Stronghold Games Continuing Aftershock Twitter Tantrum

(Edit: The Aftershock Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. Apparently due to the quiet response to some of the “deluxe” things they were offering. Nothing about this controversy, but I thought I would update you on that part at least.)

(2nd Edit: I’ve since posted an open letter to Stronghold Games suggesting that they do the right thing and end the Twitter silencing, as well as address the naming controversy.)

(3rd edit, in case you find this post first. A resolution has been reached!)

(Original post below)

I love Stronghold Games. I really do. (Look, I even still linked to their site).

I have nothing against them. In fact, I love many of their games (two have already appeared on my Top 25 Games Played ever, and there will be more, and sorry the Top 15 hasn’t shown up yet, but I’ve been sick).

From everything I’ve heard, and from people who I also like and respect, Stephen Buonocore is a great guy. One of these days, I’d love to go to a con and get a pic of him kissing me on the cheek like he has so many others.

Which is why I am completely mystified at what they’ve been doing on Twitter over the last few days.

Stronghold Games Block

What could have justified this?

Let’s tell a story.

Stronghold Games has a new Kickstarter project called Aftershock.

However, Rex Brynan had already designed and published a non-profit game called Aftershock: A Humanitarian Crisis Game that has been used for first-responder training.

Rex has written a nice post explaining what the problem is:

“Since PAXsims published a game called AFTERSHOCK in 2015, this caused some considerable confusion. We received multiple queries—via the blog, Twitter, email, discussion forums, and even in person—asking if the new game was somehow a newer or updated version of our original game. It’s not.

The new Aftershock (by Bobby West and veteran game designer Alan R. Moon) is an earthquake-themed Eurogame. You actually cause earthquakes in this game.

The original AFTERSHOCK is a serious (but enjoyable!) game designed to teach about humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It has been used for training humanitarian aid workers, medical students, UN peacekeepers, and military personnel. We have run games for the US State Department, USAID, the Department of National Defence, the UK Ministry of Defence, and others, and it was a featured game at the Military Operations Research Society’s wargaming conference and the recent Serious Games Forum in Paris. The original AFTERSHOCK is also a non-profit fundraiser for frontline UN humanitarian agencies who respond to actual earthquakes and other humanitarian emergencies.”

Polite inquiries were rebuffed, and when the Stronghold Games project was first tweeted about, Rex tweeted a clarification that it wasn’t an update to his game.

And he promptly got blocked on Twitter.

My friend over at the Mountain Navy blog either tweeted about it or also contacted them, and he got blocked too, prompting this post from him.

To support my friend from a completely unfair move, I tweeted this.

And now I’m blocked too.

So obviously it wasn’t a mistake.

Others have been reporting that they’ve been blocked after also questioning the naming of the game.

This is all so childish and unnecessary.

Rex has made a couple of very good suggestions for how to handle things.

One is just to change the name to Aftershocks. That shouldn’t be too hard.

Even better would be to acknowledge the original game in the campaign and rulebook, perhaps even coordinating some marketing efforts.

But no, let’s just go all Billy Crystal on everybody who even so much as mentions the controversy.

Not listening

I still like and respect Stronghold Games.

But I stand by my opinion. This is a bush league move, and they keep compounding it with every block.

I’m not going to stop talking about any of their old games that I love (like I said, there’s at least one more coming on my Top 15). After the Top 25 is complete, well, we’ll have to see.

But rest assured that I am no longer going to be publicizing any of their new stuff, nor will I be buying any of it, as long as this tantrum continues.

Hopefully somebody will point out to them that they are acting in a terrible manner and they may want to put on their big pants and actually stop trying to avoid anybody who has something even mildly negative to say about them.

In fact, if you are reading this and do have any link to Mr. Buonocore or Stronghold Games, please point out to him (or them) that there are a lot better ways to handle this than what they are doing.

In my opinion, it’s seriously harming their brand.

15 Comments on “Stronghold Games Continuing Aftershock Twitter Tantrum

  1. Dave, are you open to some constructive and well-intentioned feedback about your tweet to Stronghold? I know your post isn’t exactly about that tweet alone, but you seem a bit surprised that Stronghold blocked you after that tweet, while I can completely understand from the tone of it why they didn’t receive it well. I’m not justifying the block–I just might be able to shed some light as to why your tweet didn’t result in a more positive outcome, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Jamey.

      I am, of course, always open to constructive criticism (I’m guessing that “bush league” is part of it?).

      However, as you note, it’s not just about my tweet. It’s about them blocking anybody who even brings up the topic, including the original publisher who just politely clarified that this isn’t the same game as his because he’s literally been getting questions asking if it was the same game.

      Yeah, I was a bit mad when I did that tweet. I’ll admit that.

      But sorry, I shouldn’t preempt what you might not even be talking about.

      Please, go ahead. I’ve always respected you as a game designer/developer and a blogger, so I’ll always take what you say under consideration.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dave! In brief, my perspective is that I think it’s important for people to hold creators accountable for their actions and words. There are injustices in the world, and it’s great when people seek the truth and expose it.

        However: One, it’s important that it’s definitely the truth that is being exposed. Two, there is a difference between exposing/conversing and harassing. And three, Twitter is not a good platform for defending complex legal issues.

        I can’t speak to Rex’s attempts to contact Stronghold in the appropriate channels, nor can I explain Stronghold’s decision to block him. I simply don’t have all the facts. From the information I do have, it does seem a bit bewildering–it appears that Rex simply clarified on Twitter that the two games are different. That doesn’t seem like an attack or harassment, and I don’t understand–based on that limited information–why Stronghold blocked him.

        But I do know what you tweeted to Stronghold, and it comes across as an attack, not an attempt to discuss or communicate. At least, that’s how I’d feel if someone tweeted that to me.

        It appears that your objective in making that tweet was to support your friend. In some regards, I think you accomplished that goal–you showed your friend through the tweet that you have his back. However, if you were hoping that your tweet would result in positive change for your friend, do you think it accomplished that goal?

        Here’s how I would have written the tweet (though, this is easy for me to say, as I’m completely removed from the situation. In the heat of the moment, I might have done the same thing as you!): “Hey @StrongholdGames, I love your work! I’d love to facilitate a private discussion between you and my friend @Mountain_Navy if you’re open to it. He’s really just looking for clarity–no ill intentions here! 🙂 Thanks!”

        I honestly don’t know if that would have gotten a better response–we all have bad days, especially if we’re being bombarded by criticism. But I think it would have had a better chance than “Bush league move.” 🙂

        Thanks for hearing me out! Hopefully some good will come of this.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just deleted a comment directed at you that was pretty harsh.

      First time I’ve had one of those. If that kind of thing continues, I may have to start moderating.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Jamey. That is very thoughtful and of course I will take it under advisement.

    And in a better mood at the time, I’d probably have done what you suggest (though probably not facilitating a private discussion, as I’m not sure if you’re clear on this from what you say, but “my friend” and “the designer of the game” are two different people, both of whom were blocked after bringing the problem to Stronghold’s attention).

    I was honestly hoping that it had been a “mistake” block. I’ve had that happen before. Bezier Games blocked me for no apparent reason. I reached out to them privately, and they said they had no idea how it happened and unblocked me. Same happened with another company that I can’t remember now.

    I have now seen multiple people report being blocked after politely bringing it up to them (really, it sounds like I was the rudest, and in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that harsh of a tweet) so it’s now a pattern of behaviour.

    I do appreciate your advice, though, and it behooves everybody to stop and think when tweeting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave! Sorry about my confusion. The idea behind that part of my sample tweet was to show Stronghold that you’re open to a healthy discourse in a forum that gives them more space to respond than 280 characters.

      I guess “mistake blocks” happen…though it seems a bit odd that so many have happened to you. 🙂 I’m aware of people blocking me, and I’ve blocked a few people, and it’s never been a mistake.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think “mistakes” mostly happen when you go on a blocking spree on a certain subject, and innocent people get caught up in it.

        A Dice Tower employee who shall remain nameless blocked me out of the blue and when I reached out to the person on BGG, they said “I recently mass blocked a lot of accounts that were involved in a couple of different discussions. You may have gotten swept up in that. I can unblock you.”

        So I’m taking them (and Bezier, and the other company) at their word that it was a mistake.

        But who knows?

        There are also block lists going around that are basically “guilt by association” lists that people blindly use without even knowing who they block.

        Thanks again for checking out my post and the thoughtful feedback. I really appreciate it!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Stronghold Games & Rex Brynen Reach Agreement on Aftershock Name Controversy – Dude! Take Your Turn!

  4. Pingback: Stronghold Games Relaunches Kickstarter – Dude! Take Your Turn!

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