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Leonard Balsera
Communities and Collections

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Breaking my social media embargo briefly.

It's come to my attention in the past month or so that there are some conversations folks may want to have with me but that, for various reasons, they'd like to remain anonymous.

I've set up a DeadDrop to facilitate those conversations, so people can message me without revealing who they are. In return, I'm asking for a "no resharing/vaguebooking" rule about those conversations, because, well... it's the Internet.

Anyway, here it is. Have at.

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Breaking my social media embargo to announce something cool: the return of War of the Cross, a strategy board game set in the universe of 7th Sea! The crew at JWP has been hard at work on the new campaign, and I'm super proud of everything they've accomplished.

Whether you're an old deckhand at 7th Sea or have yet to get your sea legs, please come check it out! If you're not into board games, we also have cool minis available!

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Breaking my social media embargo briefly for this announcement. TL;DR, my duties at John Wick Presents have expanded to the point where I have to move on from my duties as the line developer for, and lead designer of, Fate.

Thanks to the folks at Evil Hat Productions for bringing me along on that ride and helping me get started in this strange industry. It's not an understatement to say that it literally changed the course of my life. And thanks to all of you who've supported me and the game, for over a decade now.

I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for Fate under +Sophie Lagace's leadership, and I'm excited for my own future as well. See you on the high seas!

Briefly breaking my social media embargo to say this to my friends at the newly minted New Agenda Publishing:

You've got this. Fuck the haters.

Also this, to those aforementioned haters:

Fuck off. We don't need you.

So, after an experiment that's left me much more possessed of my general mental health, I'm taking an indefinite hiatus from active participation in social media. I'll still use Hangouts to keep up with people, and check in on certain collections or communities I'm in, but I'm not going to be looking at my feed, posting, or keeping up with posts.

Feel free to contact me if you want to hear from me. Otherwise, I'll see you when I see you. Kthxbye.

Words About Platforms and Publicity

Part of the insidious appeal of social media is that it combines all spaces and contexts of interaction—personal, professional, recreational, intimate, distant, etc.—into one fuzzy, nebulous mass. There are a bunch of emergent properties that come out of this phenomenon, which may be the subject of a future post, but one in particular has been chewing at my brain for a while.

There's a point at which people on the Internet can develop enough of a following that what began as their private feed must be considered a public forum in every way that matters, and regulated by the moral and ethical requirements and expectations of a public forum.

In other words, if you're a well-known media personality with 1d6 thousand something friends/followers/whatever, you can't really call your "friends only" posts non-public, and you don't really get away with eliding over the moral and ethical consequences of what you broadcast.

But a lot of us (and I do mean "us," because hey, I have a reach that numbers in the 1d6 thousands) do try to deflect that responsibility in various ways, by rationalizing boundaries that the medium itself does not recognize. "Oh, this is just my personal gaming blog," or " this is my personal page, not my celebrity page," or whatever.

And this impulse is understandable, because frankly, the transition into being a public figure is stressful and shitty, and at the extremes, dehumanizing. No one ever wants to bring 100% of the baggage of everything they are with them into every interaction, which is why we do the compartmentalizing we do in meatspace.

But social media doesn't care about those exigencies. It is literally designed to ignore them, to force you to bring everything that you are with you, always, all the time. When thousands of people are watching, you don't get the benefit of speaking or being heard as only one part of yourself.

So, no, Media Person, you don't just get to have a cute little blog about your personal opinions about whatever forms of media you're involved in. You don't just get to vent about whatever conflicts you're involved in and innocently blow off steam. You don't get to ignore the context ascribed to you by other places on the Internet where your name shows up. You no longer get to shoot from the hip without consequence.

Whatever power or influence you have, whatever's tied to you, it's always there. People are going to care what you say. And people are going to act on what you say. You don't get to avoid participating in the call and response cycle that drives Internet discussion, or cordon something off as out of bounds.

That is, frankly, painfully unfair, because you don't really get a say on it. Especially for marginalized folks who become popular or well-known, it can be deeply, deeply costly, because they do not get the second chances other people do in the court of public opinion. I personally find it insipid, and I hope one day that social media evolves into something that can recognize the need for that compartmentalization more fully. But for now, we have what we have.

And it leads a lot of folks impacted by that phenomenon to try and emulate the small, intimate spaces they have in meatspace—little circles of only RL acquaintances or whatever. That can help, except that if any of those spaces grows even a little, it risks hitting that tipping point where it becomes a public space again for all practical intents and purposes, and we're right back where we started. Frankly, it doesn't take a huge amount of people to make that happen.

So, what's the point of all this? Mainly just to point out that a lot of us folks with platforms are routinely bullshitting ourselves about the breadth and depth of our impact in the miasma of social media communication, and maybe we should think about that a little more before hitting that "Post" button.

Sorry, Game Designer Person, but that off-hand snarky comment you made on your wall about that one game is someone else's Deep Official Critique (tm) that they'll then take somewhere else. Sorry, TV Person, but when you Tweet out that you like a show, that's someone else's Official Endorsement (tm), for better or for worse.

And sorry, Viral Blogger, but if you want people to stop talking about something, and you yourself keep talking about it on your spaces for some other reason (like you're seeking validation or social support), you're part of why that conversation continues.

Right now, like it or not, that's the cost of doing business. And you are accountable for your part of what comes of it.
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Welp, it didn't take long for all the worst problems of callout culture to surface in the "me too" aftermath, in my professional neck of the woods.

Fellow well-meaning industry or industry-adjacent progressives:

If you don't actually know who, on an institutional level, should be held responsible for addressing a report of bad behavior or wrongdoing, find a different solution than stalking known acquaintances, co-workers, or otherwise vaguely associated names on their personal social media accounts and making shitty demands of them, especially in public.

It's a dick move, you're not helping, you're actively doing harm to your chosen targets, you're making all of those folks screeching about slippery slopes seem like they have a reasonable point, and you're contributing to an environment that makes it harder, not easier, to protect victims and resolve issues.

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A pull-quote from that Vox article I linked earlier:

"The only way to settle any argument is for both sides to be committed, at least to some degree, to shared standards of evidence and accuracy, and to place a measure of shared trust in institutions meant to vouchsafe evidence and accuracy. Without that basic agreement, without common arbiters, there can be no end to dispute."

The article is specifically about the epistemological divide between right and left politics in the US, but I find myself pondering also how this statement manifests in Internet discourse in general, even between people who agree on things in principle.
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The center cannot hold.

"And if that’s true, if the very preconditions of science and journalism as commonly understood have been eroded, then all that’s left is a raw contest of power."
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Content Warning: all the stuff associated with "me too"

So, I was going to wait longer to post this, but the conversation is moving at the pace of the Internet, so I think it's worth saying now.

As women in the hobby games industry come forward to tell their stories, either in public forums or backchannel, it's possible you're going to hear a story about me.

If you do, the following:

1.) I probably did the thing, whatever it is, and I'm probably well aware that I did it. I've spent half my years in the industry running around conventions with a chip on my shoulder, several drinks in my gullet, and the impetus to act out for various reasons. Short of, I don't know, felony-level behavior, pretty much anything you hear about me probably did happen as described.

2.) If knowing that lowers your estimation of me or your trust level, I get it. Do what you've gotta do for yourself boundary-wise. I'd hope you'd talk to me about it, but if you feel like you can't, you can't.

3.) I'm not asking for anyone's forgiveness or absolution. I am sorry that I've behaved poorly, but no one owes me a damn thing. That said, if you need a direct apology, ask.

4.) Know that I've spent a lot of years now on deprogramming toxic masculine shit from my head and working on myself. I can say with confidence that there are a lot of things I don't do anymore, and am committed to correcting my path when I fuck up. I don't expect that to change how anyone feels about me.

5.) Don't mess with whoever told the story. They've been through enough.

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