In the first part of our series we heard from Scott Holden, Manager of Promotions and Business Intelligence at OBS, who answered a number of questions about the new policy. In our second and third parts of the series we spoke with the two men at the heart of the controversy that sparked the policy. Moving forward we look at the effects of the implementation of the policy. We continue our examination of the policy and its effects by speaking with author Venger Satanis.
Venger Satanis is no stranger to controversy over his products How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss and his RPG product Alpha Blue. While “How to Game Master” has been hit by a few low reviews, it was the 70’s style Sci-fi titillation product Alpha Blue that was flagged for review. Like the previous product discussed, Tournament of Rapists, Alpha Blue is also found behind the Adult Content barrier and carries the following additional warning:
“Warning: Alpha Blue contains potentially offensive material in regards to sexual content, adult situations, vulgar language, mature themes, etc. “
Despite the warning and the content filter, Alpha Blue was flagged for review in March of this year. Tenkar himself weighed in on the event [Why You Should be Concerned that Alpha Blue got Temporarily Pulled From OBS, March 21, 2016]. This caused a new outpouring of concern over the policy that, in places, rapidly ascended to hyperbole. Author James Spahn paraphrased concentration survivor Martin Niemoller's famed commentary when speaking of the matter and how it could effect any number of authors if the process continued. The public response varied greatly from this level of outrage that the product was pulled for review and apathy over the policy in general.
Venger’s experience brought part of the OBS system to light, as he explained. “Actually, there's a hidden part of the process that some people don't know about. Once a product has been flagged, then one or more OBS employees take a quick look at it. If there seems to be some merit to the complaint, then it undergoes a ‘thorough staff review’. If the complaint appears frivolous, then nothing at all happens to the flagged product.”
He continued on, mentioning that he had spoken by phone directly with Steve Wieck about the matter. “During a lengthy conversation with Steve Wieck, he shared the concerns that some people had with my sleazy, vintage sci-fi RPG. We both came to the same conclusion - Alpha Blue may be culturally insensitive at times and offensive to a few outspoken individuals, but it doesn't deserve to be blacklisted.” In a matter of a few days, Alpha Blue was one more for sale and it had been placed on the OBS “white list”
As someone who has been through the OBS vetting process and emerged on the other side, Venger Satanis has a singular viewpoint on the process.
TT: Since Alpha Blue was temporarily pulled, are you aware of any other of your products having been flagged for review at OBS?
VS: Aside from Alpha Blue being flagged for offensive content and How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss given a one-star review because I'm considered too sexist by the outrage brigade, I don't know of any abuse directed at me or my RPG products.
TT: Having had a product placed under review, has that experience made you more likely to search for another avenue for sales or are you confident in the review system in place?
VS: I'm confident in the review system up to a point. Before Alpha Blue, there was the unfortunately named Tournament of Rapists. And after Alpha Blue James Desborough's Hentacle, schoolgirl, hentai card game got pulled and didn't pass the "test." While I understand OBS's policy, procedure, and results, I still wish they were a little more lenient.
I'm not against finding another place to sell my wares. I use Amazon / CreateSpace now and have considered selling PDFs on my own or at an alternative RPG retailer.
TT: What is your opinion of how OBS is currently handling their content review system in regards to your products? Are you satisfied with how it has been handled so far?
VS: I'm more or less satisfied with how OBS is handling things. Although, there's nothing black and white about "obscenity" and "I'll know it when I see it." So, things could go down the rabbit hold pretty quick if there's not a firm hand on the wheel. By that I mean the watchdogs should be driven towards freedom of creative expression, and not by the desire to censure another's artistic work.
TT: Has the implementation of the content review system led to changes in which products you make available via OBS, or to the content contained therein?
VS: I've thought about gearing some products so that I don't have to worry about any kind of adult filter at all. Some things behind OBS's adult filter don't get seen as much, and so sales are lower. But I don't create anything because I want to walk the razor's edge of acceptability, and I have no interest in writing material that solely has to do with rape or pushes an agenda involving a particular ethnicity or religion that exists in the real world. Sure, I might include those things here and there, but too much takes it into a different realm.
Having emerged from the experience, Venger Satanis offered his feedback to Steve Wieck.
“At the end of our discussion, I urged OBS to put language in their adult content filter page saying that things may offend or be offensive, but OBS won't take any action unless a majority of customers find the offending material egregious.”
As opinions of those involved continue to vary, in our next installment we speak to a game creator who have created the most banned products on OBS.
Bob Brinkman has been playing RPGs since the days of OD&D. Recently he has written for both the Goodman Games Fifth Edition Fantasy and DCC RPG lines and has completed a project for the Crossroads to Adventure books for GP Adventures. He co-hosts the monthly Sanctum Secorum podcast focusing on Appendix N in relation to DCC RPG.