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What We Do with our Shadows

The following is a commentary by D20NN Managing Editor Chase Erwin.

This week, the Twitch channel and Discord community known as Variant Roles announced its dissolution. Various members of that community have now gone on record about situations that could be deemed toxic, discriminatory, and more - akin to a #MeToo movement, for lack of a better descriptor.


In the days since, I have seen many messages expressing dread of opening up their social media feeds, YouTube channel comments, and Discord servers for fear of what terrible thing they're going to see about members of a community they thought they could trust.

It's hard to be diplomatic about these kinds of revelations. There's collateral damage on all sides. Creators, leaders, members, fans - everyone gets hurt.


As Twitter user @saevrick said on Sunday, "I worry about getting close to people... with the wave of shadows that have descended on the overall community lately."


I am no saint. I have made mistakes, personally and professionally. I have in the past, and will do so in the future. Those mistakes, however minor, major, or unintentional, have led me to lose friends, confidantes, and even jobs that I thought I could count on throughout my life. It leaves a hole. It leaves a gap. It affects your sense of safety and how you perceive others.


When someone does wrong, the first instinct most people have is to shun that person and those who were close to them, creating a virtual exclusion zone around the center of the issue. I've seen from other people's interactions on social media that this kind of response can be just as toxic.


On the other side - I have seen many times how incidents I wasn't even aware of take their toll on others, and this is one of those times. People are scared, angry, in disbelief, and don't know what to do next. They don't know how to react or what to think.


Remember that this disillusionment, this disappointment is not restricted to the TTRPG community. It's inherent in every community, every fandom, every locality and every populace.


The important thing we can all do is learn. We learn from the disappointments and we strive to do better. We deal with the shadows rather than cower from them. And we wait.


This anecdote won't "fix" the Variant Roles ordeal. It won't erase what's happened. Some people won't understand or change their behaviors. And the only thing we can do is understand that.


Eventually the light returns, perhaps at a new angle, and the shadows fade. They'll always come back, just as daylight rises and falls, but we can always find within ourselves the ability to deal with the shadows again.


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