Thursday, December 4, 2014

Abiding by the Standards of the Community

OK. So, I don't think this sounds crazy, but I'm no one in particular.

You have the right to create whatever kinds of games you'd like. Want to make games with racist, sexist, or homophobic content? You can. Want to sell them? You can. Obviously you need to check local laws, because I don't know if all other countries have quite the same love of free speech that we have here in the USA (some restrictions do apply, even here), but whatever. You can sell it.

You can even create a game that champions a hate group. You can create a game that "takes the piss" out of people responding to serial harassment, slut-shaming, and ongoing misogyny. You can take the side of the people who have lined up with actual factual Nazis. That's a thing you can do. No one can tell you that you can't do it.

But if you make use of a marketplace that someone else owns, the folks that own this marketplace can tell you to fuck off with that. And it's nothing to do with "complaint bombing," and it sure as shit isn't because they're afraid of your raw, edgy, truth-saying. It's that you did something offensive, and they don't want to be part of it. Or, maybe, it's because the other folks who use the marketplace said, "uh, if that's what you're selling next to me on this virtual shelf, I'll fuck off and take my chances elsewhere." Those are things that can happen. Those are things people have the right to do.

(Context: James Desborough put a GamerGate inspired card game on DriveThruRPG today. People, including me, complained to DTRPG. It was taken down in minutes. Now you have context.)

So, there's that. And I don't think any of that is especially controversial. I mean, if you're a GG supporter, then maybe, but beyond that, I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that someone who runs a marketplace gets to dictate what's sold there, yeah? So I want to hit two other points.

Today, when the complaints started flying, people got pretty strident. I was among them. I said, to DriveThru's Twitter feed, that I thought it was disgusting, and I stand by that. But some other folks posted Matt McElroy's personal info on Twitter, and said some really horrible things about him and his company.

Folks, that's fucking unacceptable. That's the kind of short-sighted, ignorant, vicious tactic I'd expect from people whining about "ethics in journalism" while they're trading naked pictures, illegally obtained, of the object of their misplaced ire. Don't do that shit. Express your anger, but do it smartly. FTR, selling something on DTRPG is as easy as uploading and hitting a button, once you've got an established relationship with One Book Shelf. Should there be a vetting process?  I don't know, there are considerations there. But just because someone sells something on DTRPG doesn't mean that One Book Shelf specifically endorses or supports it, and I think the salient point about DT's response is how quickly they took the game down. They owe no one any apologies, but there are some Twitter users out there that do.

Second point: I am a DTRPG seller (you can buy our stuff here!). It therefore behooves me to release products that aren't so offensive as to cause widespread complaints. That doesn't mean I can't take risks, and it doesn't mean I can't release products that have, dare I say it, an edge. It does mean that I'm entering into a relationship with DTRPG that either of us can revoke, and if that happens, I need to be prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.

I am prepared to accept those consequences, but I doubt very much that I'll have to deal with my products being removed, because I strive to make games that include more than they exclude, that celebrate diversity and define their audience by what they do and what they encourage, not on who they make unwelcome and what they can skewer.

I won't say that method is the best. It probably isn't the most profitable. But it does allow me to sleep comfortably at night, and to be proud of my work.