Dota 2, Avellone, etc.

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msoven

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I've never started a thread on the Giant Bomb forum before so forgive me if I'm doing it wrong. It seems to me that a thing is happening at the moment that perhaps Giant Bomb people would be interested in. The short version is accessible by merely looking in the general direction of the Dota 2 reddit right now, and goes like this: A really big name english-language caster was demonstrated to be first a huge creep, and then soon after a rapist in the last 48 hours. Now the scene is imploding, which it has deserved for a long time. I feel like Giant Bomb's Dota people have mostly gotten over the game at this point, but there's a fun update.

I don't even know what's going on in wrestling, I just know that something is. I know that Chris Avellone has been outed as a predator, and last I checked he was a "friend of the site" as of pretty damn recently. I saw Jeff's tweet about Cards Against Humanity's co-founder. I guess I'd like to see more people talking about this situation as a whole, because right now it feels like a bunch of parallel conversations that are really saying the same thing and could inform one another more. Sorry if this isn't a cool thread topic, I've just been really angry for the last couple of days and this is an outlet for me right now.

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frytup

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#2  Edited By frytup

@msoven said:

I know that Chris Avellone has been outed as a predator, and last I checked he was a "friend of the site" as of pretty damn recently.

He was? Other than the E3 2019 couch, I don't think Avellone has shown up in much (any?) GB content. He had a reputation as a very good RPG writer, which lots of people bought into, but it doesn't appear his creepiness was well known outside of the circles of people he was abusing.

Personally, I've been suspicious of Avellone since be left Obsidian and started ranting on the RPGCodex of all places about his former employers. Not that I had any idea he was a predator, but it became clear to me he was a bit of a shithead.

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plan6

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#3  Edited By plan6

From the bombcast yesterday Jeff said that folks that appear at E3 shows shouldn’t be viewed as friends of the site. Most of them only deal with the site once a year and that is the extent of the group’s contact with them.

I think this is more about Max, who was closer to the site and Jeff being upset at himself for not taking the allegations against Max seriously.

The fact that Cards against humanity has never had an HR department really spoke volumes. Making that game, one would think that good people would have a system in place to make sure all employees have a place to be heard. Unless of course, the company is run by diet bags.

Also, it should be noted that Max is a local political force in Chicago and offered free space for other creatives to work. Even Patrick was friends with Max for quite a while. He used his CAH money to do a lot of stuff and worked on the Obama campaign. Like all good abusers, Max put a lot of effort into cultivating a long line of reputable folks to defend him.

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msoven

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@plan6: I haven't had time to listen to the bombcast yet, thanks for the heads up. Maybe this is being discussed to a satisfactory degree. If pressed, I couldn't actually say what my last sentence there means.

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Y2Ken

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Yeah as plan6 notes the Bombcast started with quite a lengthy discussion on the Speaking Out movement in general, they only really went into specifics with Avellone if I recall correctly but they did talk about it more generally across this industry and others. Obviously Jeff has since put out a statement about Temkin, obviously it would have ben nicer to see them publicly cut ties sooner but what's done is done at this point.

It feels like in general the GB crew have gotten better in recent years about recognising the importance of using their voice to actively speak out about problems rather than just quietly shuffling them away and not acknowledging them again, which is nice to see. I do genuinely believe all of the staff's hearts are in the right place but that they, like many people, have realised that it's important to be more proactive and vocal on these issues in recent times. Simply not saying anything often in fact sends quite the wrong message, and relying on someone else to stand up first can mean that no-one ends up doing so.

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VectortheAngel

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@frytup: I really really really don't want to defend Avellone but he was actually a co-owner and founder of Obsidian and was forced out. It was more than being angry at former employers. He was furious at being lied to by people he had considered friends for years. Whether they were right and/or knew about his actual horrible personality is something we'll probably never know.

In other, related news, Ashraf Ismail (AC IV Black Flag, Origins, and Valhalla) has stepped down from Valhalla. Apparently he was accused of being a serial cheater on twitter over the weekend. Not much information on this one. One of the things that sucks about this is he was one of the few prominent visible non-white AAA faces of a major successful franchise. Black Flag and Origins were credited with reviving AC twice.

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shivermetimbers

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#7  Edited By shivermetimbers

The fun thing about talented people is that there are plenty of them who aren't abusive and deserve support, ones that probably don't get enough of it. I'd recommend seeking them out.

Edit: I will add that it's good that bad behavior isn't being tolerated and these people are being called out. My response to those who enjoy their works is not to mourn the loss of a 'good' work of art, but to console the victims and find some other love.

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frytup

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@frytup: I really really really don't want to defend Avellone but he was actually a co-owner and founder of Obsidian and was forced out. It was more than being angry at former employers. He was furious at being lied to by people he had considered friends for years. Whether they were right and/or knew about his actual horrible personality is something we'll probably never know.

I'm familiar with his side of the story, but both the venue he chose to present it and the way he presented it smelled funny to me then and even more so now. Lots of gossipy attacks against fellow employees (not just management) with no way to really verify what he was claiming.

This is a real gem given what we know now.

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BladeOfCreation

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@frytup: Oof. That last one aged about as well Planescape's gameplay. Seriously, fuck that guy.

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conmulligan

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I don't think you can take anything Avellone said about Obsidian seriously given these allegations.

In any case, I'm glad they brought it up on the Bombcast, and that Jeff addressed the CAH thing directly. I hope everyone coming forward is supported and that all this results in lasting change.

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msoven

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Okay, I've listened to the first half hour of the Bombcast. I'm glad they talked about it, and I cannot believe I'm saying this but I think the Dota 2 community is ahead of where Giant Bomb is at right now, possibly because their wound is a dagger through their heart, and not just, "Ahhh, well, that looks bad from where I'm sitting. Guh-ross!"

"Trying to be better" doesn't mean anything. In fact that's wrong, because I think what it does mean is exactly what Brad said: "Let's try to be better, oh look, Microsoft did blah blah blah." It's a segue to the next topic, and the next topic is never what white men (predominantly) can do to stop hurting people, or how other people can stop them when they won't stop themselves.

Here's something you can do apart from "trying to be better:" look into that rumor you heard about that friend of yours that one time. It seemed pretty out of character, didn't it? That may not mean that it was wrong! Maybe you had asked him about it, and maybe he said it was because she hated him because she was jealous. Is that true? Why not try to find out? Unfortunately, all I'm doing here is condensing and anonymizing a bunch of actual things I've been reading on twitter over the last couple days.

Another thing you can do is let your actions speak louder than your words in terms of boosting the perspectives of people whose backgrounds are underrepresented in the community. Enough has been said about this lately that I don't feel the need to say more, but I'd really like to see more. I'm disappointed in Giant Bomb at the moment, because I believe they can do better.

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imhungry

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@msoven said:

I'm disappointed in Giant Bomb at the moment, because I believe they can do better.

What does better look like to you? Really trying to learn here, what in particular about the response of the Dota 2 community makes you feel they're 'ahead'? To me it seems that the wealth and volume of immediate response and perspectives shared from a loose group of 100+ people with close association to a topic damn well should feel more satisfactory than from 8 people running a website at least 1 degree removed. Jeff addressed the Max Temkin grossness directly and they had a lengthy discussion front and centre on the main piece of content of the past 3 working days.

The things you suggested absolutely sound like what someone would do when they're 'trying to be better' to me, so I guess we're talking more about the immediate response feeling insufficient for the times. And I can get behind that, but I guess I also don't know what more could be expected given the current format and volume of content on the site. Do you just want them to tweet more?

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msoven

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#13  Edited By msoven

Two things that Giant Bomb has done lately that I've found encouraging: 1) Abby + Friends' charity stream. That was by such a large margin Giant Bomb's Blackest video ever that a cynic might say they should try to space it out a bit more rather than delivering a one-time inoculation. Nonetheless, I appreciate it.

2) Abby's Fortnite streams with her friends. A woman is deciding who to invite on the show and it turns out that this means the guest list includes a lot more women than normal. It's not hard to understand why it shakes out that way, right?

These aren't the only things Giant Bomb has been doing that I think are good, but to the specific point at hand Abby is doing all of their heavy lifting. Is that fair? The way I'm asking this question may indicate that I think it isn't.

I understand completely that their current roster is made up of the people that it is, and that they mostly seem to have joined up in the first place for the best reasons. Given that, I want to see them try to get outside of their comfort zones a bit more, as comfort for white men appears to involve a lot of other white men. We know they can invite all kinds of people to talk about games and to play them, because they have. More of that, please?

Let me also add that if they were looking for a place to start, they should check out their end of the year lists - they've got some really cool writers, developers and more contributing to those, so I know they have each other's email addresses!

Edit #2: Your fair question had me scrolling through the pages of videos, and to give credit where it's due, Jan also had a woman guest on (easier to arrange when it's a Gamespot person who works in the same building that you can both actually go to, in fairness) just before the start of the lockdown. On one hand that highlights the challenge, especially right now - collaboration is no easier now than normal. On the other, here's the short version of what I would like to see: representation of more perspectives, even if it's just getting someone on Discord for some silly multiplayer thing. I know they can because they have, more please.

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plan6

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I was part of the Dota 2 scene for years and the idea that scene is ahead of anyone seems petty suspect. There are some good folks in Dota 2 for sure, but it is still a garbage fire of a community.

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msoven

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I strongly agree, that was not a compliment. It was unfair, I guess. We'll see how long it lasts, but right now many Dota people in positions of power are having more honest and vulnerable discussions reflecting what they, specifically, could have done differently over the last decade. The flip side is of course that some of it is bullshit by abusers and enablers that haven't been outed yet, almost certainly. One thing I'd like to call attention to that annoyed me on the Bombcast was Jeff's slightly dismissive attitude about how much power there is in a space devoted to making light of video games: there's a lot, and it's concentrated in the usual way, and it works by pushing people out just a little bit at a time even when it isn't being expressed in a single dramatically horrible show of force.

The Dota folks also have yet to really begin to reckon with the horrific racism problem that many of them have right in front of their eyes every single day in their twitch chats. So yeah, upon reflection I shouldn't say Giant Bomb is not ahead of that in appreciable ways. Unless I've missed it, though, I can't think of ways that this site has really, consistently helped marginalized people get their voices heard apart from the aforementioned end of year lists, which frequently do quite a good job of that. My inability to think of examples doesn't mean they don't exist, but like I said I'd always love to see more.

I'm just some asshole, they don't have to do what I want. What I'm saying is not written anywhere in their job descriptions as far as I know. Just an idea, I suppose.

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Murlin

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@msoven said:

I understand completely that their current roster is made up of the people that it is, and that they mostly seem to have joined up in the first place for the best reasons. Given that, I want to see them try to get outside of their comfort zones a bit more, as comfort for white men appears to involve a lot of other white men. We know they can invite all kinds of people to talk about games and to play them, because they have. More of that, please?

That might also help avoid really big blunders like when they had a game with a blackface main character in their list of nominations for 2018 GOTY Best Style. The character has been changed since, but at the time they recorded that list Chuchel was a blatant blackface stereotype. The podcasts, particularly Beastcast, had talked about the game multiple times throughout the year, and if even one of those discussions had involved a single black person it probably would have been brought up.

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BisonHero

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I'm all onboard with being extremely critical of Max Temkin. The allegations of how he abused and alienated people within Cards Against Humanity, as well as the allegations of sexual assault during college, are quite serious. However:

@plan6 said:

Also, it should be noted that Max is a local political force in Chicago and offered free space for other creatives to work. Even Patrick was friends with Max for quite a while. He used his CAH money to do a lot of stuff and worked on the Obama campaign. Like all good abusers, Max put a lot of effort into cultivating a long line of reputable folks to defend him.

I wasn't going to say anything specific on the Temkin topic, but I take issue with the highlighted statement. Until specific motivations surface from people with direct contact to Temkin, I don't think it is productive or fair to discredit all of the past goodwill efforts from Temkin/CAH as some kind of long-term cover story to shield Temkin and give him allies. Yes, it's possible, but reading the Polygon story about Temkin, relevant passages include:

  • One staffer has a second-hand account that another staffer once said "Why do you think he does so much charity and nonprofit work? He wants to change the narrative about himself."
  • Another staff member says “I never felt like they were doing work for stuff in Chicago, like on the south or west sides of Chicago. Like, organizations addressing racial inequality.” (While this is part of a larger picture being painted of Temkin marginalizing black people in the company, I think it's largely a non sequitur; plenty of people support charities based on their own priorities and the charity priorities of this staffer didn't happen to align with the priorities of CAH leadership)
  • One source close to Temkin and CAH said that he believed Temkin felt passionately about these causes and genuinely did want to advance the rights of other people, but that it didn’t excuse the behavior described by multiple employees at the company.
  • And generally it sounds like as much as they did some charitable and/or nonprofit work, Temkin pressured them away from publicly mentioning sexual assault issues at all, since he was afraid it would drum up Temkin's sexual assault allegations again: "Nothing could be posted to Cards Against Humanity’s social media channels that could be related back to the 2014 allegation, all in an effort to avoid upsetting Temkin," according to a former employee.

The motivations behind the charitable work is not a huge focus of the reporting, and even the people who give a statement on the topic appear to be speculating one way or the other about how sincere or self-serving this goodwill/political work was. No one appears to have claimed that Temkin confided in them that all of the goodwill efforts are part of a moustache-twirling scheme to allow Temkin to keep yelling at people in his office. Maybe he's self-centered and oblivious to how much he alienates and abuses people and wants to do good in the world generally, but can only do good on a macro publicity stunt-level, while at a micro level only knowing how to be toxic. Maybe he knows he's shitty to people on a micro level and tries to absolve himself of the guilt by doing charitable/political goodwill efforts. Maybe he truly is a Machiavellian mastermind who only did all the goodwill gestures to influence people into liking him and discrediting his eventual accusers. Whichever of those you choose, it's speculation.

Yes, in some cases, when you're playing high level politics and business, I'm sure some Jeffrey Epsteins of the world donate to charitable causes purely to play the part of a benevolent leader to the media/public and thus have a group of defenders who act as a counterargument to accusers. It's possible Temkin is doing this to preserve his own more local standing/popularity, but at present I don't think there is sufficient reason to assume the worst possible intentions for all of the previous positive efforts he was a part of with CAH.