Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Now Would Be a Good Time to Invite the Thought Police to Leave Our Hobby Alone

You know, I got pretty upset when OBS banned their first game last year. I did write to them, but I did not really do anything beyond making a few snarky blog posts. However, this lack of conviction with regards to free expression seems to be growing to the point where things are liable to slip even further at an even more accelerated rate. In my opinion, this will directly impact the quality of independent game design efforts and potentially even cause us to lose some of our most insightful creators. People don’t get into rpg design because of the money– they do it because they have complete freedom to express themselves. Dilute that freedom far enough and they may well find another hobby to devote themselves to.

I really don’t want that to happen. I don’t think I am alone, either. I am therefore instituting Operation Roiling Mumble. Here is how to participate:

  1. Read Steve Wieck’s post on the new Offensive Content Policy for OneBookShelf.
  2. Be genuinely concerned with where this could lead and with how it could impact the rpg hobby.
  3. Contact OBS at custserv@onebookshelf.com or stevew@onebookshelf.com and let them know what you think.
  4. Share your email with me either in the comments here or privately at autoduelist@gmail.com so that I can get a notion of just how big the pushback is.

To be clear, I am not threatening a boycott if they fail to run their business the way that I think they should. If you feel that way, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. At this point, I am only interested in increasing the volume of negative feedback for Steve Wieck’s proposed policy.

How many “free speech nuts” are active in the rpg hobby right that would take the time to write an email about this? I don’t know! But I would like to think that there are more people like that than, say, the number of people that made it a point to walk out on the Ennie awards ceremony this year. If you are the sort of person that would like to do something to preserve freedom of expression, now would be a good time to let Steve Wieck know that we could really do without him inviting people to be offended at our games.

“Without the ability to freely create, and freely reach people who might be interested in those creations, participation in this hobby and this industry is simply not worth doing.” — James Raggi

“When the Gamergate card game was banned, Steve Wieck boasted about how Onebookshelf had only ever had to ban one thing ever, and hey, it was okay because it was just Gamergate, the maid rape and crack whores were safe. Well, first they came for Gamergate, now they’ve come for Tournament of Rapists. Because that’s how fucking far through the looking glass we are. Yeah, the inoffensive card game satirizing the events of the first few months of Gamergate was banned first, but now Onebookshelf has gone down the ‘We’ll ban offensive stuff when we see it’ slippery slope that everyone said would happen because of some tacky open d20 product that got brigaded.” — Cirsova

“I tried, well beyond the call of courtesy, to speak with Mr. Wieck about the choices he was making, in selling his site over to the would-be censors, the pseudoactivists of the hobby who demand the RPGnow and DrivethruRPG should have to appease their growing demands that anything they personally find offensive be censored, and be censored immediately. He has made it clear that he has no interest in reasoning with anyone who supports freedom of speech, and everything I’ve seen indicates to me that he is determined to go forward with a policy whereby anyone who claims offense will be able to have a product IMMEDIATELY pulled from OBS’ shelves at the click of a button.” — The RpgPundit

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17 responses to “Now Would Be a Good Time to Invite the Thought Police to Leave Our Hobby Alone

  1. Loren Dean September 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Here’s what I wrote to OBS:

    It’s going around that there’s some sort of “flag this as offensive” function getting ready to be coded into the OBS sites. Having read the blog post that seems to announce it, I felt that as a consumer I needed to voice a few thoughts on the matter.

    I am uncomfortable with the notion that anyone who decides to be offended by anything can initiate a review of it. In the current fan climate, everything is offensive to someone. Is OBS prepared for everything on all its sites to get flagged and require review? I have no doubt that there are plenty of populations of fans from plenty of different schools of thought with plenty of axes to grind, and being able to “punish” their ideological foes by constantly pursuing review of all those foes’ products is an easy abuse to foresee. Does OBS really want this headache?

    It’s been stated that ultimately one person is going to make all the decisions. Is that one person prepared to personally review everything on all of OBS’ sites, per the above? Is that one person prepared to put up with the harping and carping and threats and general shrieking from “the offended” in perpetuity? Sure, Tournament of Rapists got a lot of attention–is OBS now prepared to review the entirety of the Black Tokyo line, which also features its share of rape and misogynist victimization? Is OBS now prepared to review all the cheesecake poser-model “character portrait” products on the basis that they’re misogynist? Is OBS prepared to review all the poser-model “printable miniatures” products when they get flagged as gender-discriminatory or racially marginalizing?

    Moreover, are the producers who currently list with OBS prepared to put up with this process of potentially having everything they do subjected to review by a single person, who may or may not be overwhelmed by those who would seek to abuse this “flag” system? Is OBS effectively inviting those who were offended by Tournament of Rapists to flag everything by Skorched Urf to interrupt their sales in an attempt to hound them out of business? Is OBS effectively inviting its partner-producers to seek and/or create their own alternative outlets for pdf sales–essentially encouraging a competitor to arise? Remember the victory it was when OBS finally got the Palladium guys to finally list their stuff in pdf? What happens when somebody flags a RIFTS book (or several) as offensive and those same Palladium guys decide “this pdf thing” is becoming more trouble than it’s worth?

    Moreover, can anything credibly be considered out-of-bounds in today’s gaming climate? What sort of horrible content would have to be in a product to make it so universally unpalatable and unredeemable that the only recourse is for OBS to ban it? And whatever that concept is, hasn’t White Wolf already done it? Those folks have done some pretty radically dark stuff, including rape, child murder, genital mutilation, gruesome physical tortures, abuse in many incarnations, and sacrilegious vulgarity of all sorts. Does a product like Freak Legion, which features a comic in which a typical guy sells his soul and ends up dissolving his family in vomited maggots, deserve a ban on the basis of taste, and if so, what else does? If not, what else doesn’t?

    And if White Wolf has already treated an “offensive” topic in a product, and that product has been allowed to stand for sale on OBS sites for a decade, is there a double-standard getting ready to develop regarding this “flag” system, wherein large publishers with established lines are immune to banning while smaller indie guys are fair game?

    I respect the desire to “do something” on the part of OBS. I respect the idea that OBS has some sort of responsibility to its customers. I submit, however, that that desire and idea is the result of twitter hysteria and threatens to drive OBS to make a decision that will ultimately harm its business. And frankly I like shopping with you guys, and don’t want to have to hassle with going to a new competitor for some things.

    I submit that the “adult content” tag OBS currently uses is sufficient to flag those things which may credibly be offensive to someone. That a product exists isn’t something OBS need concern itself with–only how it is categorized. If the “flag” button is a place you absolutely feel you must go, make the result of a flag review simply the application of the adult content label. That helps customers find (or avoid) the things they want (or don’t). Contra-twitter, OBS has no responsibility to be a content gatekeeper, and trying to be one will only work to OBS’ detriment.

    Thank you,

    Loren Dean

  2. jlv61560 September 5, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    And here was my response:

    I just want to take the opportunity to congratulate Mr. Weicks on his single-handed decision to institute not only censorship at OneBookShelf, but also his decision that his own personal prejudices would be the sole guide to what is offensive and what is not.

    Like all social justice warriors, he apparently knows what is best for everyone and has decided to implement his standards for us all. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Weicks for being so self-sacrificing as to decide for me what is offensive and what is not. Without heroes like you, willing to take on the tough decisions that I am obviously incompetent to make for myself, I would be unable to continue living my life in your perfect personal bubble of what is right and what is wrong.

    From the content of your blog post, it is obvious that you didn’t like what was happening back in the 80’s with the Christian attempt to suppress content they found offensive. I wonder if you have ever paused for a moment to consider that you yourself have now become the Tipper Gore of our hobby?

    Personally, I find it incredible that someone who professes to oppose censorship has now decided to impose it in it’s worst and most subjective possible form, and somehow comes out and says that such a choice is a “good” thing. The sheer irony of your decision is both appalling and pathetic, and your choice of implementation methods is absolutely the worst you could have made. But hey, as long as YOU’RE the one deciding what is “good” and what is “bad,” it’s totes okay, amiright?

    I really think you need to take a good long look in the mirror there before you decide to go all PC on us, though…..

  3. Jay Dugger September 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Would anyone care about OBS dropping a product from their store if they didn’t have such a large fraction of the online market? So long as that holds true, letter writing campaigns won’t matter much.
    I suspect you’d have more success going through the various vampire-themed games and reporting them as offensive on the grounds of containing material describing necrophilia and cannibalism than just complaining to OBS.

    • jeffro September 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Contributing a letter of your own would be far more helpful to what I’m doing here than explaining why you aren’t interested. And you know… I think it takes about as much time either way. If you have a better idea of what to do and how to do it, then my modest efforts do not stand in your way.

  4. Daddy Warpig September 6, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Consider: Instead of a boycott, helping them locate offensive content. Nearly anything COULD be offensive, and people should report it ALL.

    If EVERYTHING that could be offensive is reported, and taken down, then DTRPG would be able to experience the inherent consequences of their policy first hand. This cannot help but be helpful, in the long run.

    • Cirsova September 7, 2015 at 12:46 am

      Considering the recent offense ‘wundergeek’ has been taking at 5e on her blog lately, that’s not far off.

      “In this picture of an attacking hoard of undead, there is only one discernably female character bearing the brunt of their onslaught!”

  5. August September 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    I sent Wieck a very polite e-mail, basically telling him that I think the policy will force creators to constantly second-guess whether their content will be perceived as offensive or not, effectively instituting a climate of self- censorship. Those who do not want to operate under such circumstances will risk being run out of business.

  6. Cirsova September 7, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Reblogged this on Cirsova and commented:
    We were all stoked when the gates of publishing were thrown wide open, their keepers gone. Get your spikes ready, they may start swinging shut again unless we do something.

  7. Otto Q September 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Excellent idea… although it likely will have zero impact. I think it is good to let them know that there are many in this hobby that don’t take kindly to censorship. Personally, I can think for myself and don’t need a nanny to tell me what I should or shouldn’t see. I will be very interested to see if someone comes up with a new marketplace that embraces the idea of zero censorship. I would personally switch to patronizing such a site in a heartbeat.

    • jeffro September 7, 2015 at 10:15 am

      I have seen that Steve Wieck is actually reading and responding to some of these emails. If we can get him feedback from more people that oppose censorship than, oh… the total number of people on Paizo’s staff, he may well reconsider what he’s proposing to do.

  8. Charlie Warren September 7, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Reblogged this on The Old Gamers Notebook and commented:
    Pass this on!

  9. Marty September 9, 2015 at 9:57 am

    This is a tempest in a teapot.

    To people who are saying the “Report” tool will be used as a harassment hammer, there i a very simple, programmatic response:

    1) You need to be logged in to report something as inappropriate. Any abuse of the system will be immediately obvious.

    2) Steve states that they will err on the side of taking down pending review… but he does NOT state that the system will automatically take down something that is flagged. I have programmed these kinds of e-commerce sites. Items that get flagged are put into a “To be reviewed” list, but they are not automatically taken down just because they are on the list. A human has to intervene to take it down… This means that it would be unlikely someone would just taken down just because they have a few flags on their product. Now, if 100 or 1000 flags show up, then it’s likely it will be put at the top of the review list (they are usually sorted by the number of users that have reported) and then someone must make the decision to temporarily suspend the product until it gets reviewed… but again, a human makes that decision, not the e-commerce system itself… which means this tool would not easily be used to harass people that aren’t liked.

    So, basically, a lot of people are getting their shorts in a knot over something that is simply not that big of a deal. It’s an extremely minor deal. And Steve Wieck has every right to run his successful business as he sees fit. I think his response is actually quite measured given the amount of shit he’s having to take.

    • jeffro September 9, 2015 at 10:01 am

      If it’s so trivial, then it’s no problem for Steve to throw out the new policy altogether. We are not telling Steve how to run his business. We are pushing back at the two Paizo employees that are telling Steve how to run his business.

      • Marty September 10, 2015 at 10:40 am

        It’s trivial to *program* the reporting tool to prevent abuse… I was referring to the tool, not the policy.

        And who says Steve doesn’t agree with his own policy? Why do you think this is *only* because of Paizo?

    • jeffro September 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Oh, so you know of other people that are handing him ultimatums along the lines of “ban this game or else we will start a Twitter harassment campaign that will permanently brand you as a misogynist”?

  10. Pingback: Operation Roiling Mumble Post Mortem | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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