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 over 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.

PostCurious – The Light in the Mist [Review]

If you enjoy The Light in the Mist, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Rita Orlov on The Reality Escape Pod.

Enchanting

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 2021

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: 5-10 hours (easily spread out over as many sittings as you like)

Price: about $32 + shipping for the standard edition

REA Reaction

I think you’re going to want to back The Light in the Mist on Kickstarter.

Rita Orlov of PostCurious teamed up with masterful illustrator Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post to create a custom, bepuzzled tarot deck packed with gorgeous art, all wrapped in a heartfelt story. The collaboration played to the strengths of these two creators.

The Light in the Mist box and full contents, including tarot deck, booklet, and journal.
Image via PostCurious

The Light in the Mist displayed both creators at their absolute best and showed a maturity of design, while making use of the tarot deck as a medium for both puzzle design and storytelling.

Beyond the incredible aesthetics and stellar puzzles, The Light in the Mist was a remarkably unopinionated product. It can be just a puzzle game, or just a story, or just a tarot deck – which was a nifty trick of design.

7 assorted tarot cards with stunning art.
Image via PostCurious

When we complete tabletop puzzle games, even the ones we love, we usually find ourselves feeling a certain sense of relief. When we finished The Light in the Mist, we found ourselves missing it… wishing it were a little longer. Honestly, this was the perfect length. It’s better to return from a vacation wishing it were a couple of days longer than ultimately wishing that the trip had ended sooner; the same is true for puzzle games.

We loved The Light in the Mist. Although we’ve already played, we will back it on Kickstarter because we want to own a production copy. You’re going to want one too.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Art aficionados
  • Practitioners of the Tarot
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The tarot deck looks gorgeous. It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to own.
  • The puzzles are stellar and varied, with an incredible hint system to make this game as easy you want it to be. Play at your own level.
  • There’s a beautiful, intimate, and well-crafted story running throughout the experience.

Story

Our dear friend had disappeared under unusual and mystical circumstances leaving behind a tarot deck. Could we brave the deck’s mysteries and occult power to help our missing companion?

Tarot box, deck, and 5 beautiful cards fanned out.
Image via PostCurious
Continue reading “PostCurious – The Light in the Mist [Review]”

Enter the Imaginarium – The Search for Leviathan [Review]

Mysterious Depths

Location:  Pittsburgh, PA

Date Played: July 3, 2021

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $165 up to 4 players, additional $26 per person up to 10

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: you need to walk up stairs to get to this game

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The mystery in The Search for Leviathan was its unusual blend of high highs that followed an opening act loaded with low lows.

This was an escape room in which multiple teammates stopped dead in their tracks from sheer amazement, in the best of ways.

The thing is, if you want to be amazed, there’s a moat of less-than-stellar gameplay that you’ll have to overcome. The first act of The Search for Leviathan felt like it was designed by a completely different company. Fortunately, this segment was not the bulk of the game.

Somehow, these two worlds are part of one whole that was entirely worth playing… even if I truly believe that a handful of little improvements could elevate this game in countless ways.

An unusual room filled with assorted technology and a matrix of television screens.
Image via Enter the Imaginarium

The Search for Leviathan is worth traveling to play, especially if you haven’t played the other offerings at Enter The Imaginarium. It’s certainly not perfect, but I encourage you to push onward when you stall because there’s something worthwhile on the other side, and the stuff that makes this game great is rare.

Who is this for?

  • Jules Verne fans
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some spectacular set design
  • Killer transitions
  • A strong second act

Story

Our mission was to dive deep beneath the waves to tangle with incredible beasts between us and buried treasure.

Panoramic photo of a submarine.
Image via Enter the Imaginarium
Continue reading “Enter the Imaginarium – The Search for Leviathan [Review]”

Puzzle Room Pittsburgh – Seeking Sasquatch [Review]

A hairy situation

Location:  Pittsburgh, PA

Date Played: July 2, 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Seeking Sasquatch was a unique game that did a stellar job creating an exterior environment.

A large tree with ivy, the treetop surrounded by clouds in a forrest.

The gameplay was puzzle-focused, which worked great while surrounded by such a nifty space.

The opportunities for improvement in Seeking Sasquatch were in detail refinement, spotlighting, and in-world hinting.

Puzzle Room Pittsburgh did a ton of great things with Seeking Sasquatch, and I think it’s an under-appreciated gem in the Pittsburgh region. Go check it out if you’re in the region.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A unique set with some surprising features
  • Unusual interactions

Story

Our crew had set off in search of Sasquatch. As we came upon his trail, we learned that he was hunting us as well.

Warning sign reads, "Bigfoot area - stay on marked trails."
Continue reading “Puzzle Room Pittsburgh – Seeking Sasquatch [Review]”

Captured LV Allentown – The Island [Review]

Jurassic Plot

Location:  Allentown, PA

Date Played: July 5, 2021

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration:  without spoiling, I would recommend mentioning to your gamemaster if you’re unsteady on your feet

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Island was the type of escape room scenario that felt like a child had an assortment of unrelated toys and smashed them together in a burst of imagination. It combined unlike ideas into a fun adventure. It worked.

A jungle set with colorful tribal drum props and puzzles.

Captured LV Allentown put a lot of effort into the ambiance of this world, especially for the main set. They are not masters of set design or technology, but they put in the work to learn and construct an exciting adventure. Although they couldn’t capture this vibe from start to finish, they punctuated it with memorable moments and that goes a long way.

If you’re in the mood for a tiki island of puzzles and dinosaurs, and you’re in eastern Pennsylvania, do yourself a favor and visit The Island.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jurassic Park fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A playful and vibrant setting
  • Lots of solid puzzles with varied inputs and interactions
  • It’s a mighty game for a smaller market

Story

Renaissance Laboratories had been conducting questionable research with dinosaur DNA on a remote tropical island. Last week, they’d reported a security breach. We’d been flown in by helicopter with the mission to retrieve the DNA samples and avoid contact with the native population.

Continue reading “Captured LV Allentown – The Island [Review]”