Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Gamergate the Card Game

In the interests of unbiased blogger journalism, I thought I would do a review of this game, authored by the prolific James Desborough of Postmortem Studios. As many of you know, it was the only game ever banned by OneBookShelf (RPGNow and DriveThroughRPG) and perhaps the only game (according to them) that perhaps ever would or will be banned by that same print-on-demand publisher ("banned", by the way, is their term). I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

Full disclosure points:
  1. I'm against winning political arguments by bullying people, lying about people and smearing people (ooh, strong and controversial stand there, Spalding). I'm also against the politicization of gaming--even if it's a form of gaming I don't like and don't engage in. This inclines me to be pro-Gamergate.
  2. I don't like video games and think they're pernicious. I haven't played one seriously in fifteen years. I don't want my kids to play them, etc. Since Gamergate seems to be about the proper direction of video games, I'm not sure what side this puts me on.
  3. Partly for the above reason, I feel that I don't really know that much about the actual Gamergate controversy. Feel free to use that against me. What I do know seems to indicate that the facts are somewhat Byzantine. Then again, I'm inclined, due to the first point, to favor one side.
Okay, so on to the game. In PDF it comes to 17 pages. Most of these are images of cards you're supposed to assemble. Less than a page is rules. I skipped the rules, figuring they weren't that important. Plus, it's 11:40, my kids are still running around and I'm tired.

There are two sets of cards--one set for the "Gamergate" player and one set for the "Social Justice Warrior" player. Each card has a Title, an Actions row featuring one to four actions, three potential Ethics Breaches--Corruption, Outrage and Bulls__t, and some flavor text. For example, here is a sample Gamergate card:
  1. Title: #NotYourShield
  2. Actions: Modifier: Group, LOL, Pwned.
  3. Potential Ethics Breaches: Corruption: 1, Boosts all your Outrage and Bulls__t Attacker scores on this Ethics Breach by +1, Outrage:1, Bulls__t: 1.
  4. Flavor text: We're all fakes and sockpuppets.
I have no idea what any of this means.

So, here's a roundup of a random sample of cards, featuring the title and the flavor text only, with commentary by yours truly. Again, since I didn't read the rules, I don't understand them, and thus will not include Actions or Potential Ethics Breaches.

First, the Gamergate cards:
  1. Send E-mails!: Praise the Lord and pass the keyboard. Who is sending the emails? Who are they going to? Is it a good thing? Is the author being slightly self-deprecating about his own side?
  2. Send E-mails!: Still not censorship. Okay, I'm glad.
  3. The Internet is for Porn: Fap, fap, fap, fap. What does "fap" mean?
  4. Atheist Allies: Two words to strike horror into every heart. Atheism Plus. So, I guess there's a subset of Gamergate people who are atheists?
  5. GrimmyPoohs: Narcissistic enough to go in his own game. I think this is a self-deprecating reference by the author about himself. How hateful and misogynistic of him. That's so offensive.
  6. Inconvenient Facts: But, but, butt! "Butt"? Is that a sophomoric joke? I'll laugh in the car.
  7. Based Mum: A feminist if you're not. Not a feminist if you are. I think this is a reference to semi-pro-Gamergate journalist Christina Hoff Sommers. I remember her from when I used to subscribe to Reason. I like her.
  8. Intranet Republican: Wields the magical wig of snarkiness. Is this pro-Republican or not? I have no idea.
  9. Emperor of Politics: Total Shill. I think this is a reference to a pro-Gamergate guy who also seems to be anti-Israel. Subtract one from my bias towards Gamergate. Is "Total Shill" what his opponents call him or what the author thinks of him? No idea.
And so on.

And now the Social Justice Cards:
  1. Right Wing: Because your stance on abortion is totes relevant to vidya. Absolutely no idea what this means.
  2. Anime Avatar: Nobody can take you seriously with an anime avatar. I guess so. (That's SO offensive!)
  3. Dox: It's OK when we do it. I think I understand the point here, and I agree with it.
  4. Mass Censorship: You shut up, and you shut up, and you shut up, and you and you and you! Again, I think I understand the point. I'm against it.
  5. Bumbirinas: Transexual otter kin with Bod head mates will not put up with this! Again, no idea, but it sounds like it's an insult directed against a subset of transsexuals on the anti-Gamergate side.  The author obviously should be drawn and quartered for this. Slowly. How dare he?
  6. P__sbaby: I prefer 'Urinary Infant'. That's disgusting.
  7. S__tlord: I prefer 'Turd Emperor'. Even more disgusting. I have no idea what it means.
  8. Ethical Policy: Not an option Apparently. Okay, I get it. Desborough believes that anti-Gamergate people have no Ethical Policies. (Did I get that right?) That's SO offensive. Pardon me if I boycott anyone that doesn't instantly agree.
  9. But we won an Award! OK, so we fixed the result, but...shiny! Hey, I like Firefly too. I'm hip.
And so on.

To summarize: Gamergate the card game appears to be a super-inside joke that satirizes both sides, though with an obvious bias towards one.

According to Steve Wieck at OneBookShelf, it's the most awful, horrific and offensive thing they have ever hosted (worse than a game about torturing people to death, among other things). They banned it only after huddling together for a few days and thinking deep thoughts about social responsibility balanced against freedom of speech, etc., etc., etc. For Wieck, the game is equivalent to laughing about (according to his terms) racist police shooting down innocent African American teenagers.

  1. Disgusting
  2. Dishonest
  3. Ridiculous
  4. Unreasonable
  5. Insane
  6. Cowardly
  7. A threat to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and pretty much anything else you can put after "freedom of".
  8. Evil
I spent $3.50 on the game through this site. Anyone who is against bullying and lies should consider doing the same. Obviously I will never "play" the game. That's not the point.

This is the place where I might write "Fight On!". But I'm too depressed. They want to bring their smutty, dirty politics and Brown Shirt bullying tactics into tabletop gaming. You and I don't want that. But what do we do? If we don't resist, they win. If we do resist, we dirty ourselves by getting "political", just like them. Or so it seems.

I don't know the answer. 


  1. Nope, I don't really understand the game either, but from what I've heard of the controversy, it went something like: "Woman calls men out as jerks, men say rude things about woman, millions of angry people who don't know shit start launching their own bandwagons for everyone to jump on, some idiot coins a snappy term to call it, brushfire controversies erupt all over the place, humans still idiots, news at 11."

    I like your review :)

  2. you've confirmed to me how shitty it is - there is only one side to be on in this debate - this card game is making fun of something horrible - the issue is bigger than RPG censorship its about game fans threatening to murder women and then claiming it is about ethics in journalism a smokescreen for their appalling behavior - gamer cutlure and its attitude to violence, murder and women should be answerable to public outrage - ths game is fueling fire in a callous way like a funny game about KKK would - it doesn't help - this is only game ive come across i that i woul not stock if i had choice and im for maid rpg, and hentai cardgame and a bit iffy on barbarossa anime teen porn card game but this card game sucks like cancer - you not reading rules or looking into issue not really helpful

  3. Satire that's not funny is being an asshole. Don't waste principled thoughts against assholes. Women characters in video games that are interesting is the tragic loss of this epic storm in a tea cup. Why should anyone care?

  4. Let’s strip down (metaphorically) to what I think is the point you’re trying to make. Please correct my interpretation if needed. The details of Gamergate are unimportant since you don’t know that much about it. You consider the banning of Desborough’s game by OBS to be censorship. Censorship is evil, unreasonable, etc. Buying Desborough’s game (from some other source, obviously) is a good thing because it’s a show of support for a victim of censorship. Freedom is extremely important. (It’s a ‘worship word’ after all.)

    Here is what I have to say based on the above assumptions. Desborough has a right (the Freedom) to create and sell material, even if it’s offensive. OBS has the right (the Freedom) to sell or not sell what it wants, even if their reasoning is misguided, hypocritical, insane, whatever. You have the right (the Freedom) not to like what OBS decides and react as you see fit.

    Although OBS is an important venue, the 'banning' has not prevented Desborough from creating and selling his game (obviously – because you were able to buy it elsewhere). If your problem is with OBS, you have various options available; among which are: write a blog post, boycott OBS, or attempt rational communication with the decision-makers at OBS.

    I do not consider buying Desborough’s game to be an appropriate reaction to the situation. First, it doesn’t affect OBS. Second, it may be a crappy game (in terms of design). Third, although you don’t consider his game to be very offensive, other people might – reasonably – believe otherwise. Since you are not aware of all the details, there may very easily be aspects you have not considered. An uninformed reaction is irresponsible. No sequence of ‘wrongs’ makes a ‘right’. Compounding a controversy is not a viable way to diffuse it. If you’re against politicization, then avoid politicization.

  5. Hello, perdustin. I can't remember whether we've communicated through Google+, but I just sort of answered some of your points in the comments to my Google+ post linking to the blog. That will have to suffice for now as I need to go back to work. To tackle your last point quickly, though:

    "Compounding a controversy is not a viable way to diffuse it. If you’re against politicization, then avoid politicization."

    As I wrote at the end of the blog, I think that very well might be right, or at least half right. But it's not clear to me that doing and saying nothing is obviously the way to go.

    More later if that's okay.

    1. I don't advocate doing nothing. (The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.) I advocate selecting a target and not arguing from ignorance. (You might know what you're talking about, but statements like “I don't really know that much” and “if I understood more” don't inspire confidence.)

      I have read the G+ conversation and I'm inclined to agree with David Rollins and Matthew B.

      For the record, my sentiments would not change if OBS caved into the demands of the Christian Coalition.

    2. Well, I think I agree 80%+ with David and probably Matt, and again, in so far as we supposedly disagreed, I tried to explain that it was a misunderstanding that I was calling for some sort of free-speech protest.

      I don't know. I understand how from a rhetorical standpoint it arguably is not a great idea to start out by saying "I don't really know that much about the...controversy." I followed it with "feel free to use that against me," which of course people have. Maybe I should have put it differently, but I was trying to be honest. At the same time, in my defense, though, while I can't name every reference on every card, I don't think that's necessary to either have a reasonably informed opinion on the issue in general or on the question of whether the game is the worst and most offensive thing (or however they would put it) OneBookShelf has ever carried. I thought it was interesting that Malcedon said he got most (all?) of the references. I would be surprised if many other people could, including even some of the journalists and players themselves. But that in and of itself is telling for this "most offensive thing ever carried." (Contrast this with games about torturing people to death or competing pimps beating prostitutes into submission.) Who can it be offending, if most cannot understand it? The answer obviously, is that it's not the content, per se, but the very fact that Desborough and his game are on the wrong side, and that, in and of itself, is worthy of "banning" (again their term). The continued presence of another game "The Edgy Designer", which although pre-Gamergate, per se, satirizes essentially the same set of things but from the other side (and is arguably much more personally nasty--to Desborough, among others) is a testament to that.

  6. I moved the "Later Edits" down here so as not to disrupt the flow. There were three:

    1. For, "I thought I would do a full, fair, balanced and informed review of this game," I substituted I thought I would do a review of this game." The silly sarcasm or whatever you want to call it, didn't really work.

    2. Then, concerning the rules, I wrote: That (not reading them) was a slight fib. Actually, I skimmed the rules, such as they are, very quickly. There was nothing particularly objectionable or for that matter very interesting about them. They're just basic card-gamey rules. That's all.

    3. Before getting "serious" in the final third of the piece, I wrote:

    The above was written to include a bit of humor. Like most of my attempts, it probably fell flat for many of you. That's okay. It means you're normal. I want to add something to the "Full Disclosure Points", above. I tried to be honest about not knowing the detailed ins and outs of the whole thing. Few do, as far as I can tell. I do believe I know enough to have reasonable grounds for belief that Gamergate is NOT "about" violence against women or misogyny. As I indicated above, to me it seems to be more "about" the bullying and smearing coming from the other side--the people that make the accusations that it's about violence against women and misogyny. The last part of this post gets more serious. I don't think what's happening is very funny.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Not an accusation about violence to women it is about violence to women - is tens of thousands of threats of rape and murder not just to women involved in scandal but to women who review games and question violence to women in games all over the world and trolls who try to bully women off the net, hack them, reveal personal information or try to discredit and shame them as sluts.

      The claim issue about integrity in gamer journalism is a bullshit smokescreen and utterly invalid. The resort to trolling and threats makes claims more invalid.

      Censoring women's opinions by threats against lives of women and their children is more like the tactics of the Taliban. Nerdrage keeping women out of geek culture is censorship of worst kind.

      Making light of this issue in form of a card game is support for the gamergate trolls. Defending GTA5 for featuring killing of prostitutes is pretty lame. Anyone should be able to criticize it "without having to play the whole game through". The game has been pulled from shelves of kmart in Australia because of complaints minors were playing it as young as 4. Trolls dont want this debate or restrictions of their game buying so they use bullying as a weapon.

      People playing down death threats and murder threats are not helping issue - women in whole industry get these threats - a woman reviewer in Australia sent copies of threats to parents of perps and they crawled back under rocks pretty fast.

      I like your blog just not this review or game

    2. Thanks, Konsumterra. I appreciate that.

  8. I understand enough of the card-text to get the jokes. I find them to be really funny. (Yeah, I'm a bit of a /b/tard and an Encyclopedia Dramatica fan.) I would tell you what "fap" means, but I doubt you really want to know.

    While I find the rape and death threats to be inexcusable and pathetic, I find the whole Gamergate Movement fiasco to be a joke. It is like a comedy that starts off with something really trivial, then escalates into insanity that goes over everyone's head. If anything, a parody of this fiasco needs to be in a 'vidya gaem' format, as this is about video games, and a lot more people are playing VGs these days.

    It may sound strange that I would advocate the making of a video game that makes light of off the drama, but I'm of the school that the best way to tare down something people find really serious or scary is to make comedy of it. Much like Charlie Chaplin attacked Hitler and Mussolini with The Great Dictator, and Mel Brooks attacked racism and inequality with Blazing Saddles. For example, if someone is depicting a violet rapist, don't portray him as someone strong and scary; portray him as someone who is weak and slimy. It is OK to laugh at him: it depowers his persona and makes rapists look more sexually pathetic then we give them credit for.

    Good find. Thanks for the heads-up!

  9. You suck. An odd way to start a comment thanking you for your efforts in regards to this whole mess. I am unfortunate in that I have a decent memory and an education that taught personal integrity. I envy those people who can look at this event ? thing? issue? Whatever gamergate should be called and take the stance that is super appealing to me, you threaten women with rape and violence to the extent at least two of them flee their homes from fear therefore you are an animal of the lowest sort and anyone not denouncing you is as bad. Easy peasy we are done here or maybe not. I started reading your blog around the time you covered Candyland and your concerns for what children would take as normal or desirable to grow up believing.

    And that is were your suckiness comes from. If I didn't remember that post I could be fat; dumb and happy and ignore you. Instead I have to consider instead the very real likelihood you find the comments made by some people in gamergate as repulsive as me but are also concerned about free speech and censorship. Uggh being a grown-up sucks and it is really hard to keep in mind suppression of thoughts different than your own is bad more so in these stark situations. I feel uneasy thanking you for fighting for the big picture ideals when the actions of some are so vile causing the issue in the first place. Re-reading this comes across as confused and conflicted which I am. I wanted to let you know at least one person is troubled enough by your willingness to blog on this to actually think about all the issues even if I will never support gamergate.

    Warren Henderson

    1. Thanks, I think. :) I appreciate your referencing of the Candyland issue and hope my argument there at least made some sense.

    2. Probably more sense than I did in my response I may not like having to look at a complicated intertwined mess of valid issues but I do appreciate (sort of) people who confront them in a fashion that keeps me from taking the easy way. I tried to figure out GG and failed horribly it is nice to know I am not the only one. I am not a Dad but I do have nieces so I totally got the unvoiced parts of the conversations in the Candyland post.

  10. FWIW, Urban Dictionary is my go-to place for, um, turning inside jokes right-side out.