Censorship’s a topic that is always on my mind as I’ve been subjected to corporate and social censure over writing and design involving sex and politics.
Over the past 5-10 years the source of censorship has been coming from what you might call the ‘regressive left’, people who are also called ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (The ‘W’ indicating extremism, the ‘W’ makes the difference between the Labour Party and Mao’s Red Guard).
The backlash against that has been good in some ways, socially, if not politically or economically, but we now seem to be entering an even more dangerous era. Even as the SocJus puritans double down in protest against the rise of the right wing (ironically, further aiding the right wing into ascendancy) that right wing itself now seems to think it’s their turn to crack the whip and to dictate to people what they can say or do.
Newspapers here just doxxed an – admittedly nasty – far right Vlogger, putting him in physical danger. The government is beefing up our already ludicrous libel laws and putting the screws on local newspapers as well as censoring and controlling internet access via scaremongering about pornography and human trafficking.
Discrimination threatens to become protected by law in the USA (and that’s a complex knot of ethics to untangle) and there are rumblings from the old evangelical right about ‘moral degeneracy’ and ‘think of the children’.
Now, I think, it’s more important than ever that both creators and consumers reassert their belief in free expression and resist the siren call of ‘I’m offended’. When we don’t like something, we can just not buy/rent/read/consume it. That’s not so hard.
I decided to stop active participation in #Gamergate from midnight on the first of January. It’s customary, when one ‘leaves’ the amorphous hashtag movement, to flounce off with great drama and an enormous speech.
So this would be that.
I’d stress, however, that I still believe very strongly in the original and ongoing issues of Gamergate which are, and you can eyeroll all you like but it won’t make it untrue, more ethical and consumer-serving games media, and an anti-censorship stance.
So why leave and why get into it in the first place?
Why I got Involved
The broader ‘Social Justice’ issues in the creative arts are something I’ve been aware of for longer, and one shouldn’t be fooled by the fact that it dresses itself up in the clothing of laudable ideas such as equality and diversity. The situation we find ourselves in, and which appears to have crested, is a moral panic. As relates to nerd media it’s a replay of the Satanic Panic or Jack Thompson’s crusade against violence in games, just with different actors and set dressing. There’s one important difference this time though, this time there’s ‘treachery’, in that many of the attacks – no less ill-informed and unscientific – are now coming from within the nerd community.
Going back to the 80s and 90s, even in my tweens and teens I was already fighting in the precursor war on D&D and other RPGs. Arguing in presentations at school from religious groups on ‘Doorways to Danger‘, making pamphlets to counter the propaganda that was going around as an English project. Writing letters to help school groups get set up. Running games for the D&D Schools Competition. Reassuring parents and later on arguing with people on the internet or arguing for the educational and other benefits of gaming.
The Jack Thompson affair didn’t require much of your average gamer, since the press was on-side and the claims weren’t taken seriously by most people. They were understood, even by most of those uninvolved in games, to be stupid, censorious and troublesome.
As a metal, goth and alternative fan I also watched the goings on with the PMRC with concern, not to mention the Columbine backlash as it went international.
All of this resonated with the Comics Code issues I’d learned about and the other things which, as an avid reader, I’d learned about growing up. The role of censorship and moral panics against everything from film and TV to comics and fanzines.
Mary Whitehouse was still going when I grew up. Section 28 was governmental policy and even at 13 and not entirely sure what a ‘bender’ was, I knew it was unjust. When I was at college it was the height of the anti-road and hunt saboteur protests, which prompted more attempts by government and tutting citizens who didn’t like ‘crusty jugglers’ to control protests.
In short, I have a long established love of free expression, and have lived through some of the key battles around nerd media and endured several moral panics. There was no way I wasn’t going to get involved in Gamergate when it crossed my path.
Gamergate emerged out of the scandal surrounding Zoe Quinn. I was following Quinn on Twitter at the time and, as a sufferer from depression, had previously passed around links to her game ‘Depression Quest’ as an imperfect but helpful tool to help friends and family better understand the experience of depression – from which I suffer. I had defended her against early trolls, encouraged her and even donated to help her out when she was mugged – which I hope was something that did actually happen.
In short, I was invested.
When the scandal around her emerged I wanted information. Here was someone whose work I had supported and who I had helped out. Someone I had recommended to others. Her sexual peccadilloes and indiscretions are none of my business, though I felt sorry for Gjoni for the abuse and manipulation he’d suffered, but I was concerned – as were many others – by the revelations of undisclosed relationships, favours and corruption.
Trying to get information to confirm whether this was, or was not happening was incredibly difficult as all discussion was being shut down, everywhere, even – eventually – 4chan. A completely unprecedented level of censorship on an issue of genuine concern to consumers. Just how rotten was gaming journalism? We all knew it was bad, but exactly how bad was it? Why couldn’t proven, even admitted, bad actors be called out on it? Why were they being protected?
Then the ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles came out and the GameJournoPros list was exposed. Dozens of articles over a few days, in a coordinated attack on gaming media’s own audience.
Not only had gamers been censored, they were now under attack – by their own. Dismissed as misogynists, racists etc simply for pointing out problems, whether it be corruption or ‘criticism’ coming from the ideological overreach of people like Anita Sarkeesian. The ‘Social Justice’ attacks on gaming combined with the nepotism of the Indie scene and the collusion of a particular wing of activist journalism to create a perfect storm and a surprisingly effective false narrative of harassment which, combined with the censorship lock down, prevented the real issues getting discussed – for a while.
Revelation after revelation followed for those who cared to investigate, and lines were drawn.
Gamergate accomplished a great deal, and not just in its own niche.
Many gaming news outlets, albeit grudgingly, began using proper disclosure and adjusted their ethical policies, which was the first, major, underlining point. Bad criticism and ideological gatekeeping has continued, but it appears to have cost sites traffic and trust, and several people their jobs. New sites have sprung up, the audience has become more aware, there’s less trust and more demand for better reporting and the anti-censorship attitude has manifested in numerous other ways.
Gamergate has also helped inspire pushback in other areas, comics, film, TV, atheism and as university campuses have apparently gone insane, there too. It may be the turning point in a much larger culture war against censorious authoritarianism and moral panic on a broader basis.
Certainly I feel more optimistic about the future, coming out of it than I did going in. Despite lost friendship (and new ones made), the lies, the accusations, the nonsense and the hard lessons about just how bad even the general media has become, especially when reporting on technology and internet culture.
So Why Leave?
Why bring an end to my involvement then?
There’s still tons of good people involved and Gamergate has settled – mostly – into a sort of watchdog and ‘call out the stupidity’ role. It’s still doing good stuff and still has a lot of good people in it, but it’s a case of diminishing returns. The less obvious the need for Gamergate as a specific phenomenon, the less people are associated with it (and, I’m sorry to say, the demonisation and lies about Gamergate have had an effect as well).
The less people are associated with it, the more the hardcore fringe of horrible shits come to dominate the discussion and the less people there are to call them out on it. There are also less people to call out and point out trolls, and that further allows Gamergate to be misrepresented and probably, eventually, co-opted.
Lately the more extreme and paranoid elements, always there but previously marginalised, have been able to increasingly dominate discussions, drive away the more moderate and interesting people involved and to almost turn the ‘movement’ into the caricature it was always misrepresented as.
The fight for me was always more about the censorship issues and artistic freedom. Those battles are being fought elsewhere now and by a much broader coalition of interests, including genuine liberals, who are finally starting to speak up and make a difference to turn the tide.
Those issues are being fought in politics and universities now, in the public square as a whole. Even if the fight isn’t over in gaming and other nerd spaces (#1MillionGamersStrong and others), Gamergate itself is now a place of diminishing returns and more can be done in these other places and spaces and by creating. So that’s what I intend to do.
Doubtless I’ll cross paths with GG people down the line, doubtless issues will come up which I’ll help spread around, doubtless there’ll be battles we’ll share.
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.
- The blog makes a somewhat spirited defence of the sanctity of free expression…
- …but then buckles.
- The existence of the adult filter was acknowledged, but why this isn’t/wasn’t enough/sufficient was never really explored.
- They’re making a change – though it’s not justified or understandable in the context of the earlier comments.
- 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.
- They’re relying on complaints – which is going to encourage brigading and faux outrage.
- 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.
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.
There are heated discussions around several of our products and several works I’ve produced in the past. These emerge every so often and often in fora where it is impossible for me to defend myself or offer explanations. Sometimes they come back here. Many of these arguments and misinterpretations come from ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (SJWs). We here at Postmortem Studios, despite producing less material of late due to other commitments, have adhered to a policy of ‘not giving too much of a damn’, and these recent discussions have not prompted us to change that policy. After some deliberation we’ve decided to make our policy clear.
Every person involved with Postmortem Studios stands in support of equality, whether it be race, sex, gender identity, disability, political creed, religion or lack therof. We’re also in support of free expression, satire, adult material for grown-ups, robust discussion and the capacity for people to disagree and yet still have fun together and enjoy some of the same things. As should be possible to glean from our material we’re a left-wing and anarchistic organisation and while we don’t claim to be unbiased or to have our own views, you’re also welcome to yours and welcome to debate them. We don’t believe in patriarchy, rape culture or privilege (at least as in the sense used by SJWs) or their usefulness in discussion, but you’re welcome to. In the context of current discussions equality for all people, regardless of sex – even men – is something we consider a worthy goal.
As a group, we at Postmortem find the politics of SJWs to be toxic, offensive and completely removed from reality. Yet we couldn’t really give 10ccs of flying monkey jism if you adhere to these ideas and play our games, or post on fora about them, or post about how they intersect with the fantasy magic, technology or societies of our works of fiction. If we disagree, it’s quite likely your ideas that we find noxious will find themselves used by a villain or lampooned in one of our games. Even though we’ve found the lies and misrepresentations made by our detractors detrimental to our business and personally insulting – even libellous – we respect people’s right to be wrong headed and to hold views that offend our sensibilities.
We want the, loose, community of Postmortem fans to be genuinely inclusive of all viewpoints, so long as people are on topic and mindful that it’s possible to disagree without painting the other side as kitten-drowning baby murderers who are worse than Hitler. We understand that people who hold all manner of viewpoints, even SJWs, see themselves as ‘the good guys’ and as being supportive of progress or the betterment of society, we just hope that popping the echo-chamber bubbles these groups have by them running into alternative points of view may moderate extremism on all sides a little bit.
Those who explicitly attack the equality seeking measures of other groups and seek to exclude them from the public square, even in the arena of science fiction, fantasy and games, are enemies of liberty, free expression and the free marketplace of ideas and we find it – frankly – staggering that any person involved in any creative endeavour would back de-facto censorship of this blanket sort, even on private fora. The type of community we want is the kind of rough and tumble, idea-slinging, free-debating utopian vision that the internet was founded upon and which Generation X seems to have forgotten and Generation Y has failed to live up to.
We don’t give a tinker’s cuss if you’re a radical feminist, a SWERF, a TERF, an MHRA, a MGTOW, a Black Panther, Christian Identity, Earth First, a Tumblrina or even a climate-change denying Republican. You’re welcome to enjoy our games and discuss them from your point of view and we’ll only give a damn if you start being a dick in general, not because of what your views or.
We want our games and our blog to be genuinely open and inclusive, in the actual meaning of the word. A ‘safe space’ for interesting and controversial ideas and reasonable conflict. An art that’s being lost in social and conventional media today.
We won’t ban you just for holding a point of view we disagree with, because that’s antithetical to our values as a creative enterprise, egalitarians, libertines and digital citizens of the 21st Century.
Games are pretend, fun, and safe places to wrangle difficult ideas and controversial politics. Have we learned nothing from playing Bioshock? Frankly, weird views and applications of technology and magic from twisted – or at least different – minds can fuel the creative process.
I’ll be doing an interview about various controversial issues in gaming – and more general geek society – this coming Saturday from 3pm EST.
It’ll be recorded but since it’s a hangout it’ll also be live.
Hopefully we can have a respectful discussion without the witch-hunting that normally goes on in these discussions.
+Mark Diaz Truman will interview +James Desborough , controversial veteran of RPG publishing, about taboos and difficult subjects in gaming. The conversation will focus on the role of free speech and community standards in publishing, specifically how sensitive material should or should not be handled differently from ordinary material.
James ‘Grim’ Desborough has over a hundred writing credits to his name including Hentacle [ http://www.rpgnow.com/product/15750/Hentacle ], Agents of Swing [http://www.rpgnow.com/product/91482/Agents-of-SWING ], Blood [http://www.rpgnow.com/product/23173/Blood ] and The Munchkin’s Guide to Power Gaming [ http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=SJG30-3003 ]. An Origin Award winner, his work has been praised for its creativity and humour as well as being condemned for its sexual content and depiction of women. A fierce advocate for free speech, Desborough has been banned for life from RPG.Net.
In June 2012, Desborough published a blog post called In Defence of Rape [http://talesofgrim.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/in-defence-of-rape/ ], a response to the debate [ http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/06/15/should-rape-have-a-place-in-videogames/ ] over reports about a rape scene in the new Lara Croft Tomb Raider [ Tomb Raider: Lara Croft’s First Kill! ( Rape Scene) ] game, part of a larger debate about sexism in games and the gaming industry. The inflammatory title, which Desborough himself describes as “link bait”, drew negative attention across communities. His active participation in the resulting discussion helped fuel arguments on forums, social media, and blogs, as well as online protests. This instance in the larger discussion on sexism in modern storytelling gained particular notoriety due to the questionable actions of some of those involved; Desborough was found to be dismissive, offensive, or even threatening by some readers. In turn, some commentators accused Desborough of harboring desires to see women raped, and some activists called for publishers and stores to drop his work.
A year on from these events, Indie+ has invited James Desborough to part take in an interview on handling difficult subjects. As someone who has been accused of stepping over the line of acceptable behaviour and experienced first hand the social ramifications of controversy, he has a unique perspective on the subject. At the same time Indie+ recognises the need for care when discussing issues that may be disturbing to some people; the interview will be conducted by Mark Diaz Truman, a writer, game publisher and a supporter of inclusive gaming. The aim of the interview is for a thoughtful and balanced discussion about sensitive subjects and their role in games.
Over the last 15 months, Indie+ has run a series of events, many of which have touched on subjects of race and gender. We are proud of our commitment to supporting diversity in gaming. We recognise our responsibilities and will make time available during future events for any persons wishing to respond to the subjects raised in the interview.
I am disappointed today to discover that Mongoose Publishing, with whom I have had a professional and personal relationship for around a decade, have caved to pressure from a libellous petition against me.
The text of their statement will be appended below.
I am certain there are more people out there who support me and my work, the principles of free expression and who understand satire and comedic exaggeration.
I need your support and I need the support of your friends. I think we should be easily able to outdo the amount of support this person’s petition against me garnered.
Just from amongst my friends, my family, my acquaintances, those who know me to even the slightest degree there should be enough people to make this incident and this woman’s petition look ridiculous. When you include my customers, it should be dwarfed.
I understand you might be afraid of sticking your neck out and being associated with me, purely because of the manner of accusations being made against me. They remain untrue, have never been true and will never be true. So please don’t let that hold you back.
If you need reassurance you know how to contact me. I have tried to be reasonable and open about every aspect of this incident since the start. Not that it has done me any good.
A line has been crossed here and it is a very dangerous one.
Someone has set up a counter-petition in support of me (not the other, silly petition that has also been doing the rounds). You can find it here, please sign.
Many of you will be aware that over the past couple of days Mongoose has been caught up in a controversy regarding a blog post of a freelancer we once hired.
We would like to make clear that we have, and have not had, any plans to hire this freelancer again for any future projects.
We understand that some people have found his previous material upsetting, despite all intentions for it to be humorous. This book will therefore be allowed to lapse out of print, and we will not actively promote it in any way. It will never be reprinted.
Like other publishers, we have a deep interest in publishing a greater amount of female-positive material, and would welcome any discussion of such on our forums.
There have been a few comments raised about an unfortunate phrase that was chosen for a temporary project title on our forums. It was used without sufficient thought as to its implications beyond a reference to a film. It was immediatly deleted as soon as this was pointed out.
We regret any offence given either in private email by myself or on our forums. Our actions throughout this situation, while obviously not a picture of perfect PR, have nonetheless been motivated by a genuine desire to try to understand the other’s point of view and see if any kind of compromise or reconciliation could be reached. At the end of the day, I am a gamer and ex-computer engineer who has found himself running a company – what I know of PR could be written on a postage stamp. However, as I say, the motives were genuine.
Finally, it has been reported that some… individuals (I would hesitate to call them people) have been sending threats of violence to others. We have nothing to do with that, condemn it utterly and, frankly, those individuals should be ashamed of themselves. There is nothing big or clever in what you have done._________________
This is reaching the proportion of Kafkaesque nonsense. Or possibly life mirrors ART.
I have never condoned or excused rape. I don’t say it’s a good thing. Never have.
I defended its use as a story element and largely because I have been concerned about things being written off on the basis of the character of content, sight unseen and unthinking.
I think anything should potentially be open for dramatic interpretation
Anyway, I would appreciate the assistance of those who know me, who know better, who have actually absorbed what I genuinely think and say to go against this nonsense.
There’s a human rights petition, which would be lol-worthy were they not serious.
Also a poll at Mongoose Publishing.
If people want to calmly and politely ask me about any of these issues and asks in good faith, I’ll happily field your questions and clarifications.
I won’t be blacking out my sites or going dark because… well, the point is that the internet has become an indispensable communication tool for the human race as a whole. A blackout, albeit one caused by fear of litigation, is the very thing that these potential American law changes could bring about. Better, in my opinion, to use the internet in the manner it is most useful, to communicate.
There are two bills currently making their way through the American legislature that would kill the modern internet as we know it. They would essentially grant sweeping powers to private businesses, rather than the judiciary, to force takedowns of sites, removal of material and so forth on claims of IP infringement – whether true or not. Costly legal battles aren’t possible for most people and this is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems these could cause, not to mention they’d be ineffective to their alleged purpose – to reduce piracy.
There’s several issues at play here:
1. SOPA has been withdrawn, but it’s not dead. National and international, corporate and private outrage needs to be maintained and focused upon American legislators to ensure that it remains that way.
2. PIPA, another, broadly similar bill, is still a threat and needs as much opposition as SOPA does. This also needs your opposition. You can find tools to oppose both all over the net. Write to your congressmen, your senators, write to the US embassy, fill out petitions, call and leave messages, write physical letters.
3. The USA has far too much influence over the shape and nature of the internet. This is an important international tool and yet laws and actions made by the USA alone can influence how we all interact with the internet globally. This is especially dangerous, ironically, for nations with good US relations in light of a recent extradition incident. When you can be sent to the US for trial for something done in your own country which isn’t illegal, at corporate behest, something is very wrong. Other nations need to take a more active and firmer role in making the internet more plural.
4. Piracy is an issue, but not the issue many think it is. I produce IP and I would like to get cash for every pirated copy of my work out there that hasn’t been bought. It doesn’t work like that though. A pirated copy =/= a lost sale. A fact that seems to be lost on the large companies. Many people simply collect, or download in order to get an idea if they want something or not. I know that piracy has gotten me sales, acting like free advertising and has taken my work to a broader audience than it might otherwise reach. It’s swings and roundabouts, not a simple issue as some would like to make it out to be. Experience gleaned from places like Amazon’s Kindle store and iTunes shows that the key to ‘defeating’ piracy is to make legitimate purchase affordable, easy and convenient. That’s what companies should be doing. Not lobbying governments to become their bailiffs.
Ultimately, in my opinion, a little piracy is the price we pay for a free, useful, dynamic internet. A pool of ideas and thoughts we can all share whether it’s for SCIENCE! for ART! or simply for Lolcats. It’s a price worth paying, just as the existence of trolls is a price worth paying for the opportunity to have true, free expression and idea exchange with an international audience.
Thank you for listening. Normal service will now be resumed.