Tag Archives: Zak Smith

The Cost of Being Creative

Zak Smith has a good post The Cost of Being Creative, The Cost of Lying on the state of the tabletop RPG hobby a few years ago, around the time I decided to shelve the game I was working on, at least in part because the environment had become too toxic for anyone without a very thick skin.

Seven years ago, when I first started to click and google my way into the online RPG community, here’s what I (like most people) saw:

1. Hundreds of people who were trying—often quaintly, sometimes dazzlingly, always earnestly and by-and-large without the huge professional benefit that a successful gamble on student loans had given me in the way of an expensive art education—to make some creative things.

2. Hundreds of people on messageboards and blog comments trying–by any means necessary and with no holds-barred or fact-checking–to make doing that as painful as possible

3. The more daring and interesting a thing was, the more aggressively thing #2 happened…and have no doubt: it worked. A great deal of middle-of-the-road stuff was being published while the best stuff languished on blogs or in obscure corners of still-obscurer forums.

When I started this blog, folks would write in, asking questions about which way to take their projects, always including “I want to_____ but I’m afraid people will say _____ “.

Read the whole thing. He gives plenty of examples, though he stops short of naming names. And if you’ve been told that Zak Smith is “one of the most toxic indivduals in the hobby”, go and read this post from Stacy Dellorfano which lays it out straight.

It’s a shame the grassroots tabletop gaming scene got this way, and I can remember when it happened. There are a lot of parallels with the dysfunctional nature of Science Fiction fandom, though there doesn’t seem to be a Requires Hate figure that everyone can single out as a scapegoat.

I really hope this madness never comes to music fandom, though clickbait thinkpieces titled “Alternative music genres are safe spaces for white people” give me every reason to fear the worst.

Posted in Religion and Politics | Tagged | 5 Comments

Lovecraft and the Fear of Ick

Thought-provoking post by Zak Smith on Lovecraft, Nerds And The Uses of Ick. H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most controversial figures in SF and gaming cultures. His massive misogyny and racism cannot be denied, yet the visceral power of his horrors mean he’s still one of the most influential writers of the genre. But both his bigotry and the power of his writing stem from the same fear of the Other.

Lovecraftian disgust is visceral, the kind that goes ick. The feeling of having a gun to your head isn’t ick. Ick is a fear of life–someone else’s icky life. Fear of mollusks, for instance–which are totally harmless–is Lovecraftian.

He then turns to the RPG world’s rather messy culture wars,  drawing parallels between Lovecraft’s fears and hangups with those of the faction who wish to sanitise and bowdlerise the RPG hobby.

When there is ick, there is fear, where there’s fear there is ignorance, where there’s ignorance there’s disgust, and where there’s disgust, prejudice.

I’m not enirely convinced that calling out some game designers by name is productive, but the points he makes are still valid.

Posted in Games, Science Fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment