I’m not going to spend time summarizing the situation. By now you are either familiar with what’s going on or you aren’t. If you are a summary is wasted space and if you aren’t, searching the hashtag on Twitter will get you up to speed. If you need to do that before reading further, go ahead. This post will be here when you get back.
This may not be a very cohesive post; I’m going to talk about things as I think of them. To start, I am 100% in support of firing Mike Mearls from his position at Hasbro/WotC, as a first step in cleaning up their corporate culture. If it can be cleaned up, and we’ll touch on that in a bit. And firing Mearls is the minimum the company has to do right now. He should have been fired years ago when the harm actually occurred, but Hasbro/WotC shat the bed on that situation, alerting anyone paying attention to their obvious lack of any sort of harassment policy or procedures.
Before we go further, let me establish that I have some experience with harassment policies and procedures through my job. I work for my municipal government, and we have a clearly defined policy and several procedures in place to deal with workplace harassment and misconduct. Every employee is aware of what their rights are and what they can do if it occurs or if they witness it happening. Through my position I have sat on committees reviewing our procedures, so I am probably more familiar with the details than most of my co-workers. In addition, I am a shop steward for my union, and it is my responsibility to understand and carry out my union’s policies and procedures around workplace harassment. That means helping the victims of, but also identifying and penalizing the perpetrators of.
So when I tell you that, as an outside observer, it appears that Hasbro/WotC either doesn’t have policies/procedure in place, has them but didn’t bother to follow them, or has ones so bad they aren’t worth the stale bagels and coffee consumed at the meeting that crapped out the policy document, I have a bit of experience in that area.
When I send a tweet with #FireMikeMearls in it, I don’t think that’s the end goal. Not even close. Because Mearls is just the most egregious symptom of a larger problem. He doesn’t work in a vacuum, there are higher ups and co-workers who have allowed him to retain a place in the industry and our hobby. The fact that his actions around Zak S are simply one example of Mearls’ poor judgement (at best) and active support of abusers (at worst), makes the tacit support of his peers disappointing.
But that’s actually all the time I’m going to spend talking about Hasbro/WotC’s corporate culture. If I thought they could be saved, if I thought they were worth saving at this point, I could look at my own workplace policies and make some suggestions around fixes they might try. But if you’ve built an unsafe house, you don’t try to repair it. You tear it down and build a better house. Frankly, I don’t see anyone at Hasbro/WotC having the guts to do that. Believe me, I’d love to be proven wrong.
So if I’m not going to talk about that, what are we doing here? I want to spend some time talking about what I plan to do going forward in the hobby. Because while I maybe should have come to this sooner, it’s come to the point where I can’t put it off: I can’t support Dungeons & Dragons anymore. Which is sad. Dungeons & Dragons was the game that got me into the TTRPG hobby, it was my first and my most often played, through forty years of gaming. But as long as Hasbro/WotC demonstrate their complete lack of connection to or concern for their player base, I can’t support them.
“But Brent,” I hear you say, “You can still play D&D and never give the company another dime.” And you are right. But monetary support is only part of the picture. I am a big believer in modelling the behaviour you want to see. If I talk about Hasbro/WotC needing to face consequences for their lack of action, then turn around and shout, “Roll for initiative!”, that doesn’t model good behaviour in my eyes. Rather, it shows that I am willing to justify folx being hurt as long as I get to remain comfortable playing my games.
So going forward, I am going to be writing about other games in the hobby, and framing my player/GM posts to relate to these other systems. I’ve been guilty of writing posts where I assume the Dungeons & Dragons style of play as the baseline, and have talked about campaign creation and game mastering from that standpoint. But something my #ReadIndieRPGs videos demonstrated quite clearly to me, was that D&D is not our hobby’s baseline, and hasn’t been for some time. I mean, I knew that (and indie creators have certainly been yelling it at me for a while), I just hadn’t thought about it consciously before. So expect me to better live up to the site’s name going forward.
I’m also going to stop running/playing D&D, though that will take a bit more time to transition. One campaign has been on hold, and won’t be an issue to just stop. The other is active, however, and since I haven’t even discussed this with my players yet, it isn’t going to stop on a dime. Luckily we have a session tonight, so I can start that conversation and hopefully find us another system that suits our needs. I have no doubt we will.
Update: We had that discussion. This group of players does not follow the goings on in the TTRPG industry, and so were unaware of any of the issues surrounding Zak S/Mike Mearls/et al, so I had to fill in some background. Gratifyingly, however, once I did there was unanimous agreement that we should drop D&D like a moldy apple and switch to another game. For those curious, we have settled on The Black Hack for now, and are excited to see where these new, much simpler mechanics take us.
Because guess what? Did you know our hobby and industry has other games besides D&D? I know, it blew my mind as well! Not only are there other games now, there have always been other games! Growing up in the hobby I played a decent percentage of all of them, and I look forward to getting back to some of them, trying out their updated versions, or diving into newly designed games. This is the perfect time for me to get a Ryuutama, #iHunt, or Flying Circus campaign going, for instance.
What I don’t plan to do is dog pile anyone who still plays D&D, or independent creators who still publish for the game. You’re all adults, you all get to make your own decisions about these things. Not all indie creators, especially those in marginalized communities within our hobby, have the luxury of being able to just stop. Many creators have commitments in the pipe and can’t just cancel an entire project. I get that, and I have no beef with you. That said, if you come after me or anyone I know because of our decisions around this game and the hobby; if you try to brigade me or anyone else for using the #FireMikeMearls tag; if you’re just generally a shitty person about the whole thing, regardless of the “side” you support, I will call you out on it, report you, and block you. I have no time for any of that, and my Block Party has unlimited seating and all the warm Diet Fanta you can drink.
That’s where my head is at right now. I’m still reading threads and listening to various people in the hobby and industry to get their takes. But I wanted to take a moment to get some stuff out of my own head, maybe help me think a little clearer around the subject. Because this current situation is a) not a new one in our hobby, and b) something that is a source of and caused by the history of bigotry and colonialism that has long been present in the hobby and industry. There are better qualified people than I talking about that subject, so for right now I am listening. But I will have more to say by and by.
As always, feel free to shout at me here or on Twitter. We’ll talk more soon.