Saturday, September 17, 2016

OBS' Offensive Content Policy - 1 Year Later (Second in a series)

In the first part of our series dealing with the OBS offensive content policy, we looked at the OBS-side results of the policy. We continue our series here, discussing the policy with a publisher who ended up at the center of the policy’s creation.

The product which lead to the policy being put in place was the now famous/infamous Tournament of Rapists. It was released via Skortched Urf’ Studios run by Mark Cathro and was written by Chris Field. While Tournament of Rapists was voluntarily withdrawn after discussion between Mark and Chris, it is seen by some as the beginning of OBS censoring the industry and certainly was the impetus behind the implementation of the new policy. As the initial fervor died down, Mark issued a press release (Twitterstorm Aftermath) on his site that discussed the events and his feelings on the matter.

“I would point out that it was *Our* decision. Steve/OBS didn’t pull it and he reached out to us before doing so. (Chris and I were both away from computers, so I emailed Steve to have him deactivate it rather than leave it up until Chris or I could get to the publisher dashboard.)

I stress that point since OBS put out their new Offensive Content Policy. It is my sincere belief that Steve does *Not* want to censor titles. Do I (Mark) agree with the new policy? Yes, 100%.”

Mr. Cathro goes on to speak of his support for Chris Field to create and publish the material he chooses, and also raises the question of whether or not the new policy might be abused. Overall, his outlook on the policy was generally positive a year ago. Today Mr. Cathro feels fairly much the same (although his opinions are not reflective of Chris Fields, whom we will hear from later in our series).

TT: When the content review policy was put in place you stated that you agreed with the new policy 100%. Is that still the case?

MC: Yes, I've never had a problem with it and I have also not seen it prevent publishers from putting out the products they want to.  OBS has a good track record of letting the market work rather than wielding an arbitrary Ban-Hammer or caving to social media over-reaction. 

TT: Since that first controversy exploded on the internet, are you aware of any other Skortched Urf’ Studios products having been flagged for review?

MC: I'm not aware of any of our products, or anyone else's being flagged for review. The concern was always chorfed-off users abusing the system to punish anyone that put out something that didn't agree with their group-think; but that concern hasn't panned out, fortunately. Again, if a product *deserves* review; it should be reviewed; which is why the system as implemented.  The concern was abusing the system to effectively "ban" items that didn't meet some arbitrary standard or viewpoint. 

TT: How do you feel about the current review process?

MC: I feel OBS is doing a good job and I have no reason to suspect they will not continue to do so. I believe they *had* to implement a more formal process due to the Perpetual Outrage Brigade™ deciding that Tournament of Rapists was the next target of their ire. They did, and so far I have seen zero affect on what we or any other publisher has been putting out.  (I could be wrong; I'm not really engaged in actively publishing content at this point, but I do keep my finger on the pulse.)

TT: Do you feel that "Tournament of Rapists" has made your products a target for abuse of the content review policy?

MC: Not at all.  As I said, I've not seen any other products flagged for review.  I'd expect them to keep an eye on our Black Tokyo releases as a matter of fact. In all, the formal process of review is simply a mechanism to allow removal of an objectionable title for specific reasons.  OBS uses a very soft hand in this; erring on the side of market freedom vs. self-appointed sensor of the RPG market space while allowing themselves the ability to react to a controversial title if and when needed.  

By way of summary, Mr. Cathro added, “I feel there was a social media over-reaction to the title and OBS found themselves the target of the outrage for *daring* to let us publish an adult horror-Hentai RPG title.  (In a long line of them that we've been publishing for years, I might add.) OBS pretty much *had* to react, so they implemented a more formal review system which they kind of needed to do anyway, and it also had the desired effect of calming down some of the vocal Caps-Lock Warriors.  The mob moved on but the real questions remain.”

Mr. Cathro raises some points about the community and entertainment industry at large, asking if OBS should be forced into the role of arbitrary censor for the community and whether demands exist that some material and topics (although explored in all other genres of entertainment) should be collectively taboo.

“In the end,” Cathro concluded, “I think OBS has done the right thing; implementing a formal review mechanism while still allowing wide latitude to explore diverse subject matter in the RPG space.”

Certainly, having been at the heart of the social media firestorm that resulted from Tournament of Rapists, one could not blame Cathro if he were jaded or bitter over the experience and yet he is relatively upbeat about the matter.

In our next installment we will discuss this matter with the author of Tournament of Rapists, Chris Field, who has an entirely different take on the policy.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Queue RPGPundit calling out Mark Cathro as a pro-censorship fascist in 3... 2... 1...


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