accounts and uploads etc with your own storefront (which would be my first recommendation) then I can do that for you for 50% (I round up your payouts). Even if you don’t want to do this through me I recommend doing it anyway for all artists and can consult on best practice if you need advice.
  • Voice Work: If you find my dulcet tones to your liking, I’m available for voice over work and narration, recording audiobooks and more. Rates negotiable, starting at $11 per hour.
  • Promotion/Interview: Free. If you have a product you want to pimp out or would like to just talk game design and culture you’re welcome to talk to me and appear on my Youtube channel.

#Gamergate ‘TTGATE’ – The Curious Case of Identity Primacy

run-a-game

If there’s any scandals, censorship or ‘happenings’ in relation to tabletop gaming you’d like me to publicise (card games, RPGs, board games) then please let me know.

Convention Scholarship

Big Bad Con is a smallish convention in Oakland California, which looks like a fun little convention. They’ve instituted a scholarship policy to help “support individuals who would not otherwise be able to attend the con” to get there. Which is a great idea in and of itself, conventions are expensive and there’s lots of people – low on money – who could benefit massively from some help to get to a con and get a break from the harsh grind of daily life.

Except…

“To support diversity at Big Bad Con, these funds have been specifically set aside for gamers from POC, women, disabled, and lgbtqia+ communities.”

Identity Politics, not circumstances or need, not poverty, will determine who gets assistance. An overtly discriminatory policy. There’s no reason PoC, women, disabled or LGBT people must, necessarily, be poor and unable to cover their own fees. The only fair determination would be need.

Now, obviously, people will consider pointing this out, somehow, to be discriminatory towards the stated identity groups, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that it’s a policy that places identity (race/sex/preference/ability) over need and – as such, is patronising, self-defeating and ignores the most important factor – need.

Credit where it’s due though, their code of conduct is relatively sane – something rare for conventions these days.

Conan RPG Hirings

A call for more people to work on the new Conan RPG went out, the second call I believe, but whereas the first one to go out was a general, open call, this one was different – and Identity Politics was – again – the issue.

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Now, this is a second call and the aim is, perhaps, to ‘diversify’ the people working on the project, but let us not pretend that any similar advertisement going out stating it was only for ‘men’ would not be met with a wall of condemnation. This is a perfect example of a double standard at work in the gaming industry and like other ID politics shenanigans only ends up causing problems.

Are people now being hired because they have Conan expertise, or because of the contents of their pants (or their self-identification) as one interested fan asked. Is it not patronising to reduce someone entirely to their gender when considering? Could this have not been done better simply, privately, at the selection level, or could it not be an open call with a mere note that women in particular are being sought?

Why should it make a difference anyway? Diversity for its own sake brings nothing and prioritising it over talent and ability calls everything into question.

I do not think that this is what is occurring here, but it is worth pointing out simply to demonstrate the double standard, and that double standard extends to reaction.

For a rather polite pointing out of the issue:

This isn’t OK. We all know nobody will do anything about it, but I just want to register protest. This kind of hiring practice is also, frankly, illegal gender discrimination. Boo.

I was subjected to all manner of abuse, much of it presumptive and sexist itself, all manner of wild accusations and nastiness spreading from one part of social media to another and not improving. Again, this is a demonstration of the hypocrisy inherent in this kind of activity.

The culmination, perhaps, was this:

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People devoted to equality and diversity, using a person’s mental health issues in order to attack them, for the crime of pointing out sexist wording which, if the genders were reversed, these self-same people would be complaining about just as shrilly as they defend it and excuse it in this instance.

If there’s any scandals, censorship or ‘happenings’ in relation to tabletop gaming you’d like me to publicise (card games, RPGs, board games) then please let me know.

#Gamergate Steffan’s Challenge – Does DiGRA have an ID Politics Problem?

TL;DR – Even being as generous as I could, Steffan’s ‘25%’ challenge was blown through in an examination of DiGRAs 2015 conference schedule, even being mindful of personal prejudices and erring on the side of caution in judgements. This is only an informal survey, and a bit of fun (in examining how much ‘bollocks’ there was as well) but I believe it is genuinely indicative of a problem and a motivation behind the attempt to create alternatives via L4G and PopLud. Scientifically speaking statistical significance is usually set around 5%, a ‘p-level of 0.05. The results here show a p-level of ~0.32. Perhaps more concerning even than the ID politics, at least for me, was that over half of what was presented was ‘useless bollocks’, and that the presentation and language was nigh impenetrable. It was also disturbing to see how much bias was embraced and openly expressed and how many papers and presentations were concerned with efforts to alter people in some way, re-educate rather than educate, if you will. I do not buy into the DiGRA/DARPA conspiracy theory (funding is just funding) but I do wish people will strive for some objectivity and consider what they’re doing.

Information drawn from…

http://projects.digital-cultures.net/digra2015/files/2014/09/DiGRA2015_program.pdf

Some presentations were not detailed enough to make a judgement and so were excluded, as were some workshops and all ‘break activities’.

Presentation Title
ID Politics?
(Running total)
Bollocks?
(Running Total)
Total

From Game Studies to Studies of Play in Society

1

1

1

Game Elements-Attributes Model: a First Step towards a Structured Comparison of Educational Games

2

2

Costume Agency in German LARP

3

3

The Ludic, the Cinematic and the Paratextual: Towards a Typology of Video Game Trailers

4

4

Minigames as Metaleptic Self-Referentiality

5

5

Subversive Narrative Emergence in Gamer Poop: Queering Video Game Stories and Selves

2

6

6

Moral Panics in and Around 1980s Videogames

3

7

Roleplaying and Rituals For Heritage Orientated Games

4

8

EVE is Real

5

7

9

The Transtextual Screen: Exploring Crossmedia Intertextuality in Competitive Games and eSports

8

10

Start Up, Cash In, Sell Out, Bro Down: The Historical, Social, and Technological Context of a Toxic New Gaming Public

6

9

11

You Always BM in Hearthstone: Players’ Negotiation of Limited Communication Affordances

12

Better Off Alone? On the Significance of Asocial Gaming

7

10

13

Ludic Selfies: Playing with Mobile Phones in Grand Theft Auto V

11

14

Selective Realism: Suffering, Violence, and War in First- and Third-Person Shooters

8

12

15

Animal Crossing: New Leaf and The Diversity of Horror in Video Games

9

13

16

The Limits of the Evolution of Female Characters in the Bioshock Franchise

10

14

17

Authors from 3 continents presenting the book by Mark Wolf (ed.) Video Games Around the World

18

Real World, Real Monsters: Adapting Gothic Horror for Location-Based Augmented-Reality Games

19

Who Needs Enemies? Architecture as Sole or Dominant Agent in Game Design

20

GameChanger: Designing Co-Located Games that Utilize Player Proximity

21

The Gamification of the Gothic

15

22

A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Video Games: A Ludonarrative Model

16

23

Analyzing Game Discourse Using Moral Foundations Theory

11

17

24

Exploring Multimodal Annotation of Videogames

18

25

A Double-Edged Sword: Work Practices in a Norwegian Game Company

26

App advertising: The rise of the player commodity

27

On Trash and Games – Tracing the Problems Targeted by Gamification

19

28

Central European Game Studies panel: History and the state of the art of game studies in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic

29

Independent gamework and identity: Social problems and subjective nuances

12

20

30

Hybrid Play and the Aesthetics of Recruitment

31

Game Studies in the Cinquecento

21

32

Games as a Genre of Historical Discourse. The Past on Fast Forward

33

It‘s the game you don‘t play: Sonic X-Treme and its self-appointed keepers

22

34

Towards a ludonarrative toolbox

23

35

Utopia, Ludonarrative Archaeologies and Cultural Knowledge

24

36

The Implied Player: between the Structural and the Fragmentary

13

25

37

Gotta Go Fast: A Study in Speedrunning

38

Bullet Hell: The Globalized Growth of danmaku games and the Digital Culture of High Scores and World Records

39

Chicago‘s Pinball Paradox: Understanding the Role of Pinball Regulation in Early Videogame Censorship

14

40

Piece of Art” or “Nice to Have”: What Professional Video Game Critics Say About Music in Games

26

41

Procedural Deformation and the Close Playing /Reading of Code: An Analysis of Jason Rohrer’s Code in Passage

27

42

Designing the Future of Democracy – Postmortem of the Near Future Expansion for Democracy 3*

27

42

How to Outplay a Power Outage

43

Player Superstition as a Design Resource

28

44

Workshop: Nonlinear Histories of Independent games

45

Analysing Cultural Heritage and its Representation in Video Games

15

46

Early Computer Game Genre Preferences (1980-1984)

48

Time to Reminisce and Die: Representing Old Age in Art Games

16

29

48

Workshop: Games and Transgressive Aesthetics

17

30

49

Ethical Recognition of Marginalized Groups in Digital Games Culture

18

31

50

The Concept and Research of Gendered Game Culture

19

32

51

Hackers and Cyborgs: Binary Domain and Two Formative Videogame Technicities

20

33

52

Get Milk – A Game of Lenses

21

34

53

Deep Springs and Dry Wells: A Study of the Casual Civic Game Get Water!

54

Keep on Moving: Designing a Physiotherapeutic Exergame for Different Devices and Exercises

55

The persuasive properties of games for change. A case based analysis

22

35

56

How do ‚gamers‘ empathise? Suspension of disbelief and narrative empathy in games

23

36

57

Libidinal Player Types Framework for Gamification

37

58

The Well-Played MOBA: How DotA 2 and League of Legends use Dramatic Dynamics

59

Editors of Play: The Scripts and Practices of Co-creativity in Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet

38

60

Videogames and Slavery

24

61

Playful Laboratories. The significance of games for knowledge production in the digital age

62

Protest games in the 1980s Czechoslovakia: Beyond procedural rhetoric

63

Between the political and the post-political: exposing and concealing social conflicts in Polish history-themed board games

64

Inviting Grief into Games: The Game Design Process as Personal Dialogue

25

39

65

Digitising Boardgames: Issues and Tensions

66

Co-creative Game Design in MMORPGs

67

International Cultures of Creativity and Imitation

26

68

God and Gods in Digital Games

69

The Palimpsest and Gesamtkunstwerk of Dead Space: a Close Readin

40

70

The Stanley Parable: Dystopia and the Implied Player

27

41

71

Applying the Two-Factor Theory to the PLAY Heuristics

42

72

Defining the Global Ludo Polychotomy

73

The Tragedy of Betrayal: How the design of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus elicits emotion

75

Creating Stealth Game Interventions for Attitude and Behavior Change: An “Embedded Design” Model

75

The Pressures of Games on History

43

76

#GamerGate Birds of a Feather Session

28

44

77

Towards a historical analysis of the video game experience. The evolution of marketing discourse in the specialized press (1981-1995)

45

78

How gaming became sexist: a study of UK gaming magazines 1981-1995

29

46

79

Electronic Arts versus Blizzard: Real Games and the Large Studios that Make Them

80

Is Hacking the Brain the Future of Gaming?

81

Game and Videogame Ontologies

47

82

Teaching Game Studies: Course Post-Mortems and Syllabus Design

83

The Use of Theory in Designing a Serious Game for the Reduction of Cognitive Biases

30

48

84

How enterprises play: Towards a taxonomy for enterprise gamification

85

Understanding Player Experience Through the Use of Similarity Matrix

86

The Authority of Discourse Communities. Disseminating Technological and Industrial Celebration from Marketers to Academics.

49

87

Roguelike Universe: Drawing 36 Years of Roguelike Influence

88

Playing between rules: negotiating the ludic innovations of the MOBA genre

89

Interactive storytelling for open game worlds.

90

Taking a Look at the Player’s Gaze: The Effects of Gaze Visualizations on the Perceived Presence in Games

91

Cues and insinuations: Indicating affordances of non-player character using visual indicators

92

Failed Games: Lessons Learned from Promising but Problematic Game Prototypes in Designing for Diversity

31

50

93

From Theory-Based Design to Validation and Back

51

94

The Game of Georg Klaus

95

GameOff – a critical analysis of a digital game exhibition

96

Videogames as ‘Minor Literature’: Reading Videogame Stories through Paratexts

52

97

Whose mind is the signal? Focalization in video game narratives

32

53

98

Ideological Narratives of Play In Tropico 4 and Crusader Kings II

33

54

99

How gaming achieves popularity. The case of The Smash Brothers

100

Research on Prosocial Behaviors in Video Games: Content Analysis and Empirical Study

34

55

101

I wanna be a…”; the role(s) of gaming in teenage boys‘ decisions to study ICT

35

102

Problem gaming in an everyday perspective

103

What’s so funny about glitches: The practice of making glitch based gameplay videos

56

104

Video Games and the Culture of Laughter

57

105

The Joy of Discovery, Experimentation or Just Exploitation? The Roles of Glitches in Video Game Culture

58

106

Systematic Analysis of In-game Purchases and Social Features of Mobile Social Games in Japan

107

Exploring Playful Experiences in Social Network Games

108

Reflecting on the History of the Game Engine in Japan

109

Design and Role of Play Features in LEGO Brand Toys

110

Exploring ‘Iteration’ in Game Development: Elaborative, Opportunistic and Omissive

111

The jumpscare and the gamergasm: Embodied displays of affect in gaming videos

112

Intersecting Vulnerabilities in Game Culture: The Effects of Inequities and Stereotype Threat on Player Confidence, Identification and Persistence Across Gender and Race

36

59

113

Towards a non-binary configuration of coalition: Feminism, queer theory, and GamerGate

37

60

114

Affective and Bodily Involvement in Children’s Tablet Play

115

Gaming Experience as a Prerequisite for the Adoption of Digital Games in the Classroom?

116

A Practical Model for Exploring the Usefulness of Games for Classrooms

117

Integrating the Threads of Game Studies? Toward a Unified Account of Game, Gameplay, Player, Value and Aesthetics

61

118

We are Never Alone: Sharing Culture through “World Games”

38

119

Dealing with Uncertainty. Ludic Epistemology in an Age of new Essentialisms

62

120

Typology of realisms. An ontology-based model of types of realism in video games.

63

121

Shooting the game: filming and editing in video games

122

What We Leave Out: Diversity, Games, and Paying-to-Win

39

123

The player/ game dualism and its dialectical resolution: philosophical praxis, mimesis and techne

64

124

Workshop: Meta-Games and Meta-Gaming. An Anthology

125

Authenticity Quest: On the conditions of possibility for ‘being yourself’ in a computer game

40

126

Forced to Be Free, Partially: Participation Norms in Video Gaming Encounter

65

127

The Gaiety: Meditations on Arcade Player Practices

66

128

Digital gaming as a gendered technology: Nerdcore porn, intimacy and control

41

67

129

Poetic Thought: Making and thinking for transdisciplinary innovation

68

130

Playing with Love: Representations and Exclusions in Narrative and Mechanics

42

69

131

Hegemony As Process? The Communication of Ideology in Video Games and Its Effects

43

70

132

Performing in MOBAs: The Myth of Neutral Bodies and Game Design

44

71

133

Technological innovation and game design

134

On Board Games Played On Tablets, Smartphones, and other Computing Devices

135

Commodifying Gameplay

136

Total

44

72

136

Percentage

32.1

52.6

Notes:

NB the Designing the Future paper was originally included, but on review has been removed from the presented categories. This will have thrown the results off, but not significantly.

This informal survey/study is a response to Steffan B’s challenge to examine DiGRA’s work and to show an inherent bias of 25% or more towards feminist/identity politics presentations and work.

25% is quite a high margin. Speaking for myself I would consider 5% (a standard definition of ‘significance’ in scientific circles) to be indicative of a problem, especially in a field so wide and diverse as gaming.

The conference’s theme was diversity, so one would expect a higher percentage of presented material to reflect this theme, so keep that in mind. As such this analysis is only a snapshop of DiGRA in 2015 reflected through their conference – which also occurred during #Gamergate – something that may also skew results.

I am one person, with a bias, who believes going into this that DiGRA has a major problem and that it, and the established Game Studies/Ludology structure needs challenge and reform. That said I also had biases that worked in their favour, my fondness for history for example. In an attempt to counter any bias I also erred on the side of caution (in DiGRA’s favour) wherever I felt there was sufficient questions about whether a topic or presentation was ID politics or not.

Definitionally, I considered ID politics to be at play with relation to the following broad topics. Diversity, representation, feminism, race and other *isms, PoMo philosophical denial of objectivity and, in a couple of places, a staggering lack of self-examination when reporting on past moral panics, without recognising that DiGRA is producing and perpetuating a current moral panic about representation and diversity.

As a little side bit of fun for myself I also examined the articles for whether they were ‘bollocks’ or not. ‘Bollocks’ being a slang term not dissimilar to ‘bullshit’ or ‘pure applesauce’ as Scalia might put it. Did these articles pass the smell test? Were they nothing but opinion dressed up in shiny language? Were they functionally useless? Were they offering any useful insight at all?

There were problems accessing some papers and presentations. The conference was not well documented and the papers from which the presentations were drawn were often hard to find or inaccessible.

It’s important to note a couple more things here.

  1. It is possible for ID politics motivated studies to produce useful and rigorous information. It’s just vanishingly rare. The mere invocation of ID politics does not, itself, render a study useless.

  2. Much of the material that got a pass may still be ID politics or bollocks.

  3. There was very little that I would have considered good enough to publish in Popular Ludology. Even things that escaped the ID or Bollocks labels were often useless and offered no insight into game design or betterment.

I have a few suggestions for DiGRA and contributors for the future.

  1. I am not an unintelligent guy and do not lack for vocabulary, even specialist vocabulary, yet many of these papers were virtually impenetrable in their language and presentation even for me. You need to work on your communication skills and this has reinforced for me the necessity of PopLud aiming for a more readable presentation.

  2. Video your panels and presentations.

  3. Provide links and/or downloads to the papers and materials presented at your conferences. Remote and post-hoc participation improves conferences.

As it happens, Steffan’s challenge was met, with a 32% level of ID politics. Perhaps more concerning was that well over half (52%) was bollocks. Bollocks material, while not directly harmful, is a huge waste of time and effort that could otherwise be spent genuinely improving games. Very few presentations or paper here, even from the non-bollocks ones, would be considered for use in PopLud. Only 21 (15.3%) were material I would consider suitable for publishing – and this is purely on the basis of whether they contribute in any useful fashion to understanding or improving games.

This is a problem.

#Gamergate – Three Things off My Chest

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Return Advice to Zen of Design (I’m more of an ‘Asatru of Design’ person myself)

Since you took it upon yourself to give #gamergate unsolicited advice, allow me to do the same for your camp, it only seems fair.

Lacking a central organisation or any true leaders is what has helped make #gamergate work and has given it the authenticity and power that it has. It is a genuine, grassroots consumer and resistance movement, despite claims to the contrary. The ‘leaders’ are emergent, the cause of the moment is emergent and it lacks a ‘head’ to be attacked, silenced or harassed. These tactics, contrary to what many seem to think, are far more characteristic of the AGGros than GG itself.

On the other hand, the AGGros do have leadership and public figures who are, indeed, shaping the debate and even abusing their position to misrepresent Gamergate. That’s something that can be used to help move things forward, not that I think this is what will happen.

Gamergate is addressing actual wrong, a ‘cursory’ examination of the facts would actually reveal that. It has also managed to create change. Ethical standards have been re-prioritised, there have been shifts in policies. It may be too little too late, but the positive reaction The Escapist has created by re-examining the issue and allowing an open discussion has been enormous.

So, yeah, here’s what YOU should do:

  • Take #Gamergate seriously: Our concerns are real (to us). Our complaints are real (to us). We seriously want them addressed and we take them seriously.
  • Stop misrepresenting us: The mainstream media is now reporting, but they’re mostly taking their cues from games media pieces which are hit pieces and not representative or accurate. The more this happens, the more pissed off people are going to be.
  • Muzzle your hounds: The trolls of Gamergate are not representative and they’re anonymous throwaway accounts with no authority or cachet. First, stop takig them seriously, second, muzzle your own trolls. Not forever, free expression is important, but we can’t have a productive discussion with people like Phil Fish, Ben Kuchera, Laurie Penny, Amanda Marcotte and Leigh Alexander, Pixie Jenni and oh Klono’s beard and whiskers, so many others, constantly berating and abusing gamers. If you’re going to have secret lists and communications where you all get together to control the narrative, use it productively. Which brings me to…
  • Sack Up: If you can collude and cooperate to promote games and political agendas, collude and cooperate to shake off corruption. We all know AAA development studios bribe and threaten journos to control reviews and we know politicised groups like Silverstring and DiGRA are pressuring in their own way. Be professional, declare conflicts of interest and COLLUDE to provide honest and apolitical reviews. If you all do it, AAA devs have no way to get purchase on you and politicised groups can be rebuffed in the same way.
  • Apologise: AGGros have been misrepresenting, smearing, hating and harassing since day one – longer in fact, which is why this has been building up for a while. Apologise, on your sites, on your Twitter and Facebook accounts and engage fairly and openly with people
  • Stop Using the Word Misogyny: At this point its a joke, an empty noise. Stop invoking it like a magic word to deflect criticism and smear your opponents. It’s not working any more. While you’re at it a moratorium on ‘Shitlord’, ‘Pissbaby’, ‘Fedora’ and ‘Neckbeard’ would probably also be in order. At least learn what it means (hatred of women) before using it again.

What I see in #Gamergate

People keep asking me what I see in Gamergate and what I see is what we’ve failed to do in tabletop gaming, card and board games, comics and numerous other geek media as well as pornography, SF&F publishing and other arenas. That is, we have failed to even really try to resist the latest in a long line of moral panics that have attacked our hobbies and interests.

I call this censorship, some people baulk at the term because they seem to feel that it can only apply to a little man in an office somewhere, acting on behalf of the government. However, given that some on the AGGro side have taken to complaining that a boycott and letter writing campaign are censorship, perhaps their definitions are more flexible after all.

For what it’s worth I don’t particularly back organised boycotts and the attempt to strip away sponsors, precisely because I do view that as a form of censorship. I’d rather see things develop naturally. However, the hypocrisy and whining now that the censorship shoe is on the other foot, does piss me off.

Anyway, as points of comparison that I’ve brought up before.

In the 1950s Fredric Wertham:

Seduction of the Innocent described overt or covert depictions of violence, sex, drug use, and other adult fare within “crime comics”—a term Wertham used to describe not only the popular gangster/murder-oriented titles of the time but also superhero and horror comics as well—and asserted, based largely on undocumented anecdotes, that reading this material encouraged similar behavior in children.

In the 1980s, as part of the Satanic Panic, Pat Pulling:

Pulling formed B.A.D.D. after her son Irving committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest on June 9, 1982. Irving was an active D&D player, and she believed his suicide was directly related to the game. The grieving mother first filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her son’s high school principal, Robert A. Bracey III, holding him as responsible for what she claimed was a D&D curse placed upon her son’s character shortly before his death. She also filed suit against TSR, Inc., D&D’s publishers. She appeared on an episode of 60 Minutes which also featured Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and which aired in 1985.

In the 1990s, as part of the general climate of fear around violence in video games, Jack Thompson:

Thompson has heavily criticized a number of video games and campaigned against their producers and distributors. His basic argument is that violent video games have repeatedly been used by teenagers as “murder simulators” to rehearse violent plans. He has pointed to alleged connections between such games and a number of school massacres. According to Thompson, “In every school shooting, we find that kids who pull the trigger are video gamers.”[38] Also, he claims that scientific studies show teenagers process the game environment differently from adults, leading to increased violence and copycat behavior.[39][40] According to Thompson, “If some wacked-out adult wants to spend his time playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, one has to wonder why he doesn’t get a life, but when it comes to kids, it has a demonstrable impact on their behavior and the development of the frontal lobes of their brain.”

There are other examples, such as the PMRC and there have been more modern attempts to claim things such as Harry Potter causing kids to turn to witchcraft or Pokemon being used to sneakily teach evolution to good Christian kids, but these stand – for me – as the big three examples.

The 1950s moral panic was about moralistic concerns of the time, though much of it is the same now other things are strikingly different. It was a concern that homosexuality, kids imitating what was shown in the comics (violence and horror). Less well known is that he also raised similar concerns to the modern moral panic – about the proportions and capabilities of female characters. Of course, Wertham’s concerns were shown to be absolute nonsense over time. No effect was shown, the moral panic he helped engender and sustain led to self-censorship – under duress – in the form of the Comics Code Authority which stifled and lessened diversity in the field for years.

The 1980s moral panic was in part due to the rise of the evangelical right in the USA and the increase in their influence over society and the government but also due to the ‘Satanic panic’. This was a witch hunt caused by – yet again – spurious claims about widespread cults of satanic occultists kidnapping children. Suddenly everything with occult symbolism was suspect and being blamed for anything and everything. Tarot cards, Ouija boards and Dungeons and Dragons. D&D was toned down, steps were taken to protect the hobby via the CARPGa and so it went on – and still does to some extent. Of course, the claims people made about D&D turned out to be absolute nonsense over time. No effect was shown. The moral panic and those who used it, however, led to a stigma that’s been hard to shake.

The moral panic of the 1990s seems almost laughable today, but a new generation of ‘realistic graphics’ and the real onset of the internet combined into a fuss which we’re still working through today. Concern about violence in games was more widespread than Thompson, but he became the poster child for it. Whether he genuinely believes in what he did or was purely exploiting the situation for notoriety and money we may never know, but the panic was real. Many of the more draconian game censorship rulings are in place from that time and, if I remember correctly, Australia’s are pretty bad. The Stick of Truth more recently had material censored, ridiculous given that (other than Mohammed) South Park has gone out without much restraint on television since it first aired.

In each of these instances there was resistance from within the community and the effects of the panic were blunted. In each case the moral panic came from outsiders. In each case we found out there was no basis to the moral panic and that people were reacting in an ill-informed manner.

Which brings us to today.

Today’s moral panic is a combination of anti-sex feminism and well-meaning ‘progressivism’. On the face of it the goals are all well and good, equality, diversity, representation but if you scratch beneath the surface you find a great deal of hatred, authoritarianism and speaking over and for the very people the panic is supposed to serve.

What’s different about this moral panic, unlike previous ones, is that the people within the pastimes and hobbies, especially in production and journalism, have bought into the hype. Why that should be I do not know, but like before there’s no actual substance to any of the fears and concerns of the lobbies involved. Games – and comics, and books and everything else swept up in this current panic – simply do not have as profound an effect on behaviour as people appear to like to think. It’s hard to discern that it has any effect on anyone whatsoever and the largest scale experiment we have – modern society since the 90s – at least suggests that there’s no massive, negative impact on society from any of this material. The hugely diverse gaming audience and the increasing diversity of games and fiction rather suggests there’s no need for this harassment driven and abusive push by the ‘social justice’ crowd.

What’s not clear is why people have bought into it this time and, as has become depressingly usual, there’s no evidence that any of the ill effects that they presume to take place – actually do.

Is it a desire to be seen as open and inclusive, being exploited to gut the very breadth of imagination and willingness to tackle hard subjects that marks out these hobbies and genres?

Is it genuine, but misguided, belief that forcing everything to be the same will somehow lead to a better world?

Do people really believe fiction cannot be a safe space to examine difficult ideas or to hold ideological and other principles up before the light?

Are people scared of being tarred and feathered for questioning the claims being made? After all, most of us are against sexism, racism and all other forms of discrimination and it is painful and nasty to be accused of being those things, even when you’re not, even when you’re just questioning some damn fool nonsense some idiot with an agenda to grind has said on Youtube.

What’s going on?

When games designers, games journalists, writers, artists, directors and creative people of all types are getting behind a policy of censorship and enforcement – across multiple media – something is wrong, and it’s not the media. Free expression is still a fundamental human rights and it is still the cornerstone of any and all artistic enterprises. Without free expression we have nothing.

So in this moral panic, across media but most notably, recently, in video games, I see the ghosts of moral panics past. Wertham, Pulling, Thompson and I worry that if we do not resist – as creators not just consumers – then we stand to lose a great deal. I am especially disappointed in fellow writers and designers who buy into this authoritarian, bullying, censorious agenda simply because it dresses itself up prettily as progressivism.

I think we have to resist. It’s possible to commit to BOTH progressive values and free (and ‘problematic’) expression. There’s no contradiction. To a ‘true’ liberal you can’t be progressive without free expression.

Is there a place for criticism? Yes, absolutely. Actual criticism that is. Dressing up your personal taste as a desperately important social issue is simply disingenuous and pointing and screaming like a pod person or subjecting any and all cultural artefacts to a once-over for deviation that would put Hopkins’ needle to shame is not it.

I don’t want to take these people seriously, but they’re dominating the discourse, bullying creators and bending the public narrative about games, fiction and art. It has to stop.

More on GG’s Politics

I forget who it was that said this, or quite how they phrased it, but it was something like:

“Every social justice warrior tweet on Gamergate creates a new, freshly minted conservative.”

That would be a desperate pity and it betrays a serious problem that gamer gate has, being either a) co-opted by a political group or b) being painted as being of a particular political slant.

Truth is, there’s people from all over participating in Gamergate, but there’s a strong concentration in the left/liberal side of things.

That’s not really that surprising, all things considered and it rather counters the myth that everyone in Gamergate is some kind of reactionary conservative. One need only look at #NotYourShield to see how diverse and inclusive Gamergate is. By and large everyone’s very much behind diversity, not against minorities of any kind.

They’re against corruption, nepotism, the politicisation of games and reviews and attempts to censor and control anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the ‘SJW’ extremist version of ‘progressive’.

Please don’t let the AGGros paint you as something you’re not. Resist it as hard as you would being called ‘misogynist’. Please don’t let others co-opt you into their political pigeonhole, whatever you really are or think of yourself as.

Meanwhile, here’s a really cool timeline.

Also, please go and vote here to help counter the false narrative being aggressively pursued by mainstream media and games journos.

Joining Chronicle City Full Time

chronicle_city_final1-300x88

Gman

While you’re all temporarily paying attention to me please go and support the Kickstarter for Red Phone Box, a story cycle to which I’m a contributor and also includes Warren Ellis.

Chronicle City Expands
Chronicle City is expanding its operations with the hiring-on of James ‘Grim’ Desborough as the Creative Director of the company alongside its founder, Angus Abranson.

James will have particular focus on developing new intellectual properties for the company, overseeing product line development and moving forward with licensed properties as the company matures and develops.

“I am excited – and nervous – to be working for Chronicle City. I have known Angus a great many years and have worked for and with him in various guises in the past. I believe Chronicle City has the potential to become a driving force in modern role-playing and I relish the opportunity to work in other arenas such as card and board game development. I particularly hope to bring some innovation and attention to licensed properties and hope that I can bring some of my particular style and thought to everything that we do.” – James said.

James is an Origins Award winning writer and has worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Cubicle 7 Entertainment and many others. He has been freelancing since the 1990s and has worked full-time with his own indie company, Postmortem Studios, since 2004.

Chronicle City has a lot of plans this year, both with the expansion of our third party publishing programme as well as with licensing and in-house design of our own settings and game lines. Appointing James as Creative Director will give our own properties, and the licenses we’re working, on a dedicated overseer who can work day-to-day with our design teams and developers. James is the first fulltime appointment to the company and we have a few more team members to be announced in the coming weeks. 2013 is going to be a very interesting year for the company and I’m glad James has been able to join us for the journeys ahead.” – added Angus.

Chronicle City is a new British based games publisher set up by multi-award winning publisher Angus Abranson (ex-Cubicle 7; Leisure Games). Chronicle City are working with a number of companies and designers to publish their games, as well as designing their own role-playing, card and board games.

You can find out more information about Chronicle City, and their games, at:

Webstore: http://shop.chroniclecity.co.uk/
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/chroniclecity
Twitter: @Chronicle_City
Email: info@chroniclecity.com

If you want to contact James (Grim) directly with questions please contact via twitter – @grimachu – or via email to grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk

***

I’ve been itching to make this announcement for some time but legal and financial details take ages to sort out. This has also been part of the reason I’ve been less manically and publicly busy for some time – despite working away on Machinations of the Space Princess.

Postmortem Studios will continue, albeit  much slower and much more self-indulgent in terms of pace and content. Machinations will be finished and I’ll be taking other outstanding projects with me to Chronicle City where they can get a much greater amount of exposure and a wider audience.

January next year would be Postmortem Studios’ 10th anniversary but running your own company, however small, is exhausting. Especially when it’s just you. I have become increasingly frustrated by the level of quality and the amount of output I’ve been capable of doing as a one-man show and yes, my depression has been a factor in this. Working with others – while being higher stakes – should be much better for my mental health and take a great deal of pressure off me.

Working with Chronicle City will give me an opportunity to reach a wider audience, to develop new, exciting and quality RPGs and other games to the hobby, to travel and to pay back a hobby and a number of fellow freelancers and co-workers who have been very good to me since I first cracked open a Fighting Fantasy book in the 1980s. Special thanks are also due to my wife and my anonymous patron, both of whom have been unflinching in their support of me.

I also hope to be able to devote a little more time to my fiction writing, perhaps tying in with some of our products.

I’ve always been an idea person and I hope that as Creative Director I’ll be able to bring that capability – interesting, deep and innovative ideas – to everything that we do.

Machinations of the Space Princess Supporters
Work for Chronicle City is going to take up an increasing amount of my time which ma delay completion on the project. I was going to be aiming for May at latest before but this shift in roles and responsibilities may delay that by up to another three months. I hope you’ll be understanding, happy for me and will consider that – on the plus side – it gives Satine more time to work on the art.

Huzzah!