Jesus Christ do I hate having to make this blog post. I hate politics and I have tried my entire life to avoid the discussion of or involvement in politics. But this turned out to be impossible. Politics in life. On top of that, this is post is a heaping helping of nothing but capital D Drama. Something else I have striven to avoid at every turn. Something else.
0. Foreward. Almost no one reads this blog, and I know that no one reads this blog. If my regular readership were to be counted in the 10s, I would consider myself lucky. Due to the events that precipitated this blog-post, that readership is even more unlikely to go up than it was before. A concentrated effort on my part will be necessary to spread and signal-boost this post so that everyone even remotely interested in the online tabletop roleplaying community has a chance of seeing it. Even thinking about this endeavor makes me feel incredibly tired.
I. #GamerGate. Maybe you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t heard of it: this is not an adequate introduction or summary, and if you’re at all interested in the changing shape of the internet, you should do some research, and be omnivorous in that research, sampling all sides.
#GamerGate, a little over a year old now, is an online hashtag movement with an unbelievably bad reputation. No, strike that, it’s such an understatement that it’s inadequate to the point. By late 2015, #GamerGate’s PR situation and public-facing reputation is the worst you will ever encounter outside of the public launch of the “Baby Rapists and Puppy Murderers Club”. The reason for this is primarily that the mainstream media has flawlessly and ceaselessly controlled, curated, and simplified the very simple and unchallenged narrative that describes #GamerGate to the general public. If you are not in #GamerGate, and you’ve heard of it, chances are you perceive #GamerGate as a misogynistic hate-group that targets women. In the interest of fairness, what doesn’t help this terrible, terrible, terrible public image is that early in #GamerGate’s history, some asshole misogynists did use the hashtag to harass women online, thereafter poisoning the movement’s image forever. Since then, even if it’s members’ behavior has improved, its image has only gotten worth via the snowball effect.
#GamerGate portrays itself as a “grassroots consumer advocacy movement advocating for better ethics in game journalism” and is nearly universally reviled as a “misogynistic hate group”. The truth in my opinion lies somewhere in-between. I call bullshit on the idea that #GamerGate came into existence purely out of some noble drive to improve ethics in game journalism. Otherwise it would have been born in 2007 when Jeff Gerstmann was fired for giving forgettable turd Kane and Lynch: Dead Men a less-than-glowing review, rather than being born in 2014 out of the Quinnspiracy. Since I began following the movement in late 2014, after the shitstorm’s apex, I have seen basically no evidence of misogynist behavior. #GamerGate’s leading lights certainly hate the shit out of CERTAIN WOMEN, but not because they are women, rather because those particular women are assholes spreading genuinely toxic ideologies. I myself am certainly not a fan of these particular women: I have said unkind things about them on multiple occasions. That is because I think they are terrible people and that they ideology they represent is a cancer. Not because they happen to represent as women.
Instead, I would describe #GamerGate as a reactionary force against the equally reactionary trend in the gaming community of shrill, perpetually offended social justice warriors that openly favor censorship, enforced political correctness, and overt politicization of videogames.
This is a chart I whipped up of what kind of reaction you can expect online should you make a positive or neutral mention of #GamerGate now in late 2015 based on your political environs in the digital sphere. I make no guarantees to its accuracy, so you’ll have to rely on your own judgement.
II. RPG.net. Active since 1996, RPGnet is one of the oldest and largest online websites for discussing, reviewing, dissecting, and enthusing over tabletop roleplaying games, not just the heavy hitters like D&D, Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness and Shadowrun but with a special focus on fringe indie games much like the ones that well…that we make. Referred to as “the big purple”, with over half a million threads teaming with 16 MILLION posts by 115,828 members nearly 10,000 of which are presently considered active, RPGnet is 200 times larger than its next largest competitor among general Tabletop RPG discussion sites. Obviously, RPGnet is an invaluable place to have access to if you are a person who likes to engage in open and vibrant discussion of tabletop RPGs (I am just such a person) and especially if you are one of the intrepid souls involved in the creation of indie RPGs.
As of this post, I have been permanently banned from RPGNet. Before I discuss this revolting development in any more detail, let me write my second paragraph about RPGNet.
I joined RPGnet extremely late in its history, maybe…three to four years ago? I didn’t begin posting with any degree of regularity until the past year. I noticed almost immediately that RPGnet was the most heavy-handed, heavily overmoderated forum I had ever seen on the entire internet, to a comically over-the-top degree. Without getting into the inherent bias of this over-moderation, the over-moderation itself was a serious problem. Disagreements basically were not allowed. As soon as anything got the slightest bit heated, moderators swooped in heavy-handedly handing out “infractions” and warnings. Two new concepts were really hard to get my head around. One was that there were “[+]” or “[-]” threads where only negative or positive perspectives on a topic were allowed. This was a huge red-flag to me, because to me, echo-chambers are something to be avoided, and something I’ve never seen consciously purpose-built before. Who would want to create meaningless threads where posters were only allowed to agree with each other and preach to the choir. The other incredibly toxic policy I saw was something called a “thread ban”. If you said something in a topic that the moderators arbitrarily decided was “out of line”, you would be banned from posting to that topic. Other posters still in the topic could rebut you, insult you, mock you, and misunderstand what you had said, but you were not allowed to respond or to clarify what you had said. The other thing I noticed when looking through older threads that I thought was kind of odd was that at least half of the usernames I saw there had the word banned under them.
RPGnet is full-tilt SJW crazytown. The moderators are the actual, literal Social Justice Gestapo. If you fail to think and say the “right” opinion, if you fail to toe the party line, they will break down your proverbial door and drag you off to be disappeared. It is the single most insane fucking thing I have ever seen in my entire lifetime of bouncing around the internet. SJW if you didn’t know stands for “Social Justice Warrior”. There is a subset of people on the internet (let’s call them “reactionary jerks”) who use “SJW” as an epithet to describe anyone who doesn’t believe, for instance, that racism in America is over. As a liberal democrat, I am not part of that subset. When I say SJW I am talking about perpetually-offended reactionary bigots who parrot insane things they read on tumblr like “there is no such thing as racism/sexism against white men”, about people whose psychotic zeal for “social justice” supercedes for them all of the basic principles of liberalism such as freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of dissent, freedom of thought. These people are dangerous. Their ideas are toxic. They are crazy extremists. They are in total, unsupervised dictatorial control of the largest open tabletop RPG discussion site on the planet.
This brings me to my ban and Thank God, near to the end of this incredibly arduous and draining and upsetting post. The condescending and hostile explanation of my “permanent” ban mentioned a few infractions I’d received in the past. Most of these “infractions” amounted to me discussing why I personally didn’t like certain roleplaying games, or why I personally did not think that they were very good. Any reasonable person would expect that on a site for discussing roleplaying games, this would BE ONE OF THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF DISCUSSION, let alone something that would be moderated. The fact that I did not like certain games or did not think they were good was somehow construed as “simmering hostility and contempt for fellow RPGnet posters”. This of course could not be further than the truth. I think the Twilight franchise for instance is nothing more than terrible, worthless dreck. That doesn’t mean that I hold “simmering hostility and contempt” for its millions of fans. I happen to know that the–again, extremely heavy handed and in-depth–moderation system allows for, besides warnings and threadbans, three-day bans, one-week bans, one month bands, three month bands, and so on and so forth. I had never received any of these disciplinary measures and immediately went from zero to a PERMANENT BAN. Why did that happen? Well, guys, I’ve kind of pulled an H.P. Lovecraft and saved the punchline of my entire story to put in one sentence, the entire fucking point, at the end, in Italics.
The other two things mentioned in my permanent ban infraction were that I had “advocated for gamergate via private message” and that “you don’t feel you’re a good fit here. We concur, and as such, you are permanently banned”. In other words, the key reasons for my ban were that a) when someone asked me via PM, I told them I did not think GamerGate was a hate group and b) that they basically just didn’t like me, nana nana poo poo. Leaving aside the ridiculous childishness of the latter, let’s reflect for a second on how disturbing the former is. In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects. To entertain unacceptable thoughts is known as crimethink in Newspeak, the ideologically purified dialect of the party. In the end, I was banned because the moderators went into my private messages, or I was ratted out to the Gestapo by the person I was privately conversing with (I’m not sure which is more disturbing), and punishe dme for the thoughtcrime of secretly holding the wrong opinion.
I did not harass or abuse anyone. I did not publicly advocate for #GamerGate in any forum or topic. I privately responded–when I was ASKED–that I believed #GG was not a hate group. For that I was permanently banned.
The Orwellian idea of crimethink is alive and well on RPG.net.
Strawman Says: Devon, if you hate and are sickened the insanely draconian, Orwellian moderation policy at RPG.net and their unbelievable hypocrisy, why do you even want to be a part of that hellish toxic shithole?
Answer: I’m glad you asked, Man of Straw. The problem is, those free-speech hating Social Justice Gestapo reign with an iron fist over the largest open tabletop roleplaying discussion forum on the planet, two hundred times larger than its next-largest competitor. As someone who loves to talk and think about roleplaying games, for my sanity, I need to have access to that vibrant and lively discussion. As someone whose entire livelihood comes from publishing indie roleplaying games, I need to have access to that marketplace. I am a person who has done nothing wrong, nothing that could be construed as harassment or abuse. I am literally and actually entitled (ooh, there’s that dirty word!) to access to this forum for discussion. For these reasons, I am not going to take getting permabanned by SSJWs for crimethink lying down.