#Gamergate Vindicated at Airplay

CMenzR7VEAAiqCpHere’s some initial thoughts on what went down at SPJAirplay and it should be read or viewed even by people who are sick of the whole thing or have written it off as a misogynistic hate movement.

The Society of Professional Journalists held an event in Florida, part of which was a separate event to discuss Gamergate. Gamergate representatives were chosen by popular votes on Chans, Reddit and Twitter and anti-Gamergate… refused to come. Even with offers of having their way paid, despite any and all inducements to do so. This may have been a tactical mistake.

In its final form the event became more like a panel of Gamergate involved people, trying to explain to conventional journalists a) what Gamergate was b) why it was more important than it seemed and c) why the media had failed so hard to report well on it.

There were two panels, the first explanatory and giving examples of some of the ethical breaches Gamergate has been concerned with, the second supposedly to try and find solutions and new practices, though the second panel was very poorly handled by the moderator and then interrupted by a ‘credible bomb threat’ (according to the local police department).

The event was simultaneously a huge vindication of everything Gamergate has stood for and argued, and a disappointment.

Gamergate’s ethical concerns regarding cronyism, corruption and collusion were agreed upon to be unethical, chuckles were had at the expense of Gawker Media (and others) and Gamergate got a well-earned morale boost and stamp of legitimacy from the SPJ.

This was a win.

The more frustrating part was the second panel. Panellists Cathy Young, Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Sommers tried to explain Gamergate contextually by reference to other problems and other, similar movements (such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) but kept getting shut down before they could make their points, by the moderator.

It seemed obvious to me what they were trying to establish:

  1. That these issues are serious issues not just in games journalism.
  2. That it is possible to report on these issues in a more sensitive and balanced fashion.
  3. That these were, perhaps, more understandable and analogous situations via which conventional journalists might be able to understand Gamergate.

To take one example that the moderator seemed very keen to avoid, the problem of radical feminist influence on media in general and with special reference to Rolling Stone’s rape-reporting scandal the issue of blindly believing what you’re told, reporting it as true and causing a great many people a great deal of harm on the back of irresponsible reporting is obvious and a window into the sort of biased, activism-distorted reporting that has plagued discussion on Gamergate.

Thwarted at every turn trying to make these points, via constant interruptions from the moderator (who I think was trying to fill in for the lack of anti-Gamergate) the conversation finally had to turn to more simplistic examples of better ways to report on internet affairs… only to be interrupted by a bomb threat.

Every precaution had been taken, the police had been pre-warned of hoax bomb threats but this final one – the tenth – containing details on the venue and other warning signs, was enough that the police had to act. Everyone was evacuated out into the terrible heat and continued the discussion in smaller groups wherever shelter could be found.

Videos of those discussions haven’t emerged yet, but hopefully these small group discussions were productive.

The bomb threat was likely simply third party trolls, upping the ante having been shut out of the chats on streams and so forth. Another high possibility for me would be the conspiracy theorists who have – unfortunately – been lurking around Gamergate since Common Core and DARPA were mentioned. We shall see if anyone ever gets caught for these hoaxes though. It’s probably best not to speculate too much.

Something has changed though.

Gamergate is vindicated as an ethics/consumer movement.

Some parts of the media are now reporting more sympathetically.

The spin of anti-Gamergate on Airplay, and older events, is now ringing even more hollow.

The Gamergate meeting in Birmingham will likely be the endcap on my more active participation. Many of Gamergate’s goals have now been met and with Airplay I think Gamergate can smugly consider itself – rightly – legitimised and vindicated.

Gamergate won the war, on all fronts, and now there needs to be a negotiated peace. Hopefully we can continue what’s started with SPJAirplay – a conversation instead of a confrontation, a move to understanding and mutual tolerance that hasn’t been possible so long as Gamergate has been blamed for the actions of trolls and while ideologues have cowered behind automated block lists.

I hope some people will join me in trying to start conversations, and I hope some on the other side (rather than simply neutral people and journalists) will contribute.

Pax.

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

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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 Operation Sherman – And ‘TTGate’ things.

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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.

Some of the Gamergate people have taken it upon themselves, seemingly out of the blue, to go back over the banning of my Gamergate Card Game and to take Evil Hat to task over their threats to use their leverage and size to make sure it was taken down from sale there – which it was after brigading and possibly because of these threats, as well as because of the false media narratives about Gamergate.

I, of course, would never endorse such an Op, but here’s the info anyway, jus’ sayin’.

GGrevolt Link (FYI, these guys tend to be a bit more… extreme and conspiracy theoryish)
Gamergatehq Link (a bit more sane)
Kotaku in Action Link (Most legit)

If you want the game you can get it, just not via the best possible and most widely accessible means

Personally I do not actually think this will accomplish much, but plan to approach Onebookshelf after Gamergate’s year anniversary as they said they would reconsider putting it up after things had calmed down a bit and I think a year without any serious incidents, violence etc puts the lie to the idea that Gamergate is SOOOOO dangerous and controversial it has to be banned.

While I have the attention of Fa/TG/uys though, there’s some other tabletop related ‘srs bsns’ that I’m going to take the opportunity to publicise better.

CLSK6KmVEAAWJ21Ennies Walk Out

Zak Smith of (D&D with Pornstars fame), author of Vornheim and Red and Pleasant Land won a handful of Ennie Awards this last Gencon. Zak doesn’t get on with me any more (for reasons that I must confess I don’t understand) but I regard him, his group and his friends as some of the best ambassadors for RPGs in general and D&D/OSR in particular that there have ever been. The award was well deserved but because, like me, Zak is a ‘thorn in the side’ of certain pseudo-progressive elements in the tabletop scene (our equivalents of the SocJus clique in videogaming), some people thought it would be a good idea to walk out in protest.

Unsportsmanlike and insulting not only to Zak et al, but to the later award winners and the hosts.

(Zak was also the source of ire over Consultantgate, when he and the RPGPundit were given credits in 5e D&D)

In a shock to precisely nobody they look exactly like you’d expect them to look and are the ‘usual suspects’ when it comes to censoriousness and Twitter-mobbing.

Ken Whitman

Ken Whitman has a long and storied history of either being massively incompetent or deliberately misleading people and ripping them off. It’s hard to tell, either because he’s a great liar or he’s fantastic at telling his sob stories.

Either way at this point, people need to STOP GIVING HIM MONEY and to STOP TRUSTING HIM.

A big problem with small communities is that they can be too forgiving, but this stuff has been going on for about two decades now. If you’re involved in tabletop or would have actually liked to see a Knights of the Dinner Table series as a success you should keep an eye on him.

More information HERE and HERE

James Shipman

While we’re covering older stuff it’s worth mentioning James/Jim Shipman, a notorious rip-off merchant who not only steals art but whole books and re-sells them under his own company name (Outlaw Press previously). Mr Shipman has been relatively quiet of late, but if you do see his name in relation to any RPG stuff, ever, or see Outlaw Press come up DO NOT BUY and check into the legitimacy of any art or books you do see, reporting back to the original publisher and artist.

This has been going on for years, but he keeps coming back.

More info HERE.

Call of Cthulhu

As an honourable mention of some high profile bullshit going on in tabletop gaming, Chaosium has totally failed to produce Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition in anything like a reasonable amount of time, looks like it won’t meet a good number of stretch goals and has been consistently terrible at communicating what the hell’s going on to backers.

Check it out, ask around the net and maybe publicise. This is getting Sarkeesianesque in its lassitude.

LINK

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 – Journal update and League for Gamers

2780068426_9fa8e8d844_oThere simply hasn’t been enough interest in a new journal to make the effort worthwhile. While there have been a few enthusiasts and a couple of entrants there isn’t sufficient interest to make the effort worthwhile.

This is, needless to say, disappointing. I believe there is a genuine need for some genuinely academic and scientific insight into games and frankly, that’s for selfish reasons. I want my game designs to be informed by facts and useful information and strategies.

Here though, I’ll have to admit defeat.

As such I suggest people redirect their efforts to League for Gamers, which is in the process of setting up an academic body and which I am involved in as an interested party (President, not that it means much at this stage and I intend to flee the position as soon as things are up and running).

L4G has a higher profile and more opportunity to make something happen from a better starting point. Still, things are going to be an uphill struggle for any attempt to get this done for some of the following reasons.

  • Gamers have lost all faith in academia. The ‘losers‘ ‘study’ may have been one of many death blows. It’ll take a huge amount of effort to win that trust back. As bad, if not worse, than the situation with gaming media.
  • There is genuine research going on in the existing structure, it’s just drowned out by bullshit. Many genuine academics and scientists don’t understand or see the need for an alternative or – more admirably – don’t want to cede ground.
  • Devs don’t seem to care much either. Happy doing their own thing and product testing from the looks of it. It’s a shame as it means public money tends to support spurious research in this area (loser study) while private research and effort largely ends up staying internal.
  • I haven’t had the ability to get enough exposure to the right kinds of people to get things off the ground. L4G should be able to.

TL;DR – Forget this effort, sign up to League for Gamers and talk to the other academically inclined people therein.

#Gamergate – For Great Ethics Versus Against SocJus – FIGHT!

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The guy with the horse penis is the broader context.

With so many enemies now crushed and defeated beneath Gamergate’s armoured boots, with increased ethics all around and with the separate but related victory of Chairman Pao being removed by the glorious counter-revolutionary wing of the Reddit Revolt, GG seems to have turned in on itself a bit and a divide that has been felt before (with the exit of Internet Aristocrat and others) has reared its head up again.

Are we fighting for ethics in game journalism – and ONLY ethics in game journalism, or are we fighting against the authoritarian censors of the Social Justice mob? What is appropriate to post on the tag and what isn’t?

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way quickly first.

  1. You can’t control the hashtag. People can and will post whatever the fuck they want on it. You can’t control other people’s output, only your own. If someone spams a lot of stuff you’re not interested in, mute them or something. Jesus. This isn’t difficult.
  2. Proposing a new hashtag is going to go down like a cup of cold sick. There’s strength in unity and some shitposting, spam and off-topic or semi off-topic material isn’t the end of the world. By all means, go make a new tag if you like (#mediagate was tried, I believe) but it’s unlikely to garner the same traction and impetus that #Gamergate has.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the ethics part.

The fact is, games media has been corrupt since forever with in-house magazines, bribery, extortion, threats (mostly coming from distributors and publishers rather than studios, to be fair) and because this was the status quo people kind of navigated around it while quietly seething. This was financial corruption, where threats and money are used to protect and further the bottom line.

This was all ‘background radiation’ to Gamergate, what made it achieve critical mass was a different kind of corruption. Political corruption and agenda pushing, initially exposed via Literally Who’s sexual shenanigans but much, much bigger than that. Political corruption is when threats, coercion, ideological naivety, bribery and shaming are used to push an agenda and socially engineer.

What, I think, made this blow up so hard was that the indie scene (like many other indie scenes in music, tabletop games and elsewhere) had become synonymous with activism, not independence. The kinds of people making these activist, high-concept games were looking down on popular games and their audiences (as exemplified recently with the meltdown of hate and arrogance from  Tale of Tales when their housework simulator failed to excite audiences). When people looking down on and criticising you for your moral failings turn out to have feet of clay, people get understandably upset at the hypocrisy.

One of the greatest tragedies of all this, for me, is that it was a massive missed opportunity for games media to sort its life out. Here was a massive consumer uprising which could have been leveraged against those companies offering bribes, threatening to remove early access, bullying for higher scores AND to assert press neutrality against egregious ideological corruption. Backing, using or surfing Gamergate could have allowed the press to assert themselves – with popular backing – against distributors, publisher and PR flacks and could have been used to regain trust.

But no.

And that exposes the first part of the problem in trying to separate these issues into two separate things. The big reason the games media didn’t do the right thing here is because whole wings of it ARE SocJus and that is seemingly the entirety of their identity and raison d’etre. When you ask for them to act ethically you’re asking for them to act against their core beliefs and personal identity. As we’ve seen, many think the ends justify the means and many think opposing their means, means that Gamergate is against their ends (Gamergate is not anti-diversity, anti-women etc, it is broadly very liberal on these things as a whole. It just values creative freedom higher and prefer organic, consenting change).

This entanglement of the ethical issues and the SocJus issues shows why the two are inseparable.

Another reason to include the fight against SocJus within Gamergate is that it builds alliances. There’s people in other communities who have, or are, facing the same kinds of issues that Gamergate has, from Sad Puppies in fiction, to ConsultantGate in tabletop gaming (and everything around it). There’s issues of this sort all over the place and things are starting to turn. Just as with Gamergate itself, internally, we’re stronger together.

Another aspect to this is that a lot of these other enterprises feed into games.

If writers are suffering in this way, generally, then writing for games will suffer by extension.

If artists are suffering in this way, generally, then art assets for games will suffer by extension.

If the internet becomes more controlled and legislated, then games are harder to sell and may fall afoul of the same legislation.

If shops are pressured into censorship then the same applies – and this is doubly true of online sales platforms and payment processors.

Let’s try an analogy.

Say your local political situation is horribly corrupt. The local council is full of shills for companies and they’ve all been bought off.

Voting them out won’t really solve the issue, money can buy whoever else is elected.

Changing the rules could work, but it’s almost impossible to change the rules in a system that is already corrupt.

Say you do manage to change the rules. Congratulations, you now have ‘ethics in local government’, but there’s still financial corruption everywhere else. Contractors that the government uses, the unions, companies are still offering bribes at every level, interest groups are still lobbying – sometimes via underhanded means, and on a national level the parties are still compromised – and they select the candidates.

Only fixing ‘local government finance sourcing’ does practically fuck all to repair the broader issue.

To point to another, analagous example, unwinding the Satanic Panic of the 80s  (we’re now in an Ism Panic) came about because everyone came to reject it. The groups being attacked and smeared, the media, the science. There was a broad group – if not a full-on alliance – of people all saying ‘this is bollocks’, and they were able to prove it.

Trying to separate these two strands is impossible, because just as the threats to gaming used to come from a broader cultural movement of the religious right, now it comes from the authoritarian left. If you want ethical journalism and free expression, you have to take an holistic approach to understanding it.

If you don’t want to, then don’t, but you’re not going to be able to stop anyone else anyway – so the whole discussion is fucking pointless.

#RPG Wil Wheaton as the Ambassador of Gaming?

standbyme2This blog poses a good question about Wil Wheaton’s new show ‘Titansgrave’, which is trying to do for RPGs what Tabletop did for boardgames.

Personally, I’ve found Tabletop interesting, but it hasn’t really switched me on to any games or helped me understand any of the games that it has covered as a learning aid.

RPGs do need ambassadors. Games as a whole and RPGs in particular have almost always been targets of scorn and panic and so they definitely need people sticking up for them. Is Wheaton the guy to do it though?

I’m afraid I’d have to say no, and I’m going to go into why.

1. He Breaks his own Commandment.

Admittedly I’m horrendously biased on this score, but the short version is that Wheaton is a dick, while professing ‘Don’t be a dick’. I’ve suffered this directly from him in relation to him inciting dogpiling and abuse (he publicised that I made a very brief mistake of exchanging in a whole four tweets with a Twitter bot, idiotic, but no huge deal) and I’m sure I’m not alone on that score.

2. He Came Down on the Wrong Side of Gamergate.

You can’t be a consumer or hobby advocate if you’re anti-consumer or if you’re attacking the hobby you’re supposed to be advocating for. Wheaton is supposedly not an idiot, yet didn’t do the bare minimum of research to successfully identify Gamergate as a (big, and remarkably successful) consumer revolt and instead went with the flow against it, buying into the false narrative of harassment and abuse.

Imagine if Rob Halford had testified in court that heavy metal was genuinely Satanic and that Judas Priest had intended to incite suicide, or that John Denver and Dee Snyder had testified before the PMRC against free expression. If those references are too old for you, imagine if Gabe Newell has sided with Jack Thompson.

Maybe via these, slightly hyperbolic examples, you can grasp some idea of the scale of betrayal we’re talking about here.

This single act has smashed his reputation to tatters amongst the broader gaming community and annihilated his credibility outside the ‘SocJus’ circles, eg, amongst your ‘common gamer’ (just ask #NotYourShield or #Gamergate).

Gamers as a whole, let alone RPG gamers, have long memories when it comes to moral panics against them. Wheaton is participating in a moral panic and this alone, quite apart from anything else, would disqualify him as an advocate for RPGs.

3. He Bottled it on ‘Spiritgate’.

Brought to book by ‘Goony Beard Men’ and ‘Rainbow Haired She-Twinks’ (Airport’s Law) over using the turn of phrase ‘Spirit Animal‘, he apologised.

He apologised for something which required no apology, to people who will never be satisfied by any apology, and didn’t learn the hard but important lesson about outrage culture that he should have. The same thing happened more recently to Joss Whedon who, again, failed to learn the necessary lesson.

TL;DR

The new show probably won’t do any harm, but also probably won’t appeal beyond the existing RPG audience. Wheaton, however, is a terrible ambassador for RPGs. Perhaps a year or more ago I’d have thought differently and while I have a personal bias against the man as a hypocrite and bully I think the reasoning is valid there and on the other points.

You can’t be a hobby or community advocate and, at the same time, lie about and defame members of that community and hobby. It simply doesn’t work.

Somebody call Vin Diesel.

‘Nuff said.

 

Popular Ludology: Clarifying the Peer Review System

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I seem to have not expressed the peer review process we’ll be using well enough as some people seem to not understand. This must be my fault so I’ll clarify with reference to the previous post, and I’ll tighten up the language more later on for reference.

When you submit a paper it will be examined by the editorial staff and those who have previously submitted and had their papers accepted. It will be accepted or rejected on the basis of a simple majority (with 50% being a pass). Either way you should be informed.

This is not part of the review process. You could call this a simple ‘smell test’. Does this paper look/sound/smell like bullshit? Do the person’s credentials check out? The vote should only be necessary if there’s any strong objections to a particular process. This is not really any different to a single paragraph dissertation, written in crayon on toilet paper being rejected. Just more formalised.

If your paper is accepted you will be invited to the Popular Ludology email group. You do not have to accept and participation is not mandatory, but it will allow you to participate further as the journal and effort – hopefully – expand.

This group will form a democratic/meritocratic basis for organisational/journal level change in the future. That is its primary aim, to provide a pool of qualified people to vote on procedure etc.

A month will be given for papers to be accepted.

And please do submit. While the ‘theme’ for issue zero is defining and classifying games, any submissions on any game related topic are welcome. I’ve seen and read some interesting things from less conventional scholars and developers over the last ten months and would love to see some of their work more formally published.

At the end of that period the accepted papers will be collated and published in an ‘alpha draft’.

This is the point at which the actual review process starts.

This alpha draft will be made available publicly to anyone and everyone for open review, criticism and objection.

This is the peer review part.

We’re going with an open peer review for several reasons.

  1. It encourages participation.
  2. It encourages non-academic participation.
  3. It reflects a commitment to openness.
  4. There are many existing criticisms of the blind review process (not least that in the digital age it’s hard to keep).
  5. It’s potentially much, much more rigorous.
  6. It allows the authors to directly participate in the process and with their critics.

You should monitor this feedback and, as you feel may be necessary, make changes, clarifications and extensions to your paper over the following month.

Hopefully writers of papers will examine the feedback that they get and make amendments and improvements accordingly.

The final version of the journal (with any amendments, additions, retractions etc from review) will then be published. Papers may only be forcibly withdrawn against your will if 75% or more of the editorial and previously published authors agree in a vote.

This is where, I think, the confusion arises. This is intended more to be a meta-review process. Examining the criticism and seeing whether it is valid and then acting as a qualified group to remove papers that do not hold up, if the author cannot or will not do so themselves.

Voting procedures will be made public in the journal itself.

It should also be noted that we are aiming for a more rigorous scrutiny than currently exists within organisations like DiGRA, and which appears to have let through many papers and presentations that do not seem to hold up to basic standards. It’s also well established, but denied, that there is a great deal of hostility towards the concept of peer review in some of these groups and that what passes for peer review in the humanities is not at all what most people consider that term or procedure to mean.

I’m sure there’ll be lumps and bumps along the way and that idealism will have to give way to pragmatism at various points, but there’s no harm in aiming high from the start.

A great number of objections received so far seem to be based around the idea that this will be rejected by the existing academic structure or that it needs to be changed to be more in line with existing journals and organisations. Given that a central premise behind the setting up of this journal and in seeing a need for it is that there are severe problems with game studies and game studies groups and structures it would seem to be counter-productive to replicate those same issues for unneeded approval, while trying to fix their problems.

The aim here is not to replicate the efforts of DiGRA etc, but to do something different and useful and while I’m sure material good enough for academia will be produced, their approval is not especially wanted. As a pragmatic and practical resource, developer and designer approval and interest is much, much more important.