Drive Thru RPG: Tone Policing the Critics

You know when you meet those people who just can’t help but double down on their mistakes? Drive Thru RPG has become one of those people for me.

After the Tournament of Rapists fiasco and subsequent fallout, I really hoped that they would pull it together. I didn’t know what form that would take, but I hoped that maybe Steve Wieck would assign someone else the task of managing offensive content per their policy, for example. Or that maybe someone would apologize for the way that he treated people on Twitter for complaining about the presence of A Tournament of Rapists on their site. I really wanted to hear from a PR person for Drive Thru on this issue, because that at least would net we the consumers of their goods an apology on this issue.

Of course, as always, I am disappointed with the reality of how adults seem to behave when they are caught acting like assholes.

Meredith Gerber, the public relations representative for Drive Thru, published a blog yesterday that made me hopeful when I saw her title, but then made me cringe when I read the paragraphs that followed her introduction, which basically amounted to her tone policing the critics.

In the most condescending language, she explains that:

When having discussions about these types of situations, it’s always important to remember that being professional and kind in feedback will create better dialogue. It’s very difficult to continue a conversation and figure out the message when hateful words are said out of anger and spite. If you do not agree with someone, take a moment to step back and breathe before stating your opinion. There is also nothing wrong with walking away from a conversation if it’s going around in circles with no conclusion in sight.

To which I respond: Fuck that.

Did Steve Wieck do that when he talked down to customers on Twitter? No. Maybe person up and apologize for the fact that your CEO has acted from the jump like he does not give the first fuck about the feelings of the people coming to him about this issue. (If you are reading this and need assistance in how to apologize, you can find a handy tutorial here.) And even if you do not want to do that, at least have the grace to not criticize your customers for coming back to you with the same bile that he displayed.

It is also worth noting that it is not always possible for people to be utterly calm and collected when it comes to certain material. Especially when that material deals with things like sexual assault. This material is triggering and upsetting and damaging to sexual assault survivors and asking them to please tone it down so that you don’t have to hear their rage is completely inappropriate.

Even beyond all of that, the fact of the matter is that we, as your customers, are the wounded parties here. We are hurt by your actions and your approach to this situation. As such, we are not obligated to tone down our outrage.

Over and over again this material has been referred to as “offensive,” and I think that has allowed Drive Thru to have a certain amount of distance from the material they are talking about. I don’t think that Drive Thru and it’s staff are really looking at this from the perspective of sexual assault survivors stumbling through their web site. Just imagine for a moment how upsetting it must be to find that title in among the games that you are perusing for personal use. Imagine the gut punch of the name, and the dawning realization that someone would take something deeply traumatic from your life and decide to play with it like it was a form of entertainment. The layered horror of the fact that people are titillated by your suffering. The moment when your assault comes to your mind, unbidden. Imagine how that must feel. The damage that must do. And then tell me about how this content is just “offensive” and not, in fact, a completely unacceptable publication that should have been apologized for immediately and unreservedly.

The fact that Gerber ends her blog entry by assuring us that Steve Wieck will have final say over what is marked as “offensive” is not even a little bit comforting when you consider the fact that he has already defended this content in his original blog and his original responses to the issue which paint banning this content as a slippery slope. Regardless of what he may say now, the fact is that, based on his history with this content, I and many others do not trust him to be the final arbiter of what is considered terrible enough to ban from Drive Thru’s web site.

Needless to say, the boycott continues. And at this point I doubt it will ever abate.

12 thoughts on “Drive Thru RPG: Tone Policing the Critics

  1. These folks are a PR disaster! I don’t understand why they can’t just apologize straight out instead of always getting a nasty dig in at people who are understandably upset about a _rape game_. I’m recommending that folks not buy through them unless a product isn’t available elsewhere–I don’t want small presses hurt when this is their only viable option for selling or one that is critical to their business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They really are. It’s not like this is a small, nothing thing. It’s a RAPE GAME. Like, where exactly do they get off pointing fingers at their critics like we are somehow in the wrong?

      The fact is, they fucked up because they didn’t have the foresight to block content or have some kind of vetting system. An unreserved apology right at the start would have avoided all of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Exactly! I also wanted to say that you and Sarah Darkmagic have really helped preserve my well-being with regard to this issue. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are both pointing out the problem in a very public way. Many, many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But accusing language of being condescending IS a tone argument. Part of the problem in this whole episode was that nobody seemed concerned with tone (and Twitter is horrific for getting tone across). You mention how poorly Steve watched his tone. How well did that facilitate communication? ALL people pretty much respond the same way when they feel threatened, which makes it all the more important to watch how we say things, especially when it’s difficult.

    Vetting every product that comes through is also technologically and economically unfeasible. Part of the reason DriveThru is far more successful than ANY competitors is because they take a hands off approach and only remove products after receiving sufficient customer feedback. And even Paizo fails to vet effectively as they didn’t even know they had Hentacle on their store (since removed) until this situation blew up and they were called on it.

    So the book is gone and can no longer cause harm, but a continued boycott harms the women, LGBT folks, and rape survivors for whom DriveThru is the only feasible way they have of expressing themselves through game design. Should they pay the price for bad management, or worse because someone else wrote a book about rape? Perhaps seeking their work out and promoting it would be a better tactic than endorsing a boycott.

    Nobody is defending Tournament of Rapists. It’s indefensible. What people are defending are their principles regarding speech and decency. And somehow DriveThru has to endorse both simultaneously in order to avoid harassment, doxxing, and reputation damaging rhetoric. It’s an impossible situation, and simply being able to stay in business while under threats to one’s health and livelyhood is as legitimate a concern here as remaining financially solvent.

    And yes, BOTH sides have engaged in the same kinds of nasty behavior. In fact, that condescending passage you quote (let alone the entire post) is most likely directed at the people angry that the content policy even exists, and NOT the people like yourself who found Tournament of Rapists unacceptable. And maybe their responses warranted it.

    I’m sure there’ll be another fight if Steve doesn’t remove an unacceptable title in the future after this policy is in full effect, and that’s OK, but for now I really feel that any further fighting over this particular issue is causing more harm than good at this point.


    • So, a couple of things, first of all, if further fighting is causing more harm than good, why did you even bother to comment? This post is from over a month ago.

      Second of all, it’s not even remotely difficult to create a filter when things are being uploaded that flags things for review that contain words such as “rape” in their titles. So don’t act like it’s some kind of HUGE inconvenience to make that a thing.

      And third, please don’t act like DTRPG is some kind of refuge for people are harmed by pervasive rape culture. I AM one of the people you are describing, so my boycotting them has a lot to do with the fact that I do not feel safe giving them my money when they do not take my concerns seriously.

      As far as tone is concerned, I’m not even going to address that shit. The way that Steve reacted was an unacceptable stance for someone running a company. If he can’t keep his cool under pressure, he shouldn’t be responding to people on Twitter.

      And regarding “speech and decency,” do not come in here and try to “ethics in gaming journalism” this conversation. It’s not about that. It’s about a product that glorifies rape being sold by a gaming company that a lot of us trusted and now can no longer trust. If you can’t see that, then you have a serious problem.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Also, if you are really interested in the proper care of rape victims, maybe donate to RAINN or something. Because accessing trauma informed care that’s affordable is WAY more important to mental health than publishing a game to make money.


  4. It’s easy enough to boycott the company except for products not available elsewhere by “women, LGBT folks, and rape survivors for whom DriveThru is the only feasible way they have of expressing themselves through game design”–that’s what I’ve been doing. I completely agree with Dirae’s comments.


    • Right? Like, I can buy stuff from people I support through them if I need to.

      Also, the whole “I’m worried about rape victims and LGBT people” thing sounds super insincere when you consider what “Anon” is defending.


      • Yeah, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that person! Thank you so much for being the voice of reason here. The suggestion that we shouldn’t express our displeasure about a company that carries a rape game and then is horrible and rude about our being angry about the rape game is just ridiculous. And pretending that _we’re_ causing problems for rape victims (I am one, too) who are game designers is heinous. I know more than one game designer who has been sexually assaulted and is boycotting the company (with exceptions for designers they want to support whose products are not available elsewhere).


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