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BattleTech is for Everyone

A quarter century ago…

My love of BattleTech started when I was in middle school. I received the BattleTech 3rd Edition boxed set as a gift, and it was one of my first few tabletop games outside of mass market board games. I fell in love with its setting and gameplay. I recruited my brother to play and brought map sheets, record sheets, and pieces of cardboard to mark mech positions along with me on scout trips to teach the other kids in my troop how to play.

While there have been times since then when I haven’t played regularly, I’ve held on to most of my old stuff1, picked up new editions and sourcebooks as they were released, and kept reading novels as FASA shut down, then as MechWarrior: Dark Age got the spotlight, and now as the classic game seems to be on the upswing again. BattleTech has remained one of my favorite games and settings, and I’m always eager to get more people interested in it.

Several years ago…

I used to try not to talk about the various topics that get clumped together as politics2, especially in online communities. I thought doing so was divisive, and in hobby spaces I just wanted to focus on playing games, painting miniatures, and having fun.

Then, over the years, watching how that actually played out made me realize that stance was a mistake. If allies don’t speak up in support, then it’s easy for the wrongdoer to say their targets who are brave enough to speak up about abuse or bigotry are “bringing politics into games” or “attacking a great person.” As long as the bad behavior isn’t too overt, people who don’t want to get in to politics keep working with the abuser, buying their products, and watching their channel, and the people talking about how they’ve been hurt get branded as confrontational trouble causers trying to drag politics into a hobby that is meant to be nothing but fun. The end result is that the people who are targeted get chased out of the hobby, and the abuser is able to maintain a position of influence. Eventually, enough information might get out to tip the scales, but by the time that happens, a lot of damage has been done.

I’ve taken that lesson to heart, and now when someone says that something feels offensive or that someone is abusive in some way, I make sure I listen to what they’re saying. I try to do what I can to offer support, and I’m definitely not going to attack someone for bringing up that they’ve been hurt by someone or something.

Last Summer…

Last summer, Games Workshop published their Warhammer is for Everyone message.. It was notable at the time because rather than just a statement in favor of diversity, it took a clear stance against bigots and abusers by saying that they will not be missed.

Not everyone praised the statement from Games Workshop though. One of the louder voices attacking it was a YouTube channel called Arch Warhammer. Around the same time, messages from Arch’s Discord server and his posted videos revealed that he had a history of horribly racist and sexist behavior3. Games Workshop stood by their statement and took legal action to prevent Arch from using Warhammer in his channel’s name and blacklisted him.

Two Weeks Ago…

Two weeks ago, Tex, a big BattleTech personality, was a guest in a video on Arch’s channel. When the video started being shared, a lot of people understandably felt disappointed and upset about the collaboration. This ended up playing out a lot like I had seen things in the past. Fans and some other big community personalities jumped to Tex’s defense saying that he’s a great guy, it was just a mistake, that he doesn’t owe anyone an apology for it, and that he’s being unjustly attacked. On the Black Pants Legion YouTube community page4, Tex put up a post saying that he didn’t do much research into Arch before agreeing to be on his show, apologized if people felt hurt, said he wanted to just focus on BattleTech and avoid politics, and said that people were now being exceptionally cruel to him. On social media, the people raising objections to working with Arch were scolded for bringing up politics, called gatekeepers5, told that they were trying to prevent people from making up their own minds, and lumped in with the bad actors who had wished harm upon Tex6.

I don’t know Tex personally and have no way to know what exactly he knew about Arch before agreeing to be a guest on his show, but his behavior since then has me concerned. I worry that he doesn’t see the harm in promoting someone like Arch. I worry that his complaints about attacks gave a greenlight for his fans (and Arch’s fans) to attack anyone raising issues about Arch’s bigotry as the type of people who would wish harm on Tex. I worry that other big creators in the BattleTech community chose to rally around Tex, condemn the people raising concerns, and largely failed to speak out against Arch’s bigotry. In my opinion, collaborating with someone who has a history of behavior like Arch or promoting his channel is the sort of behavior where an apology is warranted. I think an apology should include a recognition that the action was wrong, a clear condemnation of abuse and bigotry, and a commitment to do better in the future. Tex’s apology post fell well short of that, but I hoped he would do better after taking some time to reflect on what happened and why people reacted the way they did.

The evening that the video went live, I channeled my frustration with the day’s events into making a BattleTech is for Everyone message based on the one from Games Workshop that Arch had so strongly objected to a year ago:

BattleTech is for Everyone

One of the great powers of our hobby is its ability to bring people together in common cause, to build bonds and friendships that cross divides. We believe in and support a community united by shared values of mutual kindness and respect.

Our science fiction setting is a time of war, but that is not a reflection of who we are or how we feel the real world should be. We will never accept nor condone any form of prejudice, hatred or abuse in our community or in the BattleTech hobby. We will continue to diversify the cast of characters we portray through art and storytelling so everyone can find representation and heroes they can relate to.

And if you feel the same way, wherever and whoever you are, we’re glad you are part of the BattleTech community. If not, you will not be missed.

Last Week…

About a week after appearing on Arch’s channel, Tex wrote a second post addressing the situation7. Rather than improving his apology or addressing bigotry, this post is a call to just move on. In it he proclaims that politics is “anime for boring people,” and says that he isn’t going to challenge or try to change the way his fans conduct themselves. He also complains that people criticizing him should have had polite, private conversations with him rather than engaging in public discourse about his appearance on Arch’s channel.

That last point is one I want to address directly, especially since Renegade HPG echoed it in response to feedback on their own tweet promoting the video on Arch’s channel. When misbehavior occurs in public, it is entirely appropriate to both confront and discuss that behavior publicly. Especially in the case of bigotry (or promoting someone widely known for bigotry), publicly pointing out and condemning the behavior is important because it lets people the behavior makes uncomfortable know that the community as a whole is not accepting of the bad behavior. If people complaining only did it privately, the only thing they would see was the promotion of bigotry with no opposition. In addition, some people who want to object will not feel comfortable engaging directly with the person misbehaving or will not even have access to a private means of communication with them8.

Tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade…

I love BattleTech. I want the game to be successful and its audience to grow so that I can keep enjoying it for the next quarter century or even longer. Towards that end, I feel it is important to make sure that the game has a welcoming community for everyone who wants to get involved. I want to see the community support lots of ways of engaging with BattleTech whether its playing the tabletop games, making art, playing video games, reading the fiction, developing and using custom rules, writing fan fiction, cosplaying, making lore videos, or anything else.

I have no illusions that prejudice, hatred, and abuse in gaming communities is an easy problem to confront or a comfortable one to talk about. Unfortunately, it is also not a problem that will go away if ignored. I intend to do my part to help confront them when they show up in the BattleTech community and to be an ally of anyone who wants to try out the game. I expect to make mistakes along the way, but I hope that people will be there to tell me when I do so that I can keep doing better, and I will do my part to help people I interact with to be as welcoming as possible. I hope that is something that most people in the BattleTech community can get behind.

Notes

1: Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my 3rd edition box set in good shape as a kid, and at some point I got rid of it along with the plastic unseen miniatures that were included. I’m very happy that I am now getting fancy new versions of those miniatures.

2: Politics gets used as a nice broad term that allows people to put just about any disagreement into. Whether or not minorities should be treated respectfully really shouldn’t be considered a political issue in the same way as something like whether or not we should increase property taxes.

3: If you want more context on the claims that Arch is horrible person, this Twitter thread from someone he attacked is a good place to start, but be warned that it does contain plenty of examples of the sorts of horrible things that Arch has said:

4: YouTube community pages seem so broken. As far as I can tell they don’t work on mobile devices and you can’t link to a specific post on a channel’s community page. Right now, the referenced post is towards the top and starts with “This Morning’s Controversy,” but with time you’ll have to scroll more and more to find it.

5: Trying to label the people speaking out against Tex working with Arch as gatekeepers is especially ironic because Arch has a whole series of videos arguing in favor of gatekeeping hobby spaces and while talking with Arch, Tex himself gave a defense of gatekeeping.

6: To be extremely clear since people seemed to like getting confused by this on Twitter: Threatening or wishing harm upon anyone is wrong and is not something I want to see in hobby communities either. In fact, it would certainly be covered by the portion of the Warhammer is for Everyone & BattleTech is for Everyone statements saying that abuse will not be accepted or condoned.

7: Again, YouTube community pages are broken and I can’t link directly to the specific post I’m referencing. This one is the one that starts with “So, it’s been a few days.”

8: If you ever want to reach out to me privately and don’t have permissions to send me a message on a social network, this contact page will send me an email.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

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