Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Operation Roiling Mumble Post Mortem

So, how did it go…?

You know, I’m just not the activist type. My pattern over the years in response to various kerfuffles has largely been to drop out, fall back, and then do my own thing somewhere else. The problem with the politicization of games is that… at this point, there’s not a whole lot left to fall back to…!

Well this was a very modest effort– a very small step up from the usual gimmick of writing an unhinged spittle-flecked editorial that will convince no one that doesn’t already agree with me. (Man, those things are fun to write, though.) The letter writing campaign generated more response than I expected, but less than I wanted. As far as I can tell, there are fewer people that will write a letter to OBS expressing concern about censorship than there are people that will walk out of the Ennie Awards ceremonies in outrage against a successful game designer they detest. The smug people who keep the hobby pure and clean? They appear to be far more motivated than the people that disagree with them on social media.

For people that want to run their own ops, I can tell you a few things based on my very limited efforts here. The breakdown of the kind of responses I got was fairly even for each group:

  • There are the people that get on board and participate exactly as you ask. I really loved this part because I got to see the letters of people that I think are more articulate than me. Even better, I got to see the responses that Steve Wieck made to them. If I was some sort of evil mastermind, this could have been really useful intel.
  • There are the people that don’t necessarily want to participate… but who are sympathetic enough to boost the signal for you by resharing and so forth. This is cool. The morale value of this sort of thing shouldn’t be underestimated.
  • There are the hecklers that show up to use your ops as an opportunity to run through the opposition’s talking points. This is pretty tacky and irritating.
  • Much worse are the “wet blanket” moderates who show up to explain at length that there’s really no need for action and no reason to get excited, etc. etc. I’m convinced that these people really do by far the worst amount of damage to people trying to accomplish something. They really do destroy momentum more than anyone else. Hecklers will sometimes inspire your allies to push back on your behalf. But moderates? They’re a bottomless pit.
  • Finally, there are the “more radical than you” and “better able to run an op than you” types. On one level, this is awesome, but on another… dang, this is frustrating. If these people do not have an actual operation going that you can show reciprocal support to, then they can really take the wind out of your sails.

Each of those groups were roughly the same size, so useful feedback and participation is liable to be dwarfed by the people aren’t really on board with the proposed effort. (I mean seriously, some people spent more time arguing with me about this than it would have taken to write a letter to OBS. Agh!) This sort of thing is completely predictable and an inevitable part of human nature. While my temperament is about as far from “revolutionary leader” as it gets, if I ever do anything remotely like this again I will make a point to head some of this sort of thing off.

At this point, though, this OBS censorship policy is well on its way to becoming a reality. While I didn’t think there was much chance of stopping it, I for one felt it important to at least register some opposition with the people that actually make the decisions. But when the “point and shriek” crowd rolled up to DriveThruRpg, it’s pretty clear that they had a game plan. Watching how this played out… it’s pretty clear to me that their opposition does not. They can threaten Steve Wieck with their standard “guilt by association” routine. Us? We can only “threaten” to leave him alone and let him run his business as he sees fit. There’s just not a lot of leverage in that…!

So what happens next…? Eh, I guess we sit back and wait for the games to start getting banned with greater and greater frequency. Maybe pretty soon we’ll have enough victims that we can set up a yearly “play a banned game” day at the local library. (Librarians hate censorship, don’t they? Surely we can count on them! Heh.) But hey… you all that sat down and wrote a letter just because I asked: thank you. That was cool. Maybe it didn’t accomplish much, but I do think it was more effective than me putting together another angry op ed piece. If somebody else is smarter or more effective in opposing censorship and protecting free expression… by all means, lend them your aid. Or at the very least, cut the wet blanket routine and get out of their way.

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