Defending RPGs

In a perfect world, no-one would attack role-playing games without a good reason, and perfect or not, we’ve yet to see a good reason. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world.

In an almost-perfect world, any attacks or questions could be referred to the defender with the best combination of local connections, credentials, defense experience, and access to relevant research and other documentation, generally a CAR-PGa officer. Unfortunately, the world isn’t almost-perfect, either.

In the real world, there are going to be times when you are the only one whom an attacker will listen to, there are going to be times when it would look bad if you didn’t comment on something, and there are going to be times that the media wants to talk to you, not an officer of an organization that they’ve never heard of living in some other state. The following is a brief guide to what to do and say at those times.

  1. Preparing
    1.1 Get the Facts
    1.2 If You Don’t Know Something
  2. Public Relations “Do”s and “Don’t”s
    2.1 Do
    2.2 Don’t
    2.3 Afterwards
  3. Audiences
    3.1 The General Public
    3.2 The Mass Media
    3.3 Family, Non-gamers, Friends

N.B.: The following material is excerpted and adapted from the CAR-PGa Members’ Manual. That document goes into greater detail about preventive measures, preparedness, rallying your fellow gamers, and other advocacy concerns. If you have any interest in such issues, including being prepared for next time, we strongly suggest that you join CAR-PGa or at least subscribe to our social media. We charge no monetary dues, and membership or subscription makes it easier to keep up with what sorts of attacks to expect and what sorts of resources are available to counter them. Membership also lets us know that there’s someone friendly in your area should we have a research question or need someone to respond to an attack there, and it gives you access to other CAR-PGa members around the world for the same purposes.

1.  Preparing

1.1  Get the Facts

Do your research. This is both because people attacking or asking questions about RPGs so often have bad data or no data at all and because an argument without facts to back it up is unlikely to convince anyone.

Your first points of inquiry should be CAR-PGa’s Frequently Asked Questions page and Literature List for anything relating to the general subject of the attack or question. If this doesn’t have what you’re looking for or enough of it, contact the Chair and ask what else we have on the subject. You may also want to join CAR-PGa’s social media and inquire there. This should provide you with a reasonable background for both refuting general attacks and making general counterarguments.

Your second point of inquiry should be to track down the truth behind anything specific referred to by an attack or question:

  • If the attack or question refers to a current event, demand an unbiased source for any factual claims. Too often we’ve seen RPGs blamed for acts committed by people who don’t even play, so assume nothing without proof. If there’s no evidence either way, point this out and advocate a wait-and-see attitude.
  • If the attack or question refers to something historical, contact the CAR-PGa using our email or social media links. We keep records of all incidents that we know of that have been blamed on RPGs and can supply proof to the contrary for every case for which evidence is available. Demand enough information of an attacker or questioner that public records of the referenced incident can be researched. If the attackers or questioners refuse, point out how suspicious that is and then start providing verifiable cases where anti-gaming advocates have cried wolf before. Should a historical case not be immediately verifiable—e.g., it’s not one we’ve heard of before—you can still point out that it would be a first if the anti-gamers were right in that case and list the times that they were wrong.

RPGs don’t cause antisocial behavior and aren’t evil, so as long as you fight for truth and verifiable facts, you’re on the right track.

A Note on Citing Us

All CAR-PGa material beyond simple housekeeping notices and official CAR-PGa papers (such as most of the materials on the website) are by-lined. In all these dealings with whatever audience, remember that no one, including the Chair, speaks for CAR-PGa. The author is totally responsible for what is said.

1.2  If You Don’t Know Something

If you don’t know something, admit it! However, don’t just let it stay there; offer to get the information or refer the attackers or questioners to CAR-PGa’s nearest State or Provincial Coordinator, the Regional Director for the region, or the Chair.

2.  Public Relations “Do”s and “Don’t”s

2.1  Do

  • Do tell the truth, even against gaming; it establishes credibility the anti-gamers don’t have.
  • Do release only confirmed facts, the more independent confirmations the better.
  • Do be concise.
  • Do show concern; attacks often come as the result of a tragedy, so sympathize with the victims.
  • Do defuse negatives.
  • Do dispel rumors.
  • Do remain calm.
  • Do Be accessible.
  • Do provide updates and show a willingness to help fill in the blanks in information.

2.2  Don’t

  • Don’t speculate.
  • Don’t discuss liability or legal action.
  • Don’t place blame.
  • Don’t talk off the record; anything said to a reporter is fair game.
  • Don’t be thrown by hostile questions.
  • Don’t give exclusives; you need maximum exposure and exclusives only make the excluded media mad.
  • Don’t reveal any confidential information or sources.

2.3  Afterwards

  1. Assess the situation.
  2. Continue to communicate with the media and public in general.
  3. Evaluate the handling and critique the system.
  4. Correct the flaws.
  5. Test the corrected system.
  6. Share what you have learned with CAR-PGa.

3.  Audiences

There are several audiences that you might have to defend games and each of them has different needs and so the approach will be different to each.

3.1  The General Public

Much defense directly aimed at the general public, and ultimately all of it is. However, contact is on a personal level (face-to-face talking, game demonstrations, etc.) or is indirectly through the mass media.

The vast majority of the public is really apathetic about gaining: They have no personal interest in it, but they don’t believe the anti-gamers and are quite willing to let gamers have their fun. The main approach to this group is one of general rights. The denial of rights to anyone endangers the rights of everyone. Therefore, they have a vested interest in supporting gaming against attacks even if they have no interest in playing themselves. The minority portions of the general public are so identifiable as to constitute specific audiences themselves.

3.2  The Mass Media

The mass media is really two audiences. The publishers/broadcasters are interested only in making money and they do this by selling readers or audiences to advertisers. Few of them really care what is published as long as it gets this income, which is one reason for the rise in the tabloid mentality, both the supermarket “newspapers” and the TV “talk shows”. Most of the printed media—it is questionable who is in the majority in the electronic forms—consider this attitude a little obvious and therefore ultimately self-defeating and so try to be a bit subtler.

The reporter is the second audience in the mass media. The reporters are the ones you will deal with directly, but they are restricted by the policies dictated by the first group and while their personal sympathies are more likely to be with us, their course of action is greatly restricted. They have a reputation for being liberal, but many of them are actually politically conservative, and what makes it into print or on TV is almost entirely anti-game in any case. Therefore, you must be very careful when dealing with the mass media. You must walk a tight line between the requirements to be honest, not to try to “put one over on them”, and not to betray your beliefs on the one hand and on the other the need not to come across as a fringe group or, worse, a threat to the world that they consider to be real.

In dress, deportment, vocabulary, etc. you must be as unthreatening to their view of the world as possible without surrendering our beliefs. The anti-gamers can be seen as part of a social movement that has been working since the early 1980s to portray youth culture as criminal. Role-playing games are considered youth culture by them and lumped in with video games, rock music, horror movies, and even drugs. Therefore, your image must call this attitude into question. On TV this means suits (unless they came to you at a game convention), no smoking under any circumstances, and a tendency to resemble the characters on a 1950s sit-com.

3.3  Family, Non-gamers, Friends

These can be supporting or a total pain. Try to be calm. Explain the reality of things (with a demonstration, if possible). Don’t burn any bridges. You will get too old for parental interference soon enough, no matter how long it may seem now, but family ties are difficult to repair once damaged.