The Wreck Of The S.S. Censorship (Or, “How Writers Steer Their Careers Into The Rocks”)

Cause? Meet effect.

So, a couple days ago a video games freelancer, Ryan Perez, said some things on Twitter about delightful geek super-goddess (said without irony or sarcasm, as I am indeed a fan) Felicia Day.

He said:

And then:

And then:

Worth noting: by this point, Ryan Perez had about… ohh, 50 followers. I don’t know much about the dude, but it seems he’s fairly new to games journalism, and was writing for the site Destructoid at the time.

One wonders if he were tweeting to the relative vacuum of those 50 followers only, he wouldn’t have violently overturned the dinner table on which his food was waiting — ahh, but he tweeted directly to Miss Day, and therein dumped a Gatorade bucket of his own waste over top his own fool head. Because his misogynistic, dismissive opinion of her (and, apparently, drunken) got a fabulously epic signal boost in the form of Wil Wheaton via Veronica Belmont. (Here we are given an image of a schlubby mortal man, sitting on a throne made of his own emptied Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, shouting incessant invective and surly epithets at not the Greek Gods above but rather, the Geek Gods, and lo and behold one of them heard and oh shit she has friends and now they’re gonna tear open your breastbone and breathe fire and awesomeness and d20s upon your stupid drunken dipshit heart. VOOOOOOOOSH.)

(Sidenote, I now want to see art depicting a pantheon of current Geek Gods. SOMEBODY DO THAT.)

Wil called out Ryan’s current employer — Destructoid — and Destructoid said, basically, “Hey, everyone, be cool,” and that was just pee on top of poop because no, really, people weren’t going to be cool.

And so began the slow motion boat crash of Ryan Perez’s freelance career. At least, in the short term. I can’t speak for what will happen to him in the long run, as I am not an oracle — sure, sure, I like to play with pigeon guts and goat bones but that’s purely recreational quit lookin’ at me. For all I know Fox News will swoop in and hire the guy (“You speak for us!”), but for now, what happened is that a freelance writer who, I suspect, didn’t have a whole lotta career behind him now may not have a whole lotta career ahead of him because social media can give very big ripples to one poorly-thrown pebble.

Destructoid fired him, of course.

Now, this has an imperfect mirror in a situation that unfolded a little while ago about a dude not in the video games industry but rather the pen-and-paper games industry where said dude made some link-bait, button-pushing commentary about how rape is a wonderful plot device and how it’s okay because women have rape fantasies and — well, whatever. Point is, he was then surprised that his link-bait took and the buttons he pushed were actually hooked up to something (like, say, The Internet), and when the rain of shit was just a drizzle he found no shelter and instead kept pushing buttons. The shit-rain fell harder and harder until a petition arose to get him canned from one of his publishers. At that point said game-writer dude dug his heels in even deeper and then made some comments about the very real rape-threats against the petition-writer that were ill-advised, and, lo and behold, he got canned from his publisher, oops.

There’s more to that story, just as there is and will be more to the Perez story, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post isn’t even, “Don’t be a jizz-bag,” or, “The gaming industry has a deep, deep problem with puerile ass-hearted butt-trolls treating women like second-class citizens at best and doe-eyed sex-objects at worst.” Those things are, of course, true.

But that’s not my point. I’ve made those points already. You know that stuff already.

No, here the point is, writers? You can steer your career into the rocks with shenanigans like this. Now, you may assume that I’m telling writers to — eep, watch what they say, button up that language, don’t rock the boat with your opinions, be soft and moist and colorless like a pre-chewed glob of cardboard, but believe me, that’s not what I’m suggesting. Look at me: I’ve been a freelance writer for close to a decade-and-a-half now, and I could probably write a blog post with nothing but the word COCK-WAFFLE written a thousand times, each time in an incrementally-larger font-size, and no one would fire me. I could and have offered opinions about religion and politics, about health care and food politics, and I remain un-shitcanned.

You may also assume I’m saying, “Don’t piss off your employers,” AKA, “Don’t poop into the hand that feeds you,” but that’s not exactly it, either. That’s part of it, yes, but the heart of what I’m saying is, you need to watch out for the audience. The audience is mighty. The audience is all-seeing. The audience doesn’t want to stand for your tweaked and twisted opinion when it comes from a place of (real or imagined) hate. You turn on the audience and they will turn on you. This isn’t just about turning on a geek icon, about spitting in the eye of one of the Geek Gods. It’s about how one dude misread who his audience is — one assumes he thought the audience was just a bunch of high-fiving bro-heims like himself, when really, uh-oh, the audience has women in it, too. Women who matter. Women who will shank your ass in the shower for looking down on them and treating them like lessers when they’re an equal and awesome part of what we do and who we are as an army of gaming and geek and pop culture.

Ryan Perez took a bite out of Felicia Day.

The audience — not just women but all who recognize that they’re part of our tribe — bit back.

You can call it censorship if you like — and it is, in the sense that the audience will not stand for your bullshit anymore and would much rather see your mouth taped shut with tape and your body dumped in the trunk of an Oldsmobile swiftly sinking into the waters of a forgotten lake. But this isn’t legal censorship. This is the censorship of an angry audience. This is a vote-with-your-dollars-and-your-voice type of censorship. Natural and normal and part of the system.

Matt Wallace tweeted the very-true:

And then, of course, Perez doubled-down (as they usually do) with:

That is the sound of a boat crashing into the rocks, by the way. Remember it. Why do you think Perez has over 1000 followers, now? They’re rubber-necking. They want to see the body pulled out of the fire.

Writers, cut it with the hurtful and hateful crap.

The audience is listening.

The end.

P.S., Don’t be a jizz-bag.

P.P.S., We need more women in gaming, so, uhh, somebody make that happen.

P.P.P.S., Seriously, GEEK PANTHEON, someone get on that.

P.P.P.P.S., Yes, this is posting on a Sunday but it counts as my Monday post NO YOU SHUT UP.

107 comments

  • You rise good points chuck and I agree, Desborough handled a delicate issue and was anything but delicate about it. In part it proves hsi point, when you use certain words or themes the anger wave is not close behind. (You saw how it worked in the Lara Croft trailer).

    My point is that the line you used originally sounded a bit biased or uninformed. Now I know different.

    In case of Ryan Perez… well there is now way to help the guy anyway. He dug his own grave trying to bring attention to his own tweets.

    Keep bringing us intresting articles.

  • Did the novel of the last century really change your life? I still haven’t read many great books, though I intend to.
    How many books can you read in a lifetime? I used to read one hundred or more a year, now I’m under 50. I have the Naked and the Dead on my shelf. I read Catch-22 first because Mailer is a documented asshole and Joseph Heller isn’t, as far as I know.
    Actions have consequences.
    Writers should not kiss ass or walk on eggshells, but if you want to get a readership by being an asshole (Tucker Max, perhaps?) I won’t be one of them.
    It’s not blackballing if I don’t want to work with a jerk. Behavior has consequences. All the guy had to do was admit he was out of line, instead of acting like an entitled dweeb, hiding behind his monitor.
    And it works both ways- I’m outspoken. If an editor doesn’t want to accept my work because I called someone famous a fucking idiot, or because of my political views… it is not censorship. It’s a consequence of my big mouth.

  • I don’t know. Looking over my favorites, I prefer my authors to be assholes by a huge margin. Aren’t the best born with foots in their mouths?

  • After hearing about the uproar, I was expecting Mr. Perez to have said something more shocking. It worries me when there’s such a huge reaction to something like this. Not because Felicia Day deserves to have to deal with such commentary, but because having your ability to earn a living ruined is HUGE. It’s like a sentence without a trial or any way to get parole. He was rude. So maybe people should shout at him. Everyone has been rude at some point. But put him out of work, at a time like this? Just strikes me as too severe a punishment for the crime.

    Which I realize wasn’t your point. Your point was more, observe and learn. Don’t do this. It’s dumb. And it is.

  • Well, there are more women in the gaming world. Now when you say that, do you mean in the producing sense? Or in the community? I think for the producing and creative side no one wants to take a risk. Which is a huge problem. I feel that until women in games create their own C.L.A.M.P version of a video game company. Nothing is going to happen. In the community aspect, there is so much anger towards a girl who can take out her male challengers. It’s seen as a threat. Which is pretty sad since that can be a huge asset in the long run. After seeing Indy Game ( which was a good documentary) but I was sad that the filmmakers did not even try to find women or “minorities” in the movie. Except for one the creator of Journey. However that says a lot of how the gaming industry needs to start taking risks or it will end up like Hollywood. Boring and repetitive. Unfortunately,it’s sort of already happening.

    Here is a blog spot. I helped out with one of shoots and did an interview. The creator is a girl who is very much into games and she wanted to create something of her own. Have a look if you get a chance. http://ggvogue.blogspot.com/search?q=Interview

  • As I see it, the problem isn’t simply that the morons you cited decided to go into douchebag mode. (As a female gamer and geek, I believe there’s a special, hurty level in hell for misogynists.) But rather the fact that after having stepped in a huge pile of dog shit, they don’t have the good sense to back up, scrape the excrement off their shoe and walk away. Nooo. They proceed to camp in the poop, roll around and jump up in down. And then, now covered head to toe in a crust of brown, they go into butthurt mode: “The Internets are throwing shite at me; Censorship!”

    I.e., the longer you engage in a conflict, the more attention you draw, the more likely it will be [increasingly ]negative. This is even true to some extent for non-douchebags. There’s a point where the best thing to do is speak your piece and move on, letting the trolls flame themselves out.

  • @Paul Baxter Aw, thanks. It’s not the name I was born with. During my transition, I was going by another name, Cora, but my aunt hated it and said it made me sound like an old lady. So I proposed using Zoe because I liked the sound of it. She did too, and so that’s the name I went to court to get on all my legal documents. =^)

    My middle name was given to me by my father, because he said using my mother’s maiden name would piss her off. I rather liked the idea of pissing Mom off, so that’s what I went with.

  • Hey Destructoid, I know a freelancer that isn’t a Dick. You can hire me. ;p

    Perez got his just deserts — a shit-storm sandwich.

    I’d love to be a writer for gaming industry, but each time I’ve not rolled the dice right apparently.

    Now someone steer me towards that Geek God artwork that must be forthcoming?

  • “Women who will shank your ass in the shower for looking down on them and treating them like lessers when they’re an equal and awesome part of what we do and who we are as an army of gaming and geek and pop culture.”

    Oh yes, yes we will.

    Speaking as a writer/gamer (online more than console)/self-affirmed Geek of long standing and many stripes: NOTHING kicks more ass than a gamer girl, and nobody will shank you faster for calling her “booth babe.”

    Someone called me babe once.

    ONCE.

    They still haven’t found the body.

  • First up, great article well expressed Chuck. I’d also like to say I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that consequences and censorship are not the same thing.

    Let’s see…can we get Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in on the Geek Gods pantheon? Ursula K Le Guin? Dianna Wynn Jones? More authors should be part of the pantheon :)

  • July 2, 2012 at 7:20 PM // Reply

    Salome, the people who shouted at him didn’t put him out of work. He put himself out of work by bringing his employer into disrepute with their customers. You’d get the same result by getting drunk and rubbing up against the shoppers if you worked in retail. This just happened where more people could see, which makes it doubly stupid on his part. Which is Chuck’s point. You can be a rude, drunken, ill-informed idiot if you want. No-one is going to stop you. But you can’t do it in public and expect there not to be consequences. It is tough out there. You could lose a job for all sorts of reasons that are beyond your control. It probably makes sense not to lose it for stupid behaviour.

  • He’s a shithead but don’t dub him as misogynistic. Come on, save some words for people who truly hate women; don’t water it all down by just using it as a buzzword whenever someone insults a woman. It doesn’t help anybody.

  • “Now, this has an imperfect mirror in a situation that unfolded a little while ago about a dude not in the video games industry but rather the pen-and-paper games industry where said dude made some link-bait, button-pushing commentary about how rape is a wonderful plot device and how it’s okay because women have rape fantasies and — well, whatever.”

    Wow, there’s a completely ill-informed misrepresentation of a situation.

    You’re apparently unaware of Maladicta/Marlyn Cooper defaming Desborough in her petition (deliberately misquoting to make it seem as though he supports rape in general) and the fact that this started as a Something Awful forum internet mobbing:

    http://www.therpgsite.com/showpost.php?p=552268&postcount=117

    • @Doc:

      I’m neither ill-informed nor misrepresenting the situation. I didn’t say I agreed with the petition, nor did I think the petition was particularly on the up-and-up, as it were. Just the same, the point of my post relates: Desborough went stomping around, kicking over bee hives, then acted surprised that he got stung.

      – c.

  • “The shit-rain fell harder and harder until a petition arose to get him canned from one of his publishers.”

    Actually, the SA forum goons kept up their pre-meditated attack both on twitter and on rpg.net, and the defamatory petition (since retracted, given its actionable nature) was concurrent with that planned attack, not something that followed. Your statement is misleading if not outright factually incorrect.

    “At that point said game-writer dude dug his heels in even deeper and then made some comments about the very real rape-threats against the petition-writer that were ill-advised, and, lo and behold, he got canned from his publisher, oops.”

    Some *other* people that Desborough has exactly zero responsibility for made some threats via email and Twitter. The thing he didn’t do was condemn them the way some people would like him to. This doesn’t mean he’s not a victim of the initial attack. This also had nothing to do with his *former* publisher, Mongoose, who stated in part:

    “We would like to make clear that we have, and have not had, any plans to hire this freelancer again for any future projects.

    “We understand that some people have found his previous material upsetting, despite all intentions for it to be humorous. This book will therefore be allowed to lapse out of print, and we will not actively promote it in any way. It will never be reprinted.”

    In other words, James Desborough was a freelancer they once employed years ago and they hadn’t had any plans to hire him again, anyway, so they’re effectively going to jack-all and simply let the older books go out of print. The books from years ago. That apparently no one had a problem with up until now.

    And in addition, in a followup statement:

    “We have been approached by several parties asking if we could make a statement that they feel will give our position on this matter a more fair and balanced perspective. We are more than happy to do so.

    “We know James personally and professionally and do not believe him to be the misogynist, rape supporter or rape apologist that he has been labelled. As we said above, James and his own company, Postmortem Studios, have been moving in a different direction to Mongoose Publishing for some time now and we had no plans to work together in the future in any case. Existing stock of the book in question will be allowed to lapse out of print.”

    The galling thing about it is that here what you really have is a group of people with an agenda are using something someone has written *now* as a means to attack companies that paid him for freelance work *years before.* Steve Jackson Games actually had the best idea, which was to ignore the internet mob with an agenda from the get-go.

    So no, you’re pretty clearly ill-informed or simply willfully misrepresenting the situation.

  • One of the things I like, as a female geek, about the geek culture is that there ARE men willing to stand up to misogynists and dickholes just as loudly as the women. Thank you! Men standing up to misogyny are wonderful. Not because women “need a man to fight their battles” but because it shows men as not willing to make excuses for the idiots that share their gender. Thank you, Chuck.

    Secondly, they really need to start teaching people about the impact of social media, because you may think a few drunken a-hole tweets won’t go anywhere, but they last FOREVER. And if you choose the wrong target for a douchbag hate speech? Oh, I do not want to be you.
    The internet is like a weird jungle full of strange and wild creatures, but if you piss it off, they’ll be lucky if they can find your bones afterward.

  • Yup. Just, everything you said. Yup.

    The really shitty thing about this whole Felicia Day business is that there are lots of reasonable, decent enough people who are saying that it’s *not* sexist to accuse her of relying on sex appeal for popularity. Which, in and of itself, no: it’s not. That’s a legitimate criticism. But it’s entirely ignoring the fact that she isn’t just a supermodel in I’m-so-geeky glasses taking photos of herself standing by some videogames. She’s putting out content. Real, good content — content that requires hard work and creativity — in a world that *needs* that from us geeky girls.

    The thing that is sexist here is that she is being reduced to her appearance. So this guy doesn’t like her and he wants to tweet about it? Hey, that’s cool. Just don’t whine about it with fucking rhetorical questions and accusations that she’s just an airhead with an attractive feminine body. Or if you *are* going to do that, do with your fellow douchebags at the bar. Criticise her output of content, motherfucker, not her fucking body. This is why I wouldn’t even dream about trying to do anything in the gaming world, as much as I’d like to. I’m just not strong enough or level-headed enough to put up with that bullshit. And that’s not a comment on my gender, that’s just me.

    To actually get to the crux of your article, though:

    Yeah. Don’t be a dick online if you want to be a writer the world doesn’t loathe. Simple.

  • Tell me, people, if it the roles had been reversed, would there still be a shitstorm? Would women be white-knighting the guy? Chances are, you probably wouldn’t know about it. There is a huge problem with “GURL GAMERS” in video games. You see, there is a difference between a female gamer and a GURL GAMER. A female gamer is just a gamer: she plays games for fun, rarely, if ever, mentioning she’s female. A gurl gamer, on the other hand, is just a person craving attention, “HEY EVERYONE, I PLAY VIDEOGAMES AND I’M A GIRL, PAY ATTENTION TO ME. I’M SUCH A GEEK I PLAYED THE SIMS FOR A WHOLE HOUR”.
    Perez, probably thinking Day is a gamer gurl, started spouting idiotic messages.
    Let’s ask ourselves, what has she done for the gaming industry?
    She voice acted a couple of times, yes. She has a show about videogames, yes. But, are those huge contributions? Have they affected gaming immensely? Not really.
    Then, why is she so famous? Simply put: she is a woman.
    Also, was he really acting like a misogynist? He never said women don’t contribute to gaming. He never said women weren’t an important part of video games. Not once did he say videogames should be for men only because women belong in the kitchen. Now that, would be pure misogyny.
    Is Felicia Day a glorified booth babe? Not at all. Does she deserve the level of fame she has? Probably not.

    My point is, the guy was a rude dick, yes, but he wasn’t a misogynist, which everyone seems to enjoy calling him.
    Equality goes both ways.

    • @M –

      You’re saying she’s famous because she’s a woman, which is absurd and — ooh, ooh, call on me! call on me! — misogynist.

      The thing that you’re missing is, nobody would give a geek a problem because he was a dude, and yet, people are happy to give geeks a problem when they’re women because they’re women.

      Just as you have done right here, right now.

      Which is shitty, so, y’know, stop.

      – c.

  • What is it with the perennially never-laid schlubby guy? I used to take part in some very active philosophy forums on IRC, a zillion years ago, and inevitably, there would be some ignorant fool subtle as a narwhal who would decide to make the point that my education, observations, and opinions were null because I was a “hot chick.”

    Maybe Felicia Day isn’t my favorite of the Geek Gods, but if a large number of people enjoy listening to her opinions on cool stuff, then perhaps she’s worth listening to. If you don’t get it, don’t be a @#$% about it, as the song goes.

    Having said that, I think it’s unfortunate said schlub got fired for being an idiot. It’s the kind of thoughtless mouthy thing that could happen to anyone. He should be allowed to dislike someone and express his opinions about it, without being lynched. This is the kind of experience that’ll make a man like that a misogynist for life.

  • Belated thought that occurred in the shower (source of all genius) after reading this post, and Robert Thomas’ comment way above: if we’re talking Greek Pantheon, Gary Gygax simply has to be in there. ‘Twentyseidon’ anyone?

    Speaking of owning our ill-thought comments, I think I’ve probably crushed my career in its infancy with that detestable pun…

  • Sure, you’re free to believe an unprovoked personal attack on someone is somehow comparable to the internet mobbing of someone with an unpopular opinion.

    And that someone can get “canned” from a job they don’t actually have.

    Go ahead, support the trolls.

    Hopefully you’ll never express a valid opinion on something and find trolls using it as an excuse to attack your publishers and means of earning a living.

  • But she /is/ famous because she is a woman who enjoys video games a great deal.
    And Perez wasn’t giving her a problem because she’s a woman. He was giving her a problem for having so much undeserved fame.
    I’m not giving her a problem for being a female gamer, either. In fact, I have no problem with her whatsoever. I do have a problem with people calling Perez a misogynist, because, as I stated earlier, his bullshit wasn’t anti-women, it was anti-Day. Misogyny is a hatred towards women in general, not towards a particular woman.

  • Samuel:

    Bonus lesson- If you are a man, never say anything bad about a woman, ever, for any reason, or you are woman-hating scum.

    Until you acquire the necessary Clue to figure out what’s wrong with this comment (Hint: everything after “basically”) … in your case, yeah, I’d stick to discussing the weather.

  • Chuck, thanks for calling out the bullies. Score one for the humans. Whack them zombies.

    And now for the philosophical question that seems to have the Evil Trolls all hot and bothered: does an asshole deserve to lose his job for being, well, an asshole?

    The answer is yes.

    Assholery of his particular stripe–the random harassment–does real damage. See the comments above: the assholes have dropped the temperature and kept real talent out. They’ve ended careers by posting their “No Girls in the Clubhouse” sign, and served notice that if any girl does manage to sneak in, they’ll make sure that she’s never judged on her talents but on her appeal to them as a potential sex partner. Bullying and harassment do real damage–yes, up to and including PTSD and suicide attempts.

    So let’s think for a minute about all of the stillborn careers, and not waste any tears over assholes who want the title of martyr.

  • I am currently working on the new Pantheon of Geek Gods lol. Taking the main aspects of geek/gamer culture and designing characters for each. Thanks for the wicked idea Chuck! I will post them here when I’m done.

  • I agree with the tweet-length sentiment: “Speaking ill of others rarely helps your own status.”

    However, your presentation isn’t far off from the accused’s original offense.
    “schlubby mortal man, sitting on a throne made of his own emptied Pabst Blue Ribbon cans”; “high-fiving bro-heims” – these are just as stereotypical, uninformed, assuming, and frankly offensive as the things Some guy tweeted about Some Girl that caused your bile to rise in the first place. It’s OK to bash Some Guy because the target of his ire is Some Girl because misogyny [and to be clear, I do agree that the 'booth babe' comment crossed a line] is a pet cause of the blogosphere. That doesn’t mean that the equally public, obviously submitted-for-comment douchebaggery posted here and directed at Some Guy is any less malignant, hurtful, or dishonorable.

    Take the higher road.

    Also, no one “vote[d]-with-your-dollars” here. They never got the chance. The shitwave rose and broke so quickly that there’s no way to know if D-toid would lose any money over this writer’s tweets. We can’t know if any of the offended voices were customers, or if they would cancel ad buy or subscriptions or whatever. It would have been equally appropriate for the site to down-list the writer’s future articles, assign him as an uncredited co-writer for near-future work, or simply allow a pen name; it’s what pen-names are for].

    I agree that what this guy said crossed a boundary and is NOT OK. I also think that the reaction [including posts like this] do little, if anything, to raise the level of discourse or promote decency in this space. We should all expect better of everyone, not just douchebags.

  • “Women who will shank your ass in the shower for looking down on them and treating them like lessers when they’re an equal and awesome part of what we do and who we are as an army of gaming and geek and pop culture.”

    You’ve met my wife?

  • I have a horrible image of this Felicia Day’s ‘defenders’ laying awake in their mom’s basements, vigorously imagining how grateful she’ll be for their ‘protection’. That’s bad. What’s worse is that the poor girl will probably have to actually touch some of those slippery palms at conventions.

    I don’t know who she is, what she does, or how much she gets paid, but as far as I’m concerned she’ll have earned every penny.

    Geeks in love. Is there anything more revolting?

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