So a few days ago, I found out that Varg Vikernes (seriously, read that link before continuing if you don't know who he is) is active in gaming and game-blogging. I posted about that here.
He thinks Basic Fantasy is the best version of D&D and has said he likes OSRIC. He has his own video blog, G+ page, and he even published a role-playing game last year.
The fact that I have dared linked to these things is considered some sort of moral crime in certain corners. Nevermind whether I agree with what's linked or not, merely acknowledging their existence is somehow a bad thing.
I said "Varg is OSR." No moral weight there, just a statement of fact since he's apparently into retro-clones. Because, really, there is no gatekeeping in this hobby. No committee, no approval process. Just be into this sort of game and that's all it takes. That works great for underrepresented demographic groups, nothing stops them from getting involved and showcasing their work and views and being part of the whole thing. But that means people we don't like, that have personal views we despise, are here too.
And boy oh boy did people think that was awful. "Raggi promotes Nazis" became a thing. Some of the usual suspects took great delight in the fact that I was talking about someone known for their racist views and didn't fall all over myself to mention how bad that is. Just talking about what Varg said, without feeling the need to talk about things that Varg wasn't saying, is seen as an endorsement not only of the thing that is being said, but apparently of all the stuff he wasn't just just then too. Because I didn't disavow it all while talking about this other thing that has nothing to do with any of that.
Someone mentioned this over on the RPGSite (in a thread about unreasonable outrage, someone pops in more outrage, good job, chief). They asked me:
"I cannot understand why you would endorse such a person. and please don't tell me it's not an endorsement. can you honestly say that you believe your post won't increase sales for his game?"
It's a book. Books are not to be treated as dangerous or forbidden things.
If someone can get something out of it, more power to creator and customer I say.
OH NO! MORE POWER TO THE CREATOR?!?
Seriously. I posted about this last year when I bought a reissue of Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. An album that has a convicted murderer and a convicted church-burner performing on it. Read that post here.
The most important thought from that post:
I used to be like that, when I was younger. "Oh no this person did this and said that! We should be more respectable!" and I made myself think it made a difference as far as the music on a disc. It was an immature view, doing nothing to stop creative flawed people from being either creative or flawed, but sure stopped me from enjoying great work.
So if Varg makes a game that somebody enjoys, he deserves whatever benefits are due from that, just like any of us.
But yeah, trusting my readers to have actual morals and philosophies and perspectives that can withstand being shown things without priming them about what I think, trusting them with their own thoughts as they read stuff, that's "promoting a Nazi."
Take David Hill, frequent troll and infrequent RPG industry doofus, who tweeted this:
Oh look at that, my saying "Varg is OSR" because he owns and likes some OSR games becomes Varg is a "proud" OSR guy, a "big" OSR guy, and he's got an "OSR game" that's sold three whole printings!
Oh no, how horrible those OSR people must be! OUTCAST! OUTCAST!
For fuck's sake. Now somebody you consider undesirable liking something means that thing is itself a bad thing?
Like if Hill found out that he uses the same brand of toothpaste as Varg, would he switch brands for fear of catching racist teeth or something?
And Varg's game isn't OSR. Look at the intro videos on the Myfarog website. It simply isn't. And the "three whole printings" sounds like a big deal until you do your own research and find out that each printing equals 100 books. The threat seems smaller now.
But I'm not shitting all over it so that's an endorsement, yes?
And then there's this shit:
Notice this idiot doesn't actually talk about what's being talked about, doesn't engage in the discussion or even acknowledge the actual discussion on any level, but simply considers the existence of the discussion as "gushing." This is just creating noise and bluster and trolling. "Stirring up controversy" indeed. While also linking the original video that I did, spreading this evil filth himself just as much.
But he's told you what you should think about it as he did it, so it's all OK!
But then all this "Nazi-endorser!" accusations and the resulting hoo-ha led me to say:
Can we please not shit up the post about the racist game designer with a bunch of shit about the people that are actually making gaming worse?
I'm not even being facetious there. He does his own thing, doesn't crap up or crap on anyone else's things, and the reviews he gives are thoughtful and articulate and gimmick-free.
The guy most known for his criminal past and his strange views is doing this whole "being a gamer online" thing a hell of a lot better than most of us.
Because Varg Vikernes isn't hurting gaming. He has no influence, he's not trying to have an influence, on your favorite game or how you play or what you decide to write about gaming on the internet. He's not giving anybody a hard time about how they game or what they write. He's just doing his own thing.
And even if he did have an influence, even if he did a gaming thing that inspired many to follow in his footsteps like Burzum did in metal, that still doesn't mean anything. You can go to an Iron Maiden show or a Napalm Death show and somebody's wearing a Burzum shirt and who gives a fuck and the mail order catalogs are full of shitty one-man-band black metal but that doesn't stop you from getting Blind Guardian in a normal store and enjoying that.
As always, metal shows the way.
Other people are trying like hell to have power over your gaming though and they'll use any means to get that power and they won't let things like dishonesty or hypocrisy or their own bigotry get in their way.
"We can do better" indeed.
I had a conversation with Zak about this and I think this bit is useful:
Zak: The main thing is anything you say will be used against you by Jussi Andri and David which may not be a big deal to you but this morning one of my trans twitter pals was like "Ok, so I heard that Raggi guy was promoting a neo-Nazi". So....just know you're feeding the trolls like a peach pie with bacon bits here.
Me: That this heavy metal boogyman that's had this weird legend grow around him the past 20 years isn't all that different from people in the gaming scene is interesting and worth talking about.
And not having that discussion because I'm worried about what those people will make of it means they win.
That shit is tiring though, always playing CYA for the benefit of the people who'd look through your trash for proof you really do like the wrong things.
Everyone always having to assert their moral position talking about everything from Rosemary's Baby to plastic bags. It's white noise for actual communication.
And people will take comments out of context as they like ("Varg has his own OSR game") so it's pointless anyway.
I'm surprised I haven't seen someone trying to say that Patton Oswalt is awful because he was talking about Mein Kampf and acting like it's OK to read it.
Yeah, I talk about Varg and what he says without tripping all over myself to condemn him and that's bad, but whisper campaigns, that's all on the up and up.
And let's talk about this "convicted murderer" thing. The image of the ex-con.
I have to tell you, I was a pro-death penalty guy before I moved to Finland. A real "lock 'em up and throw away the key" kind of guy.
But things just work better here as far as crime and punishment. A "life" sentence is just 12 years in Finland (longer over in Norway, although Varg got out in 15 years, and had shorter leaves from prison before that), which does seem insanely short to me for some crimes. It's not a perfect system by any means, but it really does seem the "treat convicts as people to be fixed and put back in society" approach works better than the "let the prison-industrial complex treat convicts like animals and be OK with prison being rough hell and even if they get out their life is forever fucked because they're an ex-con" thing going on in the US. The US, the "land of the free", has the second highest or highest (depending on how you read the statistics) per-capita incarceration rate of any nation on the planet. That's no good.
When I mention that Varg is a convicted murderer, to me that's trivia. I'm not passing judgment anymore, because judgment was already passed by proper and qualified authorities on this matter decades ago. Euronymous' family and friends might very well still be pissed and can't blame them for that, but all anyone else has lost is whatever music Euronymous might have made these past 20+ years. Maybe that's a great loss for the greater world. Maybe not. Varg lost the prime years of his life sitting in cells for not allowing us to find out.
But still, people calling themselves "progressive" stoke that Fox News-style outrage and take a hard-right stance on crime and punishment when it's convenient for them. And that's precious.
Varg's view on race? Yes, an ongoing concern, but is it really at all relevant when he talks about Basic Fantasy or any other game that he didn't write?
But maybe you're curious about Varg's game and hey, there's a copy in your local library so you can read it. (libraries around here have RPG stuff, how's your local library?) Maybe it does have racist stuff in there. Maybe not. (I haven't seen it so I cannot say either way.) Even if it does, reading it doesn't transfer racism to you. Maybe you even like parts of the game. Maybe you adapt a die mechanic for your own purposes. Your new purpose isn't racist just because you took a way of rolling dice from a text that has questionable content, for fuck's sake.
You know how people say "It's OK to like problematic things"?
I'm telling you, it is indeed OK to like problematic things, and it's OK to like problematic things without always needing to furrow your brow and act really concerned while you're liking them or when you're talking about them.
And it's certainly OK to talk about something without always needing to act like the fucking Gestapo is watching and judging your moral fitness.
Because if we can't talk about things without worrying about that, then we can't really talk about things at all.
(you can leave comments here)