Notice the chain of events here. It was not just a “we need to talk about this” tweet. Portraying it that way is completely disingenuous. It starts that way, sure… but it is followed by this slightly more ominious “DTRPG has some choices to make” line. (I imagine a baseball bat in his hand: “nice store ya got here; be a shame if anything happened to it.”) Then, almost immediately, DTRPG pulls the product. An Evil Hat customer complains, Fred Hicks immediately piles on the guy, more or less saying, “if you are not with us, then you are against us… and we can do without the business of filthy people like you… so piss off!” No, Fred Hicks was not the only person out with a torch and pitchfork here… but is clear that he was brandishing them. I think that’s problematic.
Trouble in River City — Notice that he has to establish his gamer bona fides before he can begin to vilify them. Also notice that he stands to benefit directly from the hysteria.
Rob Donoghue writes:
If you think that RPG publishers are in competition with one another, you are overlooking that we are all in a desperate battle against the vastly more popular “none of the above”.
This is not to say that every RPG publisher sees it that way, and hell, it might not even be true in certain very selective slices of the market. I won’t rule out the possibility of walled gardens.
But taken as a whole? That idea that we’re in competition tends to be naive, toxic or both.
Oh please. This idea that hobby gaming publishers all sing kum-ba-ya together died with SPI. David Trampier might have been a simpleton for not reading the fine print, but he found out real quick exactly what kind of hippy skippy collaboration process he was a part of. And Fred Hicks, of course, represents the sort of warm welcome anyone can expect if they don’t toe the party line.
Get a grip, man!
On The Death of Games Journalism: They could afford to do this because they simply weren’t making it. The field is currently a dead end job done mostly by twenty-somethings with blue hair. They had no incentive to clean up their act because they could not compete with amateurs that actually had the trust of gamers. That’s why they could attack and slander their own audience with impunity: it was a way to signal their bona fides as part of their job searches.
Joseph Bloch asks, “do you think that cosplaying a Hydra officer from World War 2 (using the SS-type uniform from Captain America and Agents of SHIELD) should be acceptable, or not?”
My answer: Our social sanction needs to be focused on the people that act like Nazis, not the ones that dress like them.
Okay, let’s talk about “chilling effects.” This is a term that free-thinkers, journalists, and artistic types would have frequently invoked back in the eighties but which they have gradually forgotten about in the decades since. If you would like to see an example of it in action, watch the guy on +Courtney Campbell ‘s upcoming Hack N Slash TV episode where he attempts to briefly summarize what #gamergate is without saying anything that smacks of badthink. He can barely explain it because he repeats several times that people have lost their jobs due to saying the wrong thing about it. He almost quakes in fear. He was suffering an acute case of Chill and is desperately afraid of ending up like Brendan Eich or Zak Smith.
Who did this to him? Well… people like Fred Hicks. People have pointed out that Evil Hat pulling out its products could barely impact the bottom line of the guys at DriveThruRpg. But that is not what they are afraid of. When the torch and pitchfork mob indicates they are displeased with something you’re doing, they are tacitly threatening you with a smear campaign, scathing op ed pieces through their media megaphones, and relentless character assassination through social media. Even if later proved innocent, you’ll carry the stigma of political unreliability for the rest of your life. No one wants to go through that. That’s why most people back down when faced with the prospect of such a threat, even if it’s just an implied one. We all know where the lines are and who not to cross.
One more thing you’ll see in apologists for +Fred Hick’s actions is a pedantic, almost Pharisaical approach to free expression. Oh yeah, Fred has free speech to talk about stuff he doesn’t like. Oh, sure, OBS isn’t required to carry everything. You really don’t understand the first amendment; congress isn’t involved here. Well no it isn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that the torch and pitchfork crowd is a bunch of bullies looking for easy prey to terrorize. They don’t care about free speech at all. They are self-appointed thought police, and given that people like them dominate media, academia, and bureaucracy they really do have the power to make good on their threats.
They are cretins, yes. But they are also cowards. That’s why they are picking on +James Desborough . And they spend so little time around people that are different than them, they have no idea just how repugnant their behavior is. (They’ve already blocked their friends that would quietly pull them aside and tell them they’re acting like a bunch of dicks.) I think it’s time they got the message.
Note: I am not calling for boycotts of OBS or Evil Hat. (I have not ever sent a letter to the advertisers of Gawker or Gamasutra, either.) But my enthusiasm, say, for pointing people towards their sites on Recommend has cooled; I’m happy to dig into my backlog of todo items to promote the work of other designers and web stores that don’t have the eyeball share of OBS. I am not calling for “war”… but I am calling these people out.
I have not yet heard back on my complaint to DriveThruRpg. I will share if I hear anything.