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Gamergate spreads to tabletop gaming?

Jerry Stratton, December 10, 2014

Old School publishers on DriveThruRPG

How many of these will survive if Hasbro decides they don’t want to be sold next to old-school games?

Gamergate has spread to tabletop gaming, sort of. DriveThruRPG has taken down a satirical card game based on Gamergate after a public complaint by Evil Hat Productions.

I like Evil Hat. I own Don’t Rest Your Head, it’s brilliant. I don’t use DriveThruRPG much (the last thing I remember buying from them is the Haiti Relief bundle), but they have the right to sell or not sell whatever they want.

But I also write satire, and I write OSR games. It’s always disappointing when a company decides that satire is beyond the pale. DriveThruRPG has no problem selling controversial or adult material: it includes, in its listings, Fuck For Satan (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), The Sex Presidents (Mongoose), and the Book of Erotic Fantasy (White Wolf).

For that matter, Evil Hat has no problem being sold next to such game titles. One would expect a game company called Evil Hat to be liberal about their shelfmates rather than prudish, as they are in the case of the Gamergate card game, so one can hope that this is a momentary aberration on Evil Hat’s evil part.

But there are other publishers with more family-friendly lines. Will DriveThruRPG follow through on their precedent if Wizards of the Coast decides they don’t want to be sold next to Satanic Sex books? DriveThruRPG carries a whole bunch of Wizards of the Coast games. They’re likely to be more affected by a WotC threat than an Evil Hat threat.

And what if Wizards or their owner, Hasbro, decides to return to their TSR-era stance on third-party products? If Wizards were to say that they don’t want to be sold next to OSR materials, would DriveThruRPG decide they don’t need to be selling Autarch, BRW Games, Goodman Games, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Troll Lord Games?

I was originally going to wait until they responded before writing this post. On December 6 I sent a message through their contact us form:

Please don’t get into the habit of censoring your games because of relatively innocuous political content. That’s a long hard road, as simple searches on your site for games about “sex”, “witches”, and “satan” will attest.

I received an immediate automated response,

Your request (#12652) has been received, and is being reviewed by our support staff.

We will be in contact with you soon.

Thank you for your business.

Three minutes later, I received this, which, if it wasn’t automated, was a very fast response:

Hello,

Thank you for contacting us.

We are currently reviewing this product internally.

Thank you for being patient while we discuss this matter and investigate this situation thoroughly.

We appreciate your feedback and want to thank you for taking the time to submit your inquiry.

Thank you for your business and please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

[Name redacted]

Customer Service

However thoroughly they’ve investigated the situation, there’s been no further response to me, and I can’t find one online. Thinking I might have missed something, I followed through the link for request #12652, and was told “Request not found. You do not have access to request #12652. It may have been solved or deleted.”

Apparently it was deleted, as there is no mention of it under either “open” or “solved or closed” requests.

OneBookShelf has every right to control what they sell, even in response to other publishers’ threats. And we have every right to be worried when they do so.

December 11, 2014: DriveThruRPG: satire not appropriate for current events?

Steve Wieck of OneBookShelf.com (the parent of DriveThruRPG) wrote this to publishers, as part of a longer message informing them of their action removing the Gamergate card game from their site:

The title in question is a card game whose theme is the Gamergate issue. The game attempted to present the issue in a satirical manner.

Normally satirical works would be welcome on our marketplaces. However, we feel that there are situations where satire is inappropriate. For example, we do not think that a game released today that satirizes police killings of minorities in the USA would be appropriate. Regardless of how one feels about an issue like that, we feel that it is too current, too emotionally charged on both sides, and too related to real-world violence or death to make it an appropriate matter for satire.

Similarly, no matter how one feels about Gamergate, it is likewise too current, too emotionally fraught, and too related to violence to be an appropriate subject for satire. Additionally, we considered that the violent element of the Gamergate issue has a basis in misogyny. For these reasons, we felt that this card game title was not welcome for sale on our site.

It’s pretty offensive to minorities to compare the actual deaths and real oppression of police killings, and to women to compare the violence that women still face today, with the first-world problems of modern game designers, but I’ll let someone else handle that. Nor is it surprising that this justification is honored more in the breach than as a regular rule (see, for example, the Prison B*tch card game, Schoolyard Bullies, and The Edgy Designer, which appears to take only the anti-gamergate side1).

The big issue, as a person who writes satire, is what the hell does DriveThruRPG think satire is for if not for current, emotionally-charged issues? Is satire only appropriate for old and bland issues?

Would DriveThruRPG caution Saturday Night Live to ignore current events and examine only issues long past and which everyone already agrees on? That they should ignore modern-day Republicans and Democrats and focus on, say, the Salem witch trials and Tammany Hall? Perhaps not even Tammany Hall; there’s apparently still disagreement on the issue, and certainly the Salem witch trials involved far too much real-world violence and death.

Would they charge The Onion and its focus on current events with inappropriately subjecting real-world violence and death to satire?

  1. <- Mayfair Games remembered
  2. Searchable spells/contest ->