Extreme Censorship in the Tabletop Puzzle Community

I detest reporting on stuff like this, but sometimes things are too egregious to ignore.

TLDR

The admins of the Mystery Subscription Discussion Group (one of the hubs for tabletop puzzle community discussion) have gone to outrageous extremes to silence discussion of the new Kickstarter The Light in the Mist from PostCurious.

While they have succeeded at silencing this discussion in their group, they have not stopped the success of The Light in the Mist (which funded in less than 2 hours), and I am not letting them censor this story of their conduct out of existence. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Close-up of a mouth covered in red tape.

Facts

I’m going to walk you through a series of events that I find dumbfounding.

Inciting Incidents

Yesterday we published two things, a review of PostCurious’ latest Kickstarter, The Light in the Mist (which is fantastic), and an interview with one of the game’s creators on the Reality Escape Pod.

I decided to take a look at the two active play-at-home puzzle groups, “Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries” as well as “Mystery Subscription Discussion,” to share the review and podcast, as this content is very relevant to both groups.

Before posting, I took a look at the Mystery Subscription Discussion feed to see if there was an active thread… and there wasn’t one. This seemed strange given that two of our community’s most successful independent creators teamed up for a game that looks as amazing as it plays… and the Kickstarter was blowing up.

So, I decided to inform that community about this game with the following post:

Almost immediately, this post was taken down, and this message appeared for me on the Mystery Subscription Discussion page:

Now, I didn’t read this message too closely. I initially didn’t notice that date “October 19, 2021,” but it will become relevant in a moment.

Instead, I looked up the Group’s rules to make sure that I hadn’t violated any of them. The rules were presented as follows:

While these rules are about as clear as they are culturally relevant, I saw no action of mine that was in violation of them.

So, I found the groups moderator (Randy Searle) and admin (Andrew McCabe), and sent them each the following message:

After sending these, I spoke to a few more people who all had the same experience. They posted about The Light in the Mist on the Mystery Subscription Discussion, and their content was moderated away.

I was about to send followup messages to Searle and McCabe when I realized that these folks had archived the entire Mystery Subscription Discussion:

Key Information

There are a few things that are important to understand to pull this whole story together:

Past Drama

Back in mid 2020, there was an uproar over on the Mystery Subscription Discussion group when then admin Chris Nevlin banned The Light in the Mist co-creator Rita Orlov over a political post she had made on her own social media account – not on the Mystery Subscription Discussion page.

The community was understandably outraged at this ban. Moderation is a hard job, but a moderator has no business moderating speech outside of the community.

The backlash resulted in the following things:

  • A new group, Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries, was established
  • Chris Nevlin agreed to step down as leader of the Mystery Subscription Discussion group (although more than one person has told me that Andrew McCabe is Chris Nevlin in a weak disguise)

Archival is Not Deletion

Archiving a Facebook group means that no one can post, comment, or like any content on the page. It essentially freezes everything in place.

Groups Admin have the option to delete the group, or unarchive it at any time (Facebook).

WTH is Going On?

From all of the facts, the only reasonable conclusion that I can draw is that the admin is actively censoring the community from talking about The Light in the Mist.

The key to that conclusion was the aforementioned date: October 19, 2021. That date seemed a strange period of time to ban a community member. It wasn’t a week or a month. It was 28 days; I would have been banned until a few hours after The Light in the Mist Kickstarter concluded.

It seems that a lot of us in the community were excited about The Light in the Mist, as the Kickstarter funded in less than 2 hours and crossed 200% funding in less than a day. I imagine that I wasn’t the only person who was eager to post about it in the community, but instead of censoring us one at a time, the Mystery Subscription Discussion leadership decided to go to extremes and archive the entire community to achieve absolute censorship. They posted no notice explaining their actions.

I reached out to Randy Searle and Andrew McCabe for official comment for this piece, but I received no response.

Why Write This?

We don’t normally dive into the muck on Room Escape Artist; it’s not our beat. We never covered the relentless drama surrounding Chris Nevlin and Randy Searle, but this has crossed into absurdity.

The tabletop puzzle community is so small and is not served by wannabe dictators abusing the community to their own ends.

I’m not about to let them silence the community over a warped vendetta that has nothing to do with anything that actually happened within the community.

My message to the folks who love playing or creating play-at-home puzzles and mysteries:

Go engage on Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries. It’s one of the kindest groups on Facebook.

My message to Andrew McCabe and Randy Searle:

This is a cowardly way to conduct yourselves and run a community.

When you inevitably unarchive the page after The Light in the Mist Kickstarter concludes, you’ll prove that you have no business leading any portion of our community, and you will have achieved nothing.

The Light in the Mist will still be far more than fully funded.

And this post shows the failure of your self-destructive and community-damaging attempt at shutting down speech.

5 thoughts on “Extreme Censorship in the Tabletop Puzzle Community

  1. “Andrew McCabe” is the name of a key character in the Mysterious Package Company’s Curios & Conundrums newspaper subscription, fwiw. So it’s almost certainly a winking pseudonym.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.