Saturday, 13 December 2014

EvilHat, Censorship and Penguins

How do the 3 tie in together? Read on and see. Warning, may be long. 

Before I get into the main gist of this post, I'll start off with some personal anecdotes about Singapore, the country I'm residing in. Singapore currently ranks 150th in terms of Freedom of Press and that's out of 180 countries ONLY (link). We are apparently behind such democratic stewards such as Malaysia and Myanmar or even the FRIGGING Russian Federation. That's not hard to do when the only news agencies in the country are government affiliated. So needless to say, we do have quite some experience with Censorship. 

Now, let's talk about penguins. Or more specifically the book "And Tango makes three", which is a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins who get together and adopt a child. Seems innocuous enough doesn't it? It used to be available in our libraries UNTIL some people decided it was too problematic/disturbing for children and that reading it would destroy social values. They complained until it was pulled from the libraries and the libraries said they would destroy the copies of the books they had. Was that censorship? Let's think about that question for a while. 

Then there's Archie, or rather Life With Archie, the comic series that deals with an adult Archie and his hardships. While aimed at a more mature, adult audience, it's still Archie so don't expect anything in it that would be too racy or edgy. However, the Trade Paperbacks for this still got banned in Singapore as well after people complained. Why? Because it featured a GAY MARRIAGE. Was that censorship? 

In both cases, the products had already been on the shelves of the stores/libraries before people started complaining and in response to the complaints, the products were removed from the shelf. Some might argue that they had a right to do so, after all, there's nothing to say that they need to stock those particular items and it's up to the discretion of whoever is on the decision making committee. Others might argue that people need safe spaces and those products are too disturbing for certain people or teach the wrong social value and so on.  Some might argue that this was censorship and wrong or that censorship is justified on this. Again, I'll leave that for later. 

With those two examples above, let me delve into what's the main gist of my current post, which involves two companies, a whole lot of complainees and one product. Which two companies?

Yep, those two. DrivethruRPG which is pretty much the STEAM of online RPG pdf ecommerce sites and Evilhat, an indie RPG developer who's seen quite some popularity lately.  On a warm and sunny afternoon, a game was released on DriveThru RPG; a satirical card game on a site which contains such stellar works such as Crack Wh-r-e and Fuck For Satan products. This game was the satirical Gamergate card game. 

Needless to say, within moments, shit had hit the fan. Here, you have EvilHat; a slightly more established Indie developer implying they're going to pull their products from the site if Drivethru RPG continues to host the cardgame. Now regardless of one may feel about Gamergate as a whole, this move comes off as somewhat dickish and the man comes off as a bully. 

Maybe it's just one isolated tweet though? Maybe he doesn't really mean that Drivethru had to choose between him(EvilHat) or one random indie game? I mean I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt but when he says stuff like "DTRPG is going to have some choices to make now", he makes his intent very clear.  And it succeeds because as he goes on to say "In what i consider record proaction, it's gone already." 

So why is it gone? Let's look at the fact here. EvilHat pretty much threatened to pull out of DriveThru RPG if the game wasn't gone, and suddenly in record time (according to Chris himself), the game is gone. Coincidence? I'm sure a lawyer could argue that there might be a link between the two. 

Maybe it's just one of their employees then?

Apparently not. I'm not sure in what bizarre culture telling potential customers that you doubt they were 'ever a fit for Evil Hat in the first place' is a good thing. I mean, I'm in business myself; granted I'm not in an indie business so maybe culture is different there, but to be that rude to anyone in a public forum with regards to your company? That'd be career suicide by stupidity here. 

Okay personally, when I see a bigger company (in indie terms) tell a major distributor in the field that they better not carry another product (a smaller competitors) or else...That just rubs me the wrong way. Why? Who knows? Maybe I was brought up with morals. 

Anyway, DTRPG eventually published a letter about why they pulled the product from their shelves. You can read the archived link here. I'm archiving it because all the other people deleted their tweets which were shown above, which begs the question why delete if you feel you were right. For all their talk, they had no issues with putting the product onto the shelf in the first place, nor do they have issues with Crack Wh-r- the game or Fuck for Satan. As they mention, people complained about it and they looked at it. But as someone who has grown up with censorship, it always starts with somebody complaining. 

And that's what it is in the end. Censorship. The same way Target pulling GTA V from the shelves is censorship. Both products were already in the storefront and were pulled simply because certain people didn't like them. Sounds familiar to the cases above doesn't it? I've had people argue with me that it isn't censorship because businesses have a right to sell what they want but I would just like to point them to this little paragraph on the ACLU page (link) on censorship. 

Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups.

Yes. Censorship can be done by individuals or groups of individuals. Some have also accused me of using my countrys definition of censorship to try and apply it to these situations and I say to them "Censorship. It never changes" (by the way, you need to imagine me saying this in the same tone that the Fallout 3 narrator uses). Censorship is universal the world over. It doesn't change from country to country or culture to culture, only what is being censored does. 

And while I agree that businesses have  a right to sell what they want, but again, these products were already put on sale before groups of people complained and pulled those products off the shelves. Is that censorship or democracy? If that is democracy, then the two incidents I mentioned above with the penguins and Archie is democracy as well and that's fine if you honestly feel that way. However, if you feel that the first two incidents were censorship and this later incident was democracy, then I would suggest that might be a tad hypocritical as a point of view. 

In closing, I'd just like to point out that in Singapore; ranked 150th in terms of media freedom and where homosexual sex acts between MEN only are still illegal, we have GTA V on the shelves and we're not making a big fuss about that. Just think about that for a moment. Also, I'd like to link to the Gamergate game creators website because I think his POV on this whole matter is of interest as well. 

Below are the archived links of the tweets I used above. Feel free to look through them. As usual, I welcome discussion on this topic even if you disagree with me.