Paul Cardwell, Jr.’s Letter to GAMA About Cash Dues, March 1, 1996

Special thanks to Jason Hudgins for scanning this letter for us! From what we can gather, when GAMA asked the CAR-PGA for cash dues to participate, Paul wrote a letter to educate GAMA on how CAR-PGA operated and why we weren’t going to pay the $50 fee to participate. The letter is an illuminating snapshot of both the CAR-PGA and our relationship with GAMA at the time.

Dear Lee:

Unfortunately we must decline the offer to renew our GAMA membership with cash dues. Except for the Directory and Sourcebook, which we did not get this year, the only thing membership has provided us is one (1) mailing of the Hotline packet. While this is a far more convenient way than winkling out the information from separate sources (with the obvious likelihood that we will miss some), it is not $50.00 worth. The one time I could attend the GAMA membership meeting, the Origins staff [mercifully no longer running things] made sure I was scheduled to conduct a game at the time of the meeting.

The Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa) was organized in late 1987 because no one was defending RPG against the lies then prevalent in the mass media, which accused us of murder, suicide, cannibalism, Jungian psychology [! ], satanic ritual, pedophilia, rape, and everything else short of aggravated mopery. At the time, GAMA was dominated by the philosophy that any publicity was good publicity and made sure that the predecessor of the Industry Watch Committee, under Greg Stafford, had neither the funding or staff to do much about it.

Since that time, CAR-PGa has persisted in its activities while GAMA has alternated between open support to the extent of giving us free membership and even funding one of our projects, to open antagonism and an explicit order never to contact GAMA again.

As you can obviously see by our monthly balance sheet, printed monthly in the Newsletter, CAR-PGa is not a money¬≠making operation, and indeed was specifically designed so as not to be. Too many organizations reach the stage that preservation of the organization, if not endless expansion, becomes more important than the purpose for which it was originally founded. As one of my seminary professors once said regarding that phenomenon, “Long after Christianity has vanished from the earth, the Methodist Church will still be meeting.”

Our dues are barter of documented work for the cause. We even have some of the Newsletter subscriptions (such as GAMA’s) also on barter. This is the way we work with other groups for mutual benefit. And we are interested in continuing this arrangement. Our files are available at cost to anyone needing the information, and a list of what is available on specific subjects is available for simply a SASE and the correspondents can look it up themselves. We are not even after the 150 per page copying charge.

In our uncontrolled ego, we feel that we have upheld our end of this barter. 1 trust this opinion is shared by such CAR- PGa members as Mike Stackpole, and by subscribers to our Newsletter (whom we have not yet persuaded to fill out a membership form) as Wayne Godfrey, Lou Zocchi, Dragon, Interactive Fantasy, and Shadis (before they got rid of Jolly Blackburn). The newsletter, Games & Education, for which we are most grateful for GAMA’s financial support, was started as a CAR-PGa project, by David Millians, our Georgia State Coordinator.

Even though a small organization (the total at any time wanders from forty-five to sixty members), it includes clergy (a Methodist, a Jewish seminarian, and a Wiccan priestess), a psychologist and a psychiatrist, classroom teachers, a lawyer, a bunch of writers (who are really paid money for it), a diminishing percentage of students, some game store owners, and mostly a large variety of occupations which have no direct bearing on gaming.

We currently have members in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, U.K., Denmark, and Belgium, and graduate school pressures have only temporarily cost us our member in Finland. We have had in the past, and hope to again, members in Australia and New Zealand. There is a lot going on in gaining that is not covered by your membership. CAR-PGa is a way for you to find out what.

For instance, have you made any use of the fact, published in our May 1995 Newsletter, that on March 21 to April 4, there was a major festival of performing arts in Rio de Janeiro in their equivalent of Lincoln Center? Performances and panel discussions of themes, such as the epic hero, world construction, and fantasy fiction characters, all featured represen­tatives from theater, film, TV, and RPG. The weekly TV log of their largest network has a regular RPG/TCG column every other issue. Here we are thrilled if we can avoid lynch mobs and police raids, while there it is a major art form!

However, the “vacation” we had in the early 1990s that permitted us to concentrate on RPG in education, the arts, therapy (both psychological and sociological), and other benefits of the game, is over.

What were you doing for gamers in Canada last year when the censors were trying to ban the importation of Clue as promoting violence? Where was GAMA when RPG was under threat in Norway and Sweden because the NCTV/ B.A.D.D. material got in but the government didn’t even know what RPG was, and was shocked to find it was a literary form (which has more stringent protection)? CAR-PGa was active in all three and those normally progressive nations still permit RPG after all. Since November, there have been two major US crime stories, one a double murder and the other multiple sex with minors, both of which had the media blame RPG/LARP. Again, CAR-PGa members were promptly on the scene with letters to the media protesting this distorted view and we have not heard the lies since (although we may again at the trial stage). And we do it on less than a hundred dollars a year plus a separate break-even budget for the Newsletter!

We will never have GAMA’s money and probably will never have its membership numbers. However, half of our members either have published a game or are publishing a game periodical. This was not intentional, and we are hardly trying to compete with GAMA – we have different functions. We found out about it after they joined, but it does indicate a sizeable part of the game industry are not members of GAMA simply because, like us, they are too small to afford it. Connection through C AR-PGa/GAMA cooperation is their only way of getting GAMA benefits (or, for that matter, you getting even greater benefits from them).

However, it is our great advantage that we are a totally voluntary organization. We are not directly connected to the game industry and so our claims have an image of impartiality that GAMA cannot, by its very nature, have. This has been particularly valuable in producing information for students to use in term projects. Because we specialize in academic standards of evidence (peer-reviewed scholarly papers, appellate court decisions, etc.) these papers have had an influence on professors and administrators that has helped the campus attitudes toward our games. Except in Brazil, however, we have yet to be successful in getting RPG recognized in the next level – as a legitimate subject of contemporary culture studies, although TV sit-coms, comic books, and the films of Ed Wood do have this recognition.

Likewise, a close C AR-PGa/GAMA cooperation is the only way, other than the slight amount at Origins, that GAMA can secure the input of the most important part of the gaming industry: the rank and file gamers themselves. CAR-PGa is primarily an organization of gamers whose gaming interests extend far beyond merely playing the games, to that of ensuring that the games will be around to be played, and that they will be used to their fullest potential including uses outside the field of recreation.

There are a couple of areas in which GAMA can take a far greater lead than it is now doing. GAMA, is a trade organization. Its members have both the money and the equipment to produce publications to aid in the promotion of gaming. This should include those in greater scope than pamphlets like Retailer’s Hot Line or Games Don’t Kill, as useful as those are. To give a personal example, I have a book, The Attacks on Role-Playing Games: Another Pool Table for River City. It is a study of the whole anti-game movement as a form of mass delusion, much as the livestock mutilation scare of the 1970s. While it is heavily documented with the footnote per paragraph of scholarly works, the writing style is quite readable and would be of use not only to game retailers under attack, but also could give gamers a wider appreciation of the beneficial aspects of gaming. I cannot interest any publisher in the concept (none have even read it). While 1 had planned for it to be my Masters thesis, even the university transferred me to a department that would only accept statistical theses, not historical ones, and so I couldn’t even get it that degree of publication. Again, not on its merits, but on its subject matter. I hardly think I am the only one to write a book on a general gaming subject who has this problem.

Individual game publishers are interested only in their own game system. Mainstream publishers still regard RPG as something strictly for transpubescent boys who think rather than play sports. We have been unable to appraise them that this was never the case. Even Fine found the median age just over 20, and CAR-PGa is 31.6 average and a median in the upper 20s. We even have two members and a subscriber over 60 and one of those is the first of a three generation gaming family. (Has GAMA promoted RPG as a family activity?) GAMA has the publishing facilities (in its members), and can certainly use the income that being a publishing house can bring.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation was the only defense support for Steve Jackson Games, even though it was on very tenuous grounds, because the game industry, unlike Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, or American Booksellers Association Foundation for Free Expression, doesn’t have any structure in place for defending games from the censors and bookbumers. Mike Stackpole and/or Mike Pondsmith have had to be an ad hoc version of this whenever a major problem arises. A voluntary 1 % surcharge on game prcxlucts or convention fees could go far in establishing such a fund, and in this case, CAR-PGa could probably scrape up its tithe for the cause. (A tithe is ten times that of a I % surcharge.)

CAR-PGa is a research and advocacy network. We can provide the data for such operations, but GAMA is the obvious one to organize and run such pro-gaming programs. If you do, we are ready to help.

Currently, our total operation on the Internet is one member in Dallas who receives material from the ‘net and sends it, by snail mail, to the Chair in somewhat nearby Bonham, who answers it from the archives and mails it back to Dallas, where it is posted to the web. In spite of the obvious advantages of direct internet connections, $240 per year for server fee, plus another $ 150 or so one-time tooling up cost is far beyond the budget of this organization. Lower cost servers require a long-distance phone contact, which quickly eats up the difference.

CAR-PGa and GAMA have had their ups and downs. Certainly asking for money is far less “down” than being berated for asking what happened to die [supposedly quarterly | mailing or being kept out of the GAMA meeting when we finally qualified – as has happened in the past. However, we still don’t have the $50.00, but we do have – and offer – what could be far more valuable: our files on gaming and a means of daily contact with die gamers throughout the world who are the whole point of this business in the first place.

The barter offer still stands.

Sincerely,

Paul Cardwell, Jr. Chair

cc: Wayne Godfrey Mike Stackpole Lou Zocchi