Saturday, September 14, 2019

Monte Cook Game's Consent In Gaming

Today Monte Cook Games released a free product called Consent In Gaming, you can download it for free on their site or on DriveThruRPG. It's thirteen pages long and has a checklist at the end.

My group and I don't need this and I'm really glad for that. We hang out, we laugh, we blow off steam, and we roll dice for three to four hours. Our group is mature enough to talk about stuff before it becomes an issue. I'm really lucky to play with them. There is no one in the group that is afraid of communicating their preferences or explosive in their reactions. If there is a problem (very rarely) it's tackled openly and solved. We all respect each other. 

Having said that, I'm not going to tell you how to play your game, just like I'm not going to react positively to being told how to play at our table. That's my personal opinion.

On a purely personal level this checklist is a solution looking for a problem and thirteen pages is ridiculous to me. And I suspect that MCG is reaching out to a market section that has both attacked and supported them in the past. Maybe that market is bigger than I suspect, but MCG succeeds on crowdsourcing and that is a very different fish to traditionally distributed RPGs. Yes, their products are distributed, but like Paizo they have maximized their profit by working directly with the bulk of their customer base, meaning they extract a far greater mark up to a dedicated group and can be smaller than typically required for a successful product line. Unfortunately, this eventually bit Hero Games in the behind and basically sunk their company to a part-time endeavor, at best.

However, as a professional who coordinates and plans in-store gaming at two locations, I'm studying this product to see if it could be a tool to communicate what I will and will not tolerate from new RPG groups in my stores. The reason for this is that we had an issue, several years ago, with a NPC in a game that was a pedophile while there was a mom and her 10-year old son at the table. Additionally, in the same group, there was a couple that talked about tentacle porn way too much. They were cool to move the game out of the store when I explained that those two things were not working and might even still be playing together. In fact, I hope they are, they were good people who just were comfortable with things I wasn't in my store.

I want as many people as possible to play RPGs in the hobby and my store. I'd like people from all walks of life, age groups, and backgrounds to play RPGs. The reality is that RPGs are far more accessible than they were even three years ago and are now even kind of cool.

There are many new players trying RPGs with expectations of replicating Critical Role, which for most groups will be a let down on some level if they don't realize that a group of longtime friends who are voice actors is tough thing to replicate.

What I do worry about is scaring people off by showing them the checklist. I think RPGs are a great hobby and can even be cathartic for those facing various challenges, but I also think there can be a fear of revealing too much of yourself to near strangers. Yes, it is "make believe" with rules, it can be hard for adults to embrace something that we may have been told is immature. For many adults, daydreaming and pursuing those dreams are often criticized.

I will freely admit I have been in and a part of some toxic groups. It took me two decades to realize that no gaming is better than bad gaming AND that I am at least 50% of any conflict that I am in. Everyone has their own journey and if they are in my stores, I owe it to them to provide the best community I can. Obviously, not every group is the right fit for my store and that is okay. I need a group in my store to be open to anyone who walks in the door. And this checklist offer a resource to help communicate my expectations of those playing in my store.

I guess if I went to more conventions, I can see this helping some people choose a game. I'm lucky that in all the Gen Con and Origins events that I've played, I've never had situations that caused me stress. Additionally, when I read about all of the alleged abuse at gaming and comic cons I was shocked. I've been a vendor at countless comic shows and never had any of the interactions that have been alleged. However, I don't socialize on these trips. We are there to make money, so we come in and set up, work the day, grab a meal, and then get some sleep. Most of my interactions are with a table between me and the crowd.

To be honest, in a perfect world I'd just scoff at this checklist and ignore it completely. But not everyone is comfortable confronting issues that disturb them. I've encountered many bullies in this hobby and I've been a bully in my much younger days, I'm sad to admit. RPGs, in my opinion, attract people who can be socially immature and/or vulnerable. And again, in my experience, that creates some weird social dynamics where those that have been bullied end up bullying others in their RPG group because they find that they can easily prey on those who are more vulnerable than they are. And I've witnessed everyone involved not willing stand up for themselves because they don't have a lot of friends and can't bear to think about losing some. 


Pun Isaac said...

I respect your take on this. I too think the checklist is the most important part of the document. I don't personally see it as something I'd need for my regular groups (though I do try to talk to new players coming in about what they could expect). We know each well enough to know if folks have issues. I think this is ultimately a flawed release, but I appreciate it putting the subject forward (because as you said gaming attacks the socially immature and the vulnerable). I also respect your admission of past faults. I was that way too at one point too. Its good to grow and try to do better.

Scott Anderson said...

Not gonna go on record about this one.

Cross Planes said...

@Justin, thanks. Most of my time gaming was at one of our houses and people I considered friends. Sadly, I was a person who had been bullied and when I had a group of my own peers, I ended up being the bully, it took me years, anti-anxiety meds, and the love of my wife to see it and break it. Even though I made many, many mistakes, I came to realize that many of the people in the group didn't want to be friends, they just wanted to be gaming buddies and that was the source of some of my stress. But in the end, I take responsibility for expecting more from people than they felt comfortable giving.

@Scott, I respect that. I thought long and hard about this post. I don't like mixing politics and gaming. This is my escape and I watch people on both sides of an issue exploit it. I won't lie that my initial response was simply to ignore it. But, then I started thinking of my professiona obligations. I've been running in-store play for almost two decades and because of my past experiences I've always focused on communities that with zero tolerance for foolishness, even long before it became an issue on social media.

Jonathan Linneman said...

On the one hand, there seem to be very good intentions behind this release. On the other, I'm not sure if I'm seriously supposed to make sure everyone is okay with spiders showing up a D&D game I'm running, and I consider myself pretty empathetic toward strangers in the overall scheme. It's good to cut bad behavior off before it can start; it's another thing entirely to point out bad behavior in spots where we'd all be better off chalking it up to a simple misunderstanding (like those extremely rare instances where a giant spider happens to be the trigger that ruins a game for someone).

Oh man, am I really just becoming a grumpy old dude?

Cross Planes said...

@Linneman, I'm torn, because there are people that will like this checklist and I'm not a proponent of badwrongfun. On the other hand, no one in my groups wants this. And to be honest, if Sean K. Reynolds and Shanna Germain need this in their games I would not play with them because I find it unnecessary.

Maxx Feral said...

Stuff like this will be used by moralists for their next round of attacks:

"What do you need signed consent and a checklist for?
A - an adult movie
B - A BDSM session
C - An RPG - sold to CHILDREN....

Insert that meme of Rev Lovejoy's Gossipy wife from the Simpsons - "Think of the Chilldreeennn..."

Besides stupid stuff like this only feeds those that want to destroy the hobby by essentially admitting and proving there's some kind of problem.

So this piece of stupid is damaging.

And for a historical example/tangent - well remember when Comics started breaking out of the "Comics Code" as the direct market expanded in the 80s into the 90s? The moralists screamed and the cops were eager to bust them like they'd done for "Underground Comix"... They'd put on lables on the not for kiddies stuff, they put true adult behind the counter or in a special section. All it did was tell the authorities undercover guy what to buy and as they handcuffed Comic Book Guy and smmashed everything in his store what to put in the boxes so they didn't show the judge Little Lulu... It got so that comics that did put labels on got severe industry criticism as just giving censors bait and justification.

Darcy Sullivan said...

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Cross Planes said...

@Darcy, thank you. I actually am always nervous about OpEds and your comment, though it's taken me a month to discover, is greatly appreciated.

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