Monday, January 5, 2015

Zak S, Roll For Harassment


Screencap from the fFacebookpage for "The Dongion"

(Trigger warning for death, transphobia)
Here's how Zak Smith hid behind "parody" to anonymously snipe at and harass professional writers, bloggers and anyone he didn't like. I previously wrote about how Wizards of the Coast employed as consultants two people notorious for harassing the marginalized in the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As if the odious things Zak Smith has done with his name publicly attached weren't bad enough, there's the period of time when he ran "The Dongion".

The Dongion was like The Onion for tabletop rpgs, if you didn't want to be funny and had absolutely no grasp of nuance or satire. Whether it was talking about how people talking about how gross the implications of the Drow were should die in a fire (see screen-cap at left) to misgendering trans women developers and bloggers, and calling them "grotesque" and "frauds" (see screen cap at right).

"But Ironhead Shawn," that site is run by 'E Gary Zweibel' not Zak Smith, whick are completely different names!" Blogger Ettin details a number of ways that this pseudonymous blogger writes articles that talk about how great Zak Smith is or how the people that Zak Smith doesn't like are also people the site makes fun of and how both The Dongion used exact Zak Smith slang like "Monocole Droppers" and how after there were public request for specific complaints in the wake of the controversy of him being a paid D&D consultant, The Dongion posted articles calling accusations of Zak S being an awful person were all trolls, including naming a specific pro writer. Once that pro writer went to WotC about it, the Dongion suddenly announced it would stop updating before deleting the site altogether-- and yet, the site's still listed on Zak S' blogroll! Why does this matter? How does this help Zak Smith? As Ettin points out:
Zak’s usual tactic is to harass in ways that give him plausible deniability... It’s how Wizards of the Coast credited him as a consultant in the Basic version of a game they’re trying to make more inclusive, how a guy who left the Escapist over their handling of Gamergate can still blow it off as “an impressive ability to rub the tabletop community the wrong way”, and how bigger names like Kenneth Hite and Monte Cook can be comfortable writing ad copy for his books. The Dongion cut out the middleman, letting Zak harass people himself without hurting the persona he presents to others.

If we're going to make gaming-- whether it be the dice-chucking, card-flopping, or button-pressing kind-- more inclusive, we have to make it know that behavior like this is unacceptable.

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