"Shut Up And Take The Pain"
So we talked about the hatemob calling trans creators' work transphobic, and calling Jews Nazis, and siccing dictators on game designers but this chapter contains the worst part. I'm tempted to skip straight to it, but first I want to spend some time with the other people who worked on the game.
So you know what I think and you saw some of what Kenneth Hite had to deal with because of Evil Hat hatemobbing on Vampire--but what about everybody else? While it started with me, Ken and The Art Director, by the end I'd been gone for over a year and there was a whole team of socialist Swedes and other RPG creatives working on the new edition.
Privately they all said a lot about being angry at the mob, but people also talked about depression, mental breakdowns, and destroyed careers. I'm going to stick to quoting the less personal stuff, so none of them get in trouble.
This is during the second wave, when Dog With Dice wrote the Jews-Are-Nazis article:
Someone else, much later, after the damage had been done...
In a world that made any sense, what happened to Vampire should have been a Pizzagate-style cautionary tale about the danger of believing conspiracy theories. And it should've been that immediately. Because--as-noted way at the beginning--sales were ok and more people signed a petition supporting the game than spread the conspiracy theories.
While a diplomatically-worded petition leaving the names of all the bad actors out couldn't save Vampire, the sentiment that spawned it should have at least been enough to prevent the situation generally in RPGs getting worse later--everyone looks at the steaming crater full of troll-takes where once there was a city and goes "Oh wow, what a mess, let's all agree not to do that again"--but it wasn't. By way of explanation, I'm going to zoom in on one example:
Meet Chris Handley, Chris has had a World of Darkness podcast for over ten years, Chris has written World of Darkness stuff for Storytellers Vault, and Chris was also someone who read this blog and liked my work. Years ago he said he wanted to be my friend on social media, so I added him.
One day, before all this, Chris and another WoD fan were talking in a thread casually about having a beer with Olivia Hill. I did literally the only thing any responsible adult seeing this could've done: I warned them and anyone reading the thread that Olivia Hill was a certifiable harasser and to watch the fuck out. Like: where Olivia lived, you could legitimately be arrested for doing the shit Olivia did to her colleagues. I didn't call Chris or Chris' friend names, I didn't act like they should've known already, I didn't say a word in anger. I just told them what I knew because obviously it's not ok to normalize the presence of someone known to be that dishonest and dangerous.
At the time, Handley thought this was just gosh darn rude and so...joined the hatemob. So far, so normal: you tell someone their trollfriend is a troll, they disagree and start smearing you, too. That's a normal day on the internet, but what happened next is what makes this a story:
So years later, after all the things I discuss in this series happened to Chris' beloved Vampire, Chris--being a relatively typical World of Darkness fan--is up in arms, Chris is completely pissed, Chris signs the petition supporting White Wolf, Chris has a phone conversation with the White Wolf guys in May 2017, Chris writes me to say...
- He now recognizes Olivia Hill's role in all of this and says she and her usual suspect pal Holden Shearer had acted in "God awful ways".
- He treats Olivia and her circle with "a fairly large barge pole" due to their "pearl-clutching" and says Olivia's "gone off the deep end".
- He says all of Olivia's accusations against me were "bullshit".
- He believes Olivia screwed over backers on a Fate-system Kickstarter and used the money to move to Japan.
- He says he was on my side me about Olivia's wife attacking us over the Maxim article, Chris calls it "misplaced outrage".
- He also throws in, for good measure, Olivia and co were also unnecessarily pearl-clutching about Kingdom Death.
- He likes and buys my work.
And you would now expect this series of emails to end with "Thank you so much for trying to warn us--years before this happened to Vampire--about Olivia Hill because nobody else did. I am so sorry I didn't listen and I'm sorry I gave you any shit about it."
But it doesn't. Chris was actually writing to say he was still mad that I warned him and his friend about Olivia Hill. Here they were trying to talk about drinking beer with the delightful proven hatefactory Olivia Hill and here I had to go and say something unpleasant.
Remember the snakes have legs video?
This is how it ends:
The reason nobody took what happened to Vampire to heart in later years is that instead of doing anything about the harassers, people attacked anyone trying to warn them.
And it's somehow worse if you have receipts? In the middle of this, Patrick Stuart, my co-author on Maze of the Blue Medusa, had a mental breakdown and joined the hatemob. He wrote in his hatepost that while, yes, while Olivia Hill had done fucked up things, the fact I had pointed it out and collected evidence to prove what Hill was doing, in the form of her dozens of public posts, was insane and "creepy".
I want to write the next sentence nine-hundred times in letters of fire 300 feet high:
I don't know what kind of world anyone lives in where a creator can just make up a lie that a colleague threatened their children and that's not a Jesus shit, full-court press, all-hands on-deck, holy-fuck, mother-of-all-that-is-holy-and-unholy 100% epic emergency where that creator is recognized as a massive threat to anything they touch that you need to do something about asap. Chris knew Olivia was lying, Patrick knew Olivia was lying. And somehow their reaction was Zak, why are you telling people?
Let's leave out all the things I've reported and only talk about complaints other people have about her: Olivia's been thrown off twitter multiple times for harassment, including switching to make a new account after a permanent ban (then lied about it), Kickstarter backers on several projects have said Olivia ripped them off, she was thrown off RPGnet for doxxing, behind-the-scenes every full-time developer I've met calls her a piece of shit, Shoe Skogen says she sexually harassed her, and her girlfriend/employee Francita said she was an abuser. What does Olivia Hill have to do for it to be ok to call her out? Dynamite the Eiffel Tower? Hijack a schoolbus and eat the kids? Shoot your mom down in a public street and drop her corpse in lime?
And then on top of that: all the other stuff Olivia did. And then all the stuff Ettin did. And all the people from all the other forums and game companies. The most sympathetic and well-informed people decided it was not only better for them to do nothing, but that it was also bad to do something.
Paradox basically closed White Wolf down.
Robin Laws, probably the most respected voice in the game industry, has kept right on podcasting regularly with his friend Kenneth Hite--and still has publicly said nothing.
The Vampire team, despite being privately pissed-off and supportive of each other, has said nothing.
Olivia Hill smeared more people and grew her Twitter following to over 10k until her girlfriend called her out for abuse, at which point a few RPG people complained and then, well, nothing. She's suffered no consequences. She also said her "views have changed" since she first began her harassment campign.
Ettin kept on and smeared more people until I sued him.
Rob Donoghue at Evil Hat has seen zero consequences.
Crystal Frasier has seen less than zero consquences. WOTC hired her on the new Ravenloft.
And pretty much everyone else has either kept quiet, joined the hatemob or themselves been cancelled. A few have freaked out at their own behavior and left the game scene.
Literally no-one now publicly defends any of the accusations made against the game in any detail.
|I designed this and wish I hadn't|
You might have heard I was involved in a secret email conspiracy with Mike Mearls, longtime creative head of Dungeons & Dragons. You might've heard I sued him. You might've heard a lot of not-terribly-informed things spread by a lot of people already featured in the story you just read.
Next up, if anyone reading genuinely cares, I will tell the whole story, soup-to-nuts, with receipts, about what happened with Mike Mearls. I'll get you the details
tomorrow (EDIT: Within the week. I'm travelling.).