Today we'll start with a pair of Something Awful goons that have somehow ended up in the same community they started their online careers helping to harass: Erika Muse and Nickoten.
This is the simple version of what I found out about them over the last three years, if you want more details: vote here.
Doctors Not Lawyers
Since February 2019, I will take any opportunity to talk to any lawyer, especially in person--former judge, current DA, public defender, divorce lawyer, patent lawyer, someone on the side of a bus, whatever. I buy them lunch and ask them questions.
Lawyers--to a one--have never seen anything quite like gamers online. They are confused by this behavior. They are mystified in a near-literal sense: as if they are in the presence of a phenomenon not explicable to mortal reason, to ideas not native to the sublunary plane. Why would anyone do these things?
To put it bluntly, lawyers are used to a world where people:
- do bad things
- and then pretend they didn't
Not one where they:
- do bad things
- then brag about it on the internet to an audience of thousands while also bragging about how much damage the bad thing caused the victim and how many other bad things they did, too, to the same victim, and also how they had no genuine reason for doing it
In Australia, I had to explain Ettin to the lawyers over and over. They would be about to file the paperwork, get it wrong, I would have to correct them, then they'd have to re-edit it, and there would be another mistake.
What they didn't get was how little work they needed to do--how little they had to argue or conjecture--the dude had left a paper trail of admitting he did it a mile wide.
"Wait, are you saying...?"
"I mean this is a conclusion you've drawn? He didn't say that..."
"No, check it, here's the tweet"
"Holy motherc(inappropriate and highly Australian language)!"
Goons exhaust the understanding of lawyers, to grasp this shit, you need doctors.
"I don't agree with me but you have to"
Here is one that's really hard to explain:
All of this harassment started because of my opposition to a pair of conservative positions that the majority of people harassing us no longer hold or defend.
The first position I opposed was:
Sexy things in RPGs are either the result of-, or the cause of-, men being bad.
Almost nobody now publicly holds this position because a lot of LGBTQ activists got sick of pretending they don't fuck or don't want to look hot a few years ago. We'll talk more about why later maybe but it's not important today.
The second position I opposed was:
The only reason to play or be interested in an old edition of Dungeons and Dragons was nostalgia or because you have serious personality flaws (racism, sexism, homophobia etc).
Almost nobody now publicly holds this position because a bunch of loud, creative aggressive and aggressively diverse Old School fans and creators repeatedly finally got recognized for existing.
At some point the indie gamers developed enough sense of shame to grasp that it was embarrassing to try to tell Scrap Princess or Fiona Geist that homebrewed old-school D&D games were inherently transphobic or to try to tell Zedeck Siew or Ramanan Sivanjaran that playing D&D was inherently colonialist.
Erika Muse aka Icequeenerika aka Arivia
- As of about a decade ago the denizens of Something Awful's RPG forum--also known as goons--still embraced both of the above positions.
- The goons aggressively harassed OSR creators in the name of these positions.
- I asked them to stop--they claimed it was abuse to ask them to stop.
- One of these goons was someone named Erika Muse aka Icequeenerika on twitter aka Arivia on Something Awful.
- Erika definitely no longer holds at least the second position since she spends a tremendous amount of time on the OSR discord talking about all the things she knows about playing and enjoying OSR games and interacting with the diverse OSR community there.
- Erika has never acknowledged that this means that her goon friends were, objectively, lying for years and harassing creators for no reason.
Here are some interactions with Erika from the early years of the harassment campaign:
I asked her why she'd believe I abused anyone online despite there being no proof, she said she believed anyone who is "less privileged" in any dispute.
There are lots of obvious flaws in this system. For example, my ex- Michelle, a major witness in the current cases who says the claims against me are bullshit, is a black woman, and so less privileged than Erika's Something Awful friends. So that's a checkmate.
And some more recent reality problems from Erika:
So let's review what we just saw:
- Erika has a bunch of friends who spent all their time lying about a game scene and she knows they were lying because she hangs out in that scene all the time.
- Despite knowing they lied about that she still believes other claims they made about alleged online abuse, sans proof. (Again: she admits to not having proof.)
- Her faith is based on the principle that you have to believe the least privileged person in any argument, which principle she then ignores when it proves her friends are lying.
- She also admits to being illogical.
- She fabricates imaginary scenarios out of thin air, against easily-acquirable hard proof:
- 1 Claims that I'm forcing women out of games literally "as much as I can" despite hours of videotape proving I ran an all-female game group.
- 2 Claims I'm banned from a random website I'm obviously not banned from.
- 3 Imagines a bizarre violent necrophiliac scenario exists out of nowhere in one of my games. A published game that people can check.
Erika's interactions are concerning—there are behaviors here consistent with Cluster A personality disorder symptoms in the DSM*, including (and these are direct quotes):
-suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving her;
-reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events;
-quick to react angrily or to counterattack;
suspiciousness or paranoid ideation.
If she doesn't actually believe the things she's saying that's also concerning and suggests Cluster B traits, like Antisocial PD**.
- Nickoten's story is very much like Erika's: hung out on Something Awful while the goons were claiming OSR games weren't fun for anyone but nostalgic bigots yet hangs out now on the OSR discord among living proof that none of that was ever true.
- Nickoten was a teenager back while Erika was harassing victims in 2014 and all his knowledge of that stuff seems to be second-hand.
- Nickoten says he's a lawyer.
- Like Erika, Nickoten just makes shit up:
So this means, either:
- Nickoten is lying about being a lawyer and that's why he can't read a legal document.
- Nickoten is not lying about being a lawyer but can't read a simple legal document (the kind laymen clients are expected to read and check for mistakes all the time).
- Nickoten is not lying about being a lawyer but just consciously made this up out of nowhere.
Again, Nickoten is not well and not responsible, and admits it:
This is the therapist again, talking about Nickoten's online activity, verbatim:
Again these are also concerning, and we are in the realm of Cluster B traits and Antisocial PD--its characterized by consistent disregard for the rights of others and an apparent willingness to engage in untruthful, deceitful and manipulative actions.
Despite all of this, no one in control of the OSR discord has done anything about the goons' harassment--neither the founder Chris McDowall, his ousted-after-abuse-revelations successor Aura, nor the current owner of the OSR discord, Vayra, have asked Erika and Nickoten to stop posting or at least to stop posting bizare accusations.
Now you might be thinking that this OSR discord place sounds like a glorified 4chan if they're letting goons post there so it's no surprise that they haven't done anything but, no, actually, the OSR discord purports to be a friendly, hugboxy space that is concerned for its users' mental health--it has a mutual aid channel, the rules reference personal boundaries and cultural differences, and, at least during the founder, Chris McDowall's reign, the community wrote out explicit principles about being "a kind place" and about mutual respect and taking care of people.
This is why it's extra disturbing to see this. Nickoten and Erika (and other users on the site who emulate them) need help. But instead of moderators or their friends on the site talking to them and trying to get them off the site and into therapy--or at least to access some kind of other mental health resource--until they can address their problems, the other people just amplify their claims.
I don't have any illusions that the people on the site care enough about them to do that, but it would at least be nice if they admitted they don't, so that people that do know goons might start to realize they themselves have to step in, because the online communities won't.
Obviously neither of these two trust me, but with any luck they might trust someone who read this.
Nickoten and Erika are goons that the community can directly and relatively easily do something to help (though they probably won't), next time we'll look at some tougher nuts to crack.
*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--the standard handbook shrink's use to diagnose patients.