2012-03-04 : Anonymous Followup

a guest post by an anonymous author

I can certify that this author's name appears in the credit(s) of at least one MWP game. This author has given me proof of identity but asks to remain anonymous.

First: I'm no disgruntled Margaret Weis freelancer. I'm fine. I've received checks for my work and would show you the stubs, but with the way you've jumped on Benji there's no fucking way I'm giving you my name. Jesus.

If you're one of the people who have been demanding proof and calling these baseless accusations that damage freelancers: fuck you. Let me say it bigger. FUCK YOU. Fuck you for adding the societal pressure to come forward and say we got paid if we didn't, fuck you for making us feel like if we came forward you'd blame our empty bank accounts on our own misdeeds. Fuck you for preemptively blaming us. The next title I write for, I'd write for free if the developer could guarantee you assholes weren't allowed to buy it.

If you're one of the people using this as a great excuse to call for boycotts and to trash Cam Banks: fuck you. Let me say it bigger. FUCK YOU. Fuck you for taking the money away from freelancers who are waiting for their 30-day check, fuck you for dragging the name of the person who has helped us fight for payment through the mud, fuck you for lumping this company in with proven asshole companies everywhere.

Fuck Benji, too. I get why he did it but this isn't his fight, and of course the people who get snubbed by the indie crowd would jump to defend bad practices when you can paint it as part of the indie divide. Great job all around, all of you can go die in a fire now.

I said before I'm not disgruntled. I think I have one outstanding payment from a long time ago. MWP contracts pay like this: some before you start, some 30-90 days after depending on the contract (if you are lucky enough to get a contract.). MWP actually pays like this: 30-90 days after Christi Cardenas is sick of your shit. You have to keep sending emails she doesn't respond to. You can tell Cam so that he feels terrible, but that will not do anything other than make Cam feel terrible. Christi has the checkbook and she pays you when she's good and ready. A friend of mine got the payment that's due before work starts months after the work was turned in. Someone else is waiting for payment on something from two years ago.

The post-pub payment is a good point though. Or would be, if the situation weren't so fucking messy. Maybe you haven't noticed, but MWP's not so good at releasing books on time. Cash flow issues, all small businesses have them. And freelancers are small businesses too.

So you sign on to work on a game, some money "up front" some after publication, and the thing never actually gets published. Or gets published years later. Is that breach of contract, or is that a shitty-ass situation for everyone involved?

No one is making you freelance for anyone. Some of the ish that comes with working on badass licensed properties is a lack of prompt payment. Is that worth it to you so you can get paid to write about Wolverine? If it is then you don't need to worry about this drama. If it's not work somewhere else. That simple.

But for real, fuck allllllllllll you guys.

1. On 2012-03-05, Chad Underkoffler said:

Fuck you back. Courteously.

You present very well what the traditional small press environment is like. And you explain why Cam isn't evil.

And your wrath is impressive.

Email me. Would like to talk to you without outing you.



2. On 2012-03-05, John Harper said:

So, right: Ben's post never should have existed, and especially not here on Vincent's blog. The whole thing, post and follow ups, is almost entirely bullshit. Roger that.

It's almost as if bitchy, self-serving gossip presented as the voice of a community is not a good thing. Who could have guessed?


3. On 2012-03-05, Ryan Macklin said:

Because people are already asking if I'm said anonymous person: I'm not. I don't hide behind anonymity.

- Ryan


4. On 2012-03-05, Vincent said:

Please answer people elsewhere or privately. I'm not going to host any efforts to determine who the author is or isn't.


5. On 2012-03-05, Meserach said:

John Harper: I'm pretty sure that in fact this post doesn't show that Ben's claims were bullshit, in fact the post actively substantiates some of them. It does also tell Ben off for getting involved when it was nothing to do with him, but that's an issue separable from the validity of the claims themselves.

(FWIW, from what I'm seeing here and elsewhere, Ben really shouldn't have gotten involved, and I'm not sure Vincent should have either - but that is not the same as saying that the issue didn't need some publicity).

It is pretty clear to me that, however ingrained such practices are in the "traditional small-press environment", that people not getting "upfront" payments until months after the work was turned in is definitely Not Cool, and shouldn't be happening - although exactly what things need to change in order to resolve that still remain unclear.

Whether a boycott is a good idea or not is a terrifically complicated ethical issue which I doubt this comments section will ever be well-constituted enough to intelligibly address.


6. On 2012-03-05, Robby said:

No, Vincent, what this has shown me (a consumer who kind of likes your games) is that all that you're going to host is trash.

You're an asshat. I will not be supporting your shit any longer.


7. On 2012-03-05, Vincent said:

You're coming in at the end, Robby! Most of us are at the weary apology stage now.

I regret that I've lost your good will.

I consider myself soundly fuck you-ed.


8. On 2012-03-05, Vincent said:

That's it for me, friends. Please take it super easy on each other here until I get back.



9. On 2012-03-05, John Harper said:

@Meserach: Sorry, I didn't mean that Ben's claims were bullshit. Obviously, there's truth there. I meant the post, as a thing to publish here on Vincent's blog, was bullshit. Just to be clear.


10. On 2012-03-05, Pete said:

My question is, did Vincent or Ben talk to someone at MWP first before making that other post?  To give them the same amount of time?

To the anonymous poster of the original post: While it may piss you off to have people question you for proof, surely you can see why they would do so?

Read the other post if you haven't, and all the comments in it before it got closed.  There are a lot of surprised and shocked people there.  This doesn't mean MWP isn't guilty of what you have accused them of, but what do you expect when such an accusation comes in out of the blue?

You can say fuck you all you want, but it won't change things, it won't make the situation better, and it won't help your case with the fans.


11. On 2012-03-05, misuba said:

Please take me off this list.

Oh wait


12. On 2012-03-05, Zac in Virginia said:

I mean, shit, MWP is one of those companies, what makes profits and whatnot. Is anybody really shocked to see that a big fish in our small pond is throwing its weight around in order to make a buck?

Not at all defending; just saying - business is business, gamey or not. Why would people find what Ben or Anon had to say to be contentious? Naturally, substantiation of claims is in order, but the fundamental premise - that a well-known, high-profile publisher in the hobby took advantage of writers - is not at all shocking or even *new* to the scene, sadly.

This is the whole point of creator-ownership, y'all - to at least try and position ourselves so that the people making business decisions are as close as possible to the wants and needs of their fellow gamers. That, and to avoid getting screwed over trying to operate in another business model. Mostly the 2nd one, really, but the 1st is a nice side benefit when it happens.


13. On 2012-03-05, Chris Chinn said:

I'm just going to point out that, "No one is making you freelance for anyone." is a valid argument only when the people know the deal from the start.

By Anon's own account, at least 1 person got paid months after the agreed to time on their contract.  (It's unclear about the second person's 2 year wait being part of the contract or not...)

The defense being made here isn't even "Shitty contracts are part of the business" as much as, "Publishers not sticking to the contracts you signed is part of the business".

In which case, the situation changes from "No one is making you" to "Someone is MAKING you wait for money you've earned for work you did, according to the contract which they're unable to, or unwilling to uphold".


14. On 2012-03-05, Ben Lehman said:

So, to recap the basics:

1) If you are a new writer, don't think a contract will protect you. Get at least some payment in advance of turning in your work.

2) Not honoring your contracts (or soliciting work while refusing to provide a contract) is wrong. In the circumstances that you can't honor a contract, don't give someone the runaround, instead be upfront about your limitations and renegotiate.

3) If you're the sort of person who boycotts products on moral grounds, maybe take this into account when you purchase? Suggested procedure: Don't rely on internet mumble-mumble about "that's a good company." Open the book, find the name of a writer/illustrator you don't recognize, contact them, and ask them if they've been paid for their work.

4) A lot of people seem to think being ripped off makes you a professional. It doesn't. It makes you a mark.


15. On 2012-03-05, Foo said:

So did anyone ask you to post all this, or did you take it on yourself?


16. On 2012-03-05, Evan said:

A fascinating roll in the muck of overdetermined discourse, this controversy.

It's virtually akin to job market panels at academic conferences. The space is charged with people jockeying for power, prestige, moral superiority and (most importantly) money. All it takes is for one person to bulldoze into the space with a somewhat crude position (i.e. Herr Lehman) in order to set it ablaze with jockeying activities. Everyone turns toward a quest of proving either righteousness ("This is libel!" "People are being robbed!" "I'm boycotting X!") or professionalism ("Well, the industry works like this." "The industry ought to work like that!" "Vincent and Ben are SO unprofessional about this!") The result is a "he said, she said" scenario that produces only evidence of our own career-based anxieties rather than a political economy of the issue.

Frankly, this is second-tier RPG vs. indie RPG discourse. The limits of what we can say about this topic are that which capitalism allows us to say, that is, the ways in which our material and emotional investments are tied up with reproducible fetishized objects (here, tabletop RPG books). Ben has thrown a dynamite stick of language into a sphere both A) underwritten by nursed conflicts and jealousies under the happy creative surface and B) charged with anticipation about an upcoming product (Marvel) that symbolizes a shift in personnel and mechanics from indie to second-tier.

Many of us are gamers who know about what it means to frame stakes and conflicts. But this teakettle storm demonstrates that sometimes we just let the terms of conflict be set for us by others seeking that primal plane where moral absolutes really do rule and we aren't just economically disenfranchised relativists seeking cool relief from the scorching frictions of capitalism in the hobby game industry products we buy.

Speaking of purchases, I intend to buy indie AND second-tier games in the future, just as I acquired an iPad made by disenfranchised laborers in Kowloon and sip fair trade coffee shipped fresh from Colombian farmers who have read up on their rights. 'Tis complicated, our lives as consumers, and woe to he who accepts a binaristic view of it all.


17. On 2012-03-05, Foo said:

>>>>So did anyone ask you to post all this, or did you take it on yourself<<<<

Because there is a significant difference between 'things are so bad at MWP that a cabal of disgruntled freelancers asked Vincent Baker to back a boycott' which is what people were assuming, and 'I heard some people grumbling and decided to stick my beak in', which seems to be what this is.


18. On 2012-03-06, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

Hey, I just want to say, for the record, that I'm a small company. I pay 50% up front and 50% when the work is complete (usually just before press because that's how deadlines work out). I've worked with four illustrators and two editors. I've licensed a couple of small, indie things and will be doing bigger licenses in the future.

I don't have a staff, but no one is work-for-hire. If you work for me, you own your copyright and I license it from you, either for a royalty or for a flat fee. My contract just says to not use it in competing products for five years. If you write fiction for me, put it in your anthology. If you paint something for me, put it in your art book. Sell them. Sell them and I will write a blurb for the back. Because I want you to be able to eat so the next time I'm working on a project I can come to you again and you know that you can keep doing this instead of having to take more hours at Starbucks.

I don't run on debt to do this. I get my money up front from people who want what I make. The licenses are less glamorous than Marvel, but we all go away with our pants up (or down, or wherever we've all consented for them to be), and I've never missed a payment.

These aren't magic powers. They're just abilities that we all have when we pay attention to the facilities that we have at our disposal. Some of us have financial incentives to not work this way. I, for one, really like it. Especially today.


19. On 2012-03-06, Eric E said:

Do RPG developers have a hands-off union like the SWFA?

Why not?  It was pretty successful back in the day at identifying and dealing with non-paying publishers, while at the same time not being as controlling as a lot of other unions in the States.


20. On 2012-03-06, Ben Lehman said:

Eric E: I so wish that we had that.



21. On 2012-03-06, Robert Bohl said:

I would also kill for something like this. Any chance SWFA would widen itself to encompass game writers?


22. On 2012-03-06, Meserach said:

Why not make your own?


23. On 2012-03-06, Evan said:

Professionalization alert!


24. On 2012-03-06, Foo said:

++++So did anyone ask you to post all this, or did you take it on yourself?++++

I cannot help but notice that this question has not yet been answered.


25. On 2012-03-06, Wordman said:

Looks like I picked the wrong week to add this blog to my RSS feed.


26. On 2012-03-07, Corone said:

Hopefully not to pour more gas onto the fire...

I wanted to add that I've worked for several games companies, including MWP. For MWP I worked on Serenity, Leverage and Dragon Raiders. Other companies I've worked for include Eden Studios, Cubicle 7, White Wolf and AEG.
I say this not to brag but so you know where my experience comes from.

It did take MWP a while to pay me for Serenity, but that was a long time ago, and was at a time when MWP was run differently.

For my work on Leverage and Dragon Raiders I have found MWP to be among not the worst but the best freelance payers in the industry. All my payments have arrived promptly. They also pay 50% on commission and the rest on acceptance, rather than the standard 50% on acceptance and the rest on publication.

Add to this that Cam and the team have all been not only polite, reasonable and professional but damn nice people too.

(and hey, I managed to write that without using Fuck. Oh, damn)


27. On 2012-03-07, Zac in Virginia said:


Clarify what you mean. At present, you sound like you're fishing for a reason to attack the very *idea* of posting about this at all.
Maybe that's why no one's answered you yet?. Can you help?


28. On 2012-03-08, Zac in Virginia said:

annnd upon re-reading the thread, i have realized that you are, indeed, just trying to attack the basis of the conversation. that sucks.


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