Friday, September 4, 2015

My reply to Steve Wieck's Offensive Content Policy (RPGNOW, etc)

OBS the owners of RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, and other gaming related storefronts has been hit with a major controversy over a product called Tournament of Rapists that has been labeled obscene by many.  When I first saw pop up on the new products like my first thoughts were "This isn't going to end well." And it didn't. However regardless of my opinions or my dislike for the subgenre it ultimately not my problem as it is  amatter between OBS, its customers, and the publisher.

What is my problem (and everybody elses problem) is anything that OBS does from here on out. Thus when I saw this blog post by Steve Wieck, I sent my response to OBS.

To publisher's service,

The bottom line for me is that I know that OBS is not in the business to sell obscenity or pornography. I realize that it is not the business that OBS is in. I realize that eventually OBS would run into this issue and have to act.

So what critical for me is watching how OBS reacts. How they go about handling this particularly in the corner cases where something only sorta of obscene or sorta of pornographic.

Because there are no hard and fast line for what obscene or pornographic. It is pretty much boils down to the words of Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it.". Which makes this pretty much the definition of a judgement call.

Personally I would err on the side of free expression but with the realization that there is a point where one has to say "Sorry but this product is not suitable to be sold in my store. You are going to have to sell it elsewhere."

After reading Steve Wieck's response, I don't see a problem of having a policy of

"Offensive Content: We'll know it when we see it"

I am skeptical of labeling this as Offensive Content. To me that represent too low of a barrier for removing products. I am sure that the Majestic Wilderlands is offensive to somebody who has bought it and read it. I am also sure that the Majestic Wilderlands is neither obscene or pornographic.

I would be more comfortable with a policy using the tighter meaning behind obscene or pornography. Especially in the light with the swing toward puritanism in today's (2010s) society. To many people on all sides of the political spectrum are taking too hard of a line to things they object too. Extremism in all things is not a virtue and is a form of tyranny.

Changing this to a focus on obscenity doesn't change the fact that it will be a "I know it when I see it" judgment call. But it will be a clear signal that unpopularity is not enough to warrant removal from the OBS stores.

I am very concerned that any type of automated removal system is being considered. In my experience this is a bad idea to and especially in light in how people behaviors change when interacting over the internet. This would create a whole new class of problems for OBS and publishers like myself and degrade the service that OBS provides.

I do however think it is a good idea for a button to allow for complaints to be sent about individual products. This will allow OBS to react quicker to not only to obscenity issues but copyright violations and other issues that arise from selling creative works.

I am not favor of any policy more detailed than what than "Offensive Content: We'll know it when we see it". If this would occur I would view this as OBS abdicating their responsibility of judging each dispute on the merits. Obscenity disputes are ultimately a judgment of taste and no written policy can substitute for human reasoning.

To this date, I been happy with my association with OBS and hopes it continues.

Thank You for your consideration

Robert Conley
Bat in the Attic Games

Majestic Wilderlands - Electrum Seller - RPGNow
Blackmarsh - Copper
Scourge of the Demon Wolf - Copper
Points of Light, Goodman Games, Silver
Points of Light II, Goodman Games, SIlver


Kurt Anderson said...


Mark Craddock said...

You know I'd never have known about his product without the hoopla. I still don't understand why this couldn't have been handled by people simply NOT buying the product? Its odd that so many people who seem to argue for inclusiveness and progress, some of them utilize tactics that are neither progressive or inclusive.

Shane said...

Yes, there seems to be an awful lot of people these days that simply want to be seen to be offended about things. I always thought that if you didn't like something, you didn't buy it. Nowadays that doesn't seem to be good enough. Whatever happened to the power of market forces? I don't know about anyone else but I really don't need anyone to intercede on my behalf. I'm quite capable of simply not buying a product if I find it offensive. And I'm willing to bet that this particular product has sold a whole lot better than it would otherwise have done had it not been highlighted in the manner it has.

5stonegames said...

Mark, Leftism is an inherently totalitarian ideology. They are more or less Communists and they can't inherently allow others the freedom they claim to be in favor of.

In fact the origins of the PC culture is at least in part include Maoism and a place called The Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism.

Also re: this product. Its not different that the debacle over the Gamer Gate Card Game really, narrow minded censors using leverage to wreck someone else's enjoyment since its badfun and wrongthink for the warren.

ToR is not that big a deal, its part of a Hentai d20 line , well written and produced not suitable for children but also nowhere as scary as people make it out to be. I don't care for the stuff but YMMV and if it were my store, I'd carry it and anything that wasn't illegal, libelous or would be grounds for a lawsuit

Of course I'm not trying to make a living at it and don't have to deal with the boycotts of narrow minded Leftist either so OBS will have to do what it has to do and gamble the number of products that produce complaints is less than the effects of the backlash of freedom minded people (or PO'd people after yet another data breach though that's neither here nor there)