Are there assholes in the OSR?
Of course. Anywhere you go there will be at least one asshole. That’s life.
Assholes draw attention to themselves.
They do that because they want to control things. They think they have all the answers.
Often they are smart, knowledgeable, even competent. That makes them even more insidious. They have some success and ability which is undeniable, and yet they are assholes that cause damage wherever they go.
Assholes are selfish and full of ego. They want the scene to be what they want it to be. That anyone else wants it to be something different is an attack on their belief. It is an attack on how big and important they are.
They think that their opinion is the only one that matters. They want to drive out anyone who disagrees with them because it damages their delicate self image.
The internet is a perpetual motion machine for assholes.
Before the internet, assholes had the same difficulty as everyone else trying to get attention. They had to pass through the gatekeepers. You had to be a high level asshole to get your name in the paper or on the 6 o’clock news.
With the creation of social media and platforms like YouTube, assholes are finally getting their day in the sun.
Social media is tailored to the skills of the asshole. Humans have a negativity bias. We pay more attention to the negative emotions than the positive emotions.
The purpose of social media is to grab your attention and hold it as long as possible so they can sell you shit. Zuck doesn’t care if you are mad, sad, jealous, full of self loathing or any negative emotion when you get done looking at Facebook. What he cares about is how many ads he can put in front of you before you do something else.
As such, they show you more content created by or telling about the antics of the assholes.
Social media and search engines makes it seem like there are way more assholes than actually exist. The algorithm presents the asshole’s Tweets, videos, posts to more people because users engage with that content. They get mad, they make angry comments, they share the content with their friends and say, “look at this asshole!”
This attention is like a perpetual motion machine for assholes.
The asshole thinks, “Look at all the attention I’m getting! They must love me!” The asshole engages in more assholery and unless it goes too far and the platform has to ban or suspend them, the asshole gets more impressions, more clicks, more views.
The two things I dislike the most about the assholes in the OSR.
Every so often, someone posts a, “The OSR is dead,” article that gets debated and passed around. Usually, it is because someone has gotten tired of the assholes and rightly so. Even though I think the OSR is still producing interesting and vibrant ideas and materials for gaming we have to be mindful that the assholes can destroy the OSR.
- Assholes discourage people who would try OSR games but decide the OSR is not for them.
- Assholes discourage people who are already in the OSR but are tired of the drama.
If you lose people and new people don’t take their place, the scene dwindles. The smaller it gets, the less vigorous and dynamic it becomes.
I have seen many people comment on various platforms that they find ideas and products in the OSR to be very interesting and inspiring. They have seen a lot of assholes spouting off so they are turned off because they figure they won’t be able to find non-assholes to play or interact with.
I have also seen good people who used to contribute to the OSR leave or simply stop making cool stuff because they dislike all the negativity swirling around the assholes. They don’t want to be associated with it. They don’t want to have a reputation of being like the assholes. The bad drives out the good.
The assholes are a minority in the hobby and yet they drive a lot of the commentary from outside of the scene.
A lot people perceive the OSR as a bunch of assholes because social media companies love to give assholes as much attention as possible. That level of attention makes people think there are a ton of assholes when in reality, there are very few. .
If you take an honest and comprehensive look at the OSR blogs, products, and users on message boards, Reddit, Twitter and so forth it is 99% creative, interesting, and positive.
Most of the people who enjoy and play OSR games are normal, decent, reasonable people and you’ve never heard of them.
Most of the people who play OSR games don’t have gaming blogs or talk about games on Twitter, Facebook or MeWe.
Most of the people who play OSR games don’t have Twitch streams, podcasts, or YouTube channels.
Most of the people who play OSR games do not engage with online content about OSR gaming.
Most of the people who play OSR are quiet about it. You don’t know them. You’ve never met them. You’ve never talked to them.
You wouldn’t know they exist but they do. A lot more people buy OSR gaming products than talk about it online.
They may lurk on message boards, read blogs, watch videos on YouTube but they are quiet. There are 20,000 users subscribed to the /osr sub-Reddit. There aren’t 20,000 posting or responding.
The most viewed blogs in the OSR are visited by thousands of readers every month. The typical blog post will get fewer than 10 comments.
Most of the people who buy, enjoy and play OSR games, do so without any concern for what I or anyone else has to say about the hobby.
What do we do about the assholes?
The first thing I think we can do is to follow the classic platitude about trolls. Don’t feed them.
Don’t click. Don’t follow. Don’t watch. Don’t engage.
The air an asshole breaths is attention. Stop giving them your attention.
You don’t have to go around telling everyone what an asshole that guy is. We already know.
Everyone can see who is the asshole. Assholes are self reporting.
You can call out the assholes if you want, just be aware that it is going to give them attention and that is what they want.
Note them. Ignore them. Move on.
Whatever you do, don’t cede the space to the assholes. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
Contribute, Interact, Share
Contribute. Make something. Write something. A monster. An encounter. A drawing. A review of an adventure, or a novel, or self help book about creativity that you like. Do something positive. Run an OSR game at a convention or game day at your FLGS. Give books to a youth game group. Whatever positive thing you can do, do that.
Classic fantasy adventure gaming has always been about people making stuff and sharing it. Look at some of those old zines. Amateur line drawings, literally cut and paste on to paper with misspelled text and formatted by people who never heard of graphic design. They were mimeographed and mailed out because the people who made them wanted to share and create something positive.
Interact and encourage the people who make positive stuff. We often don’t get emotionally fired up about things we like but don’t give us a moment of awe. We don’t engage with it. It’s OK, it doesn’t blow our minds though so we don’t click the like, share or comment. The algorithms on social media buries that stuff. If you don’t engage with content, the system doesn’t show it to more people. If you want more positivity, you have to engage with positive things.
Even if it is just a few words of encouragement on someone’s bad drawing of a goblin, make a comment. Click the like. It’s free! It takes a second! It doesn’t cost you anything to click that button for the people are contributing drawings, ideas, monsters, magic items or whatever to the OSR on social media. Don’t underestimate the value of a positive comment on blog post or video, a like, a share. Little things matter. 1 > 0
Share positive stuff. When someone makes something good tell other people about it. Every week the Seed of Worlds blog and https://weaver.skepti.ch/ post links to great blog posts. Every month Ben Milton’s Glatisant newsletter links to new products, blogs, and videos that are positive contributions to the scene.
I want more people to play and enjoy old school games. I think they are a great past time and even if it doesn’t become their primary game preference, there is a great deal they can learn about gaming if they at least play a few games.
If the scene seems to be a pack of angry bastards telling the kids to get off their lawn they’ll stay away. Some of those outsiders will talk shit even though they’ve never picked up an OSR game. Word of mouth is powerful.
The aggregate of words and deeds across the scene is what makes a culture.
I would like the culture of the OSR to be net positive.