Episode 31 – Art, Gaming, and Free Speech with Mark Diaz Truman

Mark Diaz Truman joins us for a talk about the growing debate happening in out community, mostly as it focuses around DriveThruRPG.

Please note that this is a more contentious topic than we typically discuss.  It may not be for everyone.

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Mark at Magpie Games
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  1. While it is reasonable to treat comcast as a common carrier, it is not reasonable to treat DTRPG as a common carrier. Comcast is, at least regionally, monopolistic. DTRPG is a big seller, but not physically limited. In fact, Of my last 5 digital rpg purchases, they’ve been from 3 stores none of which were DTRPG. (My 6th, a free one from a kickstarter was from DTRPG) but DTRPG is not even a little bit the only way to get any particular digital product.


    1. (Larry here)
      I do agree that people can work around them. I don’t actually end up buying much from DTRPG myself either, for whatever reasons that ends up being at the time. I don’t have any issues with them as a company myself.

      While they can’t have a total monopoly because sales are online, they are very important to the hobby. People spend a lot of time and money with them, and having your product on there probably affects sales. I agree that they’re not truly a common carrier, but they are very important. Mark’s concerns with his game Cartel being banned in their site seem quite reasonable to me.


      1. Sure, but his concerns are very akin to I can’t force CBS to carry my show” not “Comcast won’t carry the data from whoever does carry my show, even if it is my own server.” The first is a business concern, the second is a censorship concern, and they are both morally and legally different problems. (I also have the same first amendment concerns about the implied “a company has to sell my things no matter what they feel about it, or how the market responds to it” that his side of the argument is presenting. I am almost never in the favor of corporate personhood, but forcing a non-ubiquitous company to provide a service to a producer seems absolutely wrong. Walmart should not be obliged to sell confederate battle flags, even though they represent someone else’s speech, and DTRPG should not be obliged to sell any product, even though that product represents someone’s speech. That includes the things that I like as well as Rapey McRaperson’s game.

        (Also, the argument that “I should rely on corporation x to provide me with a soap box” is deeply problematic for any marginalized community. That is part of the value of the internet, the fact that it decentralizes the methods of propagation of things. The guarantee is that you can speak, not that it will always be easy for other people to find your speech (though it is also always easy for people who are interested to find it, it may require effort for you to let them know that it exists.)


  2. I get that. I think the discussion though, was less about what DTRPT should have to do, and more about the community reactions, and sometimes the demands placed on places like DTRPG.

    I don’t think anyone would argue that they are obligated to take any particular action, but as a community I think it’s still important to discuss what the decisions regarding the banning of a product, or what consumer actions will mean for our hobby.


    1. “Consumer action” is another way of saying “Speech.” Speech against selling a product is not the same as banning. A boycott isn’t an attempt to ban sales, it is an attempt to say “if you choose to privilege speech intended to harm me by providing it with your soapbox you built in part with my support, than I choose to stop providing that support and to encourage others to do the same.” That is how speech is free, when the opposition is itself speech. The right way to counter speech in opposition to Tournament of Rapists is to tell DTRPG that if they carry it, you will reward them by buying it, not shushing the people telling them that they don’t ant to do business wih them for providing that platform.
      (And for the record, while there was an attempt to paint economic pressure as a liberal position, boycotting and speaking against companies for their sales choices is at least as common on the more conservative side in the States. It is usually things that irritate me, but I fully support their right to use what voice/economic pressure they have to encourage changes in behavior. I’ll be there providing counter pressure.)


  3. Interesting debate, I think the podcast did a good job of actually hashing out over a contentious topic while keeping it respectful. This was my first time listening to your show and I look forward to hearing more.


  4. It feels a lot like you guys are arguing that freedom of speech should also be a freedom from the social consequences of speech.

    It is worth pointing out, as Michael Phillips already has, that there is a significant difference between being denied access to a market either by a monopoly or a polity and an individual retailer exercising their right to choose which products they stock.

    At the end of the day, if DTRPG choose not to stock a product, the producer is free to sell it from their own website. DTRPG is not preventing the sale, in the same way that a utility monopoly like comcast would be doing.


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