So yeah, I’m the first user ever banned from Boardgamegeek.com.
Not just banned from posting to forums or creating geeklists, but banned too from using the geekmail system, the trade system, or even posting comments and ratings. I am an outcast, a pariah, and a villain- held responsible by many BGG users for everything from an “embarrassing”, “negative” atmosphere on BGG to Rick Thornquist’s decision to delete his account. I’m really surprised that I didn’t get blamed for EPISODE I, the Holocaust, and global warming somewhere along the way.
For those of you coming late into this, here’s a profile of the banished- my name is Michael Barnes. I’m a 31-year old American and god damn it, I love board games. I love board games enough to have gone through absolute hell to open and operate a store as well as continue working in game retail even after my shop closed due to a bad business partner. I’ve been active (at least until yesterday) on BGG since 2003 but I’ve got a good twenty years of gaming experience before that. My userid was Crackedlcd81 (a nod to a great Ladytron track) and my avatar was Mark E. Smith of The Fall. I prefer Ameritrash-style games but there’s tons of Euros I love too- I just love great games regardless of where they’re from.
I’m sure that some will point to a “pattern of behavior” that lead to my expulsion from BGG (apparently this pattern is posting honest opinions laced with sometimes pointed humour) but it seems to me that my sentence has much more to do recent events surrounding the mysterious departure of Rick Thornquist from the entire gaming community coupled with a bizarre sort of mass hysteria that seems to have even ensnared even Aldie himself. I criticized him openly for stirring the pot since he suggested that Mr. Thornquist and Mr. Vasel were being “ridiculed day by day” which was no more the truth than these hysterical, exaggerated allegations that AT proponents were “trashing” Euros in every thread. Lately there had been some strong criticism of both personalities, which I think is completely legitimate if they want to be public figures and have this sort of celebrity status in the community but is that “ridicule”? I think not. It’s just like all of this talk about “personal attacks” and the completely situational definition of that term which tightens around some people but loosens around others. When a BGG admin (name withheld) calls you a “dickhead” and an “asshole”, that’s a pretty clear personal attack. Saying you disagree with someone or don’t like their taste in games is not.
So why did Aldie ban me? I really don’t know and he’s not come forward with anything other than a vague public statement- I hadn’t done anything out of sorts other than point out that he was feeding a fire, and in that post I even _agreed_ with him when he said that we need to steer the discussion back toward games and gaming rather than people. Is it because I criticized Mr. Thornquist for specifically stating that he wouldn’t go on THE ULTIMATE PODCAST because of “past guests” (which at that time were myself and Robert Martin)? It can’t because I criticized Tom Vasel, because everybody else is doing that these days. Could fear of losing advertising dollars have something to do with it? Maybe “big name” users threatened to leave the site if I didn’t go away?
Who knows, because Aldie didn’t communicate any of this with me- even after stating last week that he didn’t have a problem with my posts and actually agreed that controversy and dissent were good things. He even agreed with a lot of what I had written, as did Derk. In the past, Aldie has emailed me directly if I was touching on something that irked him and once he explained his thoughts on something I even changed a geeklist out of respect for his opinion on a couple of items in it. Yet now I just get banned outright. Guess I “crossed the line” one too many times, whatever that means in a public opinion forum. Or maybe he just got tired of me not being nice all the time, which seems to be what is expected out of 99% of the site, excluding admins and that naked mole rat guy.
I’ve joked a lot about these ridiculous conspiracy theories (which a lot of people took seriously apparently), the elitism of the “old guard”, censorship, and the marginalization of minority opinions- all things that are completely ludicrous when we’re talking about BOARD GAMES, which was kind of my point. The thing is, all these silly, almost surreal suppositions have become somehow more REAL in light of Aldie’s actions and the behavior of many BGG users. If anything, my time becoming BGG’s public enemy #1 has shown me how completely LUDICROUS a community can be when its members come together over a play activity and it becomes a lifestyle, something so serious that so many have so much invested in emotionally.
In all honesty, I think it’s pretty damn funny overall, and it serves to validate a lot of the criticism of Aldie and BGG that I’ve levied and that I’ve also seen coming from other users over the past several months.
At any rate, let’s talk about games since that’s what we’re here for in the first place. The bizarro world of Boardgamegeek.com and its attendant politics, cliques, and psychophants can make it easy to forget that it’s ultimately about getting together with your friends, breaking out a great game, and having fun. Nothing else in this hobby matters. Nothing.