Saturday, February 5, 2011

DIY Consumer Bill of Rights

Congratulations, you are a consumer of Products of DIY Culture. You like something obscure, niche, handmade, homemade, or simply very very particular. Certain kinds of music, movies, pictures or, yes, even games.

Maybe this is because you are smarter than other people and new mainstream products just makes you think of nonmainstream products or old products or something you thought up yourself that does the same thing better, or maybe this is because you have been consuming products for so long you've slowly become jaded and tired of the "gateway" products, or maybe it's just because you're a pretentious, insecure asshole who uses your interest in something out-of-the-way as exhibit A for the defense in the court case you're constantly running in your head where you accuse yourself of maybe being too much like everybody else. Whichever it is, you are entitled to certain rights. Here they are:

-You have the right to assume most people are stupid. They are.

-You do not have the right to assume most people are stupid merely because they don't like your product of choice. There are a lot of different kinds of smart, and only a few of them require thinking whatever you think is fun actually is. I'm real glad my doctor spent all that time in medical school learning about where my pancreas was rather than painting, and when I pay him immediately and in cash, he's probably real glad I learned to paint.

-You have the right to access the product you wish to consume. You have the right to form communities dedicated to helping you access and/or retrieve such products. If you haven't found one yet, you have the right to form your own.

-You do not have the right to demand easy access to your product of choice at all possible consumer-interfaces with the medium wherein your product-of-choice manifests unless you are willing to help destroy the current economic system and replace it with something else. Why doesn't sell WhateverFuckingThingYou'reAllExcitedAbout: Advanced Edition? They don't sell your thing because they don't know if it'll make them any money. Myriad opinions on how to smash model-2011 capitalism and whether that's actually a good idea or not are available elsewhere on the web. You are, however, allowed to say "If you don't got Mojo Nixon then your store could use some fixin'."

-You do have the right to suggest that maybe the consumer outlet of your choice could simultaneously fulfill the twin goals of making you happy and making them money by providing access to products amenable to discerning connoisseurs like yourself.

-You do not have the right to assume you're right about that. At least not until they try it.

-You do have the right to point out that maybe, aside from the monetary rewards, they might also garner less tangible but more important benefits like helping to build a vibrant on-line or in-real-life community by cultivating a more sophisticated-and-therefore-probably-more-dedicated-and-participatory customer base.

-You do not have the right to assume they should give a fuck about that.

-You do have the right to call them greedy fucks if they don't.

-You do not have the right to call their freelancers and employees greedy fucks if they don't. Do you take responsibility for the actions of every boss you ever had?

-You do have the right to speculate on what kind of people would be interested in the thing you are not interested in.

-You do not have the right to assume you're right about that.

-You do have the right to ask around about that.

-You do not have the right to assume someone's lying if you hear an answer that doesn't fit your thesis.

-You do have a right to talk about why you don't like Very Popular Products That Don't Fit Your Idea Of A Good Time.

-You do not have a right to bore everybody with that.

-You do have the right to create or promote a product that remedies the perceived deficiencies in said product.

-You do not have the right to assume your solution to the Problem of the Very Popular Product will satisfy other connoisseurs complaints with said Very Popular Product. You are united by your dissatisfaction with the Popular Product, not by your agreement about what the solution is. If you were, you wouldn't be the special-little-snowflakes-in-search-of-an-experience-that-fits-you-like-a-glove that you are. You hate vanilla because it isn't strawberry, she hates it because it isn't chocolate. Your unity-of-purpose will only last so long as neither strawberry nor chocolate wins, so if you want unity, build it on something else, like a unity-of-belief-in-creative-experimentation or a Neapolitan Pact.

-You do have the right to demand Nice Things. Great achievements in art and culture have come from every conceivable point of view. If you need a characterization-heavy rpg where you play stretches of plumbing pipe enmeshed in a psychologically-tense soap-opera-plot powered by a water-balloon-tossing resolution engine that's actually good then you have every right to demand it.

-You do not have the right to demand Fancy Things. You are smarter than average or more experienced than average or just more picky than average, therefore accept that it would be commercial suicide for some fancy motherfucker who makes fancy shit hoping to sell something with mass appeal to pitch their product at you, especially when there are so many goddamn average people out their to prey on. Average people will buy just about anything because--hey, have you rolled yourself a character with Int 10 lately? Not pretty.

And if there were a Fancy Thing for Discerning Consumers you probably wouldn't buy it. Why? Because you can probably figure out how to get whatever it's offering cheaper. Because you're smart, or experienced, or well-connected and/or you--unlike normal people--pride yourself on not being gullible enough to buy shit just because it looks fancy. Point is, being picky puts you on the far edge of capitalism's bulls-eye. Get used to that.

-You do have the right to demand that people who make Things With Mass Appeal That Little Kids See All The Time have some social responsibility. They shouldn't make Wonder Woman into a guy, and they shouldn't make Storm white. With great market share comes great responsibility. I mean, if you're not going to make anything good and you're having all your shit printed for 10 cents an hour overseas the least we can do is let you deal with the parents you're fucking with on your own. It's that or the revolution.

-You don't have the right to demand that people who make Things With Mass Appeal That Little Kids See All The Time be any good. These things will probably suck because they are aimed at a mass audience. Again: change the whole world economic system or live with it and be happy when, once in a while, you get Adventure Time or Justice League.

-You do not have the right to demand people who make DIY products have some social responsibility. They are making something that is for them and people like them and we have to give them the benefit of the doubt that whatever they're making is the way it is for specific creative reasons and they need to be given a little room to come up with something new. Plus, seriously, nobody's fucking listening to them anyway.

-You do, however, have the right to demand the people who make DIY products make things that are good. That is the price they pay for their freedom: they must put in a real and genuine effort without hiding behind the excuse of what will or won't sell, or their creative license is revoked. They need to provide the maximum possible value for money in whatever direction they're heading (even if it's a direction you'd prefer they didn't go) or get the fuck out.

-You do not have the right to bleat about somebody else's DIY product merely on the grounds that it's designed for people who aren't like you. If you want to complain about something, complain that people who aren't like you exist at all. How far that'll get you in life depends on what direction you're going and whether or not you like sleeping with those people.

-So: if your excuse for doing things that piss people off is money, you have to accept that you need to Think of The Children once in a while, fatcat. If your excuse is creative freedom, then you have to always make the best thing.


Joesky's Rule Compliance Addendum:

Slow demon

This demon has the body of a beautiful naked woman.* It has the face of a big fucking leech. Its trick is to make you fall in love with it, then it eats your face. Resistance to its charm is inversely proportional to how upstanding your character is. Paladins save at like -9.

*Is there a non heteronormative version? Maybe if I ever figure out what a hot RPG guy looks like.


ze bulette said...

I can think of several recent farts that might have inspired this post, but regardless of your timing, it's appreciated. Not everyone has the experience and perspective of an artist.

Anonymous said...



Unknown said...

Once again, you have a great point. I have just started a blog about gaming--I know I now, another dweeb who wants to talk about gaming, goodie. I think I will link this post in my next blog. Kinda goes along with what I talked about earlier today about other games and a recent s--tstorm that I think ze bulette is referring too.

Spawn of Endra said...

Umm, not to get all post-modern here, but if I'm consuming DIY products on my own terms (albeit within the always, everywhere, at-all-times, already overdetermined late-capitalist space I erstwhile 'interrogate'), why do I need someone else to tell me what rights I may or may not have with respect to your product? If I need to draft my own bill of rights about DIY stuff I can probably 'Do That Myself'.

Or, whatever, that is the whole point of the post, and so on.

I thought constantly playing out the defense argument for court-cases in one's head was a Catholic thing. If it's more widespread then giving me that insight counts as a Joesky ablution.

Jeff Rients said...

"If I need to draft my own bill of rights about DIY stuff I can probably 'Do That Myself'."

You should totally do that.

"-You do, however, have the right to demand the people who make DIY products make things that are good."

Sometimes (not always, but sometimes) I feel like I don't need to exercise this one. Shitty But Sincere has a quality all its own that can get lost in post-production.

squidman said...

does it mean we can have I Hit It With My Axe back?

Matt said...

I like you. It always makes me happy to know there's a guy in a completely different part of the country in a completely different line of work with whom I happen to share a few common interests who just fucking gets it.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Jeff Rients

By this definition, there is no shitty-but-sincere. That is: sincerity means you tried your best, therefore it is not shitty, even if I do not want to play.

Jeff Rients said...

Okey-dokey then.

velaran said...

@Zak S:
Loved the DIY Bill of Rights here. Though I'd postulate that there are varying levels of 'stupidity' as well. Jaded on 'gateway products'? I really should be, I guess. But I'm not.As a result of hanging out with gamers, in game shops, and frequenting online game forums, I've burned out on 'novelty'(usually only substitution of cards or some other nearby object on the table, or varying 'specialty' dice anyway) game mechanics!(From what I can tell, designers either don't realize people have been futzing with this shit since like, forever, or don't think that anyone has published alternative systems like those they've 'discovered', or think it adds to 'Immersion'. But everybody loves sharing Cool Shit[Never hurts, but rarely helps, ime. I should know :-)], so Hey give it a try. That's how Polyhedrals got to be 'RPG' Dice™, right? :-))But I was never one who thought Rules could 'Immerse' one in the setting anyway. So, I'm not the target audience, I'd say. But, man, I love settings, 'vanilla' or otherwise; especially the otherwise!.(Other people, not so much, apparently!) I'm glad that seems to be the 'theme' this year. 'Worlds', 'Settings, 'Background', etc...would seem especially suited for DIY ethics.(Though I did love TSR's 2nd Edition lineup, with few exceptions.) As you probably can guess, that's why Vornheim appeals.

'By this definition, there is no shitty-but-sincere. That is: sincerity means you tried your best, therefore it is not shitty, even if I do not want to play.':
I agree wholeheartedly, but in the back of my mind lurks the notion that this somehow includes F. A. T. A. L. and RaHoWa.(As these were obviously labors of um, love...???)Synnibarr, SenZar and Empire of Satanis definitely fall under this, imo. Of course, some would add D&D BITD, so YMMV. Oddly enough, some years back, I was told that Tunnels and Trolls was this, in the EXACT SAME words!(I later picked it up, in gamebook form, and found that this assertion was only half right! It wasn't 'shitty' at all![In My Opinion, of course!])

@Jeff Rients:
'Shitty But Sincere has a quality all its own that can get lost in post-production.':
I've felt that way ever since I saw the D30 Adventure Book in a comics shop back in '92. I now find myself looking out for products like this.

'Slow demon':
Blibdoolpoolp's cousin? I'll take all kinds. Hmm... Paladins? Even if my world had 'em, how could they resist such charm? Was -9 just random? Or is it sorta like the lowest 'mental' AC, like -9 was lowest physical AC in D&D for awhile? Cerebral Chastity FTW, I guess.

Great Post!
I second more Axe, of course! :-D

Mange said...

We grabbed an RPG, some dice and started rollin',
I said "How much you pay for this?" she said "Nuthin, the content's stolen..."
There's certain ideas here I would agree on, but as a few people pointed out, not everyone will agree with the whole shebang. Do It Yourself also tends to lead to Do It Your Own Way, which makes a manifesto or bill of rights moot. Hence why people argue "vi vs emacs," "Linux vs BSD," or the like.

"By this definition, there is no shitty-but-sincere. That is: sincerity means you tried your best, therefore it is not shitty, even if I do not want to play. "

Not so sure about this. I think there's a lot of shitty but sincere DIY folks out there. How many bad punk rockbands are there? People who publish poorly written adventures (or fanfic) on the net? I've had friends who put their all into something, sincerely wanted to make the best product they could, and failed miserably at getting anything good. I've started telling people their stuff "just isn't to my tastes," because I simply might not have as favorable a reaction to it as someone else.

Zak Sabbath said...


Sure, shitty-but-sincere people may fail, but the world is no worse for it. Shitty-because-insincere, however, causes damage, and wastes talent.

Mange said...

Agreed 100%. The problem, though, is that a lot of those people have to weight (even a) non-commercial venture into a calculation of how much can or will I just stay true to my heart without striving for any sort of hook/appeal to get people to check my stuff out amidst all the free DIY stuff? What can I do to make my design stand out enough to justify the time I put into this? And do I have to sacrifice any of my heart-felt convictions and the little minutiae to get the degree of exposure and recognition I want?
As another way to look at it, you and I both paint. I've dabbled for years, and recently decided to start taking my art more seriously. I have no intention to ever try and make money off my art, simply because I do it in my limited spare time, and don't want to take time out of my other work to pursue that career. You, meanwhile, are in a position to work on it, have gotten exposure in art circles, and have a very strong, well-defined style which lends itself to catching the eye of a person. I would possibly have to sacrifice some of the chaotic nature of how I paint to make my art appeal enough for it to really go anywhere. But I don't want that, since I plan to mainly just dabble and find my own style, filling my spare room at home with work and seeing what I like about how each one came out. I'll try and learn, but have no agenda. If I wanted to gain exposure, that could affect how I learn to paint,what types of experimentation with media I try, etc.
BTW, I quite dig the art I've seen on yer site. It makes me think of a cross between Sindey Simes, Jae Lee, and Nick Blinko (among others).

Zak Sabbath said...


if I ever changed my work one iota to appeal to others, you can gouge out my eyes and decapitate me slowly with a hacksaw.

Mange said...


Seriously, though, there's a difference. You happen to have a style which works in such a capacity without needing to be changed. I have a style which lends folks to asking "Aren't you a little old for finger paints?"
(thinks of Jackson Pollock) Then again.....