A Tournament of Non-Apologies

Drive Thru RPG responded to what has been going on over the Tournament of Rapists issue. I just read Steve Wieck’s response on his blog and I have a few things to say in response.

First of all, the fact that he is the person who wrote the response seemed like a bad move to me. Considering that, in the entire 1,937 words of his post, he never once apologizes for minimizing the concerns of people who brought them up to him on Twitter. He was the wrong person to write this blog. Mostly because no one gives a fuck about the opinions of a person who looks at people concerned about rape-glorifying content and then proceeds to make a slippery slope argument. Shit is a logical fallacy. It’s dismissive and ugly and sounds like a rape apologist trumpet whenever it is used in conversations about sexual assault.

Regarding the blog entry itself, he spends the beginning of it talking about trust and how the creators of the content on his web site have been trusted for fourteen years to create good content that is not offensive.

Right off the bat, I have a problem with the word “offensive.” I would not call A Tournament of Rapists “offensive.” I would call it “completely unacceptable.” Calling something offensive makes it seem as though it might offend some but wouldn’t offend others. It makes it seem as if the content in question is somehow subjective.

It isn’t.

In the reactions to my blog yesterday, more than a few people expressed to me that they thought my title was somehow being facetious. It took them reading the entry to realize that the title of the game was not some sort of exaggeration on my part.

So let’s be clear: There is nothing “offensive” about A Tournament of Rapists. The content in and of itself is simply unacceptable for publication. Period.

He goes on to explain that:

If we were to ban a RPG product, the de facto result is very much like censorship. That fact causes me grave concern, for if we were to create a content guideline that all publishers on our store must follow, and then ban titles that do not meet those guidelines, then we would be playing dictator with the RPG art form, and that is a role I am acutely uncomfortable playing.

I get that you don’t want to censor people. I do. But my only reaction to this is that he needs to get comfortable with playing that role. When you are a gatekeeper like he is, there are going to be things that come across your desk that are inappropriate for publication. And honestly, it’s not like we live in the dark ages. People can self-publish. People can Kickstart projects. There are other options out there for people who have an idea than going through his portal for distribution. He’s A gatekeeper, but he’s not THE gatekeeper.

Then he moves on to justifying the fact that the title “Tournament of Rapists” even got published.

As I expected, no one pre-screened the book before it was available for purchase. That in and of itself is an issue for me. I have been assured by people who work with internet software and coding that it wouldn’t be difficult to code a filter that auto-filtered things like “rape” from titles or descriptions. If an author wanted to have something published with that kind of content and was rejected, there could easily be an appeals process put into place for them to bring their work to the attention of Drive Thru who could look over their work and make a final decision.

Then he goes on to say that the rapists are the villians of the piece and that the work should be dismissed on those grounds.

In a word, no.

From what I have been given to understand, first of all, players can elect to take on the role of the rapists within the game, so that statement is not entirely true.

And secondly, who gives a shit if the rapists are the bad guys? Why does rape have to be part of the content at all? The answer is because people find rape salaciously interesting and they think it’s fun to play with. It’s not. And this type of rape culture attitude in gaming narrows the hobby to include only people who don’t think things like this are totally inappropriate content in games. For more information on this, I refer you to the work of Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, who addresses the issue of rape and violence against women as background decoration in games quite thoroughly.

Wieck then goes on to say that it was flagged as adult content by way of an excuse, which it isn’t, given the things which I have just outlined and will go on to point out. So we’ll just go ahead and ignore that comment out of hand, shall we?

Wieck’s next excuse is that he wasn’t able to immediately get in contact with the publisher so he let the title stand while he did that. Mistake. If he wasn’t sure the title was appropriate, he should have just pulled it and waited to check with the publisher afterward.

In this particular part of the nonpology, Wieck points out that he thinks that “dialogue” is better than just condemning people out of hand. Which I can’t help but see as a dig at those who expressed their anger to him on Twitter over the weekend and who he dismissed out of hand with slippery slope arguments that read like flat-out rape apologism.

To that I say this: Steve Wieck needs to hire a social media person. Because he is terrible at it. And taking pot shots at people who are calling you out for doing a shitty thing is no way to try to get people on your side. Just for the record.

And now we get to the meat of the thing. First of all, he finally apologizes, and it’s as disappointing an apology as you would expect:

It’s time for us to have a policy on rejecting offensive content. I understand that many feel this is too long in coming, that our prior non-policy of “censorship is unacceptable” was tantamount to shirking our responsibility to help keep the RPG hobby inclusive. I am solely responsible for the prior policy, not the other staff at OneBookShelf. I accept that criticism and apologize for not being a better steward.

  1. Again, this content is not “offensive” it is “unacceptable.”
  2. You have to get over your censorship heebie jeebies. You are a gateway and you have to take responsibility for the things that come through you into the world.
  3. Your apology left out the part where you basically told concerned customers that their concerns were invalid while you waited on the publisher to give you some insight on whether “Tournament of Rapists” was an acceptable title for publication.

All that said, Wieck decides that he should model his “offensive content” policy on what Amazon uses. An… interesting choice, considering their weird decisions on banning books and such.

So, without further ado, the Drive Thru RPG offensive content policy is:

Offensive Content: We’ll know it when we see it.

He goes on to say that they will be including a reporting feature and that we should be patient with it, et cetera. Which I have no problem with. But he clarifies the content policy by saying that he will be the final author of what is deemed offensive. Which I have a problem with. Because, as you can remember from yesterday’s blog, his final word on the Tournament of Rapists issue was the following:

So, as the “final arbiter,” Wieck would have neither moved to remove the work or change the title. What about that is supposed to make us as consumers feel better? Because nothing about this is making me feel better.

With all that said, I will continue to boycott Drive Thru RPG. This non-apology was about as unsatisfying as I assumed it would be before it was even written. I am so disappointed in Drive Thru as an entity and in Steve Wieck as a person who does so much for the gaming industry.

But then, as a queer female gamer, I should probably be used to this type of disappointment.

8 thoughts on “A Tournament of Non-Apologies

  1. In my blog post I said:
    “I made the mistake of not suspending the title from sale immediately”
    and I said:
    “I accept that criticism and apologize”
    When I say I made a mistake and I apologize, then I think that is an apology not a non-apology. If I don’t earn your forgiveness I understand, and obviously that is yours to give or not as you deem I deserve it or not, but please know that I do apologize.

    Per your your comment: “Wieck would have neither moved to remove the work or change the title”
    I can understand the confusion on that point given the earlier tweets you quote from us at DriveThruRPG. That tweet was made when I was still wrestling internally with the issue of censorship vs. offensive content. My intention in my blog post when I said both:
    “I personally found the book offensive”
    and then later said:
    “if the publisher decides to make changes to [ToR] and wishes to sell it on DriveThru again, it will then be subject to this new offensive content policy. ”
    was to be clear by implication that the product would not be accepted on DriveThruRPG in anything akin to its original form.


    • I read your post. I get what you’re saying. I saw your apology for your failures as a good gatekeeper. That’s no longer the issue.

      As I made clear in this blog and in my comments regarding what you have said elsewhere, the issue is now more about how you responded to the concerns of people on Twitter before issuing this statement.

      And while you have made it clear that they will have to pass through the new offensive content policy, I do not trust that you as a person will be a worthy arbiter of whether content is offensive enough to be considered unsellable. And I also do not trust that you care about the main concern with this title, which was not so much that it was “offensive,” but rather that it was reprehensible on every level. “Offense” is subjective. This title was objectively unacceptable and should have been rejected flat-out.

      So no, I do not forgive you for the way that you have acted. I think that someone else should be in charge of the mediation of unacceptable content from here on out for your company. That, coupled with an apology for your comments on Twitter, would make me feel better going forward and would get me to give you my business and encourage others to do so.


      • My earlier comments on Twitter were only intended to show the difficulty in creating bright line rules for regulating all types of offensive content. Nothing more and nothing less.
        Those comments were misinterpretted as being intended to derail or minimize the issue of the unacceptability of Tournament of Rapists.

        I infer, perhaps incorrectly, that you don’t place much or any trust in me or my intentions. It’s probably not going to be fruitful then for us to continue talking since anything I say you will not trust or will assume the worst possible intentions lie behind my words.

        To be explicitly clear, I say this without sarcasm: I am sorry and I wish you well.


      • I’m not assuming the worst intentions lie behind your words. I’m saying that your actions in public do not make you seem like a trustworthy person, going forward.

        And the fact that you are resistant to the fact that what you said to those people on Twitter was hurtful and problematic does not make me trust you more. And, frankly, makes me value your apology less.

        Whether or not you intended the things you did and said to be read as they have been read by your critics, the fact is that they are being read that way. Your intent is dwarfed by the impact that your words have had. And that is what you are failing to see.

        I will be explicitly clear as well: Your apologies at this point are meaningless because you are not apologizing for what you did wrong, merely for what you have decided that you did wrong. They are different things. My boycott and those of other gamers with which I am associated will continue as a result of your conduct. Which is unfortunate for all concerned.


  2. This fellow did everything I would expect someone who fucked up to do, and seems to have done it with humility – which is rare enough, from gatekeepers. He said things that were bad. They were taken wrongly. He understood that, and apologised.

    I am unsure why a work becomes unacceptable when you says it is, or why you think an apology is more valuable when it is for the things you want, instead of what the person actually believes they have done wrong. To me, an apology that only seeks to please is insincere.

    Can’t people just be wrong sometimes? Not terrible people, not morally hollow. Can’t they just be regular, everyday WRONG, and go from there?


    • 1. He did not apologize for how things were taken. He apologized for being a bad gatekeeper. Which was not what most of us were angry about by the time he apologized.

      2. I’m confused. Are you implying that there is something acceptable about this piece of work? Because I have yet to run across a person who disagrees with me that it is wholly unacceptable.

      3. You are right that an apology that seeks only to please is insincere. But an apology that does not make amends for what someone has actually done is meaningless.

      4. Of course people can be wrong. And other people can hold them to task for their wrongness. Which is what I, along with so many other people, are doing in this case.


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