A bit of housekeeping. I had a lot on my mind today. Over 3,000 words worth.
I want to get a lot of my somewhat editorial stuff out of the way so I can focus on #ArcaneApril and some family stuff in the coming month. I want to get a few loose ends tied up and a few things off my chest that have been bothering me since the March 20 mess.
Please remember, this is MY PERSPECTIVE, MY OPINIONS, and MY TAKE. This is my blog. If you disagree, there are plenty of options. Please, contact me.
The problem for public figures.
Let’s create a couple of hypothetical TTRPG social media influencers. Gomer Gamer and Debbi from the Dungeon will be their names. These aren’t real people, they’re parody characters, so we’re safe from fallout so far. (*We’re using hypothetical characters, so the fanboy mob doesn’t freak out yet.) We’ll say Gomer has 10,000 followers on one platform and Debbi has over 100,000 on three major platforms. They’re popular, and it shows hypothetically.
What I think a lot of people forget is that even someone who has a blog with 29 subscribers and about a thousand Instagram followers is considered a public figure. That means anyone who isn’t blocked on that platform can see everything you post. That also means comments can be made.
IF one puts oneself in the public eye for any reason, one can come under scrutiny for whatever they do after that. For example, if Gomer accepts a sponsorship for a Kickstarter and promotes the heck out of it, then the company who sponsored him suddenly ghosts everyone? Gomer is hosed. Worse, Gomer’s credibility takes a hit.
That’s just one example of being a public figure. I don’t think people realize the kind of scrutiny that follows them. Me? I’m not in the 10K-100K+ bracket on social media, so I’m not too concerned yet. Also, no employer = no problem. No sponsor = no problem. No money? Well, that’s another story. (LOL!)
Freedom of speech is great. Mainstream media reporters can’t just say any old thing they want. They have editors, ethics, and professional guidelines to follow in order to keep their publishers from getting sued. Social media platforms have their own rules to follow, Terms of Service we all sign off on before we use their platform. You still can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater regardless of free speech unless the place is actually on fire. What one says publicly on social media can come around to bite one in the butt.
Just for reference, slander is when you say a provable like out loud in public. Libel is the act of printing a provable falsehood about someone. Don’t be found liable for libel and watch what you say in front of any camera/microphone whether it’s on or not.
When you put yourself out there, expect consequences.
If you’re on social media, please remember that second word: media. People consume that content. They’re watching YouTube as much or more than the evening news. I would wager in this day and age some people probably spend more time on their phones doom scrolling social media and watching YouTube than we ever did on primetime TV back in the day. That means, if you have any number of followers anywhere, there are eyes and ears on you and what you’re doing. Even if it’s Grandma, cousin Earl, the guy down the street, and some random cat account- people could be watching.
It’s a blessing and a curse. The minute something is out there online, literally everyone can see it- the government, Grandma, Earl, people from countries you’ll never visit, convicts in prison, and so on. Literally everyone. Once it’s out there, theoretically one can never get it back. The kicker is, does anyone care?
10K followers in, Gomer probably really cares what people are saying about him. He’s probably still replying to YouTube comments. Gomer’s probably not getting trolled more than anyone else. Debbi has problems with trolls, but she’s also maybe got some help managing that account. Half of her social media comments might not even be made by her necessarily. That’s what account managers are for after all. The point here is that people are paying attention all the time whether you think they are or not.
You can’t outrun the criticism monster no matter how hard you try. It’s one thing if a couple of my followers say something disagreeable to what I post. I can still change. I can agree to disagree, for that matter. I can also block, remove comments, and turn commenting off on most platforms. That’s useful.
Bigger accounts are not so lucky. Remember the French Revolution with all those angry-ass peasants? The little people like me aren’t so little when we’re all grouped up and holding torches and pitchforks. Big accounts have to be careful with that they do. Conversely, if there aren’t enough outraged peasants- how hard is it to step on the proverbial ant?
Let’s get social for a minute.
There’s a subtle difference on social media. You’re still in the public spotlight, just like a mainstream media figure. The difference is, if someone wants to sue for libel, it’s easier to prove and no larger publishing entity to cover the costs. But such lawsuits are rare. Maybe a Cease & Desist, but libel suits are few and far between.
On social media it tends to be a petty suit because it’s still one person smack talking the other. (Unless there’s an actual celebrity such as a movie star or politician involved.) But if I (unintentionally) say something bad about Gomer, there are other ways we can sort it out.
The first way of settling our differences would be to talk it out privately, a formal public apology is issued and maybe we become friends as a result. However, that rarely happens and more likely a public shouting match is going to ensue, probably on Twitter, and it’s going to get ugly before it gets better. The third option is there’s a public outcry (on Twitter) that I offended Gomer. I remove the offending posts, issue an apology, Gomer blocks me and the whole thing basically disappears.
It’s really hard to continue an argument when one side apologizes and shuts down. At least the situation is resolved. Good enough, right?
However, if I were unfortunate enough to unintentionally slight the mighty Debbi from the Dungeon and her thousands of followers, and one of her people somehow got it back to her, that’s another story. Suddenly dozens of fans are shouting on Twitter. Posts are flying on Instagram. People might even be making wisecracks about it on YouTube. Some are appealing to compassion and reason; others are saying things like “Sit down and shut up.” Debbi is also a little harder to apologize to publicly or privately once the offending quotes are being blasted everywhere. It doesn’t stop there.
For whatever reason Debbi decides to make an example of me. (Remember the guy with a very small following?) She’s pounding her proverbial chest and proudly proclaiming superiority in and effort to appear more heroic in front of her hundreds of thousands of hypothetical simps. Totally made an example out of me. Squashed me like a bug.
Out in the real world things look different. I’ve already taken the entire article down, corrected it, apologized two or three times over, threw in a load of laundry, and made dinner for the kids. It’s another day ending in “y” for me. Debbi goes back to her celebrity, and I go back to being obscure. Yay?
I guess it’s all about appearance, clout, and followers?
Maybe when you hit monetization on multiple platforms it’s okay to quit your day job. That’s the dream, I guess. Usually part way into this discussion the same people are plugging their Patreon, Ko-Fi, maybe even Fiverr. Others take on a side gig writing actual TTRPG content (I’d say “D&D,” but…) usually for Patreon or OneBookShelf.
This is where I feel bad for all of the Gomers of the world. It’s tough running a game, writing for Patreon, etc, juggling social media responsibilities, holding down a full time job, and dealing with family responsibilities. I know I tried that for about seven years. It’s tough. God bless anyone who can make that work.
Debbi from the Dungeon was probably much the same at some point in her career. Now? Money, public appearances, sponsorships, and more social media stuff. It’s all about keeping the sponsors happy and being a good spokesperson, I guess?
Here’s my advantage with this platform.
My blog here is my platform, my baby. I usually have a feeling for what lines to cross or not in most cases. (*Side Note: Stay in school, kids. It worked so well for me. LOL!) Overall, I get to vent my opinion on any subject at any time. I’m not constrained by the authority mainstream reporters have over them. As long as I don’t stick my foot too far in my mouth, I don’t fear getting sued much.
I have a degree in Sociology as well as Journalism. I was an “A” student in Media Law and in Media Ethics. I have as many college credits stacked end-to-end as most Master’s graduates. As an added bonus, I was in print/Internet journalism about the time the Internet was really taking off beyond academia. I’ve seen the rise of online journalism. I’ve seen print go belly up. The TTRPG Industry and comics are some of the few sources of print material left aside from academia. I know what I can and can’t say, do, and/or publish without getting in big trouble. (*Which is good because I have no editor, no one holding the camera, no secretary… I work alone in the dark.)
Prior to going back into gaming, most of my writing efforts and research revolved around extraterrestrials, extradimensional beings, UFOs, and the great Source of all things in the Universe. Everything that is said in those circles, with the exception of nuts-and-bolts Ufology is usually a matter of opinions and beliefs.
You say you channel the Archangel Michael? Cool. 9th Dimensional Arcturian Council? Awesome. You were abducted by aliens? Tell me more. It’s about as easy to prove the existence of God as it is to prove the existence of little Gray men. We ALL literally answer to the same higher power at the end of the day. (*That said, I’m very willing to keep a lot of things under my hat.)
Attributions? Not my favorite thing to deal with. If I need one, I’ll quote my research. Interviews? I’d have better luck trying to have a Twitter or Instagram direct messaging chat with Gomer than I would Debbi. Do they know a heck of a lot more about the TTPRG industry than I do? Not necessarily.
Maybe if Gomer has been playing D&D since the 1980s, worked in and out of game stores for years, and has read hundreds of titles, sure. Debbi who started with Critical Role and 5E? Well… that interview would be pretty short and relatively pointless.
Not to sound Ageist or sexist, but Debbi’s whole generation of gamers and I don’t connect well. I have shirts older than they are. I remember when we had to “ink” our own dice with crayons or a Sharpie. Trust me, I love and respect the Critical Role generation. Honestly, I do. But let’s just say you’ll never see my 50 year old ass putting on elf ears, horns and painting my skin blue for a character. (I might change hats, but that’s as far as I go.) Nothing wrong with it, just not my style.
Another advantage I have is I can literally talk about any TTRPG no matter how obscure. I’m not tied to D&D 5E or some other sponsor. (*I mean, I could be? If you’re listening out there, Paizo, Goodman, or Runehammer… Lol!)
My attributions on this blog come from 50 years of life experience, 40+ years of gaming experience, 20+ years of retail experience in the industry, several conventions, piles of books, magazines, online articles, and even some academic work based on the subject of TTRPGs. Oh, and 17 years of child rearing. Let’s not forget that one. Gomer and Debbi have their thousands of social media goons to question or whatever. Maybe I still Google stuff, sure. Why not?
If I make a mistake with something, I own it. I eat it. I take personal responsibility for it every time. That’s what I’ve always done. Maybe the perfect people of the world with money practically raining out of their butts don’t have to be as accountable. I dunno. I hold myself accountable. (*Some people might be using the word “accountable” incorrectly?)
Apparently Debbi’s editor catches and corrects all of her stuff before it hits YouTube or Instagram. Good for them. Not all of us have that luxury. Just saying.
Unlike someone with 100K+ followers on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, I can say a lot of things that will never outrage anyone. No, I’ll never run D&D in a Castle, or even be invited, but ask me if I care? I’d take a Gen Con invite in a heartbeat, though. PAX? Con of the North? I love going to panels, the huckster’s room, playing pick-up games, playtesting stuff… I miss those days.
I guess I had to “build a platform based on misery?”
This one comment made last week by someone whom I shan’t name really stuck in my head. I’m still angry about it for all it’s worth. Yes, I talk about my feelings on here because its’ MY f’n BLOG! And if Gomer or Debbi don’t like something about it? Too bad!
I’m putting my opinions, feelings, and perceptions of experiences out online. That’s kinda the purpose of a blog. IF that’s a problem? If that’s a trigger for someone? If that’s “an inflammatory blog?” You can always get it touch to discuss it.
Imagine if Debbi herself messaged me? I’d probably fall off my couch, and then be all kinds of grateful to even get the notice. I’m very reasonable one-on-one. I’m more than happy to discuss ideas. We can still be friends, promise. I also get star-struck easily. (*I get giddy when I hear back from actual designers when I email a game company.)
I see a different scenario playing out, though. Technically, If I told Gomer or Debbi their platform was based on misery, I’d probably be well on my way to getting cancelled on social media within minutes. Suddenly I’d be an “opponent of the neurodiverse”, “ableist,” and “hateful toward people with mental health issues.” The irony being I have some pretty hardcore mental health issues myself. In fact, my therapist actually approves of my blogging activities because theoretically it helps my social anxiety and reintegration with society. Yeah…
Real misery is staring down the proverbial barrel at 100,000 angry fanboys because Debbi is mad. How the Hell did I become a blip on that radar? I’ll never know and that’s likewise miserable. Being hated on by people who don’t follow me on social media or know the first thing about me? Also miserable!
But if my blog reaches even ONE person who is thinking about deleting themselves and they can relate? I’ve done my job as long as they’re still around. If one article is memorable enough for a game company editor (or someone big in the industry) to take notice? Maybe that’s really great news. I love it when someone on Twitter says, “Good job. I’m bookmarking this one.” Holy crap. That’s awesome!
Side note: I used to mention specific YouTubers, usually because I watch their channel and really enjoy their content. Why waste Premium time on garbage? Sometimes I mention a specific video because I took some sort of issue with what was said, but it’s rare. Even then, I truly admire people putting it out there on YouTube.
I have been told I have a face that’s perfect for radio and a voice that’s perfect for print. Not sure if that’s actually true, but I’m happier communicating this way. All of my video experience is behind the camera and my audio experience is super limited because I had big time anxiety. I still want to try voice acting, though…
Imagine getting paid to do something you love?
We talk about this a lot in Law of Attraction circles. Many people have quit unfulfilling corporate jobs to do something they’ve always wanted to do. “Live in the dream fulfilled” is one of my favorite adages from Neville Goddard IIRC. Every day, I’m so happy and grateful now that I’m getting paid to write TTRPG content that makes people smile.
So, it completely wigs me out when someone says something akin to, “WotC is Killing Me.” Not only is it a really bad clickbait title, but it’s one of those things that drives me nuts on multiple levels. Here’s a thought: if you want love and positivity in your life? Don’t shun prosperity and financial abundance. Embrace the good stuff! It’s like listening to Eminem rap about how he hates being rich and famous. Just don’t do it.
If the fame of having thousands of followers on social media is a burden? Take a vacation. Take a break. Maybe even quit altogether if it’s damaging your mental health. But listening to people complain about having success, fame, and prosperity? That’s just wiggity-wiggity wack.
If a major game company sends review product? Accept it with gratitude. You’re still entitled to give it an honest review. It’s called, “good faith.” Yeah, if they get lambasted they might not send you anything ever again. But if it’s lame, do you really want to hear from them again?
If you have a problem getting stuff in the mail from non-sponsors? Accept it with gratitude and donate it. There are tons of people out there who accept toys, minis, and even game books as charity. Raffle the stuff off at a convention. There are alternatives to just keeping it on the shelf until the end of days.
I don’t even like to dis on people who have money and fame. Seriously, just because I hate large, slimy corporations doesn’t mean I hate the people that work there. At the end of the day, I’m pretty willing to forgive and forget as long as no one is getting seriously hurt.
We all want to do what lights us up. For Debbi, it’s taking pictures in funny costumes. For me, it’s writing blog articles and game stats. For some, it’s accounting. Good for you if you’re doing something you enjoy. Woot!
I’m not even trying to write games to get rich. Because, let’s face it, most full time game designers are probably happy not having to spread peanut butter between two common Magic: the Gathering cards for their next meal. What do you mean the landlord doesn’t take DMsGuild credit in trade? Seriously, I’m in it for the love of the game first and the money elsewhere. Yeah, I’d love the convention invites, hotel stays, etc. No arguments there.
I think people such as Debbi from the Dungeon might have been in it for the game at one time. Now I think it’s more about clout, sponsors, and personal branding. At some point D&D (or any TTRPG) becomes a stepping stone for the “big names” in TTRPG social media. Nothing wrong with that.
I think if I had Debbi money and followers, I’d be trying to do more with the game itself. Screw making a calendar or a filk music album. I’d be cranking out world designs and alternative player’s handbooks. I’d also be looking to employ friends and artists to help with things. I think Debbi would agree on that one.
This past week of social media interactions has taught me a few things. One, I’m not ready to rejoin “regular” society. Screw that. Two, I’m still triggered by certain things said by the Debbies of the world. Last, there are still some good, even great, people out there in social media land. They’re not all terrible.
I’ve wanted to write for a game company since I was about 14.
For the first four years or so, TTRPGs were a hobby. I still wanted to be a military helicopter pilot, a super soldier, Iron Man, and so on. But being a nerd kinda set in and I realized if I wanted true happiness, I was going to have to write Dungeons & Dragons stuff. (Yes, “stuff” is a technical term.)
36 years in and I’m still looking for that big break. I believe in it. It’s gonna happen sooner or later.
See, I’m pretty jealous of Debbi for certain and Gomer to a lesser extent. Yes, Gomer works hard for where he is in the TTRPG industry and that’s awesome. Debbi worked hard once, too. Not sure about nowadays necessarily. (You know you have a vivid imagination when hypothetical characters are doing better than you after only being “alive” for a few hours in your head.)
All Debbi has to do is dress in Ren Faire garb with elf ears and talk about her D&D 5E character in front of a camera for no more than 20 minutes. Must be grueling. Nothing against Debbi. If that’s what worked for her, great. Not my fish. Not my pond.
But where Debbi is living my big dream is all of the paid hotel stays, convention invites, big game company tours, and sponsors. I bet Debbi even gets invited to Actual Play One-Shots and podcasts. Debbi gets characters and monsters she created published by major game companies where a lot of the rest of us get told, “Tough break, kid. Better luck next time.”
Remember when I said, “stay in school?” Because my BA with a double major landed me throwing groceries. All that educational debt is really reassuring when you’re stocking the tampon aisle at 3:00 in the morning, let me tell you. Something tells me the Debbies of the world probably don’t have that concern? I’ve heard some of them say their one semester of art school was enough.
I think it’s one of the most important takeaways out of this.
We should be building one another up. Yes, in the TTRPG space, but in general as well. All of the divisiveness and disruption just serves the interests of a company bent on taking over the industry. While we’re at one another’s throats, we’re playing right into their plans.
If you have a social media platform with 100K+ followers, I think you should be doing your best to uplift the community and settle disputes. Yes, you can squish the little guy beneath your heal and claim moral victories, but was it worth it? Rather than slugging it out with someone for more clout, how about showing your supposed benevolence by publicly working the problem out?
I’m waiting to see what happens with Wizards of the Coast in this next week or so.
Between the Showcase on March 28 and the Creator Summit on April 3, there should be a lot of news coming out of WotC. (No judgments.) I think we’ll know a little more, at least. I’ll hold off saying much of anything until I know more.
I might even try to nail down an interview or two with participants following the events. We’ll have to see on that. WotC might spew enough drivel in the meantime that I’ll have heard enough. It’s hard to say.
Meanwhile, I’ve got creatures, spells, and artifacts to create. I might even toss a few characters out there just for funsies. I think the structured monthly writing exercises are great for keeping the blog on track. I might do another one again in May. May-hem (Horror) or Magical May? I’ll work on it.
But I know many don’t hear me though. Not really. I love the maybe handful of people that this reaches, even if you’re not the ones who really needed to hear it. If you’re here with me, you probably already knew where I was headed with this.
In the end, I’m a big, soft Teddy bear. Honest. I spent a lot of time in shadow work yesterday so I could get this off my chest today. This is a little longer than most. Sorry. I had a lot on my mind. This could have been three articles.
Thank you if you made it this far. I appreciate you. Love you all.
Disclaimer: Any semblance of the names Gomer Gamer or Debbi from the Dungeon to real people living or deceased is purely unintentional.