This is Audio EXP for the 27th of June 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Are you still a geek?’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #50]
It’s been a rough week. In recently podcasts, I’ve found myself talking about global pandemics and Black Lives Matter. I know some gaming sites take a “No politics” stance, but I think that’s a political stance.
This week widespread #MeToo allegations have swept through the comic book and gaming communities. If that’s an uncomfortable topic for you, then I totally understand and hope you tune in next week.
Of course, I don’t have to talk about it. I wondered if I should. But, I think it’s essential to address the issue. I think it is even more important not to sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away.
Polygon, the gaming site, has a good wrap up that highlights various Twitch streamers who have been accused of behaving inappropriately, leading to a blackout boycott on Twitch to try and force Amazon to step up and improve how it handles these incidents.
Many of these allegations have been denied. That’s horrible. Someone is lying, and Twitch has to decide what to do about it. It’s not as if Twitch is just a platform. Twitch, through its affiliate program, pays some of these people. For some people, Twitch is their financial livelihood.
Believe the victim. That’s important. That’s the mind shift that we needed to get accepted by most people and most companies before we started to make real progress on #MeToo.
That’s not to say “Innocent until proven Guilty” is unimportant. It just means that when any allegations are made, that they should proceed in with the sincere belief that something awful has happened, that it might be hiding and that it needs to be rooted out.
Allegations against a writer of games like Fallout: New Vegas and Planescape: Torment have been made. Two of my favourite games.
The creative director of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has stepped down.
Max Temkin, one of the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity has left the company but still profits when they do as a shareholder after several employees shared stories of toxic work culture.
This was Cards Against Humanity’s second attempt to deal with Temkin. They concede they didn’t do enough the first time.
Wizards of the Coast have cut ties with two artists.
Cameron Stewart, a comic books artist who has worked on Batgirl and Motor Crush has been accused of grooming by several women. Warren Ellis, the famous Warren Ellis, has been accused by nearly 50 women who feel that he coerced them, at a young age, into a relationship.
I’m just skimming the list at this point. It goes on and on.
In the tabletop gaming world, Onyx Path Publishing are pulling Vampire books that have pictures of Shane DeFreest after the former White Wolf employee was named, by several women, as a sex offender. He was never an Onyx Path employee, not even a freelancer, but the company recognises why people don’t want his face in their games. They’ll be republishing those books with replacement art.
Onyx Path are changing their HR process, suspending staff, sending their Operations Manager to sensitivity training, as a result of separate complaints of gaslighting.
And so, I find myself asking, “Are you still a geek?”
The community doesn’t feel great right now. If there was a physical convention this weekend, I would be wondering whether I wanted to attend. If I was going with my Geek Native press badge on, I would certainly be reviewing my interview and demo schedule while I wondered what to do about any 1-on-1 private meetings. Are they still appropriate?
I think Onyx Path have done pretty well. I’m no expert, but their response feels earnest and helpful. I’m sure it’ll annoy many people, but that’s my take on it.
Equally, I’ve seen many annoyed people respond to Paizo and the Agents of Edgewatch adventure path.
Paizo must have been working on this set of books for months. In it, characters end up in fantasy Sherlock Holmes-style roles to investigate a sinister cult.
Now, Paizo’s Creative Director, Erik Mona, recognises that puts the characters into a police-themed role, and that might make people uncomfortable. That wasn’t their intent. He’s apologised, but in this lockdown ravaged economy, Paizo can’t afford to burn the books. They’ll be published anyway.
Of course, the police system is not the same in all countries. And there are good eggs in even the most corrupt system, it’s easy to see why friends and relatives of those good cops won’t like Paizo echoing an anti-police sentiment.
I’m going to try and answer the “Are you still a geek?” question and then get on to some good news.
I am still a geek. Geeks have always been outcasts and misfits but we’ve also been inclusive outcasts.
Is that an oxymoron? Well, the name comes from circus freaks who would bite the head off geese in their act. Yucky, but true.
So, I’d argue those geeks are outcast from mainstream life but part of the circus community. They’re also part of circus community justice and traditions.
We are not those geeks, but we might also develop our own traditions and ways of keeping the family together.
Our community has grown in size and influence. I think, too, we’re growing in maturity. It’s not just that we’re getting older. The new generation of geeks joining us are far more internet savvy than any age who came before, they grew up with technology, and have far more defined and refined ideas about ethics and responsibility.
I think, if we keep pushing, we’ll get through this, and we’ll be better for it. Women will be able to enjoy the hobby or work in the industry without fear of sleaze. The members of the community will be as diverse as the world around us.
Isn’t that worth fighting for? That’s why it’s worth believing victims and reacting to allegations sensibly and with rigour. Misunderstandings can be sorted out. False claims dealt with equally as severely. We’ll get there.
Now, despite the grim start to this podcast, there’s plenty of good news so let’s highlight that too.
Sofia Alexander is a storyboard artist from projects like Infinity Train and the Powerpuff Girls. Now Sofia has a whole anime starting at Crunchyroll.
It’s called Onyx Equinox, and it’ll stream only in English.
It’s the story of a young Aztec boy who is marked by the gods to save humanity from the rising demon tide.
The trailer is full of action and vibrant colour. I don’t usually go for dubbed anime, just because it feels wrong, but I’ll give this show a chance.
Indie publisher the Game Machinery has published an adult RPG called Defiant.
Defiant makes use of safety systems like the X-card, veils and lines to ensure that players are happy and comfortable even if it gets dark or sexy.
Defiant is likely to do both. In the game, you play as a supernatural lord or lady. A demon. A fallen angel. A dragon. Rather than destroy the world, you like the pleasures it offers so much, you’re protecting your part of it from the Apocalypse and its agents.
Another adult game worth a mention this week is Kult: Divinity Lost. This horror game has a Kickstarter for the two supplements coming to a close in the next few days. It’s been successful and so if you want to get those books at Kickstarter costs, act now.
Geek Native has a whole lot of art from the project to show off. It’s not for kids. Nothing about Kult is for kids.
Games like Kult and Defiant are a reminder that roleplaying games don’t need to be family-friendly. They can be as adult as you want, with appropriate expertise and maturity from the gaming group and publisher.
If you agree and fancy checking out Kult now, then there’s a competition the publisher is hosting to give away some of the core rules. You’ll find the link in the show transcript.
Cyberpunk is another game coming out soon with adult themes. Okay, it’s been delayed, but it’s coming.
The actual play podcast Feed the Beast will use full Cyberpunk Red tabletop rules if you want an early chance to experience the game before it’s published.
Dark Horse has announced a comic book series called Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team written by Cullen Bunn.
Not to be outdone, Netflix has announced Cyberpunk: Edgerunners an anime from Studio Trigger that’ll be out in 2022. That’s a long wait, but Studio Trigger know their stuff and the story in the anime won’t be related to the story in the computer game.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Even Geek Native is in on the act. Right now, on the blog, you have the chance to win one of two Cyberpunk battle mat books for your gaming table. You don’t need to like and subscribe anything to enter. You don’t need to spam friends. You just need to answer a poll. Yes, there are some geographic limitations; Canada, Ireland, UK and United States shipping are the only ones we can support, but if you’re planning some Cyberpunk Red skirmishes then these mats will surely help.
There’s a Kingkiller Chronicles RPG coming. Patrick Rothfuss, the author of The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, is now featuring in One Shot podcasts of actual play set in the world he created and with the GM, James D’Amato is working on a set of rules to power it.
The promise to do the Kingkiller podcasts were made back during Rothfuss’s Worldbuilder charity streams.
If you’re a world builder yourself, then the recent upgrades to Azgaar’s Fantasy World Map Generator might please you. You can now track military units across the world so you can see which empire threatens who.
You can also battle those regiments and track losses. The free site supports fantasy, modern and ancient units.
Fans of world-building will also like Graham Gibson’s retrospective and prospective look at Destiny lore.
This computer game is now independent. Without its corporate overlords but still, with the need to pay for its developers, the game is shifting back to its story focused roots (or initial desire, at least) to encourage gamers to buy season passes.
That means some of the hidden lore is surfacing. It means some of the teased at mysteries are beginning to be explained.
If you prefer isometric action to first-person shooters then maybe you’re already playing Desperados. This game of action and tactics was released on GOG and Steam this week to very high reviews.
As it happens, there’s a free to download tabletop RPG available for it too.
Published by Pegasus Studio, the Desperados TTRPG uses a 3d6 system and makes good use of maps and tokens to try and recreate the computer game’s tactical use of line of sight as part of shootout strategies.
I’m reminded of the backlash Wendy’s had when they published a free RPG. Desperados has had no such backlash. The tabletop freebie has been well received.
I guess gamers react differently to a games publisher using tabletop games as part of their marketing efforts than they do to a fast-food company—another cultural nuance for us to ponder over, perhaps.
Can I stretch a connection? Can I go from an observation about fast food to eating and drinking in an RPG?
I hope so because I want to mention the fantasy tavern generator Geek Native published this week.
It does not just come up with a typical fantasy tavern name, though it’s random engine can produce thousands of those. It also tries to describe the tavern a bit and introduce a character seed or two.
The idea here is that if your players want to compare and contrast taverns, or research one before trusting their luck with it, you can quickly generate some candidates for them.
Lastly, as the lockdown begins to ease in many countries, and if you’re now considering a long gaming weekend with friends to catch up on missed sessions, then check out the latest Genre Police. Going the Distance helps you plan such a weekend as a GM.
So, to wrap up for this week, I hope you’re still a geek and feel that you can step forward if you need to. Even more, I hope you never have to.
Keep safe, keep well, and we’ll speak next time.
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