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.

This November: Compete in the ER Champ

The ER Champ will be back this November as an international online escape room competition.

2021 ER Champ logo with a trophy and a padlock.

Details

  • Sign up in teams of 2-4 players
  • Participation is free
  • Games are point-and-click style
  • The qualification stage takes place on November 13
  • The top 100 teams in qualification advance to the finale on November 27
  • Hosted by Lock.me, based in Poland, where this event originated in 2017

About Escape Room Competition

Escape rooms did not originate as competitive games. Their transition into competitive formats isn’t always easy. We discuss that a bit in this piece about the EGOlympics. And we dive into this more deeply with Ken Hoang on Season 2, Episode 4 of the Reality Escape Pod.

This event, however, is designed to be a competition… So bring your A-team. There will be some fierce competitors from around the world in the mix.

Should I Play?

This event is designed for escape room enthusiasts.

If you like to race through games and set records, this is probably your type of event.

If you prefer to savor the details of your experiences, you probably won’t enjoy this as much.

Of note, this year’s competition is best suited to players who enjoy point-and-click games.

To learn more and sign up, visit ER Champ.

Lisa & David on the New No Proscenium Podcast

Our friends over at No Proscenium have relaunched their podcast with a new NPR-esque format.

No Proscenium's purple "NP" logo.

The new structure is a series of edited segments covering different parts of the immersive world, and you can catch our updates on the escape room world at 00:12:43.

Anyone who has listened to REPOD knows how much I like tight editing, so I am very excited. You should check it out.

Please Help: Looking For Our Long, Lost, Rich, & Eccentric Uncle

Hello Internet,

It has been a long year and as I reflect back upon it, I feel strongly that it would have been a much better year if we were fabulously wealthy.

Alas, that isn’t the case… but I am hoping that you can help us solve this little problem.

Since 2014, we have been rigorously training for a particular scenario:

“Our long lost uncle has passed away. His will detailed that we are entitled to his fortune if we can solve a series of puzzles in his quirky abode within 60 minutes.”

Lots of gold bullion

We are so ready for this challenge. We are a finely tuned Wealthy Eccentric Uncle Puzzle Solving Machine®. However we are still missing said uncle. If experience has taught us anything, he is in fact out there.

Please help us find him. We’d like to get to know him a bit before he passes and we earn his estate.

Gratefully yours,

David & Lisa

Neil Patrick Harris’ Box One Now Available Worldwide

Update 6/15/21: If you enjoyed Box One, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Neil Patrick Harris on The Reality Escape Pod.

We loved Box One. This tabletop escape game, designed for a solo player, stood out with its narrative development and how it subverted expectations.

Worldwide Distribution

Since we published a glowing review of Box One in November, we’ve heard from numerous readers overseas asking how to purchase their copy.

Great new, international readers, Box One is now available worldwide!

Hand holding a gold Box One challenge coin over the game's box art.

Should I Buy?

Yes, at least, according to the REA Hivemind.

Box One feels like a watershed moment in tabletop puzzle experience design.” – David Spira

“I felt as though I was really playing against the mind of Neil Patrick Harris himself.” – Tammy McLeod

Box One is one of the most ambitious and creative mass-market puzzle offerings I’ve ever played, and I would heartily recommend it to both newbies and expert puzzlers alike.” – Matthew Stein

“You’ll just have to trust me on this one – this game is way more than meets the eye.” – Theresa W

For more of our thoughts on this game, check out our conversation about Box One with Zach and Jared from Puzzling Company in the first part of this recent episode of their podcast.

How to Buy

International purchasers should navigate to www.BoxOneGame.com and click “Buy Game.”

The links to purchase in the United States are below:

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.