North Texas RPG Convention Refuses To Listen To Harassment Concerns

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Harassment in gaming is getting more and more attention as gamers are making the stand that they will not support sexual harassment, the harassment of the LGBTQ+ or people of color. In the latest controversy over dealing with harassment at conventions, the North Texas RPG Convention, a self-styled old school gaming convention, has decided to take a stand against those in the tabletop RPG hobby who have been harassed at conventions and other spaces.


After people emailed the convention organizers to voice concern that alleged harassers Frog God Games CEO Bill Webb and former TSR editor and designer Frank Mentzer were being kept on the rolls as special guests at the next North Texas RPG Convention. One of the organizers of the convention made the following public statement in response to these concerns: "So here is my stance on the subject: Everyone is allowed to come to the Con." He then went on to say "I don't care if a member of ISIS or the most wanted person in a [sic] America comes to the Con, as long as they are there to game, and everything is about gaming. I have asked people to leave the Con when I find them debating politics and/or religion at the gaming table. (so what do you think I'd do if I observed any sexual harassment ?) Thus anything not gaming related can get you removed from the Con."

Here are screen shots of post, for those who don't want to click through the above links.


More conventions, gaming and otherwise, are taking a stance to protect those who attend them by crafting policies against harassment. Gen Con's harassment policy, from the Gen Con website, is simple: "Gen Con: The Best Four Days in Gaming! is dedicated to providing a harassment-free Event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or affiliation. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled without refund at the discretion of show management." Other conventions have written policies making it an expellable offense to touch other convention goers without their permission.

Pelgrane Press, publisher of games like Trail of Cthulhu and Night's Black Agents has created a harassment policy for officially sanctioned events at conventions or stores. "We want conventions to be safe and inclusive spaces for all gamers. Unfortunately, we know of too many instances where our colleagues, customers and friends have been harassed or made to feel uncomfortable at gaming conventions. We believe strongly that having a policy in place which explicitly censures harassing behaviour, and provides a clear procedure for reporting any such incidents, creates a safer and more welcoming environment for people at the greatest risk of harassment." Their policy goes on to say "As such, Pelgrane Press will not exhibit at, or provide support for, conventions which don’t have a publicly posted and enforced anti-harassment policy." Other publishers are taking this path, in order to make sure that their fans are safe while playing their games at conventions or in stores as well.

There is more to safety at a convention than slips and falls. Making sure that convention attendees are not harassed physically, emotionally or sexually is just as much of a safety issue as any other physical concerns. Not only that, by not making a strong stand against potential harassment sends a message to women, the LGBTQ+ and people of color that their safety is not as important to the convention as that of other people. It makes it hard to state that all people are equally as welcome to a convention, when the convention refuses to make policies that will protect everyone at a convention.
 

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77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
It sounds like this guy has respect issues. If his Con attendees are saying there's a problem with Mentzer or Webb or anything else, Rhea's first reflex should be to listen attentively to their complaints, because that's what you do with people you respect. Instead, his posts are very dismissive, with a very "I'm right and I don't have time for any of you" attitude. He even explicitly says that he doesn't really care about the Con attendees and wouldn't mind too much if most of them didn't show up. And all that stuff about being a marine, a police officer, etc. seem to me like an attempt to establish himself as some sort of authority figure, as if his experience "protecting people" means that he knows better than everyone else.

Again: when you truly respect someone, you will listen to their complaints, not immediately get all dismissive and defensive. So when someone is acting that way, it's a clue that they don't really respect the complainer.

Now, I don't know Doug Rhea at all, so maybe in person he is the complete opposite of this portrayal. But in terms of on-line communication styles, this is an object lesson in how not to do it.
 
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Chuck Ocenasek

First Post
All this "industry professional" talk is silly. He stated his job is in IT. He runs the con as a hobby. He is purposefully keeping the con small. He said he wouldn't tolerate anything besides gaming. I would think people would be smart enough to know sexual harassment is not gaming. Please, stop pooping on someone else's party and stop dictating to others how to deal with all the ills of society. Maybe, just maybe, other people have different notions of how to solve problems.

I agree 100%, sadly this is the net.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
It sounds like this guy has respect issues. If his Con attendees are saying there's a problem with Mentzer or Webb or anything else, Rhea's first reflex should be to listen attentively to their complaints,

He listened to their complaints. He responded to their complaints, as a clear demonstration he listened to the complaints. He appears to disagree with the suggested reaction to those complaints. Disagreement is not "not listening". Everyone is free to disagree with their response as well. But why do people continue to claim "not agree" or "subjectively bad response" is the same as "not listen"?

I will give you an example of how "disagreeing" is not the same as "not listening". One of the victims of a sexual harasser involved with this topic has said, in no uncertain terms, she wants people to drop it. Now, the author of this article, and many others in this thread, are bringing it up again. I do not think the people bringing it up are "not listening" to the victim who asked that people drop it. Instead, they appear to disagree with her request to drop it, for a variety of reasons. Those reasons are not inherently wrong or bad. In fact there may well be excellent reasons to disagree with her request to drop it. Regardless of those reasons, it's not that people didn't listen to her, it's not even that they disrespect her, it's just that they disagree and are acting on that disagreement for a variety of reasons.

Bottom line - you can listen to someone's view, and disagree with that view. Your disagreement with the view can be right or wrong, or more likely simply subjective opinions differing. But "listening" is not the same as "agreeing".
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
It sounds like this Con's organizers are in dire need of a visit to an attorney's office, to draft a set of Convention Policies that is short enough to read and informative and not inflammatory.
 

I have helped run more than one convention in my lifetime and things can be a lot more complex behind the scenes than all the people on the outside see. I know there are people from a lot of countries who post on this site, so laws may vary, but here in the US we still have this thing called "innocent until proven guilty". That requires a court, not a bunch of hearsay and accusations that are never taken to the legal level. So for people running a convention, if they invite someone and then the rumors and accusations start coming out, the convention can get into legal trouble with the accused guest, depending on how the contract with the guest is written. At the very least, the convention will not get out of paying the guest whatever was promised. And for those guests who already have that reputation or rumors or accusations that have yet to be taken the court route, it is simple, do not invite them as guests. As for accused people simply deciding to show up as paying attendees, then it is more up the the hosting venues rules and whether they want to ban that person from their property, which can still open things up to lawsuits if the person has never been convicted of anything. Or maybe a convention will get lucky and another attendee will happen to have a restraining order against the accused person and that can be used as an excuse to ban the person from attending. So there really is little that can be done otherwise, no matter how vile the talk of what the person supposedly did.
 

Saxon1974

Explorer
All this "industry professional" talk is silly. He stated his job is in IT. He runs the con as a hobby. He is purposefully keeping the con small. He said he wouldn't tolerate anything besides gaming. I would think people would be smart enough to know sexual harassment is not gaming. Please, stop pooping on someone else's party and stop dictating to others how to deal with all the ills of society. Maybe, just maybe, other people have different notions of how to solve problems.

Yep this. I suspect as well there is a SJW agenda going after this con as it is in Texas and SJW groups hate anyone who doesn't "agree with them". I had an experience at a private game where a certain person and I didn't agree about religion and her take was basically I was a bigot and shouldn't be allowed in the game anymore (which calling me a bigot because I didn't agree with her position of religion was ridiculous). We had a disagreement over a comment that came up but there was no harrasment; merely a polite disagreement. She did get irritated that I wouldn't agree with her but we moved on. Then, later she asked the DM to ban me from the game. Thankfully he said "No, not going to ban him just because he disagrees with you". Guess what? She never came back to the group after that. I guess that's tolerance...I would have kept gaming with her; I get that people have different views. That's my beef with most of the SJW groups; agree with them or else. I don't know if that's the case here I am speculating on that part. I don't have any problem with how this host handled it. His statement was fine.
 

neobolts

Explorer
Well, it sounds like in the initial statement (and even more so in the follow up) he's trying to say that the convention will not tolerate harassment at the con, but that he's not going to address behavior outside of the convention.

He's also really, really terrible at putting together an official statement. This is where some basic skill in composition or public relations would come in handy. It shouldn't be hard to craft a statement like that.

Between the two statements, he goes off on so many odd tangents...
-His guns/police/military self-identity.
-His proclaimed disinterest in politics...which later comes off as disingenuous as he references issues like flag protests and airport security.
-His de-legitimizing of the concerns with statements like "you guys like drama". I can see him rolling his eyes.
-His calling out of an email that annoyed him rather than elevating the discourse.
-His repeated references to disliking technology yet working in IT.
None of these things belong in a statement of this kind.

One of the great things about the internet is that you can armchair QB anything.
This is how I would have phrased it...

SAMPLE STATEMENT said:
As I and the other staff eagerly prepare for this year's XYZ Convention (XYZCon), I want to take a moment to address a concern raised by some convention attendees. High profile harassment complaints have been made against some of the guests we have slated for XYZCon. Additionally, I am aware that sexual harassment has been an issue at other conventions. We take such concerns to heart, and want to assure our attendees and guests of the following:

XYZCon is an inclusive and welcoming convention where gamers from all backgrounds come together to enjoy this hobby we love. XYZ staff and management have zero tolerance for harassment at our convention and we have made our guests aware of that.

I have reviewed our policies and security preparations for the convention and everything is in order. XYZCon has encountered individuals who engaged in politically driven and religious harassment in the past, and those individuals were ejected from the convention. If any attendee, staffer, or guest experiences harassment, I encourage them to reach out to me or another member of our management team. I and the rest of the staff look forward to having a positive and enjoyable experience with you at XYZCon.

Sincerely,

NAMEY McNAME
XYZCon Executive Director

This sample statement gets across his major points without all of the distractions and loaded language, his major points being:
-We are all here to enjoy gaming together.
-Harassment and bad behavior of any kind is not tolerated.
-We have appropriately dealt with harassment in the past.
-We have adequate security in place.
 

Hussar

Legend
All this "industry professional" talk is silly. He stated his job is in IT. He runs the con as a hobby. He is purposefully keeping the con small. He said he wouldn't tolerate anything besides gaming. I would think people would be smart enough to know sexual harassment is not gaming. Please, stop pooping on someone else's party and stop dictating to others how to deal with all the ills of society. Maybe, just maybe, other people have different notions of how to solve problems.

He absolutely has the right to invite anyone he wants. Completely.

We also have the right to say, no, that's not right and spread the word that he is inviting someone who has had serious issues with harassment.

Now, as far as "you'd think people would be smart enough to know that sexual harassment is not gaming" goes, you'd think so. Unfortunately, as recent history shows, it's a pretty prevalent thing. And, it's up to us, as a community to flat out say, "No this is unacceptable".
 

Staccat0

First Post
All this "industry professional" talk is silly. He stated his job is in IT. He runs the con as a hobby. He is purposefully keeping the con small. He said he wouldn't tolerate anything besides gaming. I would think people would be smart enough to know sexual harassment is not gaming. Please, stop pooping on someone else's party and stop dictating to others how to deal with all the ills of society. Maybe, just maybe, other people have different notions of how to solve problems.

I’m not sure why us discussing his response on a forum bothers some. We’re not sending him to prison. We’re talking about something crappy in our hobby and one example of a response.

The idea that we should give equal weight to all opinions when it comes to topics like sexual harassment at cons is kinda silly IMO. If people who have experienced the problem don’t (or do) have thoughts about it I am more interested in them than some rando guy who could care less if I attend his con or not. The topics that don’t interest me in this forum, are the ones I don’t click.

If you like his response and think it’s adequate that is one thing, but telling people not to “poop on his party” is weird. My wife has been harassed at cons and treated crappily in general at several con games. I think his overly cute response is crap and I’m not being a bully for saying so. Dude sounds like he could care less what I think in fact.

EDIT: Also can we not with this “SJW” culture war nonsense? The responses on both sides have mostly been made in good faith as far as I can tell.
 
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neobolts

Explorer
Yep this. I suspect as well there is a SJW agenda going after this con as it is in Texas and SJW groups hate anyone who doesn't "agree with them".

The harassment allegations exist (i.e. it is a fact that complaints have been made). Questioning the motivations of those raising concerns is a trap, and labeling an opposing viewpoint as an "agenda" is leaping headfirst into that trap. Instead, the smart response for the host is to address the concerns respectfully, even if those complaining don't get a specific outcome they might be seeking.

(Also you may want to tread lightly...there's a rule about "agenda" talk...rule #4 http://www.enworld.org/forum/misc.php?do=showrules. I'm not sure if it applies in your usage, but then again I'm not a mod.)
 

In the thread on the other forum, there was an email he listed that clearly showed that one of the people complaining had the facts all wrong. There was another poster trying to organize a campaign to get the hotel to shut the convention down.

That Con has a very good reputation for a well run and fun Con focusing on OSR. It could be even larger, but they deliberately keep it small. I have not attended a Con in decades because of drama like is happening now, but I like OSR and I was considering going to the next one because it has been highly recommended. I probably still will.

if you do not like the guest list, don’t attend. A polite email to the Con saying why is a good follow-up. Personally, I think that they should have a short, written policy that says what he said in the meat of his post. Come to game, non-gaming activities like harassment will not be tolerated and people doing it will be ejected from the Con.

Trying to organize an email campaign to the hotel seems like way too much to me. Vote with your wallet and do not go. Say publicly and privately why you are not going. Our hobby is small, there is no need to damage it through further escalation.
 


pming

Legend
Hiya!

No problem from me...just as long as there is at least a decent list of examples that would constitute "harassment". It's when some mouthpiece says "We will not tolerate harassment of any kind at the Con", and that's it....that I have a problem with. It's like visiting a foreign city and the welcome person says "Welcome! Enjoy your stay, but don't do anything bad or we'll kick you out"...and they don't tell you what "bad" is. Is swearing bad? Is wearing just a bikini top and shorts in public bad? Is drinking in public bad? Is running with scissors bad?

Same thing with a blanket "harassment" (or even "sexual harassment, hate speech, racism" and the like). Is saying "Wow! You're looking sexy as hell in that Witcher costume!" considered sexual harassment? Or would someone have to say that, then follow it up with a crotch grab or a slap on the behind? Or something in between? Would a guy who's gaze lingers a little bit too much at the buxom cosplayer be guilty of sexual harassment, or not? And then we get into the non-existent "hate speech" (no, I don't believe there is such a thing...at least nothing that should be illegal, imho). Is someone saying "Ugh...I got stuck in a group of 6 players...ALL were unwashed white dudes!"...is that 'hate speech'? Some would actually argue that yes, it is...and some would say no, it isn't.

...and that's why I have no problem with any Con/Organization laying down the standard "we don't put up with harassment, yadda yadda yadda" that everyone and their dog has to say now, else they be accused of being nazi's or whatever. But what I do have a problem with is Cons/Organizers refusing to give any examples of what they actually consider 'bad' for these things.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Ricochet

Explorer
Title is almost clickbait, because the guy basically says he won't tolerate any kind of harassment at the con. So why the need to post about it other than to stir a pot that didn't need stirring in his case?

I feel that some of these debates are turning into something of a witch hunt at times; that people are actively searching for things to get offended about.

It's also a sad state of affairs that examples of harassment need to be given, and that common decency can't just be the barometer. I guess if that were the case, there would BE no harassment, but still, one can wish.
 
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Venley

First Post
Title is almost clickbait. because the guy basically says he won't tolerate any kind of harassment at the con, so why the need to post about it other than to stir a pot that didn't need stirring in his case?

I feel that some of these debates are turning into something of a witch hunt at times; that people are actively searching for things to get offended about.

It's also a sad state of affairs that examples of harassment need to be given, and that common decency can't just be the barometer. I guess if that were the case, there would BE no harassment, but still, one can wish.


It is not about searching for things about which to be offended but personal safety.
As someone who has experienced harassment and worse while gaming, I am glad that the word is being spread so that those who wish to avoid cons which will not stand up for common decency are made aware of which they are.
When someone is paying for harassers and assaulters to attend their con, that shows where their sympathies lie.

I hope that the other honoured guests re-consider if they wish to be associated with this or similarly-inclined cons in the future. They may have contracts (unlikely for a small con but possible) they are unable to get out of this year.

Also, unless the hosts are rich, that money he is using to fund the guests of honour comes from the attendees.
 




Harzel

Adventurer
He listened to their complaints. He responded to their complaints, as a clear demonstration he listened to the complaints. He appears to disagree with the suggested reaction to those complaints. Disagreement is not "not listening". Everyone is free to disagree with their response as well. But why do people continue to claim "not agree" or "subjectively bad response" is the same as "not listen"?

I will give you an example of how "disagreeing" is not the same as "not listening". One of the victims of a sexual harasser involved with this topic has said, in no uncertain terms, she wants people to drop it. Now, the author of this article, and many others in this thread, are bringing it up again. I do not think the people bringing it up are "not listening" to the victim who asked that people drop it. Instead, they appear to disagree with her request to drop it, for a variety of reasons. Those reasons are not inherently wrong or bad. In fact there may well be excellent reasons to disagree with her request to drop it. Regardless of those reasons, it's not that people didn't listen to her, it's not even that they disrespect her, it's just that they disagree and are acting on that disagreement for a variety of reasons.

Bottom line - you can listen to someone's view, and disagree with that view. Your disagreement with the view can be right or wrong, or more likely simply subjective opinions differing. But "listening" is not the same as "agreeing".

As I understand the term to be used in this sort of context, "listening" generally means making a concerted effort to put yourself in the speaker's place and understand what they are trying to communicate at more than a superficial level. And if you want to be given credit for listening, since we can't see inside your head, you have to demonstrate that understanding in your response. So when people say he didn't listen, I think they mean he failed in his response to demonstrate an understanding of the concerns of the people to whom he was responding. Moreover, in this case, beyond failing to demonstrate that he did understand, he also gave notable evidence that he did not understand.

To me the first piece of evidence that he probably did not understand was the amount of his RPG.net post that was about himself and self-congratulation. If you are thinking first of yourself, there's much less room left to understand others. Also in that vein, he reacted to criticism by considering it to be an "attack" - yeah, it's all about him. Secondly, the tone of both his responses was quite angry. Generally, it is much more difficult to empathize with someone with whom you don't agree when you are angry. Third, he expressed empathy for a number of categories of offenders, but none for their victims, another circumstance that would generally make it more difficult to understand concerns about sexual harassment. Finally, he seems to lump sexual harassment in with various criminal offenses. This belies either ignorance or dismissal of the ways in which these things marked differ in our society currently. We have not made sexual harassment in general a crime. Therefore, victims cannot count on the full weight of law enforcement to remedy a problem instance. Also, experience shows that as opposed to other forms of harmful behavior, such as punching someone, victims cannot count on the general populace to decisively condemn the behavior, nor to intervene on the victim's behalf.

Had Mr. Rhea been able to get past the hurdle of avoiding saying things that actively indicated his incomprehension, then among the things that he could have said as positive indicators of his understanding would have been to acknowledge that a position of power or privilege is a key enabler of sexual harassers, and therefore by granting Mr. Mentzer and Mr. Webb special guest status in the very same type of environment where they had previously caused problems, he was risking being complicit should they commit like offenses at his convention. On the other hand, someone who was willing to acknowledge that would probably much less readily dismiss the notion of uninviting them, or at least taking some sort of special precautions.
 

Guang

Explorer
His comments sound a lot like stereotypical Texan bravado. "People will do what I say because I'm in charge and I have a gun!" That's not a con or a policy I would feel comfortable attending, and it is understandable why others may not as well.

Maybe because he's a Texan, running a con in Texas, for mostly Texans? Sounds to me like a no-tolerance policy for troublemakers of all types, including sexual harassers. Wanna bet Webb stays sober at this particular con?

Not good enough because you don't like Texas culture. Not sure how "inclusive" I'd find your table. Not Texan myself, btw. What's with the all-out attack from this article and thread on people that are handling the problem in their own neighborhood, just not in the precise way and with the precise words you would use?
 

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