Sunday 17 October 2021

This is Brandon Leon-Gambetta

 This guy. 

According to his site, where I took this picture, Brandon Leon-Gambetta is a Peruvian-American game designer and tabletop media creator known for his work on Pasión de las Pasiones, the Stop, Hack, & Roll Network of podcasts, and pushing for increasing the voice of marginalized people in the ttrpg industry.


This is a game by Brandon Leon-Gambetta, advertised on the same site. 

I'm not a fan of Latino telenovelas. I don't know if it's good or bad. It's available through Magpie Games, Magpie Games also are making this game: 

And managed to gather more than 9 millions dollars on Kickstarter for it. Doesn't feel like my kind of game, but Avatar the Last Airbender is undoubtedly cool. 

And this is Zak Smith. 

                            "Most Accurate Self-Portrait To Date", Zak Smith

                                    Courtesy of Fredericks & Freiser, NY

Zak has been harassed online for years. And it was not because  his ex-wife made accusations against him - the harassment began years before their divorce. What was the reason? Well, Zak has been accused, for example, of being sexist and racist.

And this is the group that played tabletop games with Zak. Those are women, of different ethnicities, and they look like they're having fun.

And these are the women that defended Zak after he was accused of being an abuser, and agreed to help defend him in court. Which, as you probably now, means that if they lie, it would be a crime. Is that something that you, if you're a woman of colour, would do for someone who is a sexist and a racist and an abuser? I wouldn't. 

Also there were people in the comminuty who accused Zak of being transphobic. Now, you might know that there was a show titled "I Hit It With My Axe" which was about Zak and his group playing D&D. They show came to its end when the company that filmed it hired an openly anti-trans person, and Zak stated that the group will not work with the company that has such hiring policies. And that was it. 

How many transphobic people do you know who would say "No, don't make a show about us, don't give us money, we don't want to work with you because you hire anti-trans people"? I haven't heard about any.

So why would people lie about things like that, about someone hating women when it's clearly not true for anyone who knows Zak and his friends at least superficially?

One reason is that Zak wanted people to behave like reasonable adults. If you claim that something is good - please explain what is good about it. If you claim that something is bad - please explain what is bad about it. If you claim that someone did a wrong thing - please prove that it happened. And if you know that someone did a wrong thing, and are familiar with the proof that this someone did a wrong thing - don't treat this person like it didn't happen. 

Not a reason for a normal, healthy, happy person to hate someone, right? 

And, rather logically, people who wanted to hurt Zak wanted the opposite - to make accusations without providing any evidence, and to be treated normally afterwards. So they tried to make claims that provide emotional response. Like accusing someone of harassment - it was and still is emotional. Gamergate provided a good base for that. People read that someone is a harasser, and get angry faster than they think "But is it true? Is there any proof? Is it right to accuse something of doing something that bad without evidence?" 

So - say that someone did the worst thing you can think of. Trigger the emotions. Don't stop, keep accusing. If someone questions your actions, yell that they're siding with the harasser (even though the actual harasser is yourself).

Zak is harassed by people who make confessions like this one. 

I think that we should by all means fuck it up for this person, because they sound like a dangerous sociopath and not like a normal, healthy, happy person. And strangely they don't seem to find anything wrong with being a harasser, and admitting to being one.

Now, Brandon Leon-Gambetta - he seems to be rather happy in that picture. And he's doing good, he's making the things that he likes, he's famous. All is cool for him. 

And here's Brandon Leon-Gambetta casually admitting he had been harassing Zak for years, that he did this with others "as an industry", and weeps that it wasn't successful. 

And this is not cool at all, but it seems that Brandon Leon-Gambetta thinks that harassing someone should work. 

So, to sum it up: getting hate, stress and threats sucks; but causing hate, stress and threats for someone else is good because it works because it feels stronger. 

I should also note that Brandon Leon-Gametta accused Zak of "railing against SJWs". I didn't know what the term meant, never having seen it in Zak's blog during the years that I followed it, so I looked it up. It's "social justice warrior", that is, someone who aggressively opposes social injustice, like, you know, hiring anti-trans people. Once again, a person who supports women, supports trans people, supports people of colour is accused of hating everything that he supports. 

Which doesn't make sense, and isn't true.

Need I remind that at least one of the people who was part of the "we as an industry tried to harass Zak out of it for years", namely Ettin, was found guilty of slander by court and had to make a public apology and pay a fine? 

Need I remind that Zak has been banned from several platforms dedicated to roleplaying games not because of accusations of abuse (which are false, and which came years later), but as part of the "we as an industry tried to harass Zak out of it"? 

Need I remind that harassing something is wrong, harassing someone for years is worse, and casually admitting that "yes, we harassed someone for years and don't feel bad about it"is a pretty clear sign that something is seriously wrong with those "we as an industry"? 

Shouldn't someone ask Brandon Leon-Gambetta about it? 

Shouldn't someone reconsider their opinion about Zak, knowing that he was harassed by years by people who know casually admit it? 

What do you think? Because I think they damn well should.

Wednesday 6 October 2021

But why should I care about Zak?

 If you're new to the tabletop gaming scene and have just found out how Zak Smith was attacked, you might ask yourself, "Should I really care about all this?"
The answer, of course, is yes, you should

But why? 

Because an innocent person was attacked and his life was ruined, and that's a terrible thing.  

It happened long ago and it doesn't matter now!

No. It's happening right now. In many RPG-related platforms promoting, discussing, even mentioning Zak is forbidden, unless you write something harmful about him. Which means that he cannot defend himself, people who support him cannot defend him, and people who just don't like baseless accusations cannot speak against attacks on him.The subreddit dedicated to OSR, "Old School Renaissance", D&D-based games which Zak's works are an important part of, is one example of this. 

Are you saying we should defend abusers? 

No. I'm saying we should defend people who are wrongly accused. Zak is not an abuser. 

Are we really sure he's innocent? 

We are. There is a thing called "presumption of innocence". Until we have proof that someone did something wrong, the person is innocent. There is and have never been no proof of Zak being an abuser. He is innocent.

 But is there any proof that he didn't abuse anyone? 

There can be no proof that something didn't happen. But there can be proof that something else did happen, which makes the first thing impossible. Like this: I can't have any proof that I didn't eat this apple, but I do have a video of my sister eating it, and a witness who supports the claim that she, indeed, ate this apple. And since I couldn't eat the same apple that someone else had eaten, it proves  that I didn't eat it.
There are proofs that Zak was in good relations with the woman that accused him of abuse. There are records of their phone and Internet messaging, there are witnesses who knew both Zak and his wife closely, there are close relatives of Zak's wife's family who knew them closely, and it all supports the claim that Zak and Mandy had a non-abusive relationship. 

 Are we sure there's no proof of abuse? 

Fairly sure. Zak has been taking it to court for years now, and some of the people who accused him of being an abuser had been ordered by court to publicly apologize and to pay a compensation fee to Zak. If they had proof of abuse, that would support their accusations and the court wouldn't have found them guilty of slander. 

How do I know there's really proof and there are really witnesses that support Zak's position? 

You can ask Zak, who, unlike the accusers, has made answering the question his principle. You can ask in comments of his blog, , or you can write him at zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm. 

Okay, I get it, Zak's innocent and he was wrongly accused and it's a bad thing. Many people are treated terribly, should I care about all of them? 

Frankly, yes. It's normal to care about terrible things and people who become victims of terrible things. 

It sounds frustrating. 

Because it is. Life is frustrating, and the more you know about the world, the more terrible things you find out. But when you know about them, you can help fix them. 

 Riiiight. Could you give me just another reason? 

I guess. Do you care about art? Zak is a damn good artist, and his career is being destroyed by a hateful mob. 

Do you care about literature? Zak is a damn good writer, read his articles in his blog about literature, art, cinema, architecture, they're great. And his life is being destroyed by a hateful mob. 

Do you care about making society a better place? Zak supported Black Lives Matter movement, he was arrested by the police, he gathered money to help his friend who is a journalist and had her eye permanently damaged by a police bullet. And his life is being destroyed. 

Yet another reason that Zak suggested: 

I think a larger issue is a lot of :

1. Actual creators, and

2. Useful conversations about games

are in a situation where they aren't as good as they could be because they're afraid of the same people who did this attacking them

As long as -the people who did this- are still being treated as respectable, the issue is way bigger than me: they're a mob that can and does make doing better work and having realer conversations much harder and often impossible

So, basically, if you don't do something to protect the people who do something you like, they'll stop doing what you like because they're afraid to be attacked. And once again, it's not because they do something wrong. We're still talking about attacking the innocent.

Okay. I guess I should care. What do I do about it? 

 Find out more about what happened, don't just trust me. Zak has made a blog with official statements about what happened and what he did and what he didn't do and who supported his position and who accused him and what are the proofs. Here it is:

When you know stuff, don't be silent. Talk about what happened. Oppose people who lie and fling false accusations. 

Join with other people who don't want to let the innocent suffer. 

Ask Zak what you can do to help. 

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