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Luke Crane Resigns From Kickstarter

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Kickstarter's Head of Community (and the creator of The Burning Wheel RPG) has resigned after public criticism with the way he launched a project on the platform last month.

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Kickstarter told Polygon that "After a discussion about what is best for Kickstarter and our team, we came to the mutual decision with Luke Crane for him to leave Kickstarter. We recognize the many years of work Luke has done to help bring creative projects to life at Kickstarter and we are committed to ensure continued support for our team and for our backer and creator community through this moment of change."

Crane used to be involved with the games side of Kickstarter, but more recently has been Head of Community. The current Director of Games Outreach at Kickstarter is Anya Combs, who has been in place for over a year.


The Perfect RPG was an anthology of tabletop RPGs from a variety of creators. Amongst those creators was Dungeon World's Adam Koebel, whose livestream was cancelled in 2020 after including a non-consensual sexual assault scene. Several designers withdrew their support for The Perfect RPG when they only found out after the project was launched that Koebel was involved, and Crane cancelled the project amidst a great deal of criticism, claiming that the creators were harassed into withdrawing their support (a claim which several creators have said is untrue). The list of creators has since been removed and replaced with the words "Redacted to reduce future harassment".

His most recent update on the cancelled project is an apology to those affected.


Hello.

I apologize for such a long silence in the wake of the project launch last month. I’ve been in a lot of conservations, and doing a lot of listening. I waited to post anything because I wanted to be sure to be as thoughtful and considered as possible:

When we began the Perfect RPG project, my only goal was to launch a small collection of micro-games designed by my friends and others whose work I respect in the community. On the day it launched, while the project was falling apart, I did not fully understand what was at stake and what had happened—in the shock of the moment my communications were insensitive and desultory.

So here and now I wish to unequivocally apologize to you, and everyone affected, for the harm I’ve done to the community with this project. I am grateful for your input over the last month, and have done my best to listen with an open heart. I thank you for sharing your opinions and feelings, and know that I have violated the trust you placed in me. I am sincerely, deeply regretful.

In creating the project, I made a series of missteps and miscalculations that added up to a gross oversight on my part and, accordingly, I am fully responsible for the current situation and its effects. So I would like to add some clarification around some of the particular points raised, in the hope that it will help the community as a whole move forward in a productive way: There was no deceit, deception or bad faith in any of my actions around the project. I understand that I should have disclosed the participant list to all contributors beforehand, and I feel terrible that my poor planning placed some creators in a difficult position. Likewise with the unusual order in which contributors were listed—I was seeking to highlight the first creator on the list, who was my primary playtester for this project. In hindsight this was a poor idea that came off as duplicitous, for which I apologize.

The Indie RPG community is close-knit and passionate—it is one of the things I've loved the most about being a member. I have worked for 20 years to build and advocate for this community and expand it past its roots. It is very much my life’s work. To see it hurt through my actions has been devastating. Therefore I am now doing my best to repair the harm I have caused and make restitution to anyone negatively affected by my actions.

I recognize that this statement reflects an as-yet incomplete understanding of the impact of my actions, and only a start to making things right. I am actively looking for other ways to redress the wrong I’ve done. To begin this process, I have reached out to all the contributors of the project and I am in discussions with them, listening to their perspectives and asking them for input. I hope that with their help, and the help of this gaming community, I can demonstrate my continued commitment to building better games for all of us.

Sincerely,

—Luke
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

What measures should a project creator take? Well, vetting your contributors is just basic good business sense. There is no excuse for not doing that. And, frankly, if someone is toxic, and their inclusion will increase the chance of your project failing, then, well, don't include that person in your project. Seems pretty straight forward and simple to me.
Let's say i write a module, and want to publish it. I find a good illustrator. They have the skills, i like their work, and they have a good track record of delivering projects online. Is that sufficient vetting? If not, what should the additional level of vetting entail? Ask them for documents to prove they have not been convicted of anything? (I personally don't remember ever being asked that in an interview. Why would a creative project be any different?) Or should i google them? What if i don't find anything. What if i do, but have no idea if an allegation is true?
Should i keep a record of my google search results, In case the internet decides i'm a bad person for chosing to work with this individual? If it later transpires that they did something wrong?

To avoid all this, should i only work with people that i know for 20 years, and can vouch for? What if they don't have the skills. Should i not trust strangers then to do professional work?

...Do you see where it becomes difficult to define? Of course it's good to know the people you work with, and ideally be able to vouch for them. What i'm saying is, that's the ideal situatuon. We're discussing about project creator accountability, and what should the rule be. Not what the ideal situation is.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
...Do you see where it becomes difficult to define? Of course it's good to know the people you work with, and ideally be able to vouch for them. What i'm saying is, that's the ideal situatuon. We're discussing about project creator accountability, and what should the rule be. Not what the ideal situation is.
There's no "rule". Social behavior doesn't have rules. Just common sense and human beings reacting to things.
 


Aldarc

Legend
There's no "rule". Social behavior doesn't have rules. Just common sense and human beings reacting to things.
Really this whole search for non-existent rules is just another version of the "where do we draw the line?" play from the "how do I avoid making any socially responsible changes to my behavior as possible?" playbook.

Well, that is a matter of opinion. I find the fact that you chose to make it personal, about what it is saying in "my favor", interesting.
In favor of your argument that you are choosing to make and repeatedly try to defend.
 


imagineGod

Legend
Basically, people may be confusing Teo things. One is abusing a position of power and the other is helping a friend. Everyone is free to help friends and pledge personal finance to a Kickstarter project.

However, someone in a position of authority that abuses the tools of that position to help a friend above and beyond what is available to the public, is engaged in corrupt practices. Obviously, not all corruption is criminally liable, but it is still corruption that breeds distrust in public projects, community and business.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Eventually, somebody - call him Fred - with a history of pointing fingers at would-be team members and proclaiming "Jack did X (here are search results); he's toxic; I can't work with him" is going to be met by other members of the team notifying the project coordinator "Fred brings drama to his projects (here are search results) more than contributions; I don't want to work with that" and Fred will be the one ejected from the project.
How does Fred explain that this result was not best for the project?
 

Aldarc

Legend
That was in fact my point. There isn't one rule that fits all in these situations, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.
How to ignore social problems in four easy steps:
  • Step 1: Force discussion of a magical line, rule, or boundary for irresponsible social situations.
  • Step 2: Cast ambiguity, doubt, and skepticism about the ability to find said line.
  • Step 3: Take non-existence of a hard line, rule, or boundary as an argumentative victory.
  • Step 4: Since no line exists, so the rationality goes, let bad behavior or idiotic decisions continue as normal.
 

Really this whole search for non-existent rules is just another version of the "where do we draw the line?" play from the "how do I avoid making any socially responsible changes to my behavior as possible?" playbook.


In favor of your argument that you are choosing to make and repeatedly try to defend.

I feel you're misconstruing what i'm saying in bad faith, and find you a bit rude to be frank.
 

Panjumanju

Radio Wizard
Let's say i write a module, and want to publish it. I find a good illustrator. They have the skills, i like their work, and they have a good track record of delivering projects online. Is that sufficient vetting? If not, what should the additional level of vetting entail? Ask them for documents to prove they have not been convicted of anything? (I personally don't remember ever being asked that in an interview. Why would a creative project be any different?) Or should i google them? What if i don't find anything. What if i do, but have no idea if an allegation is true?
Should i keep a record of my google search results, In case the internet decides i'm a bad person for chosing to work with this individual? If it later transpires that they did something wrong?

To avoid all this, should i only work with people that i know for 20 years, and can vouch for? What if they don't have the skills. Should i not trust strangers then to do professional work?

...Do you see where it becomes difficult to define? Of course it's good to know the people you work with, and ideally be able to vouch for them. What i'm saying is, that's the ideal situatuon. We're discussing about project creator accountability, and what should the rule be. Not what the ideal situation is.

This is a straw man. You're trying to make the situation sound unreasonable, or some kind of slipperly slope to unreasonable, and it is not.

Someone got caught being purposefully deceitful. They got in trouble for it, because this hobby is a community predicated on good faith. That's all.

//Panjumanju
 


If not, what should the additional level of vetting entail? Ask them for documents to prove they have not been convicted of anything? (I personally don't remember ever being asked that in an interview. Why would a creative project be any different?)
You've never been asked for them because that's not how it works. I guarantee, however, that in many fields, your employers will absolutely have done checks to see if they can determine whether you have been convicted of stuff. Obviously they don't ask you for "documents" - though they might ask you to disclose if you have been convicted to save them time and surprise - but rather they use background checks of various kinds which vary from country to country.

For my job I had my background looked into, had to answer questions about my educational background, about stuff I'd worked on for previous employers (primarily to avoid conflicts), and I know there was other stuff too. Working there I also take part in a program where I help vulnerable people (elderly in this case), and that required a full in-depth criminal record check. So it depends what you're doing. But the idea that you could be asked for documents proving a negative is somewhat nonsensical, at least in countries I'm familiar with.

I think it's fair to say that at the very least you should Google people as well as doing an in-person or on-video interview (and ideally if it's video several different people should see it - some people pick up stuff others don't). If there's controversy over something, you're going to have to act like an adult and make the best decision you can. Typically that entails caution.

The reality is that it's rare that there aren't "warning signs" and the like, and rare that it's a single incident that's the problem. You might look at the case of Jeremy Soule, which I mentioned in a previous thread. There were no open allegations against him AFAIK until 2019, but it's notable that use of his work had started tapering off not long after Skyrim in 2011, and had entirely stopped by 2014/15. Prior to that, for well over a decade, he'd been a golden boy of AAA game music (and with good reason). I don't believe he suddenly stopped getting work for no reason. It seems much more likely people had decided that he was increasingly difficult to work with (given his failure to follow through on his own kickstarter and the problems his music-sales business had, this seems particularly likely). Yet as late as 2018 a smaller AA/indie company had him doing music for them - presumably because they were out of the loop on all this.
 



ShinHakkaider

Adventurer
Let's say i write a module, and want to publish it. I find a good illustrator. They have the skills, i like their work, and they have a good track record of delivering projects online. Is that sufficient vetting? If not, what should the additional level of vetting entail? Ask them for documents to prove they have not been convicted of anything? (I personally don't remember ever being asked that in an interview. Why would a creative project be any different?) Or should i google them? What if i don't find anything. What if i do, but have no idea if an allegation is true?
Should i keep a record of my google search results, In case the internet decides i'm a bad person for chosing to work with this individual? If it later transpires that they did something wrong?

To avoid all this, should i only work with people that i know for 20 years, and can vouch for? What if they don't have the skills. Should i not trust strangers then to do professional work?

...Do you see where it becomes difficult to define? Of course it's good to know the people you work with, and ideally be able to vouch for them. What i'm saying is, that's the ideal situatuon. We're discussing about project creator accountability, and what should the rule be. Not what the ideal situation is.
It's not difficult to define at all.

If the project creator/project manager vetts this person and discovers that they are an accused sexual predator or someone with a history of pretty open racism or a history of sexual harassment at public events like say gaming conventions and THEY make the choice to still take them on as part of the project then that's the responsibility that the PC/PM takes on.

It's really that simple.

Any blowback? That's on the PC/PM.
Any financial hits, boycotts of your product? That's on the PC/PM.
The reputations of the other people on the project get trashed because it was more important for the PC/PM to see that this individual be on the project for, you know, REASONS? That's on the PC/PM.

90% of project management is comms. NINTEY PERCENT. Constant and direct. Being honest with your stakeholders as well as your team members. There's also an ENTIRE portion of Project Management dedicated to ASSESSING and MANAGING RISK.

If a possible participant potentially scuttling a project or hurting the reputation of the other project team members ISNT part of your risk assessment and mitigation strategy? You have NO BUSINESS managing projects of ANY KIND.
 
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Eventually, somebody - call him Fred - with a history of pointing fingers at would-be team members and proclaiming "Jack did X (here are search results); he's toxic; I can't work with him" is going to be met by other members of the team notifying the project coordinator "Fred brings drama to his projects (here are search results) more than contributions; I don't want to work with that" and Fred will be the one ejected from the project.
How does Fred explain that this result was not best for the project?

I mean, it'll probably not look good for the project if Fred is, indeed, correct in his assessment that Jack is toxic and they ended up dropping him instead. But I'm confused as to what this hypothetical is supposed to really prove, given that either way Jack the toxic dude gets hired.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I was more arguing about the principle of what project creators should do in general, as a rule.

As someone who has to moderate social behavior - "rules" need to be a bit on the broad side, because strict rules leave loopholes.

If he had treated his team members like they mattered, and been open about who he was asking to work on the project, he would have avoided this whole tragedy. So, that seems like a good guideline.
 
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ShinHakkaider

Adventurer
Let's say i write a module, and want to publish it. I find a good illustrator. They have the skills, i like their work, and they have a good track record of delivering projects online. Is that sufficient vetting? If not, what should the additional level of vetting entail? Ask them for documents to prove they have not been convicted of anything? (I personally don't remember ever being asked that in an interview. Why would a creative project be any different?) Or should i google them? What if i don't find anything. What if i do, but have no idea if an allegation is true?
Should i keep a record of my google search results, In case the internet decides i'm a bad person for chosing to work with this individual? If it later transpires that they did something wrong?

To avoid all this, should i only work with people that i know for 20 years, and can vouch for? What if they don't have the skills. Should i not trust strangers then to do professional work?

...Do you see where it becomes difficult to define? Of course it's good to know the people you work with, and ideally be able to vouch for them. What i'm saying is, that's the ideal situatuon. We're discussing about project creator accountability, and what should the rule be. Not what the ideal situation is.
Even if you DON'T find anything on an initial/casual search and something comes out LATER (which is not the case here) being ready for damage control is also important.

Is it fair to the person who has the accusations leveled against them? Maybe not. But it's not my responsibility to assess their innocence or guilt. (Personally, I stand on the side of the accusers especially when it comes to sexual assault and harassment but maybe that's just me...) .

My responsibility as PC/PM is to the PROJECT and what is good for the project and to see it reach completion in a way that meets its goals. What's fair to one person doesn't even begin to weigh in here. If it's something that is going to put the project in danger then it has to be dealt with.
 

Mort

Legend
I think it's important to focus on two things:

1) Koebel is one of the most toxic people in gaming right now. Crane could not, not have known this. Failure to address this with the other collaborators is not excusable ;

2) Crane used tools available to his position, expressly NOT available to other content creators, to obfuscate Koebel's involvement. THAT more than number 1, is what likely got him in trouble at Kickstarter itself.

This isn't really a case of "we need firm rules and lines going forward..." There were rules and lines, Crane broke /crossed them.
 

I think it's important to focus on two things:

1) Koebel is one of the most toxic people in gaming right now. Crane could not, not have known this. Failure to address this with the other collaborators is not excusable ;

2) Crane used tools available to his position, expressly NOT available to other content creators, to obfuscate Koebel's involvement. THAT more than number 1, is what likely got him in trouble at Kickstarter itself.

This isn't really a case of "we need firm rules and lines going forward..." There were rules and lines, Crane broke /crossed them.

If anyone goes back and reads what i said, they will see that i explicitly stated that i'm not defending this behaviour, and that there were a lot of factors at play.

I do however see this lynch mob mentality in the rpg community, and i think it's something very negative that needs to be addressed. I have seen it with Mearls, who was demonised and equated with some sort of abuser because some people somewhere believe him to have done something (with no evidence). This sort of mob behaviour is endemic in the internet and social media it seems. To a certain extent, this behaviour was exhibited in this thread too. One moment you're having a conversation, and all of a sudden people start making personal accusations, and casting you as some sort of bad guy... In my opinion, it's good to reflect on our own behaviour too, not just start moral crusades over the internet.

This specific case may have been fairly clear cut. Others (in the past, or in the future) may not be. This is what i said from the start, and if people want to misconstrue that, that's their prerogative, as long as they don't put words in my mouth.
 

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