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Seizing the Means of Production
Time to finally sit down and process a lot of what’s been going on in the gaming industry in the last *mumbles* months. Stay a while and listen. (It’s really long, apparently I have a lot of things to get off my chest, and there’s context that needs to be provided.)
NOTE: I’m going to talk about more than a few personal things here, and I’m explicitly stating that please don’t screenshot and share elsewhere. If you want further explanations, please contact me in the #patrons channel on my Discord server.
Y’all, it’s been a lot. I haven’t worked at Paizo in over five years, and I thought that I had processed a lot of those feelings and the bitterness. (So much bitterness.) While I stated a lot of what I felt on the Paizo boards , there is still much that I didn’t say publicly because I wasn’t comfortable sharing it. There are many, many factors that led to my departure from Paizo, so I’ll try to cover the most egregious ones.
When I first started at Paizo, it was kind of an act of desperation. I had gotten fed up with my relationship that I was in, and my work in IT left me angry, both factors that led to me looking for other options. By this time, I had been pretty well known among the staff at Paizo, courtesy of a online chatroom that I used to run (one of the many casualties of my bitterness towards Paizo), as well as volunteering at GenCon, as well as holding an unofficial PaizoCon with Tim Nightengale (Timitius on the Paizo boards). If you want to know how much Paizo has grown in the last fourteen years, I was the *only* female volunteer for a couple of years, and roomed with other female Paizo staff because of that.
This is why Crystal and/or Lissa not being allowed to go to Gen Con is absolute bullshit. Addendum: Crystal and Lissa are some of my closest friends, and when I left the aforementioned toxic relationship and started at Paizo, they provided a room, homecooked food, and a shoulder to cry in with less than two weeks notice. For real. They will always have my love and affection because of that.
Now, additional reasons that the whole rooming together thing is bullshit and arbitrary. I am polyamorous and not-straight. My (former) partner, who also worked at Paizo, is polyamorous and pansexual. These were known facts. We shared a room at Gen Con (and PaizoCon) for years. Why that was okay (or at least head-in-sand ignored), and Crystal and Lissa were not, is not too hard to figure out why, and it’s bullshit, start to finish. They did start implementing a rule later on that we couldn’t have non-staff in our rooms for liability reasons, but that didn’t come until later.
There are a lot of choices that I made during my moderation time that I wish I could redo. I try to not regret decisions I’ve made in the past, but rather own up to my mistakes and learn from them. The regret is strong, however, mostly because I supported those that didn’t deserve it, and couldn’t help those that needed it. Problem was, I didn’t know any better and did the best I could with what I had, and didn’t understand the depths of the fuckery that was afoot.
It’s one thing to know what needs to be fixed, but not being allowed to do it. Management played favorites with posters, and we weren’t allowed to take our normal moderation steps that we would have because they were partners, licensors, or organized play volunteers. I am of the firm belief that engaging with the community means everybody plays with the same rules–wild, I know. It’s the same way when you’re the Game Master–you can always win. Moderation needs that same kind of fairness, and the rules need to apply equally to everybody. (As you might imagine, this did not work out.)
One of the things that I regret the most was how Jessica Price was treated on the Paizo boards, and my lack of intercession on her behalf in any meaningful or lasting way. Additionaly, there were incidents at a PaizoCon that I was baffled that she didn’t report to the head of operations (Alvarez). I couldn’t think of why she didn’t do that, because it was a classic case of “Well he doesn’t treat me like that”, which is ten different shades of fucked up.
Let me reiterate: I did not understand why somebody did not feel comfortable reporting a problem to the person who was in charge of convention operations. That’s on me. That remains on me. Am I now more keenly aware that if someone doesn’t report something, that perhaps there might be a problem with who it’s being reported to? Yes, absolutely. It does not change the fact that I failed to help. (Not that I *could* have helped, but still.)
I didn’t coin this (one of the other former Paizo workers did), but it still remains true: if you’re on Alvarez’s good side, you’re okay. If you’re not…well. You’ll be given enough responsibilities to hang yourself with.
One of the things that I am *still* bitter about is…school. Yes, still. How does this tie into Paizo? Well, let’s go on this ride together.
Not too long after I started at Paizo, I decided to start going back to school for what I have *always* wanted to: Fine Arts. My previous attempt failed because the Ex (and others) managed to convince me that I couldn’t make money if I did that. I had started looking at computer science so I could make money. Now, the Ex had a real…problem with me being more skilled than him, and making more money than him, and the fact that I wanted to go back to school was, as mentioned a problem. At this point, I was working my ass off so he could take his certification tests so that *he* could get into IT and computer repair, and out of his blue collar job. (This is the same guy that *didn’t* want me to do any writing, because that was *his* thing, and I had *art*, so why did I need to do writing too? Yeah, the relationship was fucked up on a lot of levels, but…that was a long time ago now, and he unexpectedly passed away last year.)
Funny the decisions we make to try and make the people in our lives happy, at the cost of our own.
Back to living with Crystal and Lissa and Jenn. (Jenn is also a 100% delightful human, and you should throw some money at her Patreon if you’re so inclined.) In case you haven’t gathered, art is my thing. I like the art. Art is good. Art completes me. Art soothes me, comforts me, lets me cry and laugh and feel better. I decided to go back to school, taking maybe two classes a term, because that’s what I could afford and work into my schedule at Paizo.
It was *bliss*. I loved it. I love learning, there really isn’t a subject I don’t like at least a little bit (there are plenty that infuriate me, though). My watercolor class was awesome, and changed how I do a lot of my art to this day.
This works into Paizo because at my review, I was told that…I wasn’t applying myself enough at work. To say that I was shocked and mad was an understatement. I am *still* mad and salty about it, and it was 8 years ago. How dare I want to improve myself, to learn, and I don’t know, APPLY IT TO THE PLACE I WORK?
For additional context, this was the same time period around Paizo’s anniversary in 2012, with planning with that year’s PaizoCon, special announcements, and other shenanigans. I had busted my butt working with third-party consignors to improve that workflow process and getting the information they needed, helping with customer service, transitioning from CS to webstore, working with the warehouse to again improve the consignment process, and and and. I was doing a fucking lot. In 2011, when they were planning for Gen Con and Pathfinder Society, NOBODY had any fucking clue how it was actually organized and set up in the play room–except myself and Mark Moreland, two volunteers turned employee. If you didn’t notice any changes from the prior year (with Josh Frost) to that year, it’s because we busted our ass to pull it off. Leading up to Gen Con, I was pulling late night shifts to make sure it happened and all the GMs got what they needed.
To be told that I wasn’t applying myself enough at work.
So every school accomplishment I have from when I restarted last year to now is a giant “fuck you” to Paizo who told me that I wasn’t applying myself. (Did I mention that I got my Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts with Honors back in August? ‘Cause I did, and fuck you Paizo for making that process longer than it needed to be.)
One of the biggest sources of creative inspiration for me has always been gaming. I’ve been gaming in some fashion since 1989, and nothing quite scratches that itch like roleplaying games.
Guess what’s been extraordinarily hard and anxiety-inducing for the last 7 years or so? Yeah, gaming and its related freelancing. Is it performance anxiety? Is it lingering bitterness? Yes, yes it is.
The other problem is…I don’t care. That’s the one that churns me up the most: gaming has been a part of my life for over 30 years, it has influenced so many of my creative and professional decisions and my personal relationships that gaming and I are inextricably intertwined. To admit that it just doesn’t thrill me in the same way is *hard*. To be so apathetic about such an intrinsic part of my life? I don’t like it, in fact it’s fair to say I hate it. I need to care, even a little bit, to light those creative flames.
How do I reconcile my love of gaming and its creative influence on me with knowing how the industry has treated me and so many of my friends?
So many of my coworkers that worked at Paizo are no longer there, and I am not surprised that they moved on to where they were more valued and paid better. The near-universal realization of how much they were devalued, driven out, or outright belittled is heart-breaking at its most intense. I don’t like seeing my friends suffer, and we all suffered there. The number of times we shared our gallows humor over too many drinks in private gatherings where we needed to vent in safety are uncountable.
I think it goes without saying that it didn’t have to be like that.
Sara Marie is one of my dearest friends. To be dismissed so abruptly, without warning, with no justification, is fucked up and cowardly. Diego is a stand-up human for sticking to his principles and resigning in protest, despite the financial concerns. (Hey, he’s got a Patreon too, and Sara Marie has a Ko-Fi, you should send your love in the form of money so they can pay their bills. If you can’t send money, share their links!)
When United Paizo Workers announced the formation of their union, I wept, no exaggeration. The right mix of staff had arrived to get the union together and organized and in motion, something that so many of us never had the energy or time to do. Burnout effects every level of your life, and a lot of us had burned deep past the point of caring. All of my close friends that still work at Paizo were on the list of union members, and I am so stupidly proud of them. Those that weren’t, were because they were in managerial roles (and they later came out in public support when Paizo recognized the union voluntarily).
And all of the freelancers having their back? Chef’s kiss. The industry really runs on those personal connections, and could not run without their work. For those that withheld work, knowing that it could cost them future work, I salute you. That was a helluva play, and I’m not sure that I could have done the same thing.
I hope things continue to move forward with UPW. I really do. I haven’t felt this…excited? about gaming in years. UPW has an uphill battle with management, though, and I wish them all the best in luck and skill. It’s not a stretch to say that if there had been a union when I still worked at Paizo, I would still be working there.
Where We Going?
One of the hardest decisions that I’ve come to is that I need to stop freelancing (or be incredibly selective about what I do work on). I am literally months late on some of them, and I’m trying to clear my schedule so I can breathe and assess and evaluate for the next thing.
That thing is going to be trying to work solely on my own work, and damn it that terrifies me. Freelancing has supplied a good portion of my income, and I need that income more than ever (art school is not cheap, and neither is living on your own). One of those first steps is rebuilding my website to better suit my needs and my future art-focused career plans.
This is where you come in, my beloved patrons. You have been an amazing supporter for me through these years, and I want to remind you of the neat stuff that you’ve got access to:
- Me! No, really. Through my Discord, you’ve got a direct line to me, and I do like talking about a lot of things. I’ve even got a private room just for patrons, and you’ll be the first ones to see what I’ve got going on behind the scenes.
- Speaking of Discord, did you know that I have a Discord bot with some handy built-in gaming tools? I’d like to build further on that, but that requires more patrons (spread the word).
- Patrons, did you know that you not only have access to my art archives, but that you also get 25% those items? Here’s a link. There is a $10 minimum for your order, ’cause shipping is expensive, y’all.
I have a lot of other things on my to-do list, but the general theme is: art, art, art, and more art. And survive.