In a previous developer journal entry, I wrote: “Trolls are bad-faith time-wasters and emotional parasites. The only way to win is to not play, which serves to cut you off from nice people, which isn’t a win at all.” Today I want to discuss the importance of acting in good faith, as a game designer, small business owner, and human being.
I want to apologize in advance if this entry is boring. I’m attempting to be informative, rather than entertaining. While it’s easy to assume that people already know these things, as you’ll shortly see some people either don’t know or don’t care.
What is Good Faith?
Good faith means you have a sincere intention to be open, honest, and fair. It’s an important concept in both law and business. When you’re dealing with contracts, you rely on the fact that both parties will act in good faith and follow the terms of said contract. If you don’t, people tend to stop doing business with you.
Social media is rife with people arguing in bad faith. They have no intention of changing their mind and don’t care about the facts. The agenda is never to learn but to “win” either by coercing the other person to agree or getting them to quit. It’s always a Pyrrhic victory, a cheap endorphin hit at best. To quote Mary Wollstonecraft, “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.” (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792.)
An aspiring game designer asked what seemed to be a sincere question on Twitter. DriveThruRPG has a clause in their contract that requires a publisher to charge the same price across all platforms. Aside from sales, which run for a limited time, you can’t charge one price on DriveThru and another on Amazon, Itch, or any other outlet. They wanted to know if this violated laws against establishing monopolies, as it’s effectively a form of price control.
Their argument was that if DriveThru takes 35%, and Itch takes 20%, it would only be fair to allow publishers to charge 15% more on DriveThru to compensate for their cut*. After all, different stores have different prices for the same goods. If you go to Amazon, Walmart, and Target you will find the same items for wildly different prices.
The logic behind DriveThru’s clause is simple. If you charge a lower price somewhere else, customers will be inclined to buy somewhere else. It costs them business. That’s not a monopolistic practice intended to keep you from doing business elsewhere. It falls under numerous precedents for maintaining a competitive marketplace. In fact, it’s the same principle that allows Amazon, Walmart, Target, et.al. to negotiate for those different price points.
For my efforts, I was mocked and called a “DTRPG stan” by the original poster and their friends. When I said I was just trying to provide a straightforward answer to their question, they replied “Ah but you see, I’m not arguing in good faith.” They just wanted to complain. At that point, I deleted my tweets and blocked the people participating in the threat.
Acting in Good Faith
This is where I start to sound like a stuffy old man. I know that this hobby is filled with game designers that have made a lot of money by being edgelords and bad boys. Inevitably they end up getting banned from social media, and no one will carry their products. Then they and their fans complain about “censorship”, I term they understand about as much as they grasp what a monopoly is. Try to act in good faith by introducing facts and logic, and you get harassed out of the conversation.
Acting in good faith is about building trust. You want to attract new customers and retain existing ones. You want to be appealing to business partners, including wholesalers, retailers, banks, accountants, lawyers, and anyone else you may need to rely on in the future. It comes down to professionalism. If you want to earn a living in this publishing niche, you need to behave like a professional. To grow a business beyond your circle of friends, you need to establish yourself a credible. That requires acting in good faith.
People frequently email me to ask questions about publishing, game design, and business in general. Most people are polite and professional about it. I’m happy to answer them as I have time. My days of answering questions posed on Twitter are over, though. I’m done walking into troll traps. It cuts me off from nice people asking in good faith, but I’m not to blame for that.
*Itch taking 20% is meant to be a selling point for publishers; you keep a higher margin. The idea of charging more on DriveThru misses the point. I kept that to myself, along with the issues I have with their contract terms.