D&D General Lorraine Williams: Is it Time for a Reevaluation?


log in or register to remove this ad

I think that was Snarf's point: The subject of this "rant," which was held up at the time as an example of Williams's hatred for gamers and general unreasonableness, comes across rather differently today.

But without knowing what was actually said in the rant, the narrative that this was in some way a pro-feminism speech is just wishful thinking. It's well documented that Ms. Williams did, in fact, harbor a strong disdain for the fanbase. The fact that something sexist happened nearby doesn't excuse otherwise bad behavior. If you see something at a trade show you don't like, you take it up with the employee responsible. You don't start yelling and swearing at your customers.
 

1. These types of transactions are completely normal, especially for closely held corporations.
2. It's not illegal. It's not even unethical.
I agree that it wasn't illegal, although unethical is arguable. My main point was that it was a bad investment, and it cost TSR a pile of money they couldn't afford to lose. It was one of several that TSR made over the years (several under Gygax). I said on another thread that Williams brought some needed business acumen to the company, but the Buck Rogers deal was one they really shouldn't have done...
 


Dausuul

Legend
It's well documented that Ms. Williams did, in fact, harbor a strong disdain for the fanbase.
Is it, though?

That's an honest question. I've taken that disdain for granted--even in my post a couple pages ago--but just realized that my only basis for this belief is TSR staffers who claimed that she disdained gamers, but offer no specific examples. But maybe there are accounts that I've missed.

The chain-mail-bikini rant might have been forward-thinking and feminist, or it might have been vicious slut-shaming. We don't know. But we do know that the subject of the rant is something people have come to recognize as a real problem today; which raises the possibility that Williams was angry about genuine problems in the gaming world of her time, and this was interpreted as disdain by the people around her.
 
Last edited:

Is it, though?

That's an honest question. I've taken that disdain for granted--even in my post a couple pages ago--but just realized that my only basis for this belief is TSR staffers who claimed that she disdained gamers, but offer no specific examples of this disdain. But maybe there are accounts that I've missed.
We just had a very long debate about whether a joke character in book meant that WOTC had disdain
for gamers, or at least some gamers. I can only imagine that stories of Williams' disdain for gamers might have been similarly exaggerated and repeated.
 

Dausuul

Legend
And an example of why one should be skeptical of the narratives around Williams: It's widely claimed that she banned playtesting. This has been floating around for ages. However, a former TSR employee (scroll down to the comments) asserts that it's a flat-out, bald-faced lie:

"Lorraine never banned playing games. In fact, all of us played games daily at TSR and conducted playtesting of upcoming products. That includes all the members of R&D (from the VP down to the newest editor or designer), sales, marketing, warehouse staff, and more."

And correlated by another:

"I don't recall any official policy about no gaming handed down from Lorraine, not at least while I was there. We certainly playtested the wargames we put out under the SPI label, on company property and company time."

(The latter goes on to note that a lot of stuff didn't get playtested because there simply wasn't time, due to TSR's attempts to outrun bankruptcy through sheer volume of product. The blame for that doomed strategy certainly rests with Williams as CEO. But that is light-years away from forbidding playtesting.)

So... yeah. How many other "well documented" things that "everybody knows" were, in fact, just not so?
 

As an outsider looking in, I think there's a lot added to the feelings about Lorraine maybe because for a lot of this this is our primary past time.

I am pretty sure there are plenty of executives at software companies that make games, say ActivisionBlizzard or others, that loathe gamers and the gaming community. But, as corporate officers, I'd be willing to make the assumption that to them, it doesn't matter if they're making Diablo or at Acme WidgetCo - to them, the product doesn't matter. They're only required to produce/ship/sell X product by Y date, regardless of whether it's software copies or hardcover gaming books.

Again, this is just my opinion as well as my experience working in corporate offices of various sizes in various roles. A good example?

Ron Johnson, the man credited with going from Target to running JCPenney into the ground. And you want to know what his 'ridiculous idea' was? Getting rid of coupons and just having straight-forward pricing. Why was that bad? Because the shoppers there liked the illusion that their coupons saved them, even if they were paying the same price in the end.

 

Sacrosanct

Legend
One of the people who knows more than all of us is Ryan Dancey. He actually read through all of the board meeting notes, scoured all of the financials, and did a deep dive into the company with how it was working now (In 1997) and how was working from day 1.

And his analysis is pretty damming. It's not just on Lorraine. Or Gary. Or the Blumes. TSR was a horribly mismanaged company from day 1. Not just from poor investments and a complete lack of market analysis, but an absolute ignorance of what the gaming community was saying, and how the community was changing over the years. Gary could have kept control and TSR still would have died because Gary would have been worse in ignoring how gamers and the game were evolving. And we wouldn't have had the settings from 2e that many love on top of that. Christ, it's 40 years later and some of the old school "Gary is god" folks are still up in arms about how 5e is treating race and orc alignments. Can you imagine of 1e style play was still the focus going into the 2000s if Gary was still in charge? It would have been horrible for the game and the community. And I love 1e myself, but even I know I'm not the typica gamer these days.

Lorraine did some really awful things as the head of a company, but they don't seem to be any worse decisions or choices that the Blumes made, or Gary made. But she gets the lion's share of the blame. Largely based on hearsay and slander.

Looking at how some of the original folks in early TSR have reacted in the past 6 months to the game's current direction (catering to SJWs!), and the scandals of nu-TSR, and I'm positive that much of this disdain for Lorraine was not because of her decisions, but because she was a woman in charge of the boys club, and they couldn't stand that. Which is ironic, the people shouting how she has disdain for gamers are the ones who actually show disdain towards her.

She absolutely deserves blame, but she doesn't deserve to be the scape goat. I suspect Gary will never be blamed despite being one of the biggest reasons for the demise of TSR simply because of the deification of him. But if we are to be honest, we need to acknowledge that LW was put in an impossible situation and made some really bad decisions, but her, Gary, and the Blumes are all equally to blame for the demise of TSR, and she has been unfairly criticized. Not for things she did do wrong, but the things that are pure hearsay
 

Voadam

Legend
Lorraine did some really awful things as the head of a company, but they don't seem to be any worse decisions or choices that the Blumes made, or Gary made. But she gets the lion's share of the blame. Largely based on hearsay and slander.
This is a bit arguable.

Some things seem comparable. Gary sued Mayfair. She sued GDW and Mayfair. Both seem bad.

Gary bad mouthed some fan preferences in Dragon Magazine articles. Lorraine sent out C&D letters to online fans and got lots of fan material taken down restricting other fans access to each others material. Lorraine's actions to negatively impact fans seems arguably worse.

The argument can be made that Gary had the same general IP philosophy and would have similarly legally intimidated fans, but he was out when the internet took off so the fact is he didn't and she did so their actions taken are different. They generally deserve credit and blame for their actions, not what they would have done.

If you are talking blame for TSR's financial implosion, Lorraine took over and ousted Gary eleven years before the end. Things were bad from the beginning, but she was there for the end and was responsible for the decade leading up to the end. The person in charge can make changes in a decade. The person outside is less responsible for things that happened a decade after they were ousted.

She absolutely deserves blame, but she doesn't deserve to be the scape goat. I suspect Gary will never be blamed despite being one of the biggest reasons for the demise of TSR simply because of the deification of him. But if we are to be honest, we need to acknowledge that LW was put in an impossible situation and made some really bad decisions, but her, Gary, and the Blumes are all equally to blame for the demise of TSR, and she has been unfairly criticized. Not for things she did do wrong, but the things that are pure hearsay
Equally to blame for things on her watch after she had been in charge for a decade seems arguable.

Gary and the Blumes deserve credit and opprobrium for the decisions and actions on their watch, Lorraine deserves credit and blame for the ones on hers. I would not say they all get equal credit and blame for the actions and decisions of TSR under her leadership.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top