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D&D 5E D&D Beyond Cancels Competition

D&D Beyond has been running an art contest which asked creators to enter D&D-themed portrait frame. DDB got to use any or all of the entries, while the winner and some runners up received some digital content as a prize.

There was a backlash -- and DDB has cancelled the contest.

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Thank you to all of our community for sharing your comments and concerns regarding our anniversary Frame Design Contest.

While we wanted to celebrate fan art as a part of our upcoming anniversary, it's clear that our community disagrees with the way we approached it. We've heard your feedback, and will be pulling the contest.

We will also strive to do better as we continue to look for ways to showcase the passion and creativity of our fellow D&D players and fans in the future. Our team will be taking this as a learning moment, and as encouragement to further educate ourselves in this pursuit.

Your feedback is absolutely instrumental to us, and we are always happy to listen and grow in response to our community's needs and concerns. Thank you all again for giving us the opportunity to review this event, and take the appropriate action.

The company went on to say:

Members of our community raised concerns about the contest’s impact on artists and designers, and the implications of running a contest to create art where only some entrants would receive a prize, and that the prize was exclusively digital material on D&D Beyond. Issues were similarly raised with regards to the contest terms and conditions. Though the entrants would all retain ownership of their design to use in any way they saw fit, including selling, printing, or reproducing, it also granted D&D Beyond rights to use submitted designs in the future. We have listened to these concerns, and in response closed the competition. We’ll be looking at ways we can better uplift our community, while also doing fun community events, in the future.

Competitions where the company in question acquires rights to all entries are generally frowned upon (unless you're WotC).
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
You seem to be under the impression that I care whether DNDB thinks they were actually wrong, or were "pressured" into withdrawing the competition, but as far as I'm concerned that's a nonsensical question.

No, I am under the impression that you think that moral outrage, attacking people, and glib putdowns are a suitable substitute for understanding.

As you have not corrected that impression, I'll let you continue on given that there is unlikely to be any productive discussion. Thanks!
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Whoah. How do you get THAT from their posts? It made me go back and re-read them and for the life of me I can't figure out how you got there.
Anyone who starts their comment by comparing someone who disagrees with them to people who make racial slurs and insults gay people generally ensures that I don’t desire to communicate with them.

That’s a good rule of thumb for conversations in general, as however well-intentioned that comparison might be, it can’t possibly go well.
 

Anyone who starts their comment by comparing someone who disagrees with them to people who make racial slurs and insults gay people generally ensures that I don’t desire to communicate with them.

Huh. I don't think they were comparing "somebody who disagrees with them" to bigots. I think they were saying that the particular argument offered...the bit about "making the world a little bit less fun"...is the kind of thing that bigots say when they get called out.

(Which, really, is kind of the same thing I tried unsuccessfully to say with my Harvey Weinstein comment.)

In any event, pointing out that somebody is using a technique employed by bigots (or rapists) is not the same as calling them a bigot or a rapist. Not even close.

Ironically, this is exactly what happened with the scab thing. Fox compared companies that hold art contests to companies that hire scabs, and that was (mis)read (by @TheSword, not you) as meaning that people who enter art contests are like scabs. (Is there a name for that kind of illogic? It's not a category error, but it's the kind of thing that should have a name.)

Very strange.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Huh. I don't think they were comparing "somebody who disagrees with them" to bigots. I think they were saying that the particular argument offered...the bit about "making the world a little bit less fun"...is the kind of thing that bigots say when they get called out.
.
Uh huh.

That's some fine parsing. "I'm not saying that the people who disagree with me are bigots and use gay slurs, I'm just saying that the people who disagree with me use the exact same arguments as bigots and homophobes! You know, major difference!"

Just to reiterate- if you've ever had to deal with, you know, real life bigots ... people who attack you for the way you look, or they way you live your life .... If you've ever dealt with people who can do a lot more harm than just words ...

then seeing someone glibly compare people who are disagreeing with them over a silly competition on the internet that a company accidentally used the wrong software from Australia evinces a lack of seriousness and a desire to use intemperate analogies.

So, again, not someone worth conversing with. But that's me. I tend to be a little sensitive about people invoking homophobia and racism to make petty points.


TLDR; if you're going to be introducing comparisons togay slurs, or racism ... maybe it should be about something serious and not for the purpose of "winning" a stupid internet argument? Especially on a board largely for the discussion of unicorns and fireballs.
 

Uh huh.

That's some fine parsing. "I'm not saying that the people who disagree with me are bigots and use gay slurs, I'm just saying that the people who disagree with me use the exact same arguments as bigots and homophobes! You know, major difference!"

Just to reiterate- if you've ever had to deal with, you know, real life bigots ... people who attack you for the way you look, or they way you live your life .... If you've ever dealt with people who can do a lot more harm than just words ...

then seeing someone glibly compare people who are disagreeing with them over a silly competition on the internet that a company accidentally used the wrong software from Australia evinces a lack of seriousness and a desire to use intemperate analogies.

So, again, not someone worth conversing with. But that's me. I tend to be a little sensitive about people invoking homophobia and racism to make petty points.


TLDR; if you're going to be introducing comparisons togay slurs, or racism ... maybe it should be about something serious and not for the purpose of "winning" a stupid internet argument? Especially on a board largely for the discussion of unicorns and fireballs.

I believe you are making the same error, and I do wish you'd pause and think about this. Fox didn't "introduce comparisons to gay slurs, or racism". They made a comparison to the reaction that bigots often have when accused of bigotry. And considering that Fox says they are a professional artist, then for them it's not a "stupid Internet argument" at all; it's an issue that affects their livelihood.

Your response seems to suggest you have been the victim of racism or homophobia, and if so you can imagine...or probably have actually experienced...how dismissive and demeaning it would be to speak up for yourself, and then be accused of "making the world a little less fun" for trying to protect yourself.

Well, that's what just happened to Fox here.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Well, that's what just happened to Fox here.

I don’t think so. I know bullies. I don’t like them.

And I don’t much enjoy people coming in and saying I’m in error for not enjoying the glib dismissiveness of the schoolyard bully either.

And to the extent that you literally just compared other people’s experiences dealing with racism and homophobia in the real world for decades to tweeting about a contest, you truly need to reconsider what you are doing.

EDIT- I am going to be quite clear. You just wrote this-
Your response seems to suggest you have been the victim of racism or homophobia, and if so you can imagine...or probably have actually experienced...how dismissive and demeaning it would be to speak up for yourself, and then be accused of "making the world a little less fun" for trying to protect yourself.

The reason for the offense is this. You don't trot out analogies to racism and homophobia as intensifiers. You don't do it as argumentative ploys. You don't do it so that you can say, "Hey, if you happen to have experienced homophobia and racism in real life, you can get how this annoys me." If you don't understand why that's a terrible not-good very bad idea, then nothing I write is going to change things.

Just imagine- "The other day, I had to wait for 30 minutes at the DMV. It was just like being put at the back of the bus!"
"The police won't let us skateboarders on the City Hall steps. This is exactly like what led to Stonewall."

You know what's like decades of racism and homophobia? Decades of racism and homophobia.* Not twitter-pressing companies over the T&C that was auto-generated by some Australian software.


*For the people you're talking to. Centuries in general.
 
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Just imagine- "The other day, I had to wait for 30 minutes at the DMV. It was just like being put at the back of the bus!"
"The police won't let us skateboarders on the City Hall steps. This is exactly like what led to Stonewall."

I was going to try a different analogy, and make a comparison to a jock who picks on a nerd, and then says, "Aw, come on, we were just having fun." Or the boss who thinks he's being chivalrous when he calls employees "sweetheart" and "honey", and then when HR tells him to stop grumbles "you just made the world a little less fun."

But the part of your post that I quoted makes me think you would still call my examples "intensifiers". I think I've identified the disconnect. I suspect that you haven't been at all persuaded that these sorts of art contests are really a problem, or that they actually threaten artists' livelihood, or even that artists need/deserve any kind of protection. In other words, this isn't a legitimate problem...it's just artists whining about capitalism and competition...so therefore any comparison to a problem that you do think is legitimate is going to come across as inappropriate.

Is that what's going on here?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I was going to try a different analogy, and make a comparison to a jock who picks on a nerd, and then says, "Aw, come on, we were just having fun." Or the boss who thinks he's being chivalrous when he calls employees "sweetheart" and "honey", and then when HR tells him to stop grumbles "you just made the world a little less fun."

But the part of your post that I quoted makes me think you would still call my examples "intensifiers". I think I've identified the disconnect. I suspect that you haven't been at all persuaded that these sorts of art contests are really a problem, or that they actually threaten artists' livelihood, or even that artists need/deserve any kind of protection. In other words, this isn't a legitimate problem...it's just artists whining about capitalism and competition...so therefore any comparison to a problem that you do think is legitimate is going to come across as inappropriate.

Is that what's going on here?

No. That's not it at all. I'm trying very hard to be reasonable here despite my dislike of this.

Discrimination against POC and the LGBTQA+ community ... it kills people. It's not something to be taken lightly. You understand that, right? We aren't talking about far away things like the lynching of Michael McDonald in ... 1981 ... or the murder of Matthew Shepard in ... 1998, I am saying that people are getting hurt and killed today. You understand that, right?

This isn't some disconnect. This isn't some small thing that you should be sealioning about. This isn't "I think that I have a legitimate problem, therefore it is just like the legitimate problems of racism and homophobia." Because what a person does when they are doing that is coming from a position of such privilege that it is unbelievable that I should have to say this, but I will make this explicit-

Whether you view this discussion as "artists whining about capitalism and competition," or whether you view this as "exploited labor standing up for their rights and using social media and labor power to attempt to get the fair labor value of their work," or whether you view this as something completely different (as I do) it doesn't change the fact that economic bargaining in our society, whether by fast food workers, or artists, or people in the service industry, doesn't exactly compare to centuries of state-sponsored violence against people solely because of the color of their skin or the people that they love, does it? And to glom on to that pain and moral authority for your own arguments ... can be offensive to people.

I've explained. I'm done. I don't much enjoy what was said, and I really, really don't enjoy people that keep trying to justify the casual deployment. If you feel the need to keep sealioning about how this is just like the discrimination faced by POC and the LGBTQA+ community, maybe take it up with someone else who is ready to appreciate your new comparisons to misogyny.
 
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No. That's not it at all. I'm trying very, very hard to be nice here.

Discrimination against POC and the LGBTQA+ community ... it kills people. It's not something to be taken lightly. You understand that, right? We aren't talking about far away things like the lynching of Michael McDonald in ... 1981 ... or the murder of Matthew Shepard in ... 1998, I am saying that people are getting hurt and killed today. You understand that, right?

This isn't some disconnect. This isn't some small thing that you should be sealioning about. This isn't "I think that I have a legitimate problem, therefore it is just like the legitimate problems of racism and homophobia." Because what a person does when they are doing that is coming from a position of such privilege that it is unbelievable that I should have to say this, but I will make this explicit-

Whether you view this discussion as "artists whining about capitalism and competition," or whether you view this as "exploited labor standing up for their rights and using social media and labor power to attempt to get the fair labor value of their work," or whether you view this as something completely different (as I do) it doesn't change the fact that economic bargaining in our society, whether by fast food workers, or artists, or people in the service industry, doesn't exactly compare to centuries of state-sponsored violence against people solely because of the color of their skin or the people that they love, does it? And to glom on to that pain and moral authority for your own arguments ... can be offensive to people.

I've explained. I'm done. I don't much enjoy what was said, and I really, really don't enjoy people that keep trying to justify the casual deployment. If you feel the need to keep sealioning about how this is just like the discrimination faced by POC and the LGBTQA+ community, maybe take it up with someone else who is ready to appreciate your new comparisons to misogyny.

Well, I truly am sorry you find it so upsetting. But I also think your outrage is the result of falsely conflating two different things. I know you said you're done talking, but you are making some pretty hard accusations (against me) so I feel the need to respond.

Pointing out that two people use the exact same strategy, with the exact same words, to deflect criticism and shift blame is not the same as a claim of moral equivalence between the actions of those two people.

However, I will say this: since you do find this so upsetting, which I suspect makes it impossible to see or acknowledge the point being made, what I (we) probably should have said is something more neutral, such as:

The excuse that 'you are making the world a little less fun' is a common defense use to deflect criticism and shift blame when somebody doesn't want to acknowledge, or doesn't believe, that their fun is causing harm to somebody who deserves protection.

So, in the spirit of avoiding any whiff of moral equivalence, I'll further point out that the insistence that two actions must be morally equivalent in order to for a comparison to be valid is yet another age-old strategy used to deflect criticism and shift blame. It's a red herring because it shifts the debate away from the actions in question, and toward the question of which actions are worse than others, and to what degree. Which just isn't relevant.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Anyway, to recap the substantive points that were already made a while back:

1. Creatives in the TTRPG industry need to get paid more. I started a thread about it here. Eventually, it got sidetracked by some people coming in trying to say that they shouldn't have to tip service industry people more than 10%. Because we can't have nice things on the internet.

2. The specific issues involved with contests and sweepstakes (which are terms of art) are very well-known, and are separate and distinct from "on spec" work. This was discussed earlier in this thread. These problems are exacerbated by older laws in the US that vary state-to-state and the rise of the internet, which is both national and international.

3. A quick perusal of the T&C used by D&D Beyond shows that rather than this being an exploitative contest, the issue was caused by using the auto-generated language by software from an Australian company. A deep dive, with all the source documents, is here. Comment #10 has the full description if you don't understand the first post. The main takeaway is that the contest used the exact same language as the prior sweepstakes- not because this was an attempt to get art, but just because this was using off-the-shelf sweepstakes software that was not specific to America. But given the source documents are posted, you can form your own opinions.

4. A final complication is the concomitant issues of liability (something all business in the United States are terrified of) and intellectual property- an area which is a hotbed of confusion and litigation. But these issues are what drive the T&C and TOS of almost everything you use; if you look at almost any website, from facebook to instagram that has "lawyered up" language, you will see that by posting your work, you have granted a license to the company to use it. If you look at any contest that has submissions, such as the Apple iPhone contests, you will also see that language.

5. Finally, facts do matter (IMO). If, for example, a high school is running a contest for student art, that is clearly different than a place that is running an art contest and requiring submissions to be "paid" and does not disclose the rules or judges.

EDIT- To be clear, and as I have repeatedly stated, it is possible that there is an argument that all art competitions run by for-profit businesses are exploitative and should not be allowed. But that absolute stance can be incorrect; I think that (for example) there are cases where companies run contests that are generally not seen as exploitative (such as the iPhone photography contest by Apple)- but maybe I'm incorrect.
 
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lkj

Adventurer
While this conversation has obviously evolved into something well beyond just what happened with DDB, I thought it might be interesting to post what route the DDB folks have taken this week for their 'birthday celebrations' in terms of 'winning something':


Sweepstakes instead of contest. It's possible they were going to do this anyway, in addition to the contest. But it's probably no accident that the 'arts and crafts' part of the sweepstakes says "YOUR art, cosplay, or craft . . ."

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
While this conversation has obviously evolved into something well beyond just what happened with DDB, I thought it might be interesting to post what route the DDB folks have taken this week for their 'birthday celebrations' in terms of 'winning something':


Sweepstakes instead of contest. It's possible they were going to do this anyway, in addition to the contest. But it's probably no accident that the 'arts and crafts' part of the sweepstakes says "YOUR art, cosplay, or craft . . ."

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It's not surprising that they moved to a sweepstakes model.

But ... I couldn't help myself. I looked at the T&C they are using now. They decided to put in ... Canadian jurisdiction and Canadian law? For sweepstakes? I haven't looked at that in a long time, but by recollection was that Canada was even weirder when it came to sweepstakes. I know that (for example) a lot of US Companies have to explicitly exclude Canada generally or Quebec specifically.

shrug It's the wild west on the internet, I guess?
 

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