This post is insufferably long, and I’m sorry for that [LONG][TW]

[Note that this is not being published as a patron-supported post, lest I be accused of “playing the victim” to attack someone.

It’s also important to note that there is A LOT of extra reading linked to from this post. Like, no really. A lot. I erred on the side of exhaustive, simply so I don’t need to revisit this again in the future.]

This is a blog post I swore I’d never write, let alone publish, since any controversy created by such a post is not ever going to help me. However, nearly four years of staying silent on this issue hasn’t done any good either, and I’m running out of cope. So here we go.

There is man in the indie TRPG community, with quite a larger following than mine, who has been determined to tell the games community at large what a terrible, awful person I am. It has been nearly four years since all of this nonsense started, and the strain of remaining silent is beginning to be a bigger burden than anything else. Remaining silent hasn’t done anything to prevent the abuse directed my way. If anything, the frequency and level of rhetoric has only continued to escalate over time. So I’m finally doing the thing I swore I would never do and naming names:

I have been the target of trolls, haters, and randos for quite a while now. But none of them have been as persistent, vitriolic, and prolific in their hatred for me as Zak S.

At first Zak confined himself to calling me an anti-porn, sex-hating, fascist uber-conservative akin to Phyllis Schafly. But at last count, according to Zak, I am now: anti-porn, anti-sex in games, homophobic/queerphobic, transphobic, fascist, legit crazy aka delusional aka should be involuntarily remanded to mental health care, a liar, a chronic attention-seeker who has fabricated harassment evidence, a chronic harasser myself, and legit evil.

…needless to say, in a post-GamerGate world this is a terrifying level of rhetoric to have reached. So what I am doing here is documenting for once and for all the substance of this thing, and yes providing sources and links and evidence – since my silence all these years has been used as ammunition against me. There are people in my own circles who have spoken about this as an issue with “sides”, as in “well there’s been bad behavior on both sides”, and just. No. There are no “sides”. There is Zak’s continued hatred versus my silence, always my silence.

But before I get started with that, an important aside:

This is fucking important

The real tragedy of this situation is that on an objective level, I have a lot of empathy and heartbreak for Zak and Mandy (his girlfriend/partner who has a serious genetic condition). And not in a condescending “I feel sorry for them for being so crazy/awful/evil” kind of way, because fuck that noise. (I hate it when people pull the “I feel sorry for you for being such a bitch” card on me, because that is 100% bullshit.)

I can’t fully imagine what Zak is going through as primary caretaker of someone with a terrifying genetic condition that is making her body cannibalize itself. Not completely. But I can have empathy for that situation; my own father died nearly four years ago from bone marrow cancer. I wasn’t even a primary caretaker – I had already made irrevocable plans to move to Canada when he was diagnosed. But watching my father grow gradually sicker as his skeleton literally tried to consume his insides, watching him fade more and more as the meds he needed to keep the pain under control grew stronger and more frequent…

Yeah, it fucking messed me up. I didn’t live with my father during his treatment (I did come home as often as I could), but I will never be able to watch Breaking Bad. Wild made me ugly cry for the whole damn movie, and any kind of media featuring parents with cancer is shit that I avoid whenever possible.

So I on an abstract level, I admire Zak for continuing to remain creative in the face of what is surely a painful struggle. And I admire Mandy for not being silent in the face of legit bullshit behavior she has faced, and for her recent hospital glam photos she’s posted. I wish that I’d tried something similar with my father, because it kills me how dead he looks in every photo taken while he was sick and how his spirit was completely broken by his diagnosis. And I hope for both their sake that her prognosis is better than my father’s. I really do.

So I am absolutely not saying that you should boycott Zak’s work if you were otherwise likely to buy it. Nor am I saying not to buy his art. And I am especially not saying you should go hurl abuse at Zak, and especially not at Mandy, because seriously it makes me fucking mad that she has been harassed for being the wrong kind of gamer and I don’t want to be part of perpetuating that kind of toxicity. Support them if you want, don’t if you don’t. Whatever. Everyone draws their line somewhere and it’s okay if you draw it differently than me or anyone else.

In writing this post, I speak for no one but myself. And what I want personally is simply to be left alone, without constantly having to feel like I have to look over my shoulder. (I know that sounds hopelessly naive, but that really is all I want.)

Okay? Okay. Aside over.

Down to business: a chronology of my interactions with Zak

Because this is a thing that has spun out over the course of 3.5 years, first I’ll provide an overview of the timeline of events from my perspective. (It’s lengthy, and I’m sorry about that.) It’s important to note that this only includes publicly available postings, as that’s all I have access to. It’s possible that there’s more in more private locations, like closed G+ threads, that I’m not aware of.

Pre-hostilities interactions on my blog

1) January 2011

Interestingly, our earliest communication was one that I had entirely forgotten about. (Whoops.) I wrote a post about how some dudes had devoted 20 minutes of their podcast to talking about why I was fat, ugly, and crazy. Zak popped into the comments to ask for responses to a survey of female gamers on his blog, as well as to contribute what I thought were actually some pretty cogent points.

2) February 2011

A month later, I wrote a post about Hyung Tae Kim in which I expressed some nuanced opinions about his art and the degree of sexual objectification it displayed. There was a spirited conversation in the comments, which Zak was pretty active in, and which I didn’t participate in very actively because I was frankly too stressed out to attempt having a nuanced conversation about something on the internet.

Looking back on the comments, there’s several of Zak’s comments that seem pretty… sea lionish. (Though of course I didn’t have the language to describe it as such then.) He also engaged in a fair bit of straw-manning other commenters by accusing them of calling HTK “pro-rape”, which got a fair amount of pushback – from myself as well as other commenters, as the opinions being expressed were complex and nuanced, not simple and black-and-white.

I ultimately tried to bow out of the conversation, because the following two things happened within a day or two of making the post:

1) I was laid off from a job that I loved and had felt secure in

2) my father’s cancer took a turn for the worse (he died just over four months later).

Still, Zak kept baiting other commenters and I wound up getting involved again before things ultimately died down. And even then, for like a year after that, my memory of Zak was “oh we disagreed that one time, but our conversation was pretty civil and respectful so that’s cool with me”.

2a) February 2011

What turns out to have been the most significant interaction with Zak actually… wasn’t… an interaction… at all? Twelve days after making my post about HTK, I wrote this post about Japanator’s then-editor who had a history of making crass rape jokes and then hiding behind his female friends and fans who told him he wasn’t sexist.

In the comments of my post, conversation turned to sexism in anime, and in the comments, I had cause to say: “That being said, harem anime is pathetic and disgusting. Fetish anime ditto. Hentai anime ditto.”

Which, sure. That is pretty harsh, and I’ll admit it could have been better phrased. But what I was trying to express is that I have yet to see a harem anime that hasn’t made me feel incredibly uncomfortable about creepy behavior by the male protagonist being played for laughs, because I have been creeped on by geeky guys and it’s really not funny. Similarly, my experiences with hentai have not been with anything depicting anything resembling consensual sexual encounters, and the lack of consent was fetishized just as much as the bodies involved. Which, uh, yuck.

The conversation moved past that point onto other things, and I didn’t realize that my lack of clarification would become such a big deal, because Zak never even posted in that thread. Not even once.

3) June 2011

Apparently, at the time Zak hadn’t thought that my post about HTK was such a big deal either? Because four months later I wrote an admittedly ham-handed post about how the shit I love about fantasy is racist.

And actually, Zak popped in again briefly with some stuff that was actually super on point about the difficulty of trying to be a critic and artist who doesn’t fall into the same traps that I criticize here on my blog. (Again, I’d entirely forgotten about this until I went searching my comment archives.) And even looking back on it now, it seems pretty pointed, but also like something that needed to be said.

So whatever the dynamic now, we had had what I had remembered as pretty civil, respectful interactions in the past.

Hostilities begin: 2012/2013

1) April 2012: It begins

I honestly couldn’t tell you when it happened now, but at some point in maybe 2009 or 2010, I moved all my gaming-related conversations to G+ and rage-quit talking on game forums, because I was done with accepting sexism, erasing, and mansplaining as the price for participating in conversations about games and game design online. (And G+ is fantastic at letting you aggressively curate your conversations to be fuckhead-free.)

So when Zak dropped into a Story-Games thread to make an attack on me in which he called me a fascist ultra-conservative akin to Phyllis Schafly (I am paraphrasing, as the link I have archived seems to be broken ETA: the thread moved! you can find it here), I didn’t even know this had happened until a few people emailed me to let me know what had happened. I wasn’t even notified that this attack had happened until after Zak had already been banned for it, but I remember being bewildered.

What had happened? I mean, where the hell had this come from? I even went back through the comment logs on that old HTK post and couldn’t find any one moment that made me say – ah. That. That is where this emnity is coming from.

I made a response on Gaming as Women in which I was careful not to mention Zak’s name or any identifying details of the incident, and I also asked that people refrain from naming Zak if they knew who I was talking about. Partly this was because I wanted to use my personal experience to highlight the visceral fear that women face when interacting on the internet. But it was also partly because I actually was scared by the anger of that attack and didn’t want to give Zak any further ammunition to use against me.

My previous experience of trolls had been that they would make one or two isolated attacks and then go back to doing… whatever. I honestly thought that would be the case this time too.

It wasn’t.

2) July 2013: AoE’d

The next time I was targeted by Zak, it was part of a shotgun-style attack against a whole host of people that he didn’t like. Rather than rehash what I’ve already written about here, go to this post and scroll down to the section called The Edgy Game Designer, in which I detail how I came to speak out against a gaming organization’s choice to lend someone with a known history of misogynist views their platform to voice those views.

I was one of a few women who spoke out, and in so doing I was careful to focus on my personal experiences and feelings and how this person’s views directly affected me as a marginalized member of the gaming community. And the other women who spoke out all pretty much stuck to that same script. However, there was also one man who spoke out with far more fervor, and far more aggressively than any of them women did.

He made one post in particular that said that the problematic game designer was responsible for rape and death threats against people who disagreed with him. Now I knew what he was talking about – that he was talking about how some nerd-famous men shut down criticism against them by riling up their followers and pointing them at a target (I’ve written about it more in depth here, under the section called “How It Works”). The person who made this post is someone who I respect, someone who got me into game design in the first place, and without whose support I would not still be making games today. I also knew that he was speaking from a place of deep personal trauma, so I plussed the post in support of what he was feeling.

…which turned out to be a huge mistake. This all happened in July of 2013, but in December 2013 Zak necro’d the whole issue to make a shotgun attack against pretty much everyone included on his enemies list. (See the screenshot included here in this post under “The Rebellious Artist”.)

Zak demanded that everyone who had plussed the post retract that plus and make a public apology. I certainly wasn’t about to apologize for talking about my personal feelings and life experiences, and I’d already gotten sick of Zak’s growing vendetta against me. Also, I still really did understand what the person making the original post had meant and agreed with it. So I didn’t un-plus, and I didn’t apologize. I just kept my mouth shut and waited for it all to go away again.

Which brings up to 2014, when things started getting really out of hand.

2014: the year things got kind of bonkers

July of 2014 is when things got weird. First there was what came to be known as ConsultancyGate – a scandal over the inclusion of Zak and another highly-controversial figure as paid consultants on the 5th edition of D&D. I kept my fucking mouth shut about this, aside from a few private conversations on G+. I knew it was going to be a shitstorm (it was) and I wanted no part of it.

My one contribution: Tom Hatfield wrote a piece about the issue for Fail Forward, and I retweeted two things said about the piece while not directly linking to it or naming any names. The first is this tweet here by Tom Hatfield which simply addresses the fact that harassment exists and it is larger than one community. The second is this tweet here about not wanting people to boycott D&D 5e. Those two re-tweets are the sum total of my involvement in ConsultancyGate. Period. (Case in point: this is a pretty thorough summary of ConsultancyGate that is also totally pro-Zak, which fails to mention me at all. ETA: Oh jeez – so the Seebs summary is actually part of a larger effort to harass a trans game developer out of the industry and off the internet. I didn’t know that and wouldn’t have linked to it if I had, so I’m very sorry for missing that.)

That didn’t stop Zak, however. He’s written 6 posts about me on his blog, and five of them are from 2014. (Number six is from this year.) One of those posts is a question-and-answer charity ransom in which he wanted people he’d previously attacked to let him ask them questions, and if their answers were “acceptable” (according to his definitions of acceptable) he would donate to charity. As the mere idea of interacting with Zak directly has become enough to trigger feelings of anxiety, I did not participate. In August, I also found out that he’d been hate-following me on Twitter, after which I blocked him but otherwise said nothing.

In November, there was a thread that was started on TheRPGSite about a promotional post I’d written highlighting the progressive design work done on V20:Dark Ages, which Zak turned into a 32-page hatefest against me. In that thread, his posts alone total over 22,000 words (although approximately half of those words are quotes from other people or sources). In a thread with a total of 311 posts, he wrote 43. (I’ve also backed up Zak’s posts in that thread in a paste on pastebin, since I’m not sure if RPGSite lets you edit/delete posts. The backup consists solely of the text of Zak’s posts along with a link to each post.)

My sole response to all of this was this vaguetweet that didn’t mention his name, the forum/venue of the thing being discussed, or any other identifying information.

2015 hasn’t been so great either

Unfortunately this year looks like it’s just going to be more of the same. On January 6th he put up what can only be described as a conspiracy theory infographic that mentions me, using my quote from a comment thread on my own personal blog (that he hadn’t even participated in) entirely out of context, to claim that I was harassing Mandy. (It’s also important to note that while I have freelanced for Onyx Path twice, I have never been an employee of Onyx Path.)

Only 3 days after that, he made this tweet that thanked the people he had attacked, or parhaps more accurately the controversy he’d used his attack to generate, for helping him sell so many books.

And on February 23rd, the official twitter for I Hit It With My Axe, Zak’s webseries about running D&D for porn actresses, made attacks against some noteable progressive game devs that also included me. (Note: the tweet boxed in red appears to have been deleted later. This screenshot was taken by someone else, whereas when I looked at the I Hit It With My Axe timeline the next day the tweet was gone.)

…so all of this brings us to now, when I am tired of feeling angry, silenced, and afraid every time he attempts to convince people what a miserable human being I am. I am running out of cope.

However, since I’m also aware that it could be said that none of the above actually addresses the substance of the charges against me…

The specific charges against me, and why they’re untrue

(I am not including every instance of every specific charge leveled at me, because that would be tiresome and this post is way too long already. However, I will provide specific links to additional material under each section.)

1) I have publicly, repeatedly attacked Zak and/or Mandy

Before we cover anything else, it’s important to realize that a lot of Zak’s accusations against me are predicated on the idea that I have been making repeated public attacks against Zak and/or Mandy. And that is simply not true.

If you use Google do even a modicum of verification, you’ll see that the only search results for his name on my blog are in the comment section of posts that he himself commented on. There is nothing attached to his name on the blogspot iteration of this blog (from before I moved to WordPress). There is nothing on my tumblr. Nothing on my twitter. And especially never, ever, ever anything public on G+. (My facebook is not public and never has been.) And as previously stated, I quit visiting games forums before I’d even met Zak.

I have from time-to-time written about Zak in an anonymized fashion, such as my original Gaming as Women post. But in each instance I attempted to file all of the serial numbers off of the incidents, and have always said when doing so that people SHOULD NOT name the person being discussed if they are aware of the circumstances being discussed. I have also taken people to task after the fact when they have done so anyway. (Seriously, people, if someone writes about a person that they want to remain nameless, linking to the post and naming them anyway is an asshole move.)

Until right now, this post, here, I have never written anything in a publicly-available space attached to Zak’s real name or any of his aliases. Ever.

However, here is what Zak has to say on the subject, for starters:

…To be clear: in any way supporting a product made by Wundergeek or people who are still supporting her is pretty fucked up considering what she’s done and the attacks she’s made. — RPGSite thread, post #80

…And no matter what you think of Anna’s position, her endorsing the attacks on me and the women in my group and claiming she was harassed by us is straight-up falsehood with no possible defense. —RPGSite thread, post #91

…Her blog entry claims the JDes controversy is “manufactured” and associates me with intentional harassment and with Elliot Rodger. —RPGSite thread, post #171

…You will continue to be causing distress (to, for example, Mandy) until you admit “Yes, Wundergeek is a liar and yes, Mandy, you are right, it isn’t good that Wundergeek lied in public about being harassed” until then, your contention that you feel contrition about causing distress (while causing it) are as hollow as Wundergeek’s contention that she is an advocate of inclusion (while her rhetoric plainly excludes people) and non-judgmental (while her rhetoric is clearly judgmental).

Furthermore, after all you just said, unless you firmly state that you know Wundergeek, David and Filamena are lying your statements here are promoting the harassment (including the death threats) that their claims caused. —RPGSite thread, post #165

…Yeah that’s maybe because you weren’t sitting in a hospital room this August watching Mandy hooked up to a heart monitor and watching her heart rate spike and the monitor begin to crazily beep as every new accusation of your (and her) alleged hate crimes rolled in day after day after day linking Wundergeek as “evidence” on more and more sites in bigger and bigger media wondering when it was all going to end, all because, you made people mad by talking about playing the games you like (which everybody else does) — RPGSite thread, post 270

…that last quote, man.

You know what? I’m sorry that Mandy has been the target of vile abuse. Anyone who attacks a woman, any woman, for not being the “right” kind of woman to play games needs to fuck off to a dark corner forever. But claiming that I’m behind any of the abuse that Mandy has received either in the past or in the present is factually incorrect. Period.

(Additional instances of this allegation: RPGSite thread, post #91The Teachable Moment From All This (Zak’s blog), How Dungeons And Dragons Is Totally Not Endorsing The Darkest Parts The RPG Community At All Even Though There’s Some Tumblr Panic That It Is (Zak’s blog), Dear Angry Gamers, I Am Calling Your Bluff (Zak’s blog), RPGSite thread, post #94RPGSite thread, post #98RPGSite thread, post #108RPGSite thread, post #153RPGSite thread, post #154RPGSite thread, post #161RPGSite thread, post #175RPGSite thread, post #177RPGSite thread, post #188RPGSite thread, post #229)

1a) I attacked Zak and/or Mandy by retweeting the Fail Forward article

I’ve already established previously that my only relation to the Fail Forward article which has become such a rallying cry for Zak was to retweet two tweets making commentary on the issues surrounding the article. These tweets did not actually specify who is being discussed, where, or why. However, this is a specific charge that Zak makes very often, so it’s worth addressing:

[Zak, quoting from a post by Mandy] …Re-tweeting Fail Forward article = harassment

Everyone who forwarded the attacks on us is enabling and supporting their harassment. And you need to go beyond ”Well we don’t support harassment of anybody” and stand up and admit you were wrong and you’ve been ignoring it and these are the people who have been doing it. — Mandy on the Anatomy of a Harassment Campaign

…ALSO ANOTHER WAY TO PROVE SHE’S A LIAR: She retweeted the FailForward article and claimed to agree with it. —RPGSite thread, post #141

…And, while we’re at it, let’s look at the most obvious evidence of shit-headdery: she retweeted the (known to be all false allegations) hit piece article about me. — RPGSite thread, post #108

I never retweeted the article. I never said I specifically endorsed it and all of the content therein. I especially never retweeted a link while also naming Zak as a harasser.

(Additional instances of this allegation: RPGSite thread, post #188RPGSite thread, post #201)

1b) I don’t care if Mandy gets harassed

One of the side effects of me wanting to avoid anything to do with Zak is that it also means I haven’t commented specifically on harassment directed at Mandy. And yeah, that’s unfortunate! But I have consistently, constantly worked to end harassment of women in gaming, and I have always maintained that there is no one “right way” to be a female gamer.

Nevertheless, I get accused of either not caring or welcoming the abuse Mandy has gotten from people who are upset to see women who are in charge of their sexuality enjoying TPRGs. Which. Fuck. I feel like I just can’t win:

…So why don’t gaming gadflies and big indie designers like Fred Hicks (at Evil Hat), GeekyLyndsay, David A Hill Jr (Machine Age Productions), Ryan Macklin (Paizo), Bruce Baugh (Onyx Path), Elizabeth Sampat, Wundergeek, Christopher Allen and Shannon Appelcline (who employ Something Awful members Ettin and Kai Tave at and Tracy Hurley care that these attacks and the people inflicting them originated in a troll forum?

Because long ago we irritated them by playing a different game than them and refusing to let them lecture us about how we’re wrong and because we wear chainmail bikinis on Halloween and aren’t ashamed. Because, for example, Wundergeek and David Hill have real problems with tentacle hentai—and I made a live action tentacle porn because I wanted to. So who cares if I get harassed? I’m the wrong kind of feminist. — Mandy on the Anatomy of a Harassment Campaign

…because I got death threats and can prove it and unlike me you have never addressed those death threats I got and neither has Wundergeek. EXAMPLE:…ng-harrassmentRPGSite thread, post #141

(Please note, this is the only time I will touch directly on things said by Mandy. No I AM NOT saying that she’s a sock puppet, or invented by Zak, or that she has Stockholm Syndrome, or any of that bullshit. I just find the idea that I don’t care about the harassment of female gamers who aren’t like me very hurtful and want to provide context.)

I’ve written 17 posts about harassment in games culture and why it sucks and why it needs to fucking stop. I’ve said that fuck what other people think, you should write games you want to write. I’ve spoken out against people who doxx people they see as anti-social justice. More than once! I’ve even spoken out against people who hate on women because they play different games than the games they like to play, which is what I’m being accused of not caring about! Argh!

So yes. I care, because I am not a monster.

2) I am a liar (especially about harassment)

One of Zak’s go-to accusations against me is that I am a liar: I lie about being harassed myself, I lie about not harassing Zak and/or Mandy, and I lie about the plussing of the contentious post on G+ (previously mentioned), in that I knew that it was a lie and by endorsing it am lying myself:

…If you say she’s not a liar, you are lying and harassing me. —RPGSite thread, post #161

…So one of the people who lied about me this last week because they were sad that I was a Dungeons & Dragons consultant–Wundergeek–once wrote a list of things she was “tired of”. — The Teachable Moment From All This

…Wundergeek, the author linked in the OP publicly made false claims about harassment — RPGSite thread, post #39

…If you say Wundergeek isn’t a liar, you are lying. … So if you repudiate all those things for starters, then you might not be a liar. —RPGSite thread, post #153

…Quote: This does not confirm every detail of her blog post,  

Any detail wrong=lie. So: she is lying. —RPGSite thread, post #175

The matter of the contentious G+ post has been dealt with previously in this post, so I won’t beat a dead horse.

However, there’s also the issue of the fact that I later referred to the flap as a “manufactured controversy”. And given that the timeline that is a matter of public record, I stand by that. It had been five months, and no one was talking about it anymore before it was necro’d again.

And as for lying about my own harassment, this blog is itself an archive of some of that. I didn’t start saving records of harassing communication I’ve gotten prior to 2014, but I’ve written about it here, and here, and here (which post contains even more links). And that’s not to say anything of the occasional email that I get, like this one which dropped into my inbox shortly after the resurrected flap over DidIPlusAThingThatOneTimeGate:

To be fair, this BARELY counts as trolling.

Lastly, he also frequently accuses me of libel. How exactly I am to have committed libel when I have never previously attached commentary to his name in public before is… uh… well I’m not too sure about that, actually.

(Additional instances of this allegation: RPGSite thread, post #94RPGSite thread, post #108RPGSite thread, post #141RPGSite thread, post #153RPGSite thread, post #213)

3) I am anti-porn/anti-sex:

Zak has repeatedly claimed that I am anti-porn and anti-sex-in-games, mostly because of that conversation that wasn’t about porn, that happened in the comments of a post which was also not about porn, in which I expressed a personal opinion about my personal discomfort with harem and hentai anime.

However, the other thing he frequently brings up as proof that I am anti-porn is something I said in the comment thread for my post about Hyung Tae Kim (again, previously mentioned):

…Quote: Wundergeek is openly anti-porn

That isn’t an ok position. That’s like being anti-pictures-of-two-guys-kissing: it’s a thing only bigots are.


But being ideologically against erotic imagery itself and the people who make it is Max Nordau territory. It’s coding wanting to look at sexualized women as a “male” activity–which ten minutes outside will tell you is not a healthy or realistic assumption and one that erases LGBT experience. — RPGSite thread, post #91


Quote: Originally Posted by jhkim View Post

Essentially, you seem to be saying that no one can say anything bad about a sexy outfit, or else they are “slut shaming”.

Absolutely that’s what I’m saying–how is it in any universe remotely ok to tell a woman that the miniature she wants to use to represent her character is inappropriate or wrong?

We’ll come back to anti-porn = bigot in the next section. But first, Zak also characterizes his first encounter with me this way:

First Ever Contact With Wundergeek

Zak (whistles, minding own business)

Wundergeek : Hyun Tae Kim should be pushed to the margins of the industry because he paints fetishy art and hentai is disgusting!

Zak : WTF?

Wundergeek : Why are you so mean, Zak?

Did Jessica Hammer or anyone at Gaming As Women or anybody else that Wundergeek worked with or talked to never explain to Wundergeek that other peoples’ taste in porn is not her business and pin-up art is not the problem, art gatekeepers are? Why is she bothering artists with this shit?  —The Teachable Moment From All This

Which. [sigh] No.

Zak wants to characterize this as him minding his business and me somehow attacking him by expressing an opinion in the comments thread of my own blog.

Secondly, never anywhere in the history of ever have I said that I am against porn or erotica, or that I dislike sex in games, or that I think people who want sex in games are terrible people. I’ve written… uh… pretty extensively about what a fangirl I am of BioWare and their romance plotlines. Hell, I’ve even written about how sex in video games is just so fucking unsatisfying compared to sex in tabletop games, and some ways that game devs might make video game sex actually sexy.

Lastly, I have always been 100% consistent that what I write here is not about judging people for their individual tastes – that what I am doing is criticizing an industry that profits from the dehumanization of women. It’s in the damn sticky that I wrote when I went on hiatus from blogging here in November 2011.

I have only ever said that it is 100% okay to like what you like, that it is totally okay to like something other people find offensive, and that I know I like things that other people find offensive. (Like my love of pretty much anything by Joss Whedon.)

3a) I am a bigot

Zak’s reasoning behind this claim is this: by criticizing sexualized character design and game art as well as an industry that values the commodification of female body parts over depictions of actual women, I am somehow erasing the preference of female-or-nonbinary-identified queer people who are attracted to women, which makes me a bigot. Most of his argument that I am a miserable human being comes back to this idea:

Quote: Does she constantly say homophobic statements?

Yes. Absolutely and we already went over this. I laid out an example on a previous page.

A._You (unknown gender and orientation) claim that kind of speech is not homophobic

B._I (straight male) claim it is

C._Norton (bisexual male) says it is not homophobic but is insenstive

D._The women I’ve asked about this (bisexual females) say her rhetoric is unequivocally homophobic (on basically every post where she talks about scantily-clad women, which is a great many of them) whether or not she herself wants it to be (a detail you, again, keep pretending doesn’t exist). She does this through a rhetoric which (like so many RPG morons of your acquaintance so often do) fails to acknowledge the existence of people with tastes unlike her own and grants to her own taste an unwarranted moral dimension.

While you may not be inclined to grant Group 4 more moral authority than anybody else so far asked, I defer to their judgment since they’re the affected group. — RPGSite thread, post #229

So because there are women who agree with him that my feminist criticism of games is the same as queer erasure, I am homophobic and therefore a bigot. Which. Wut [1].

This also means that Zak is placing himself in a position to judge whose expression of marginalization is most valid. So the irony is that while Zak accuses me of bigotry, the very fact that he putting himself, as a white man, in a position to choose which womens’ opinions count and which do not. And how is that not erasure, which by Zak’s standard would be bigotry?

The writing I do here is not scholarly. I write about my feelings, my experiences, and how these things impact me and the women I know. Yes I bring my training as an artist and my experience in the industry to what I write. But I also bring the hurt, the unwelcome, the scorn, the feeling that my body is not enough, that it will never be enough and therefore I will never be enough.

But somehow he has decided that my expressions of marginalization don’t count, and therefore I don’t count.

…I’m saying: since she’s a liar and a bigot, supporting her in any way instantaneously makes you a shitty person that nobody else should ever deal with. Just like supporting a known homophobe would make you a shitty person. Whether you want to be a shitty person is your business, not mine. — RPGSite thread, post #98


…Although calling someone who is a bigoted a bigot does not constitute harassment, publicly lying about them does constitute harassment. — RPGSite thread, post #141


…Also: I’d willingly put it to a vote. If I gave Wundergeek’s stuff to every lesbian and bi woman on the planet, and they voted, I’d accept their verdict. As I don’t have access to that, I am deferring to people I trust — RPGSite thread, post #232


…So something something is sexist if you can find enough women who agree with you?? What if I can poll my bi/pan female friends and find more who agree with me than who agree with Zak? Does that mean I win? Because… I’m pretty sure that feminism doesn’t work that way.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Queer erasure is absolutely a thing, and I write a lot here about inclusive gaming with the aim of expanding our community into new demographics. I recently wrote 7500 words about self-publishing, with the express purpose of getting more not-cishet-white-dudes into game publishing. I’ve also written about barriers to diverse recruitment, what the process of trying to revise existing game lore to remove homophobia/transphobia/racism in a popular game line can look like, my hope for the future of gaming as an inclusive community, as well as nearly 10,000 words about how not to include offensive stereotypes in your work – including gender and sexuality-based stereotypes.

I’m not going to claim that I ally perfectly, because pride goeth before the fall. But I certainly put a lot of work into not erasing queer people, and getting other people to stop erasing them as well.

(Additional instances of this allegation: RPGSite thread, post #188RPGSite thread, post #113RPGSite thread, post #141

4) I am omniscient/I have not written about everything that needs writing about

Sometimes Zak will criticize me for never having written about a specific thing, and often seems to have the idea that I both follow everything he talks about and does and that I am aware of every game book that he has ever encountered.

I really don’t know how else to address things like this, in which he says that I am picking and choosing who to criticize because I have never written about an obscure thing featuring rape-nagas:

There are 40 naga-kin in Pralaj and about 200 villagers and revived corpses held prisoner while slowly being raped, tortured, and drowned into a susceptible state for transformation into naga-kindred. ...  From here, they prepare the coming of the Naga into her kingdom, and send naga-kin down the River to rape and drown the people into following her.

Now one reason he (I’ll call him Doc Respectable, I hope he won’t mind) has not been called out by Wundergeek or anybody else in a coterie of people that, largely gets very het up about rape in games and about what is in the world’s most popular RPG is because he is a professional. And by that I don’t mean he maintains a responsible and professional demeanor (although he does) I mean that, unlike the RPGPundit (the other consultant who pissed people off) and I, Doc Respectable’s daily bread relies on tabletop roleplaying games. — The Teachable Moment From All This

Uh, and you know what, if I’d known about that being a thing that existed before Zak decided to criticize me for never writing about it, maybe I might’ve! I’ve certainly written quite a bit about the rapey tropes inherent in D&D and other geek media before – including the rapeyness of half-orcs and the drow.

He also seems upset that I have not written about everything that could ever need writing about:

Wundergeek’s friend Vincent Baker–designer of Apocalypse World and the most important designer in a scene whose members came out in force against me and (especially) the RPGPundit, is perhaps the epitome of a Male Game Designer Who Writes About Rape (in both Seclusium of Orphone and Poison’d) And Is Praised For His Creative Vision.

But they don’t talk about it–at least not publicly. …  And so we get lots of trenchant Concerned Gamers re-posting Wundergeek’s I Am Tired litany and re-posting Vincent Baker’s latest project in the same day and there is no good public conversation about the cognitive dissonance and how to resolve it. Like: How you handle rape and why, in public, with examples from Respectable figures in the field given first-hand and input from affected groups. — The Teachable Moment From All This

Uh, okay. I do own a copy of Seclusium of Orphone, from that one time I was part of a failed IndieGoGo for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but I’ve never done anything more than skim it. I didn’t look at it any closer than – hey! Lists! And neat art! …okay these lists are neat, but there are… a lot of them.

To be honest, the collective game output of my design friends is just too damn large to ever be consumed by only one person. I only have so much time, and sometimes I can think that a designer is totally killing it with design ideas and still not really be into the end result of the thing that they made.

Now obviously I can’t claim to have never read Poison’d. That would be a little hard, since I illustrated it. But Poison’d was published in 2009, two years before I started writing this blog. So it honestly never occurred to me to write about Poison’d, because it’s an older game. Not to mention that there’s a lot of rapey stuff out there that I haven’t written about, simply because man is rape common in games and I don’t want to turn into That Blogger Who Only Writes About Rape. (…World of Darkness, tho…)

5) I am legit crazy

Last, but certainly not least, Zak has accused me of being legit crazy. As in a-danger-to-myself-and-others crazy:

But she needs to get help, not just constant random reification of whatever aggressive anti-sex delusion she’s pushing that day. —RPGSite thread, post #88

“Wait my friend is mentally ill and as someone they trust I need to intervene” . So people like Wundergeek keep doing breathtakingly evil, stupid and dishonest things because people like you, basically, let them and there is no point at which you go “This person is crazy, let’s make sure they can’t hurt anyone else”. —RPGSite thread, post #229

Wundergeek will never listen to anything I say–but if you have even a single person who is friends with her who hasn’t told her she desperately needs therapy by now, every fucking problem she causes is on their head. As it is on yours for defending her. —RPGSite thread, post #229

And let me just say that internet-diagnosing someone of a mental illness as a way of dismissing everything that they have to say, or even their worth as a human being, that is some grade-A ableist bullshit.

There’s a lot of shit I don’t talk about here, like the trauma surrounding the loss of my father and my lifelong struggle with mental illness. But I’ve also been pretty open about things in the game community that do affect my mental health, as well as things that I am doing to try to take care of myself.

So yes, I am “crazy”. But I missed the part where the details of my medical history, including treatment, medication, prognosis, or interventions are anybody’s fucking business but my husband’s.

(Additional instances of this allegation: RPGSite thread, post #232, RPGSite thread, post #232)

Jesus is anyone still even reading this?

(If you’ve made it this far, uh, congratulations? You deserve a medal or something.)

So here we are, at the end. I have laid out everything I have, as exhaustively as I could while also trying to preserve some readability and coherency. I hope I struck the right balance. I might not have. Ultimately, you, the reader, must decide how well I did.

What do I intend to do from here? To go back to what I have been doing. Blogging about the things that I’m passionate about, writing games that I want to write, and making art that makes me happy. This isn’t something I intend to write about again. The purpose of this post was to end a three-and-a-half year silence that was only growing larger, more oppressive, and more suffocating the longer it went on.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m fucking Mother Theresa about this. I have a lot of hurt, a lot of pain, and a lot of anger over this. I also have a lot of anxiety and fear. I am going to do my level best to forget this, but do I have it in me to ever forgive? I’m not sure. I hope that posting this will help me let some of that hurt go.

Do I expect or even desire anything from Zak? No. I hope he has lots more adventures with confident women and nonbinary folk who are in charge of their sexuality, and I hope they keep playing games. Me, I just want to live my life, and I want him to live his without constantly broadcasting his hatred of me. That’s all. That’s all I’ve only ever wanted.

[1] Zak is a professional artist with art in the MOMA. So his entire argument hinges on the idea that he is somehow completely unfamiliar with the idea of “the male gaze”, which was a concept I learned about in art school, waaaaaay before feminism was even a thing I thought worth pursuing. There is, frankly, a shitton of scholarship supporting the existence of the (heterosexual) male gaze as a major influencing force in our culture, so, I’m not going to waste time here by having an argument that is the intellectual equivalent of “should I vaccinate my kids”. (Spoiler alert: YES.)


73 thoughts on “This post is insufferably long, and I’m sorry for that [LONG][TW]

  1. Holy Shit…what the hell is wrong with this guy? It’s projection on a level I have never seen before. I’m guessing he still attacks you because you make an easy target (you’re calm, rational, empathetic, etc). This guy flings poo every which way and you are constantly warding off his ridiculous attacks on YOUR character, but remember, *you’re* the one who is being accused of libel by this guy. What the ever loving fuck? Fuck this guy. He owes you a huge apology for the years of stress and grief he has put you through. Period. What is he hoping to accomplish with this multiyear sustained harassment campaign? He’s just another internet bully with no self awareness and a massive sense of entitlement. Again, screw this shit, and *hugs* to you. You don’t deserve this bullshit and I honestly don’t know how you handle this without chugging a bottle of scotch daily. You must have a really thick skin!

    • After so many years of having people accuse me of being legit crazy, I really don’t like to speculate as to someone else’s mental state, especially over the internet.

      As for having a thick skin, I wouldn’t say that I do. I’m really fucking stubborn, but this is also the hardest thing I’ve ever written here on my blog. It’s absolutely affected me emotionally; I’m just contrary enough for this kind of nonsense to make me even more determined to stay.

  2. Whew! That was an exhausting read!

    From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem that this Zak-person (I’ve never heard of this guy before now) lacks the emotional maturity and coping mechanisms needed to adequately deal with the trauma and stress that he’s undoubtedly experiencing as a result of his partner’s illness, so he’s projecting all of his subconscious anger and pain onto you – for reasons he himself probably doesn’t fully understand.

    That’s a lot of crap being randomly spewed your way, Anna. I sincerely encourage you to seek professional care in dealing with all of this — if you haven’t already done so. Don’t try to shoulder it by yourself. It’s not your burden to bear in the first place.

    • Yes, I would second this. I really really hope you are getting professional care for this. It’s flat out abuse and has been sustained for so long. I applaud you for sticking with this, but I really hope this doesn’t cause any long term issues. Please take care 😦 *hugs*

  3. This whole situation is beyond shitty to be in. I’ve heard of this guy before within progressive circles and never in a good light. I don’t know if this is any consolation but as far as I understand people who matter know who and what he is and take his words with a huge grain of salt.

    PS: Is he writing on RPGsite because he’s banned from RPGnet? I wouldn’t be surprised since the latter is a much stronger stronghold of progressives.

  4. This is terrible. It’s making me upset just reading about it, I can’t even imagine being the target of it.

    I hope you continue doing more of the other kind of blogging, not because you shouldn’t tell the truth of what’s happening, but because I really hope things get better. Unfortunately I don’t think this post is going to help with this guy. If anything, he’ll somehow be able to interpret your words in a way that rekindles his wrath. Well, I hope not, but with this guy it sounds possible.

    I actually got scared when I saw Anita Sarkeesian tweet about you yesterday. She probably has enough hate-followers to unintentionally send a flood of trolls your way. Have you experienced that, or is the blocking-group thing working?

    • Mostly Blocking Together seems to be working to keep a lot of the worst off of my twitter, although a small number of randos have snuck through.

  5. All of this stuff seems to be what he likes to blast at basically anyone who disagrees with him. I’ve seen him accuse someone of needing psychiatric help based on far less interaction than he’s had with you, and it’s amazingly horrible and abusive tactic to employ. Likewise he pretty routinely calls people conservative bigots for failing to share his views on what is and isn’t sexist. But one of the worst things about it is that he makes it into a giant vendetta that he can’t seem to let go of ever. Somehow it’s not enough for him to disagree with someone or to hound them, he also wants everyone else to criticize and boycott them on his behalf so that they can never make money ever again. And he does all of this kind of stuff, and then gets offended when people aren’t interested in engaging with him as a direct consequence of his own behavior.

    There’s no shortage of people who behave badly on the internet, but somehow entirely too many people are willing to overlook or outright deny his transparently bad behavior, including the main guy behind the game that dominates the tabletop RPG industry.

  6. I’ve kind of made it a point to avoid Zak’s blog & content, if for no other reason than it’s NSFW, but he’s constantly coming up in discussions in gaming circles and seems unavoidable. From what I’ve pieced together, he seems like he’s got a persecution complex and lashes out at people in the same manner as the boogeymen who he thinks are out to get him. “Quit oppressing my freedom of speech! Also, shut up if you don’t agree with me!” I hate forming an opinion of someone almost solely on second hand accounts, and I’ve not interacted with him, but I have seen him lash out at a few of the bloggers I stalk on G+.

    I’m sorry that this is something you’ve had to deal with.

  7. As someone that’s been (briefly) on the receiving end of one of Zak’s sea-lion tantrums, you’ve got my deepest sympathies. I got off light since he lost interest in me rapidly after I called him out on his blog for deleting the responses he’d asked me for, and I’m sorry you keep having to put up with him.

  8. My first interaction with Zak was completely cold. I had no idea who he was, he was just some jackass who joined in a Google+ thread and almost immediately began arguing in bad faith. He had traded perhaps a half-dozen comments with someone he did not previously know before he declared them “evil,” basically for refusing to play by his ever-shifting rules.

    These days I try to avoid interacting with him. He at least once tried to +flag me in a Google+ comment in response to my comment. It failed because I had blocked him. Since he would have had to log out to see my comment, and the attempt to +flag me failed, you’d think he might have been clued in that he should just leave me out.

    Zak and GamerGater share many behaviors. Creating enemy lists. Creating conspiracy theories. Encouraging harassment while carefully maintaining plausible deniability. Quoting out of context. Refusing admit the slightest bit of nuance. Arguing no-true-Scotsman. Arguing but-I-have-feminist-friends. Beating dead horses. Attacking strawmen. Claiming to be logical while branding opponents as emotional or illogical. Insisting that others accept his being rude.

  9. I know you and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on things, but damned if I can remember what it was. But I am sorry you’ve had to go through this crap. I block him everywhere I can pre-emptively. I have enough trolls already (how many years has it been since the PAX Dickwolves debacle and I STILL get threats and crap?).

    • Really? Man if that’s the case I’m sorry if I said something wrong-headed that put you off, because I only remember having vague thirdhand positive impressions of you?

      Anyway, thanks. And sorry you have to deal with similar bullshit too. That sucks.

    • [Mod voice: I’m trashing abusive comments, but I’m only checking in every couple of hours so that I don’t turn into a total basket case. So responding to awful comments might mean your comment doesn’t make sense later when I trash the original awful comment. (Sorry, Rachell.)]

  10. What you’ve gone through is horrific and I hope it stops. I hope you have an opportunity to rest and recover from this garbage.

  11. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how frustrating this must have been. I really hope sharing has helped and that things get better from here. /hugs

  12. I don’t know if you’ve been following Zak’s page linked above, but this post seems to get to the crux of what he wants:

    ‘Assume Anna were to “Take down or annotate the The Rebellious Artist post and admit that her claim that I _wanted_ her to be harassed was a lie or a mistake. And, obviously, take down the brand new attack post.”, would you annotate your posts about her to reference the “reconciliation”?’
    ‘I would do whatever she preferred I do–she would be demonstrating a level of reasonableness and sanity that would require acknowledgement.’

    The post referred to is this one:

    It’s not the first time he’s brought up that post and the accusations therein. You don’t mention him by name, but that’s not his issue with it. What he objects to is the implication that he intentionally incited attacks against you, which is not the case.

    (Personally, I understand your good intentions behind not mentioning him by name, but I think it actually has the effect of making it more offensive, not less. To be on the receiving end of that is a little bit like having someone wave their hands in front of your face saying, “I’m not touching you!” It’s also not very effective as a way of preventing harassment, as the people most motivated to harass someone are often also the people in the best position to figure out who the person being referenced is anyway.)

    Are you willing to delete or at least alter that post?

    For the record, I’m a fan of Zak’s work, but I bear you no ill will and would like to see this feud settled as amicably as possible so that everyone involved can get back to fighting over more worthwhile things, like which edition of D&D is the best.

    • No. When I wrote that post, Zak had only been lying about me for TWO and a half years, not THREE and a half. But there was still an awful lot of lying that had happened, and a whole lot of trying to convince people that I was some sort of ravening monster out to destroy anyone who likes sexy things in gaming.

      I didn’t name him in that post because I was TERRIFIED of him. But after another year of putting up with him continuing to escalate the rhetoric against me, I’ve had enough. I’m done letting my fear of him control what I say. There was nothing in that post that I said that wasn’t the 100% honest to gods truth, and there was a whole lot of shit that I held back on saying.

      So no. The old post stands. As does this one. I’m done being a good little victim, and I’m done censoring myself out of concern for the feelings of others.

      That said, I’d really, really, REALLY just like to see the hatchet buried. This has been fucking exhausting and I’m really not interested in trying to convince anyone to stop buying Zak’s shit. Hell, he’s a good artist. I just want to be left the fuck alone.

      • I don’t in any way want to diminish the fear you felt in that situation. I sympathize; I’ve been bullied myself. But there’s a difference between saying, “What this person did scared me” and, “This person orchestrated a campaign of harassment”. Even if it seemed to be true at the time, if you know it’s not true now, why stand by it? I’m not saying that Zak has acted blamelessly in all respects, just that he’s innocent of that particular charge, and publicly acknowledging that seems like the most direct way to bury the hatchet.

        • Go back and read that old post. The tactics that I describe are exactly the tactics that were used to incite a hate mob against Zoe Quinn and turn women like her, Anita Sarkeesian, and others into hate-memes.

          Zak says he’s not out to incite people to harass me? Fine. I can’t know his mind, nor can I judge his motives. But I know that the things he has said about me, the ways he has said them, and persistence with which he has said them are how online hate-mobs are started. Internet speech has consequences, and even if that’s not what he intended, that’s the terror that I have to live with EVERY FUCKING TIME. Every fucking time he spouts off and calls me a bigot, or a liar, or a toxic crazy person, I have to live with the fear that I WILL BE NEXT. Because that is the risk that ALL women in games live with – that at any point in time for no reason at all, we could get our turn in front of the cannon.

          But I will ask you this. If he doesn’t want people to harass me, why would he write 11,000 words devoted to what a terrible human being I was? Why would he go to such herculean effort for so many years to convince people to ignore me? Of what a terrible, awful bigoted toxic crazy person I am?

          I appreciate that you are taking the time to be civil here, but I am not prepared to waste further bandwidth explaining why Zak’s continued defamation of my character is fucking terrifying. If the 7500 words in this post, as well as the thousands of words I have written about harassment and my own personal fears aren’t enough, then I can’t help you.

    • wundergeek made a post about how certain behaviour has a negative impact on her life.

      zak’s response was “more of that behaviour! and louder too! cause i never even did it in the first place! hah, that’ll stop her from lying about that stuff i never did!”

      if zak didn’t intend any ill will towards wundergeek he should have simply stopped talking about her after that first post. he might even have apologised and said, that, despite any differences they might have had he never intended her to suffer any negative consequences. that would have been the right thing to do, but simply stopping would have been sufficient.

      instead, there was more of the same. noone can read his mind (sorry, not even you, morgan…), but we can judge his actions. when someone aks you to stop doing something because of the consequences these actions have for them and you keep on doing it anyway, most people would argue that you might actually intend those consequences.

      zak did worse, he intensified his actions.

      zak’s narrative of him “minding his own business” and then simply reacting to terrible things done by wundergeek isn’t worth discussing, because it is provably false. again, you can read all about that right here in this very blogpost.

      if you actually believe that she made up anything she said about zak, have you asked yourself the question why she would do that? what’s her motivation? do you think that a feminist writer writing about games in this community doesn’t have enough assholes harassing and trolling her so she has to make up imaginary ones? because… what?! care to give a reason why she would say things about zak that are not true? i am seriously intrigued. come on, lets hear it!

      it’s nice that you want to see a feud settled. reminds me of people “neutral” towards the whole gamergate issue claiming “there’s wrongdoings on all sides”. the wrongdoing in wundergeeks case was saying that she finds hentai disgusting.

      here’s the thing. if zak wants people to stop talking about his unacceptable behaviour, if he wants people to stop calling him out about his abusive personality there’s only one thing to do. stop it. as it happens, that would be to his benefit as well. as soon as someone takes a closer look at the accusations against his many “enemies”, his many lies are exposed. all the imagined “attacks” on him dissolve under the least bit of scrutiny. his reputation suffers with every new accusation.

      he can never undo the things he did in the past, but he can refrain from doing them in the future. that’s all wundergeek asks. zak has to take responsibility for his actions instead of demanding that people stop calling him out for them. zak has his bad reputation for a reason. he might claim it’s all trolls and crazies, evil, bigoted fascists out to get him because they hate porn or oldschool d&d, but if you actually believe that there’s this bridge i’d love to show you…

  13. I’m really sorry you’ve had to endure this amount and magnitude of abuse. I’ve seen Zak S. abuse so many people whose work and interactions I enjoy, it has now become a clue that the person he’s ranting about must be doing something right. I suspect there are many others who take his enmity as a positive, if unpleasant sign.

  14. Something that stood out in this piece (in addition to the justifiable anger) is how much you care about the wellbeing of the people attacking yours. It’s both noble and sad: despite all the harm they’ve done to you, you refuse to see them as anything less than human. It would probably be easier and less painful to view them as evil or monster, but you don’t.
    I know you don’t want to be put on a pedestal or be viewed as a Mother Theresa. But you still deserve to hear that the way you respond to and deal with toxicity is remarkable. It probably doesn’t feel that way on your end. And as someone closer to the situation, you probably see any possible flaws or imagined flaws in your response better than I can. But it’s ok and normal to be flawed. What’s important is that you have always had the humility to accept those times you have made mistakes, and the ability to shift out the constructive comments that point out ways you could be better from the mass amount of gibberish gunk that attacks your brain from the comment section. And you’re not afraid to risk making those mistakes in order to do what’s right. We’ve seen you own mistakes and reconsider opinion and become better, while still standing strong for what you believe in. You’ve shown us that its ok to make mistakes and how to improve and apologies, while also standing firm against those who try to twist the good you do as evil. You’ve shown us that you don’t have to be perfect to have a positive impact, and that’s important. You’ve shown us how to be imperfect in a good way.
    I don’t have any personal experience with harassment, so I don’t know how much merit this comment has. All I know is that this is good. Looking out for yourself is good. Looking out for others, even when they attack you, is good. Calling out bad behavior in a way that doesn’t attempt to destroy and instead gives the wrongdoing a chance, even an unlikely slim chance, to be a better person is uncommonly good. And even if it feels flawed, like there’s got to be some better way to do it, flawed good is still good. And even if it feels weird, you deserve praise for that.

    Side note: Remember Jim Sterling? Obviously he was never this bad and you weren’t the only one responsible for his turnaround, but its still a good reminder that it can be surprising who can change.
    Second side note: I didn’t want this to distract from my main point, but don’t forget that Mother Theresa was a flawed human too. She wasn’t perfect and also suffered from major doubt and anxiety, and while she did her best to help people, there are some legit criticisms of her practices (though there’s also a lot of hate inspired attacks on her too). It can be easy to forget when history has put her on a pedestal.

    • I’ve been trying to come up with a better response than “thank you”, but it’s all I’ve got. So thank you. Thank you so much.

      • You’re very welcome. You absolutely deserve it.
        You’ve introduced many people to basic feminist ideas for the first time, you’ve been a confirmation of the horrors and prevalence of sexism for people who may have thought they were suffering alone, and you’ve brought smiles to many faces with your humor. Always remember that no matter what hateful accusations people may throw at you, they can never take away all the various positives you’ve done for people.

        And don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break from the blog until things settle down. I think everyone here agrees that we want to make sure you take care of yourself and do what you’ve got to do for you before you worry about us.

  15. I made a response on Gaming as Women in which I was careful not to mention Zak’s name or any identifying details of the incident, and I also asked that people refrain from naming Zak if they knew who I was talking about. Partly this was because I wanted to use my personal experience to highlight the visceral fear that women face when interacting on the internet. But it was also partly because I actually was scared by the anger of that attack and didn’t want to give Zak any further ammunition to use against me.

    I have from time-to-time written about Zak in an anonymized fashion, such as my original Gaming as Women post. But in each instance I attempted to file all of the serial numbers off of the incidents, and have always said when doing so that people SHOULD NOT name the person being discussed if they are aware of the circumstances being discussed. I have also taken people to task after the fact when they have done so anyway. (Seriously, people, if someone writes about a person that they want to remain nameless, linking to the post and naming them anyway is an asshole move.)

    From the quotes, and using the term vaguetweet, I get the impression that you think that if you write about someone without mentioning their name, it is not an attack, or it is not as serious an attack as it would otherwise be, or something to that effect. To me this sounds very strange when the target is likely to recognise themselves and so are a significant number of other people.

    Am I misunderstanding you? If not, would you like to tell why it is okay (or more okay) to attack people without mentioning their names while keeping the idenfiable (for those in the know), then otherwise? Another way of asking this is, why would you expect a less severe reaction when posting about someone without naming them, then when posting about them with the name attached?

    If the word “attack” is too harsh or not suitable, then please substitute some other relevant verb or term. Maybe “criticise” or “point out offensive behaviour”.

    • Right. Okay. So when someone tells lies publicly about me for more than three years and tries to convince people that buying my games is giving money to a literal nazi who is legit evil, I can’t speak up about that at all because talking about it is an “attack”. And if I try to talk about my experiences without naming names because the person lying about me scares the shit out of me, then I am even more in the wrong.

      Got it. Thank you for explaining to me how I should have dealt with a terrifying situation that I had never previously encountered with very real potential ramifications for my personal safety and the safety of those around me.

      • The number of people who seem to think “How dare you discuss stuff I’ve actually done! THAT MAKES ME LOOK BAD! YOU MONSTER!” boggles my mind. It’s rife in Gamergate as well.
        As Shlominus says above, Zak saying “I had no knowledge of anyone abusing you because of my posts! HOW DARE YOU!” once would be one thing, however unpleasant. To know it happened but keep doing the same thing while continuing to deny having an impact on what results is ridiculous.
        And again, it’s Gamergate logic.

      • Dear wundergeek,

        I attempted to ask a genuine question, which Matt Johnson answered below. I did not try to question whether your actions were or were not justified; I’m sure everyone has already made up their minds regarding that.

        I understand that your motives for not mentioning Zak by name were to avoid direct hostility from him, but I read from your writing that you were surprised that Zak still took the anonymised writings as hostile or pointing out his wrongdoings or (again) whatever term you prefer.

        As mentioned in the earlier post, I may very well misunderstand you; feel free to correct me if you wish, or ignore me, in which case I won’t bother you anymore.

        I try very hard to not say that you are attacking Zak by not naming him. I did not attempt to write that in the first post, either, though my tone or choice of words evidently implied it.

    • [Mod voice: subsequent comments from anyone along these lines: ie you were attacking Zak by talking about his behavior without naming him, will be replaced with images of sea lions on first offense and summarily deleted after that. You have been warned.]

    • I would say that yes, it is different and okay to speak about an incident in non-naming terms. If the person recognizes themselves and wants to address it that’s up to them. People who already know about the incident, and recognize the person, likely already have their own opinions or at least be able to evaluate the subject matter. Those totally unfamiliar with it, or the person named, won’t associate the subject matter with the name and it wouldn’t be found in a casual search for their name in relation to products. All in all I’d say it’s a net positive to the unnamed.

      Additionally, writing Zak’s name is like invoking his spirit… and if your entire goal is to not draw further engagement with him anonymity it is your best bet.

      • That makes sense, thanks. My first impression was that not mentioning the name of the target (who is readily identifiable) is like talking behind someone’s back and hoping they never hear you did it.

  16. I had never heard of you or Zak before today, but you knocked it out of the park with this post. I’ve been in a similar position before, and the amount of strength and patience it takes to open with a display of empathy like the one you have here for Zak and Mandy is truly astounding. I hope he reads this and finally understands that you are not the villain he’s been fighting against, though things rarely work out so nicely.

    • Unfortunately, at least as observed from a distance, he seems committed to doubling down on his position. Which is unfortunate but not unexpected.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been in similar situations. That sucks.

  17. I’m really glad you wrote this. I’ve found myself getting increasingly angry at how Zak behaves online, and seems to get away with it. You aren’t the only person I’ve seen targeted by him, but you are the one who seems to have been his most persistent target despite not doing anything to deserve it. Your post really only confirmed the picture I’d arrived at for myself, but I think it’s good to have it here in black and white, as a factual counterpoint to his ranty character assassination pieces.

    Anyway, I’d like to know if there’s anything I can do to support you and others who have been victimised by Zak (or whoever, really). I’ve felt paralysed by the feeling that (a) I could become a target myself (though as a man, I’m much less likely to I think) but more importantly (b) by doing anything I might somehow make things worse for you. So if there’s anything I or others can do besides offering solidarity fistbumps, please say.

    • Thank you. I appreciate the words of support.

      As for what you can do to make it better? You can promote women’s voices. Promote queer voices, and trans voices, and people of color. Maybe that could be supporting KickStarters or Patreons, but it doesn’t need to be. Even just signal boosting projects by marginalized creators is a great help.

      And if someone who you DO like says some wrong-headed stuff, call them on it. It mega sucks and it’s scary, but take advantage of the fact that it’s going to be way less threatening coming from you – a dude – and people will listen to you where they might not listen to me or some other not whitehetcisdude person.

  18. It’s funny. The other day I was explaining to my significant other about consultancygate, and how I wasn’t sure what at all to think about it, but that it seemed that it was possible that some of the allegations against Zak were false. In more or less the same breath I was telling them that I had discovered your blog, and telling her about some of the character art redraws and other great stuff I’ve read here. I am sorry to hear you’ve had such a bad relationship with Zak. I hope that the attacks and harassment directed at both you, and Zak, stop. I personally think that your method of going about it is a bit more sound than his though.

  19. I actually work with a number of people who don’t even have internet. Can you imagine? That’s what I wish for Zak. He seems to have been poisoned by it. It makes me dizzy to think of him doing his dinner dishes, chatting with a cashier in a grocery line, mailing a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes letter… then logging in to act like this. It’s terrible.

    Stay strong.

  20. Your second link of you saying “Doxxing is never okay” under 1b links to a private WordPress dashboard instead.

  21. That sounds terrifying O.O And, honestly, a tiny bit familiar. Not that my experience was anything quite like what you (unfortunately) had to go through. But I once had someone target me for my Youtube content (I am a woman who posts general game videos), and because I’m friends with someone they claimed harassed them. This is your blog, so I won’t bore anyone with ALL the details of what happened to me, but the harassment I suffered from that guy lasted about a year, if not a year and a half. I’d constantly get tweets from him (I blocked him quickly, but his friends would all respond, and so I had to keep a block list as long as my arm, and that still wasn’t enough). He crashed a Twitch stream I held, and eventually wrote a 12-page manifesto, half of which was devoted to how much of a ‘mentally retarded autistic bitch’ I apparently am (because nothing quite says ‘classy individual’ like throwing around ‘autistic’ as an insult).

    Sorry, I ended up going into detail a bit more than I intended to. But the venting felt good ^^ And I am happy to say that, while I still receive the occasional tweet from his buddies, for the most part he has left me alone since I had this to say on my own blog:

    I hope you receive the same peace I have, soon. No one – NO ONE – deserves to be harassed like this, for any reason.

    • Hey – first, please don’t feel bad about sharing your experience. It sounds awful, and I’m glad that you were able to achieve a more positive result than it seems like I’ve managed in that your harasser seems to have been willing to back down? And I’m glad for that.

      Unfortunately, Zak seems pretty committed to sticking to the same old playbook. It’s not too surprising, but at least now I feel a lot better about it, since now I have a link to drop on someone when the topic comes up.

  22. [Trigger warning? I don’t know how this thing works]

    Uh…hello. While I don’t support your ideology and find it vaguely ridiculous and you would probably be offended by mine, I am something of an amateur Zak biologist and have been observing his antics online for quite some time now. Thus I feel the need to comment and provide a sort of quasi-objective analysis, even some sort of…support? If you find any of this offensive please let me know so I can edit it or delete it or use different words and cat pictures or something.

    1a-b. Not using his name doesn’t make it anything but an attack, but to call your initial post an attack is typical of Zak’s paper thin skin and total lack of self-awareness. His claim that you retweeting the [equally false] article(silly though that might be) somehow constitutes endorsement for the vile harassment of aforementioned death-bed Mandy would make him equally responsible for any harassment you have received as a result of his writing, regardless of the veracity of your/his claims(since the harassment is, by definition, wrong).

    Also raised eyebrow at your rationale that doxxing should not be done because it makes other SJW’s likely to be doxxed. Doxxing should not be done because its bad, period, but I guess your subsequent comment sort of makes that clear. Maybe.

    2. Since it has long been scientifically proven that Zak is a direct channel to the akhashic library and he perceives all time simultaneously, anyone who does not abide by his bizarre and seemingly self-contradictory standards for evidence is by definition a liar.

    3. C’mon, you did say you found harem anime pathetic and disgusting, which I believe is sufficient evidence for Zakina to extrapolate that into you hating all porn in all games and probably supporting the Khmer Rouge or something.

    3a. Your refutation does not address his silly definition of bigotry. Any problem with any sort of art makes you a bigot by his standard.

    4. That’s an evasion and a strawman distortion of the accusation. While I buy your Seclusium rationale, complaining about rape in other games while neglecting to mention Poison’d, a game where a player famously raped a dead cabin boy in the neck stump to gain a mechanical benefit, which you yourself illustrated could be construed as hypocritical. Rethink your standards or provide a rationale.

    5. I wouldn’t take the mental diagnosis of a toxic narcissist seriously and I urge others to look at Zak’s behavior online and determine for themselves whether this person is mentally healthy and objective enough to render such a diagnosis, without any sort of credentials.


    • [sigh] I can’t believe I’m responding to someone who has said they think my “ideology” is ridiculous, but since I know #4 will come back to haunt me if I don’t…

      “Not using his name doesn’t make it anything but an attack”

      Uh, I’m confused by what exactly it is that you’re saying here. Too many negatives.

      Also raised eyebrow at your rationale that doxxing should not be done because it makes other SJW’s likely to be doxxed.

      It’s Twitter. I can boil down enlightened self-interest to 140 characters. Complex arguments about comparative morality? Not so much.

      That’s an evasion and a strawman distortion of the accusation. While I buy your Seclusium rationale, complaining about rape in other games while neglecting to mention Poison’d, a game where a player famously raped a dead cabin boy in the neck stump to gain a mechanical benefit, which you yourself illustrated could be construed as hypocritical. Rethink your standards or provide a rationale.

      Actually, your “famous” example? Yeah, I’d never heard of that before. I wasn’t aware that this was a thing, or that there was a conversation about it, or that this was somehow “famous”.

      But that’s not too surprising, since the internet is fucking large, and even shit that we assume that “everyone knows about” because it’s “famous” is something that someone else might miss entirely. I’ve never seen Badger Badger or Too Many Cooks. I also have friends who have never seen Shrimp Glockenspiel or Lobster Magnet.

      I’m sorry that the truth isn’t compelling enough for you, but I legit never thought about blogging about Poison’d until Zak decided last year to make it such an issue that I hadn’t. And by the time he started doing that, he’d already gone after me sufficiently that the simple fact that ZAK WANTED ME TO was reason enough for me not to blog about it. Petty? Sure. But I’d argue that it’s far less petty than writing 11,000 words of falsifiable lies in just a few days about one person.

      There’s a ton of rapey shit out there to think about, and I just didn’t think of this one thing. If you don’t believe me, that’s your fucking problem. Not mine.

      5. If you read the posts and the comments, I have said that I don’t EVER agree with internet-diagnosing someone of mental illness. And that dismissing someone because of supposed mental illness is ableist bullshit and you shouldn’t ever do it. People saying that shit are other commenters, not me.

      Now with all of that said…

      [Mod voice: further responses to this comment, or to my comment will be trashed because this is my place and I make the rules.]

      • [insert sea lion? feel free to trash this after you read it, or before if you must. I’m genuinely sorry if this comes across as harassment or whatever, this is not my intention]

        I think one of the most beautiful inventions of the reinassance-era is the ability to engage in a dialogue and even conjure up a sort of limited empathy for a person you do not agree with on a philosophical/ideological level. It is a realisation won in blood and one that is all too easily forgotten in this modern age.

        [Too many negatives]

        Sorry not a native speaker, i’m saying that your rationale of omitting names to avoid making a personal attack might not be recognised as effective or valid in some or even many circles.

        4. I completely agree it’s far less petty then writing 11.000 words(did you count?) about a person you have a sort of weird internet hate beef with. Still, imagine how it looks from the other side of the argument. You assert it’s my problem, but it’s ultimately anything but my problem. I have no stake in your vendetta with Zak. The outcome is meaningless to me and will not affect anything i do. You say you receive harassment from people because of this bullshit, so wouldn’t it be in your best interest to avoid appearing hypocritical or providing ammunition for the mindless goose-stepping drones that make up the legion o’ Zak?

        5. That assesment of your philosophy really ruffled your feathers didn’t it? I can asure you no one who is a serious Zak adherent will utilize anything you say in response to me as ammunition. Regardless, i was agreeing with you, as i do with the majority of your claims.

        Still the best,

  23. Why is there no upvote/like button? I need one to give credit to the nice people. Also, Internet hug for surviving shitty people. *hug*

  24. I know this is old but it got linked to me today and I recognized your handle.

    I owe you an apology, flat out. I’m sorry.

    I was one of the people taken in by Zak’s bullshit, and it wasn’t until a few years ago I got my head out of my ass. But regardless of if I believed his lies or not my actions were my own and they were toxic and harassing and cruel. There is NO excuse. I’m sorry.

    • I’ve read, and re-read, and re-re-read this comment for the past day and I still don’t know what to say.

      So. Start with the basics. I mean. Thanks for being the first person who was taken in by Zak who ever bothered apologizing for harming me. Maybe that’s damned by faint praise, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly resentful of the fact that Zak’s eviction from our community came with exactly no apologies from Zak’s former fans and supporters.

      Because honestly, it was his fans and supporters that made him so incredibly dangerous. And it was the dogpiling by fans and supporters that amplified the trauma of his harassment to such a degree.

      I know it’s a difficult time money-wise for folks what with COVID right now, but if you have money to spare, it wouldn’t go amiss if you donated to Mandy’s legal defense fund: – because of COURSE Zak is suing her for speaking up about his abuse. Just like he sued Ettin into apologizing for sharing Mandy’s allegations of abuse.

      And I hope in the future that you will ALWAYS remember the humanity of the person on the other end of the keyboard. Zak ruined my life for years, and even now – this news about the lawsuit against Ettin wrecked me for the whole fucking day yesterday. Even after years of therapy and lots of EMDR, this will be trauma I carry for the rest of my life.

      Sorry if this all sounds harsh. I’m always the first to fight for the right of people to make mistakes, change, and grow. But I’m only human, and I’m doing my best.

      • Mandy is one of my best friends so I’ve been supporting her from the very first time she told me in private what was happening, before she’d even left him yet. It was REALLY hard to keep quiet until she was ready to come out publicly, but it did force me to brutally reassess myself and MY actions which I REALLY needed to do. And it was actually because of me following Ettin’s journey with Zak’s bullshit that this post made its way to me. I spoke publicly and loudly about Zak and my own actions alongside that whole horrible mess, and I owned up to, and apologized for, my participation in all of it. Because flat out, I was fucking complicit. But, you and a few other folx more than deserved a direct apology from me. I’m glad I got the chance to make it, but I’m sorry it needed doing in the first place. I didn’t know how deep Zak’s actions against you went, and I’m so fucking sorry for what you put you and everyone else through, and I’m more sorry for my part in it.

        I hope you and all the other people who were hurt are able to heal and find peace, and I hope Zak fucking rots and never darkens another person’s door again.

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