Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mental Illness In The RPG Community

Any discussion of this topic period will immediately bring on accusations of "gaslighting!!!!!" if pointed at specific people, so let's stick with statements we can all agree with

Statement we can all agree with #1

Sometimes people in the online RPG community are mentally ill

Statement we can all agree with #2

Mental illness can cause people to experience emotional pain over things that aren't actually harmful to anyone who doesn't have their specific trigger or chain of associations. To something not ordinarily harmful.

Statement we can (probably) all agree with #3

It's not practical or desirable to talk to the entire internet as if it's mentally ill all the time and almost nobody does. You can tag specific common triggers, but ritually using indirectness, vagueness and soft probing creates a lot of other practical problems to getting anything done and creates new problems when dealing with any kind of urgent situation. It also can strike people as condescending.

Statement we can all agree with #4

If you write online, once in a while someone mentally ill will experience emotional pain because of what you write online.

Statement we can all agree with #5

Sometimes this won't be your fault, this will be the fault of the illness.

Statement we can all agree with #6

This emotional pain may cause them to fabricate or distort facts while expressing their pain. This can cross the line into libel or things like it that can cause real damage to the mentally ill person's victims.
Easy examples: "The authors of Dungeon World are trying to undermine gaming" "James Raggi hates all women".

Statement we can all agree with #7

People will (and should) rush in to reassure the mentally ill person who is caused emotional pain by the innocent thing you said. They are ill, after all, and need care.

Statement we can all agree with #8

This reassurance is hard to do without also reifying the distorted or fabricated facts they associate with their trigger and their pain.

Statement we can all agree with #9

If this is done in public but not done carefully, reassuring the mentally ill person risks victimizing another innocent person by reifying (plussing, agreeing with, condoning, sharing) the untrue things the mentally ill person said in the midst of their pain.

Statement we can all agree with #10

When a mentally ill person appears in the RPG community what should happen is their friends should take their pain seriously but not immediately accept all their fact claims. They should talk to their friend and try to connect them with help and try to do this in private as much as possible.

Statement we can all agree with #11

The online RPG community sucks at this.

Statement we can all agree with #12

The people who are attacked by the mentally ill have more of a personal motivation to do something about the situation than the people who are not.


  1. I have mental illness. I have moderate to severe social anxiety. I try not to blame others for actually being able to make small talk. But it is hard. I understand that most when i start to breathe heavy at the thought of asking the retail clerk for a return, or even making medical appointments in person. But my problems are personal, and I explain them to illustrate my point. If I made my problems everyone's business, it would not be fair to those people who don't have to deal with this "clinical shyness". If I went from "it causes me fear to talk to strangers", to "causes me fear to talk to strangers because secretly I know they are evil", this would be irrational. Yet irrational leaps in logic happen in the mentally ill, and we as a community should be better at differentiating irrational talk that is unlikely to be true from sane talk that is more likely to be true.

  2. I have no idea what specific event(s) you're referring to, because frankly the back-and-forth between you, your players and the Drama club is of no interest to me - I come here to quality game content!

    I think the real issue is the tone of hyperbole and witch-trial politics implicit in this stuff. It's never "I found the portrayal of bla bla bla offensive in bla bla bla and I think maybe you could rethink X so you don't appear to have Y prejudice or that you're contributing to Z.", it's always "This game developer is a racist who hates women."

    I find James Raggi's aesthetic and violence against women it portrays somewhat repulsive - it makes me uncomfortable, which is to some degree the intention. I don't immediately jump to labelling him a misogynistic crypto-nazi though.

    The fact is, even if I feel there is something *wrong* or *immoral* without someone's product, screaming at them over the Internet isn't going to alter their opinion at all. Engaging with them in a positive way might - or failing that, don't buy it.

    1. Not terribly relevant to the OP but nice to meet you, Cory

  3. I discussed a big player blowout a few months back i had and mental health was core of problem and many friendships involved still strained. Other ppl from gossip have chimed in to abuse ppl involved and nod knowingly at participants as if they know what happened. PPL who reached out for help were responded with bile by the people who presented themselves as community leaders. Nobody won everyone got burned. When you play with ppl for years they can build up resentment and flip over something seemingly simple. I think people with mental health issues and needs help scare many people not unlike someone with facial deformities or obvious physical deformities might. It can be hard to stay in the middle and be friends with everyone and moderates sometimes end up hated by extreme interest groups. Helping someone can be seen as taking a side. I wish i had actual advice on this better than try to be kind and don't bare grudges on someone who might have other battles with life or health problems.

  4. Also I dont kick cripples so why do it to ppl with mental health problems or episodes

    1. A crippled person doesn't harm others because they are lame. The same doesn't apply to mental illness.

  5. The problem with discourse is that just as there is no real objective truth (well, there is, but no one has access to it) there is also no objective absolute sanity or rationality. What we have is a consensus mean of expected behavior. All mental illness is going to be on a spectrum of some sort, and we are all somewhere on these spectrums.

    In my own little head I generally separate mental illness into three broad categories, mood, behavioral and delusional disorders. There is plenty of overlap of course, manic behavior gets very similar to schizoid at its extremes, and everything can affect mood.
    But in general, you have disorders that make you feel things, disorders that make you do and say things, and disorders that make you believe and think things.

    As friends and relatives ( or just bystanders ) of people suffering from these, the last grouping is the most difficult to deal with on a regular basis, though they are all challenging and heartbreaking in their own way.

    What we seem to see on the internet is a lot of "You said this and you are terrible". One would think that having an objective consensus to what was said on the internet would be an advantage to communication, but with the capability to edit and delete posts, it seems to be just as bad. People will also react strongly to a particular segment of a post, and ignore or not notice the message as a whole. The particular point of what a post's author might have intended is often obscured or easily misunderstood.

    I suspect all of this relates to an internet shit show that I really don't know the details of, or want to know the details of.

    There are plenty of sides to take and battles to fight in the real world, I am here looking for fantasy.

  6. Hey, someone with a mental illness here. I'm barely a part of the larger RPG community, but I play and run games, which I've actually found has helped me in a lot of ways with social anxiety.

    Anyway It feels like part of the problem is people in general don't understand statements #3 and #4. One of the things I had to learn early on when coming to grips with my issues, was that these are my problems. People should endeavor to be understanding of my problems when made aware of them but I can't count on this behavior to be the norm. Sometimes people are going to say things or do things that will trigger a powerful reaction for me. But that's my problem.

    I cannot expect the world to curtail itself to compensate for my mental issues. I can only expect in my society to not be discriminated against. And shit even that's kind of a recent thing.

    I think sometimes people think being offended/triggered is the same thing as being oppressed/discriminated against. One you have a right to fight against, the other you have a right to express, but that's it.

    The other major issue seems to be statement #6. Many times, especially on the internet, people have these reactions and then go outside themselves to the broader community to get validation. And no matter what you say on the internet someone is going to validate you. This is very dangerous, particularly for people who experience mental illness.

    We need people to be honest with us. Often we are not rational. We need people to accept what we're saying and then tell us the intensity of these feelings is very likely temporary and then help bring us down. We need people we can trust. The internet is often very bad at this. It tends to be very good at the opposite.

    The last thing I need when I'm having a panic attack or an extreme emotional response is someone, or a crowd of someones saying, yeah you're right to freak out and the thing making you freak out right now is fucking shit and it should be destroyed. In the moment I might want that because it will make me feel less crazy, but it's not what I need.

    Which I think think is pretty well said in statements #7 through #12. So I guess this was a long way of saying that I agree with those statements.

    The only thing I'd say differently is that I think this applies to people with out mental illness as well. People who do not experience mental illness can still have extreme emotional responses and put that out into the community and have problems arise from it. It is just usually much less consistent and they tend to calm down much faster. With the internet it's so easy to just type something you can't take back. Though responsible people would at least acknowledge they've done this and apologize.

    That's my two cents anyway, hope that was relevant. Thanks for the blog.

  7. I know i've been that guy who gets triggered and says horrible things in return. Not in the rpg scene and not recently (a decade maybe idk) but i was that. If i had read something like this then it would have been a lot easier getting here from there. I was going to say kindness but thats not quite it, this post shows understanding and having matured with my problems thats worth more.

    1. I appreciate hearing that Josh. I do hope that stuff like this has utility outside some passing drama and helps people.

  8. I think this is an important post for everyone online, even though the RPG seems to especially need it lately. Good on you for writing it. I say that having no idea why/what triggered the recent uptick in you mentions online by others.

    If the fondation of it stems from a disorder I fell compassion for all involved. Mental illness is sadly is ignored or worse made into a perjorative. Simply pointing out it might be a factor in online interactions is a useful reminder that, even those we despise digitally, are human.

    That said people who enable or support asocial tendencies do nobody any favors.

    Thanks for the post.

  9. I think this is an important post for everyone online, even though the RPG seems to especially need it lately. Good on you for writing it. I say that having no idea why/what triggered the recent uptick in you mentions online by others.

    If the fondation of it stems from a disorder I fell compassion for all involved. Mental illness is sadly is ignored or worse made into a perjorative. Simply pointing out it might be a factor in online interactions is a useful reminder that, even those we despise digitally, are human.

    That said people who enable or support asocial tendencies do nobody any favors.

    Thanks for the post.

  10. Zak, I am sorry that you and your friends have been the harassment targets of stereotypical gamers. When I first read the smear pieces on you I wanted to dislike you. It didn't take long to figure out that what I had read was telling the story backwards. The person they were writing about was a figment of their ire, not you, a real person.

    All that said, if it were not for the rambling of these people, I would have had no idea who you were or what you did. I am glad I found your corner of the internet.

  11. I have paranoid schizophrenia and terrible social anxiety and somewhat severe ocd while also being on two medications for depression. And none of those statements were meant to be anything but factual. That being said I agree with you (even though i have a unhealthy fascination with your work lol) and think that the solution for dealing with people who are on medications or should be, will always remain nothing more then creating healthy boundaries. I am new to the rpg community but find the openness of it a little unsettling. By being such a niche media it allows for a far more robust and intimate discussion with the people who are on the higher tear of it's creative side. But also allows for the envy and coveting nature of our species to be at it's most robust and snake like form. By writing this I am part of the problem by thinking my opinion matters. But if I didn't I would be part of a larger problem in being part of a minority that can be a nuisance. That being said people like me have no excuse in this day and age of modern medicine should not be allowed to harass people who live a life, that in our own eyes is better.