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Insight and Clarity into the Arch Warhammer and Spikey Bits Drama

I don't really like delving into drama, unless it's my own, and digging deep into the hot air produced to see if there's anything valuable is never worth the time I've spent doing it. However, I would like to point out some bits and pieces I've noticed in calming my own rampant emotions on the topic.

As ever, the caveat to this is that everyone on the internet is wrong, particularly blogging teachers who really should be getting more than 3 hours sleep a night. And who should really be writing their Christmas reports, rather than adding to internet drama.

For the uninformed, well done for avoiding a waste of time that's better spent painting toy soldiers. But if you must know what happened, Spikey Bits published an article about bullying in 40K. Arch Warhammer responded to this. Both sides made some fairly outlandish claims, that perhaps make sense in the context of the drama. To an outsider, it's very much a storm in a tea cup... on both sides.

I'm a teacher, and therefore professionally obligated to sit on the fence. It's not up to me to tell you what to think, only to present models on how to think. I work with children, and because of that I need to be careful about accidentally implanting ideology into their heads. However, in this case I can safely say I'm on neither side, and will refuse and refute any claims that there is a battle to be had in the first place.

I am going to take this opportunity to criticise Spikey Bits, both as a consumer and writer myself. There is a reason for doing so, but please indulge me some bitterness/saltiness as an ex-reader: the adverts break my laptop.

My work laptop is not the strongest machine around, but it runs most web sites well. In fact, in runs nearly every web site well. The only two it flounders on are Spikey Bits and Bell of Lost Souls. The pages are stuffed to the brim with adverts, so much so I cannot in good conscience recommend it to my students. My work laptop throws up so many warnings and works so hard to load each page, I've actually written to my IT department to check if it was okay to visit the site.

The verdict was; looks okay but maybe best to avoid. It looks very much like a spam site, perhaps unfairly so as sometimes the content is good. I get the reason for it, as they need to make money to produce content, but I think Spikey Bits and the model they work on is no longer tenable.

As such, I will repost the article that started the drama here, and pick out some points for discussion. It took ten minutes to copy and paste individual paragraphs.

The fact is, there are bullies everywhere, even in tabletop gaming. Some of this bullying may come off as passive aggressive behaviors, or posts to the local community page, but it still shouldn’t be tolerated. It takes one person to stand up and take action, but if no one takes that role then nothing is going to change.

Off to a terrible start, both in asserting that bullying is a problem in table top gaming because there are bullies everywhere, and in taking the frankly school-boy stance that you need to stand up to it. That's not the way, and dealing with bullying requires monitoring and working with both sides to resolve issues. The implication is also that this writer (remaining anonymous for professionalisms sake), is going to be the hero standing up to the problem. I know he doesn't state that, but I think the implication is clear.

There is no hero needed, or fight to be had in the case of bullying. The idea of beating back an aggressor, or evil person, presumes the person bullying to be evil. That's only ever true in the most extreme cases of human behaviour, and at that point you're well into criminality, and far from bullying.

The writer is setting the stage for conflict, not resolution. Perhaps he believes conflict to already be there, but I will lay a case for them to be mistaken.

I’ve personally watched our veteran players opt out of leagues and tournaments locally here because of one individual. Yes the league stays alive because there is always going to be new players getting into these games, let’s be honest, but the community here has slowly been shrinking in size, and there’s a major rift now…
Surely one individual bully can be spoken to, privately. When teachers find out cases of bullying, the first thing we do is have chats with those involved. In most cases of perceived bullying we don't have to do much. Quite often it's just social disputes, and whilst we keep a close eye on it, we have to let the children learn to sort it out themselves.

Obviously if we think harm might occur we step in, but we have a duty of care to children. I would have thought adults would be able to work things out for themselves... and those that they can't would be criminal cases.

I think I'm getting off track though, but I wanted to give people insight into how bullying is dealt with in schools, by professionals who have training in it. It's a procedural, yet compassionate approach, which doesn't have the banner waving glory associated with the Hollywood show down. It's also fairly wearing on the person working with bullies and victims, and leaves you tired rather than content.

I need to pick something out of that paragraph though, because I'd like to point something out about the direction the community is heading in... and how it's actually positive.

Yes the league stays alive because there is always going to be new players getting into these games, let’s be honest, but the community here has slowly been shrinking in size, and there’s a major rift now…
That's interesting. The Spikey Bits community is shrinking, but being kept afloat by new members. There is also a major rift, and I think that rift is potentially between new players and veterans, rather than between... bullies and victims? The writer is not specific.

I think the reason for the shrinking community can be attributed the Spikey Bits web site itself. In addition to the advertising problem I've encountered, the kind of content that drives traffic is no longer best found on websites like Spikey Bits. As a blogger, I know what drives my hit counter more than anything is rumours and news of new products.

Unfortunately for Spikey Bits, Warhammer Community does that from an official mouth piece.

Warhammer Community has been dropping official leaks and new product videos for about a year now, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that other websites are starting to feel the drop in views. I know that I wouldn't get nearly as much of the hits as I do without some kind of analysis to go with the latest rumour, and I know from researching articles for the blog here that a lot of rumour articles on BoLS and Spikey Bits amount to little more than an image and a sentence. I don't think there is a market for simple image sharing anymore, not when it comes with advert spam.

Since Spikey Bits is losing traffic that way, it would follow that the community would also begin to drop. Rather than going to a third party community, people will naturally go towards the official community of, well, Warhammer Community. There are less strings attached to that one, and to support it all you need to do is buy models. I'm willing to bet that if an official forum were to be released, Spikey Bits and Bell of Lost Souls would entirely fold as a business.

This is nothing but a net positive for the hobby, as Games Workshop takes it's customers more seriously, and offers the kind of end user support needed for such a time-intensive hobby. The time for amateur guides and reporting is gone, replaced with much higher quality and more accurate press releases and training.

Which puts the editors and writers of Spikey Bits in a scary place.

I don't think they're full time writers, as the income from such niche pieces without the weight of model and magazine sales is barely enough to keep a hobbyist in base paint, let alone provide for a family. It also wouldn't be clear as to why view counts are dropping... surely with all this extra interest and community engagement from GW, business should be booming.

And what might be very hard for the writers and editors of those sites to come to terms with, is that their content isn't actually that good.

I make no secret about how limited my opinions are, or how little I understand some aspects of the hobby. I'm not a professional writer, and fully expect even this article to be full of spelling and grammar mistakes. What I try to do is give interesting perspectives on tactics, lore and testing ways of painting miniatures. I try to make it as good quality as I can (although I sometimes catastrophically fail in that), but again, I'm not relying on this to feed my family... I have a 24/7 teaching/boarding house mastering/Duke of Edinburgh coordinating job for that, with a scarf business on the side.

Put simply, I can afford to botch the odd article here and there, and I can miss daily deadlines (such as right now... End of Term, writing reports, a sick wife etc.). Whereas BoLS and Spikey Bits are now in direct competition with professional copy writers, working for the Marketing Department of the company whose product they have built their jobs around. Without relying on click bait rumours and managing the news flow of the hobby, they will now have to focus on the quality of their prose and ideas.

If the article dissected above is any indication, they're not going to do well in that competition.

It sounds as if I'm trashing Spikey Bits, and I am, but I really don't intend to be mean spirited about it. It's the same criticism I point at myself, and I am equally guilty of dropping click bait articles with little content. I don't say these things to be cruel, but to be honest... in my poor, and ill-informed opinion as a fallible human being.

So, with all these factors coming together, a falling view count, falling numbers of community participation, and with all the usual tricks not working, looking for something to blame or to excuse the misfortune becomes paramount.

The threat of online bullies is something that has been in the news for a while. Ironically, they're an easy target, and present an opportunity to galvanise your community. You create a new layer of identity to those that self-select to be part of that group, one that is attractive and clothed in high moral superiority. You present them, and your community leaders a nice target on which to lay all the problems you are facing.

Truth is a lot of time it just takes one person to say their sorry to help get things back on track. The answer is not refusing to apologize, pushing blame back on others, and telling them to grow thicker skin! 
This is OUR hobby, we don’t let outside influences tear us apart, why are we going to let something or someone inside our hobby tear us apart. We’re better than that. Stand up for your local community and the people in it. If you don’t who else will? 
It's scapegoating.

Arch Warhammer is responding to this, with some scapegoating of his own, claiming that this is part of some grand conspiracy by Social Justice Warriors, Feminists and other elements of that political branch. He's equally taking a stand, and gearing up for a fight.

There is no conflict though.

Arch Warhammer is fighting political phantoms undermining his community. Spikey Bits is fighting phantom bullies, undermining their community.

It's a situation that cannot be resolved by attacking a perceived enemy. Spikey Bits simply has to realise that they might not be good enough anymore. Warhammer Arch is going to have to stop agreeing with this delusion, and acting the part of antagonist.

The only way to get through this is for Spikey Bits to up their quality of content. What they'll need to do is... well, let's have the Spikey Bits author finish us out:

This can all be solved by rebuilding, everyone taking a step back, and realizing we’re all here for the same reason, to have fun! The solution is not yelling at individuals, or public humiliation, and anyone seen doing or threatening these things are the reason strong communities fall apart.
Who wants to play with someone that acts this way? Who wants to play with someone who constantly has an issue with you if you have a different opinion than theirs? 
This isn’t anything new. In this hobby we see communities come and go. But we never actually take the time to see why the community failed. Instead of giving up on the community, try to find out what or who the problem is. Maybe the event can be reversed and handled differently, or the individual doesn’t know what they’re doing is causing a rift. Or maybe it’s just they think they know what’s best for the community, when in actuality they’re the reason for the fall and ultimate destruction of a once great community 
That's all I have to say about that. Until next time.

Thanks for reading.

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  1. As someone who has both bullied and been bullied, your idea of bullying or how to respond to bullies is hilariously idiotic. I find it a good way to vent, and every time that people tried to create a dialogue with me, I just laughed at them. Fucking morons. Creating a dialogue only works if there is a reason for doing so, and why would I stop the fun I'm having?

    You seem to have this 1st year Psychology idea that everything can be solved if we just talk about it. Guess what? Life's a bitch, and some people are just assholes. I fully admit I am. The fact that you can't realize this, or the fact that some people simply won't learn until they have actual repercussions, shows how deluded you are about the very basic level of existence for all animals. Just because humans are more complex does not mean that the inherent reward/punishment mindset isn't there.

    1. Apologies for the late reply to this. Term has started again, and the first week is always a rough roller coaster. I'm grateful for you taking the time to comment, but please avoid swearing... I like to keep this site clean so that students don't get in trouble for reading it in school.

      You've made a lot of assumptions about my teaching practice, but opening a dialogue is simply one tool, an usually the best first step. You don't want to exaggerate a situation, and unfairly label students for what just be a social mistake. There are other methods for working with more resistant students.

      Your point of view lacks a lot of nuance, and you'll rarely find deliberately malevolent people. They exist of course, but you'd be a fool to jump straight to that conclusion for the majority of young people. That's not naive, that's simple sense.

      There's more holes I could poke in your argument, but we'll stick with just this response for now. If you maintain interest in the dialogue you've opened, we'll go through the rest of your points.

      Thanks for commenting, always nice to have a counter argument to think about!

  2. Ironic that for an article claiming neutrality, one party is more chastised here than the other...

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      Not really ironic, but simply poor writing. I think both were in the wrong in that particular drama. I had more to say about Spikey Bits' claims though.

      Although I am thinking hard about the situation now, and the article I've written. Does it seem like I support one over the other?


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