Thursday, April 24, 2014

Truth Will Out

This is getting very interesting.

The Gentle Reader will note that I've been harping upon the organization, the Gamerati, for two whole days. This started Tuesday morning, when I stumbled across a link for a gamer, Joanna Gaskell, going on about her game in a way that suggested she was a poser, since she began with, "I am the Gamerati," a phrase I had never heard of before and which I considered pompous and, well, stupid.  I was quickly informed that her apparent pomposity was actually a collection of videos that had been created to promote gaming.

Understanding now that it was a marketing scheme, I found a number of videos on youtube and linked them on this blog, with the intention of disparaging them.  The first of those videos was that of a grognard, Stan Brown, talking about his experience organizing Magic the Gathering and other role-playing in Japan.  I stated that my impression was that he was a bit of a git.

Late last night I wrote a post about how I had jumped the numbers on Joanna Gaskell's youtube page, and that the Gamerati ought to be talking to me.

Not long after, I found myself approached by a girl on my facebook who wanted to know - on her friend's behalf, who was not a facebook friend of mine - why I had written the post disparaging gamer interviews. She happens to know Stan personally and she wanted me to know that he's really a great guy.

Then last night, I got a comment from a fellow, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, who wanted me to know that Stan Brown is a nice guy, and not a git at all.  At this point I became aware that when people who know Stan talk about Stan, they add an exclamation point to the end of Stan's name, like this:  Stan!

The reader can find other uses of this affectation on this youtube video.

I asked Stephen to explain the Gamerati to me (sell it to me, actually) in a kind of a dickish way (I don't mind the impressions I make so much, but then I don't adopt any affectations), and received this.  I want to post it up front, because I don't want it to be lost in one of the comments sections:

"Gamerati is about the fun of games. It is a celebration of that pastime in all its nuances--the fun, the "cool", the interesting, the silly. And as both a discipline and frivolity. They run a fantastic event in Tacoma that I can take my non-gamer girlfriend and her son to and we can all have a blast. They accept gamers of all types. Even freaky game designers with strange names."

Along with this admonition:

"What I do have to disagree with your assessment of Stan! as a person via this one bit of sound bite. Stan! is one of the nicest, warmest, and talented people I know. I'm not here to market. I'm no marketer. Spend some time with Stan! and you will find that he sells himself. But I am a friend of Stan!'s and I can tell you this. Your impression is just that and you are filling that impression with pretense that seems...well, overstated. Maybe because I've seen the animal, and your analysis comes from one mere fossil: a artifact you've found on the internet."

Finally, this morning, I found this on reddit:

"The whole 'I am the Gamerati' is the intro to Ed's videos, there is one of me on there somewhere. Joanna is a VERY passionate gamer, and also does a series of board game reviews for a game store online called Starlit Citadel, and a web series called Standard Action.  Her comments about the game show that she is a bit of a noob to running, but not a 'horror show.' "

I do not know if the reader is sensing a pattern here or not, but I'd like to make a few points.

My 'impression' is based on the video.  The video is a marketing tool.  If my impression was negative, then it was.  Want a different impression from me?  Market yourselves differently.  Don't avail yourselves of my approval by appealing to my needing to understand the actors' motivation.  Strangers whom I do not know who are connected to a marketing collective, telling me that these are nice people, who are sincere, passionate and so on, doesn't change my impression.  My impression is that 'Stan' (affectation not included) is self-important.  In fact, his name isn't even Stan.  That is an affectation too, and from Wikipedia, it looks like an affectation he has been using a long, long time.

If anything, I feel more certain of his being a git than I did last Tuesday, as Tuesday I did not know about the affectation, and I knew even less about the agenda of the Gamerati group.  The group, as near as I can tell, stands for everything this blog has been against since the day I started writing it.  It stands for everything that I myself have despised since the first time I witnessed the corporatism of D&D back in the early 80s, which I have written about many, many, many times.  As it happens, 'Stan' is an ex-employee of the WOTC, and author of quite a lot of - I'm sorry to be quite blunt about it, but honesty is the best policy, isn't it? - crap that been floating around for several decades.  If I'm going to stand by any of the things I have said on this blog since 2008, the one thing I have to stand behind is that the WOTC has done everything possible to fracture and dumb down the game of D&D . . . and here is one of the architects of that policy.

I don't really care that he is a nice guy.

Nor do I care that Joanna Gaskell is nice either, or that she has credentials that refer to nothing I've ever heard of or care about.  In the video, she appears to be promoting a mind set about role-playing that fundamentally opposes everything I believe.  She seems flighty and vapid.  She seems to think a great campaign happens despite her 'mistakes' (all of which would be principles upon which I run my game - player agency, player freedom).  Since she is part of a marketing scheme, the fact that she believes what she is saying, and that it isn't scripted - which I still don't believe, by the way, because this is a marketing scheme - actually doesn't make what she says any better for me.

Incidentally, for people who seem to think I know nothing about television, or marketing, or how it works, the fact that a person was captured gushing for three minutes on camera means very little.  What, I ask, was filmed that I didn't see?  How much was filmed?  Who CHOSE the film that was shown?  Who decided that THIS part of the video would be included?  Who made the decision about what would be said.  Why was this particular subject addressed, and not some other subject?

I love when I see someone say, "I thought it was very sincere," about a video that's part of a marketing scheme.  Right.  That is what you are meant to think.  You're meant to ignore the careful composite of phrases and words actually being said, while duped by the expressions and up-beat context, initiated by a happy fun phrase that loads you up with oxytocin before the commentary begins.  This is how marketing works.  It relies on the viewer being very, very ready to accept whatever is being said, because it is couched in words that appeal to your need to BELONG.

I have been behind the camera too, too many times to fall for it.  I have written this shit.  I know how the game works.

The reason why I am being approached and being told that these are nice people is because they presume that, being nice people, they are entitled to my approval.  Note that the game itself is, in every video, an afterthought.  What's important is that we belong, that we are part of a herd, that we enjoy being part of the herd, that the herd is good for our creativity, that the herd will make us 'cool' and that the herd is our friend. See?  Joanna and Stan are part of the herd, and they're nice people.

Uh, yeah.

Okay.  I don't play D&D in order to belong to a geek club.  I don't play it to relieve my stress (rather increases my stress, actually).  I don't look to game clubs in order to feel appreciated.  I don't give a shit if the game is cool or not, or if cool ravers play it on Sunday afternoons after raves.  And I don't care that people with agendas that I fundamentally disagree with are nice.

I do care that it's one more pile of bullshit being dumped on my doorstep, that people will point to as evidence of what the game is about - ie., that you're not a player if you're not part of this herd.  I do care that here is one more splinter group in the world to further fracture the game's following.  And I do care that many, many people who are silly enough to want to join a herd will happily march into this marketing business plan and be exploited there.


James said...

I never like DM advice or videos that basically go "never let your players do X." If your world is so paper-thin that your players doing something unexpected completely changes it, maybe you should respond by building a better world, not by restricting your players.

As for the Gamerati...I don't like it. I play video games and roleplaying games because I enjoy them, not because other people enjoy it and are willing to get on camera to tell me they enjoy it. I suppose that shows my lack of interest in that sweet, sweet oxytocin, but I find this notion of some geeky version of the Illuminati to be incredibly off-putting.

Giordanisti said...

It's starting to get a little weird how often you have repeat your stance on the game itself. You've made the analogy to chess multiple times, which i feel works rather well: if these people were talking about chess in this manner, with this level of skill, we'd all be baffled by it. Obviously, you'd get SKILLED players to talk MEANINGFULLY about the game. The fact that this attitude comes to off to so many as perfectly normal speaks to the pervasiveness of the Community mindset (a great marketing tool, buy-to-belong), and the lack of interest in real furthering of the game's potential. This whole affair does not give me a lot of confidence that there are many people who think of the game the way you do, Alexis, which is a damn shame. We need the ambitious assholes, if only to show that there are Other Ways of thinking.

Most in the proud geek community are walking the path of draw-in-more-people (the corporate path), instead of the improve-the-game-for-those-already-here-path. Game improvement is not the priority, just stirring the feelgood stew. Delicious.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Rest assured, Giordanisti, there are thousands who wish they were better at the game, or who wish that there was a source towards which they could turn. They're not organized, they're not cool, they're playing with their friends in small groups . . . and they've all had their disappointing experience with conventions, larping, community group associations and so on. They're the people who come once, and then never again.

They're out there. I'm introduced to them all the time. Only, they don't have commercials, they don't have affectations, they don't rent halls or have meetings, they haven't got the money or the inclination to organize. They just want the game.

And they don't need someone else to give them something they already have.

JB said...

Just wanted to say: thanks for this post.
: )

Anonymous said...

I've been outta the gamer loop for a few weeks, so these Gamerati posts are new to me. But I've now had a chance to read them, and check out some vids. All I have to say to the Gamerati is: guys, I'm assuming that you're getting inspiration for your group name from the term "literati." Well, um, if you did your homework, you would know that "literati" can very often have a bad connotation. A connotation that says "I'm a pretentious twat when it comes to Literature, with a capital L."

THEREFORE, calling yourselfs the "Gamerati," by association, may get you the same bad connotation!

This all seems very obvious to me. But that's just me, with all my, you know, reading and paying attention to connotations and stuff like that.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I think it is actually based on "Illuminati" . . . meaning, "I'm a pretentious twat where it comes to politics."

But you may be right.