First, this is just opening the door to more controversy and fights. If you think the proposed tool isn’t going to be abused next time the RPG world has another slap-fight, you’re living in a fantasy world. Mr. Wieck is in for a world of busy-work, staying on top of this.
Second, Mr. Wieck has suddenly made his opinions important. Before now, nobody needed to care what Mr. Wieck felt about the divisive issues of the day. Now? You’d better believe Green Ronin cares what Mr. Wieck’s opinions on homosexuality are. What about furries? What about tentacle monsters?
By declaring himself the arbiter of “offensive,” Mr. Wieck has painted a big, giant bull’s eye on his back. This will mean more controversy, more Twitter fights, and more heat on Mr. Wieck personally. If he’d endured whatever boycott the offended could have mustered, he’d have found smoother sailing after the storm. As it is, he’ll be dealing with this issue frequently and personally, for as long as he’s at OneBookShelf, if not longer.
Then there’s the issues with publishers, which Mr. Wieck summarizes quite succinctly himself:
Publishers who offer content on our marketplaces will understandably say to us, "We can't invest in creating RPG titles only to have DriveThru arbitrarily ban them, so if you're now banning titles for offensive content, give us guidelines for what titles you will and will not ban."
To which, I have to say, "I hear you, but I don't know any better way." A work often has to be considered as a gestalt to know if it is offensive or not.
Really? That’s the best you can do?
Moving forward, we’ll probably see a chain of events we’ve seen before. We’ll see Mr. Wieck beg publishers to pull stuff that causes scandal and hope they voluntarily choose to do so, as happened with “Tournament of Rapists.” I suspect that will be Mr. Wieck’s go-to maneuver for now. It allows him to have his cake and eat it too; he says he found nothing personally offensive in “Tournament of Rapists” beyond the title and blurb, and in the end he’s not responsible for pulling the title off OneBookShelf. Win-win for him.
Until someone fingers one of Raggi’s titles, or another publisher tells him to man up or shut up.
Before that even happens, I suspect we’ll see a two-tier approach to issues of “offense.” Big publishers will be immune; no matter how much someone complains about a WotC, Pathfinder, or FFG, we won’t see their titles pulled. (And don’t think it couldn’t happen. Remember all the fuss-and-bluster over Hook Mountain Massacre?) Green Ronin is probably safe, as is White Wolf. Probably…
But the small-time and one-shot publishers will be easy prey for folks looking for someone to abuse, or those who don’t want the competition. How many flags will it take before Mr. Wieck has one of these talks? And if a publisher wants to be able to list future titles on OneBookShelf, well, that means “voluntarily” pulling the title.
And that might have been how things shook out. Except, while Mr. Wieck might not be willing to invoke any bright line rules, James Edward Raggi IV is:
If one of my products gets pulled, or if the products of my peers are pulled without their consent, I am taking every LotFP product off of that site, which will be something of an economic armageddon for me and a hardship from everyone on my roster getting royalties from sales.
It’s not an entirely one-sided Armageddon, either. As Raggi points out, he’s a top 2% seller on OBS with “over $100,000 gross sales over the six years [he’s] sold through the site…”
It’s only a matter of time before the mob is howling for Raggi’s blood (and probably Zak S’s or Jeff’s or any of the many others he publishes). So we’ll see how it goes. Raggi’s gone out of his way to offend before. Hell, his marketing relies on it, so I’m sure we’ll see the policies put to the test sooner or later.
Dyson Logos, someone I have a lot of respect for, himself has much respect for Mr. Wieck. By putting himself directly in the crosshairs, Mr. Wieck is clearly attempting to get ahead of this issue. I’m sure he’s got his heart in the right place, but when good intentions are your paving material, your road usually ends up only one place. Whatever he intends to have happen, people will attempt to abuse the system. Whether or not they succeed is entirely on Mr. Wieck’s shoulders. Maybe he had no choice; maybe he had to step into the middle of this. I do give Mr. Wieck props for not hiding behind passive-voice corp speak; he painted this target on himself. I just don't see how he did himself or OneBookShelf any favors by doing so. As he's sown, so shall he reap.