[CAR-PGa] Protection vs. Privacy at Conventions

This is a copy of the article that was included in our newsletter, but I wanted to share it here for greater visibility.


Mike


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Hi All,


You might have recently heard about a controversy boiling over a controversial figure in the role-playing game industry who has gotten quite a bit of publicity from non-gaming press. Here's what happened, but please be sure to read to the end as I believe this situation brings up some important questions the CAR-PGA should consider when collecting and sharing best practices around conventions and privacy.


Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. His ex-partner, Mandy Morbid, recently accused Smith of abuse, including testimonies from two other partners, Hannah and Jennifer. This post was followed testimony by another ex-partner, Vivika Grey.


Smith posted a rebuttal and referenced another female friend, Michelle, as a defense. He used the hashtag "#AbuseIsNotAGame" on Twitter. The RPG community co-opted the hashtag by repeatedly tweeting its support for the victims, in an attempt to drown out Smith.


The rift in the RPG community over Smith goes back years, and Mandy's post seems to have been a tipping point. In reaction, the following organizations said:

  • EN World (Russ Morrissey): "I will not cover Zak's work on this site, in my podcast, or elsewhere, and will not provide him with any kind of platform."
  • DriveThruRPG (Steve Wieck): "I have decided that we will not accept future titles for sale on DriveThruRPG (or our other marketplaces) if Zak is a contributor on the title."
  • Veteran Author Ken Hite: "I will, however, not work with Zak on any future projects, knowingly share a credits page with him on any future projects, or increase his social media reach."
  • The Gauntlet Blog and Podcast: "The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications."
  • ConTessa: "Despite rumors and speculation to the contrary, Smith has never been a part of ConTessa as an organization nor has he exerted influence over the organization and its activities at any point in ConTessa's history."
  • Wizards of the Coast: "Zak Smith, along with many others, was engaged by Wizards to provide feedback on D&D Next, the playtest which evolved into D&D fifth edition. We have not contracted with him since, and regret our choice to do so in 2014. Because of that, we are removing Zak's credit from future physical printings and digital versions of the Player's Handbook. We applaud how the D&D community supports one another and fully support the planned Dungeon Masters Guild bundle raising funds to donate to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). The bundle is live now and we will be amplifying it going forward!"
  • Gen Con: "We have received several requests lately for comment on a specific individual in the tabletop community. Our Policy Team decisions are confidential, but the matter has been investigated. Gen Con does not condone harassment or abuse in any form. Gen Con is a world-class event, and we are dedicated to providing a safe, welcoming environment for all attendees. Our full Code of Conduct & Anti-Harassment Policy can be found on our website."

Of note is the reaction to Gen Con and Mike Mearls' tweets; there is a chorus of voices that feels neither organization is going far enough. Gen Con's policy specifically states:


"Occasionally Gen Con is made aware of behavior by participants (or potential participants) that has occurred outside of Gen Con—either online or offline—and is a gross violation of our Code of Conduct. These actions need not occur in Gen Con-affiliated spaces to be considered for sanctions by Gen Con. These include, but are not limited to: Individuals who have not attended Gen Con but have a history of abusive behavior and/or known incidents that took place outside Gen Con that may cause risks to a participant's safety, or which may contribute to a hostile or non-inclusive environment at the convention; Gen Con participants who have been reported for outside incidents, including, but not limited to, conduct at other conventions, threatening or abusive behavior online, or assault"


And that's the crux of the controversy over Smith at this point. Should any large organization publish a specific ban on an individual (as DriveThruRPG has done?) so that future attendees can feel safe? According to Gen Con's Privacy Policy, they can:


"Gen Con LLC may disclose your personal information if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to: (a) conform to the edicts of the law or comply with legal process served on Gen Con LLC or the site; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of Gen Con LLC and its web sites, or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of users of Gen Con LLC, its web sites, or the public."


This was a recent test of Gen Con's comprehensive Attendee and Privacy Policies. It didn't take long for Gen Con to go a step further, when Peter Adkison himself, co-owner of Gen Con and Chairperson of the Board, made a statement:


"At Gen Con we have a policy of not disclosing the names of individuals who have been sanctioned or banned from our events. However, our statements regarding a recent ban have caused confusion and more importantly, made people feel that Gen Con doesn't care about attendee safety. To clarify, I want to state that Zak S has been banned from Gen Con and that we flat-out don't tolerate harassers or abusers in our community or at our convention."


You'll notice that Adkison mentions a "policy of not disclosing names." My question to the CAR-PGA: should con policies be updated? Or is there too much legal risk involved by publishing who is banned from conventions? This is a relevant discussion to our organization, particularly if we hope to share best practices in the industry to provide inclusive gaming environments for all – and situations like this test our tolerance for privacy, safety, and inclusion.


I look forward to your comments!


Sincerely,


Mike Tresca

Committee Chair

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[CAR-PGa] CAR-PGa NEWSLETTER, Vol. 28, No. 3, March 2019

Our latest newsletter is live! This one includes a discussion of con policies, a SPIEL '18 in Essen update, contributions from four of our contributors, and a comprehensive convention list for the next three months: http://www.car-pga.org/2019/03/02/car-pga-newsletter-vol-28-no-3-march-2019/

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[CAR-PGa] I wrote my senior thesis on D&D and thought some of you would enjoy it

My senior thesis is on the formation of online communities around D&D and the use of online tools to play the game. I hope that some of you would like to read it!

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