Beyond Gamergate – Boycotts & Harm: Fiscal & Creative

Again, not an academic, see previous posts.

The next question in the series that I was asked was:

Demonstrate that you were boycotted. Demonstrate that you suffered economic harm from a boycott against yourself. Demonstrate that said boycott changed your creative behaviour, and how.

This will necessarily get personal and some of you may find some of this article difficult since it will relate to mental health issues and further knock-on issues surrounding those. Furthermore this is a personal question, dressed up as an academic question and since it directly affects me I cannot really be considered a reliable source. To establish this completely firmly I would have to disclose a great deal of personal, financial information and records which I’m not disposed to do and in some cases am contractually withheld from doing.

I shall do my best though.

Establishing direct financial impact of boycotts and disinfo campaigns is, frankly, beyond my mathematical skill. The business I am in (primarily self publishing) does not have a steady stream of sales in which one can establish upward or downward ticks. Rather sales follow the Long-Tail Model. For those who are too lazy to click, this means you get an initial spike in sales and then these rapidly drop off, but go on for a long time.

So an income chart for my personal imprint, Postmortem Studios, would more closely resemble a heartbeat than a normal sales chart. This is even further complicated by the fact that with each new release you draw attention to your back catalogue and so end up with extra sales of old products. You also have to consider that some products do better than others.

Also controversy, in my personal experience, tends to spike short term sales, but may be to a longterm detriment in overall sales down the line.

TL;DR – The maths is too complicated for me.

Income does relate to productivity, the more you produce the more you sell. Perhaps I could look at output in terms of pages or something similar, but then you have books of different sizes and how do you compare card games to books? Plus there’s the complication of freelancing.

Controversy and boycott attempts are documented, though finding archives of the petitions is proving a little tricky you can find corroborating evidence here (citations 8 & 9). More recently companies and individuals went so far as to threaten to boycott sales points, most specifically RPGNOW. More information and a collection of references can be found HERE.

Lowered productivity definitely does have financial impact though and the personal toll of all this has been pretty huge. I am now only able to work four half-days a week with any real reliability. Keeping in mind that this is a crude measure and limiting to OBS personal releases I can show that prior to In Defence of Rape in June 2012 (issues had arisen before, but this was when it got intense and boycotting etc began) I was maintaining an output of approximately…

21.76 pages of saleable material per month in the 35 months after

And after an output of approximately…

87.3 pages of saleable material per month in the 35 months before

This is an incredibly unreliable measure. It excludes art books but includes books where I sell material by others, with my role being editing/layout/production. It includes some of the work for Chronicle City but not all as some hasn’t made sale and I currently have a LOT of written material in limbo. If those were included I think we’d see a relationship of work values closer to half than 1/4.

So it’s really impossible, to reiterate, to assess the impact of boycotts and reputational damage economically without some assistance to wrangle the mathematics. On a personal basis the impact has been considerable. It has required me to adopt pen-names, it has led to the loss (or lack of consideration) of freelance work, which isn’t reflected in these figures. It has also cost me two suicide attempts and something in the region of £5,000 and rising in medical bills for ongoing therapy and drug treatment. In a country with a national health service, this is a lot.

I think the surveys and the attempts to strongarm Onebookshelf show that the boycotts and reputational damage are serious, even without the the hard economic data. The harm to my health also has a financial cost attached in terms of treatment costs and capacity for useful work.

The second part of the question is how has this affected my work?

There is no way to demonstrate this that isn’t anecdotal, so all I can offer is a statement.

I write about the things that interest and concern me. In my corpus of work, if you’re familiar with it, you will find a common thread of interest in sexuality in games, low fantasy, magical realism in the form of plausible societal structures, dystopian fiction, the interplay/blur between the real and imaginary and – less pretentiously – games as fun, separate from such analysis. Because I am largely free to follow my enthusiasms I tend to work according to where my inspiration and waning energy is. This is why you have The Little Grey Book, this is why you have Privilege Check and this is why you have Gamergate: The Card Game – because these things are interesting and because I like to challenge censorship.

So in some part I am ‘running on spite’, defiant in the face of attempts to censor and control and even more fascinated the more I encounter resistance, trying to understand offence culture, provoke it, understand and expose it through satire. In other ways I do find myself self-censoring because I have to weigh-up whether I have the mental energy and resilience to wade through another fight and another round of character assassination and misrepresentation.

I would have liked to have given Kagai! a more explicitly sexual and ero-guro element but a combination of budgetary and depression based factors got in the way of doing so. For a long time I wanted to produce more specialist versions of Hentacle/Cthentacle to expand the joke but while both were originally well received in the mode intended they have since been used as a stick to beat me with, so the yaoi and furry versions will never see the light of day because at this point the smaller niche markets for such material can no longer secure sufficient sales and the threat of being censored from the main sales outlets would leave me out of pocket. Not to mention the tragic and untimely death of the original artist. I have also long wanted to do a better, more serious version of the adult material supplements I once wrote for Mongoose, but again given the effort people put into misinterpreting and accusing it simply doesn’t feel worth the hassle even though I consider it a worthwhile project.

Letting myself self-censor in such a way, simply to avoid the threats and misrepresentations of fuckwits also feels like a personal failing and contributes to the aforementioned depression. I feel like I should be able to plough on regardless.

If anyone can suggest how I can extract useful information from my sales data to determine the effect of boycotting and extortion I might be able to turn up more useful, harder data but as things stand this is all I can offer at present. The problem with many boycotts – such as the ones against me – is that they derive from wilful misrepresentation and libel that bears little or no relation to the facts of the matter, but which – nonetheless – fire up people’s emotions.

Pax

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2 responses to “Beyond Gamergate – Boycotts & Harm: Fiscal & Creative

  1. Pingback: Review – Kagai! | Cirsova

  2. “Demonstrate that you were boycotted.”

    #1: Easily done – someone says they are boycotting you.

    “Demonstrate that you suffered economic harm from a boycott against yourself.”

    #2: An ineffective boycott remains a boycott. The demand for proof of economic harm is irrelevant to whether or not a boycott exists or existed.

    “Demonstrate that said boycott changed your creative behaviour, and how.”

    #3: Again, irrelevant: boycotts exist for the purpose of getting someone to change their behavior.

    Summary: if the point of the questioner was to dismiss the existence of a boycott by, in effect, claiming “no harm, no foul”, this says nothing about the intentions or the mentality of the people imposing the boycott even if it failed to achieve their intended goals.

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