Atonement

In response to yesterday’s Stonemaier Games’ declaration of action against racial injustice and inequality, a screenshot of a blog post I wrote in 2013 about my Roomba vacuum cleaner has been circulated. The post, like a handful of others I wrote when I was younger, is embarrassingly misogynistic, and the Roomba post in particular includes a racially insensitive name for the robot.

I am deeply ashamed of these immature and offensive posts. Over the last few years, whenever I’ve stumbled upon a post I regret or one has been brought to my attention, I’ve deleted it (I honestly don’t remember when I deleted the 2013 Roomba post—it may have been months or years ago). I was wrong to write them in the first place, and I wish I’d never said or even thought such juvenile things. I cannot change the fact that they did exist nor can I fix the harm they caused, but I have learned from them, and I can continue to do so.

There may be doubt as to whether the same person who wrote a racially insensitive blog post can be sincere about a declaration of action against racial injustice and inequality. You are right to doubt that. You are right to hold me accountable for the things I’ve said and done in the past. There is no excuse for my behavior, and I’m sorry for it.

However, the Stonemaier Games declaration of action is genuine. Given the importance of addressing racial inequality and injustice, I truly hope that my past actions will not distract from the greater cause. I’ve learned so much recently and I want to be a part of the solution. The proof will be in the effort I put forward, both in terms of the declaration and in my journey away from misogyny. If you don’t see action or growth, contact me. Send me an email or a comment on my blog. Keep me accountable, just as I will hold myself accountable.

I will make mistakes again. There will be mistakes from my past that arise still. I’ve led an open life through my blog over the last 13+ years, and I hope the evolution of the posts on it are evidence that I’m growing, maturing, and improving. I cannot defend statements and actions that misogynize, demean, hurt, hate, or harm, but I can strive to better love my fellow human beings every day.


29 Responses to “Atonement”

  1. Toni Hiltunen says:

    Well i am really shamed that i have to read this post. I am very tired of these witch hunts that really don’t achieve anything but misery.

    Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE. This has been done 7 years ago. Once. This is not pattern of racism.

    Hope things calm enough that people can truly start making things better. For EVERYONE!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Toni: I appreciate the sentiment of your comment, and I agree that most people have probably said or done something (probably multiple things) that they wish they could take back. I do need to take ownership of my mistakes, though, and say that while the Roomba post was 7 years ago, I also shared a story just last week about something racially insensitive I did when I was 18. While I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally hurt or excluded someone due to the color of their skin, and I am not a racist, I am sure those are not the only two times that I was racially insensitive, inconsiderate, or offensive. I own that, and I take responsibility for my past mistakes and my future growth.

      • Toni Hiltunen says:

        Yes, understandable. It just felt bit unfair as you and your team made such deeply thought thing with BLM related stuff.

        I mean you really did concrete stuff and not just talked pretty things and threw money.

  2. Jamey, the problem here is that the haters really do want to hate. Context matters. If people didn’t hate on the post when you wrote it, it meant that we were all living in a different zeitgeist back then. Does that make it correct? Of course not, but we’re all learning that we did and said insensitive stuff back then. What’s important is that we are all trying to do better now.

    Well almost all of us…

    Anybody that trawls through the past for the sole purpose of shaming people, is not someone worthy of your apology. They are mean people that want to attack others to build up their cache by virtue-signaling. They are not doing anybody any favours by doing this. They are not saving anyone’s feelings, in fact, by resurfacing things like this they are putting it back out for the purpose of hurt.

    And here’s the thing. This apology, it’s going to fall on deaf ears, they are not going to decide that you’re a nice guy after all – because they don’t actually want change. They attack you for editing old posts that you now see are incorrect, this behavior that should be applauded – and would be if they actually cared about making the world better. They don’t.

    Anybody that has paid even the smallest amount of real attention to you over the past few years will, like me, have a real sense of your true character and what an upstanding gentleman you are. I’m frankly disgusted by the hobby at times like this – you should be too. You can’t though as the cancel-culture brigade just want to destroy.

    The more you apologize for this though the worse it will get. Sometimes it’s better to ignore the vocal minority.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this – truly.

    Rich…!
    @richmulholland

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Richard: Thanks for your comment. I should note that one of the reasons I wrote this was to inform, as the screenshot being shared does not include the date of the Roomba post (January 7, 2013, to be exact). I think the date is relevant.

      I certainly hope I’ve exhibited a sense of growth and character over the years, and I think the evidence is in this blog, my Stonemaier Games blog, and my actions. However, I still make mistakes all the time. I’ve react poorly to things. I’ve gotten defensive. And so on. Basically, there’s plenty of fuel for people who’ve decided they don’t want to like me. I don’t like the “me” who wrote the Roomba post either.

      At the end of the day, I have to live with myself and what I’ve done, whether or not I’m called out in the public eye. I’m harder on myself than anyone else will ever be. I want to be better and love better, and sometimes I need to put that in writing.

    • Candy Mercer says:

      Richard, your analysis is spot on. I am from Olympia, and yeah, Evergreen.

      I am working on an essay called, working title, Why I am Not Afraid of Big Brother Anymore But Little Comrade terrifies me. They can make you lose all. I watched Bret Weinstein be made to leave Olympia for his own safety. All based on an imaginary dragon and delusion a the college.

      This is horrifying. Proud leftists bragging on turning people in to censors and doxxing them…why in my day! I went to a radical school, UB and studied under radicals, they would not believe the actions of Little Comrade.

      Please all of you, study the Cultural Revolution, watch the Evergreen story, and do not allow this to happen. We are the trendsetter of the country. I thought this was fringe, here…its spread like crazy in 2020,

      Our pleasant little Olympia Bubble has morphed into a repressive dome straight out of a bad YA novel. It is dangerous.

  3. Candy Mercer says:

    The mob will come for you no matter your history or your future. You have committed a crime, or not, it can only be the mob thinks you did. This is a very slippery slope we are on, and is not helpful. I was naive enough to think COVID was powerful enough to also wipe out cancel culture. Wrong.

    I am trying to have grace about your anti-racist efforts, but in the interest of weighing competing claims I wish you would base your effort on more than skin color…including say disability and its cousin low income. I will say, I tried not to, but I did feel a sting that you opened up all these opportunities that are also not available to me, and making a preference based just on skin alone, not need, desire, service etc. I recoil not because I am racist, but because I am seeing how divisive and dangerous this segregation can become, pitting one group against another for scarce resources…I know you mean well, and I hope you take my words w the love for you I intend in them.

    I also had an idea for your program…what about helping sponsor big buddies to little gamers…so that there is a cross cultural component, where each person could learn from the other and the little gamer could get support. You could not make it official due to liability and admin, but it could be an expansion of the ambassador program…having people go into schools and teach games. I did this for awhile with Pictionary, and it was the highlight of my week. Supporting game libraries in low income schools would be a tangible way to offer support without attaching color specifically, and being unintentionally divisive.

    PS A note: most artists are most gratified when you engage with their work because it touches them. It can be insulting to appreciate art based on identity alone. I would not like if people liked me, or bought my art solely because I was disabled. That is pity, and it makes an artist question their self worth. You should support voices who are struggling to get heard, but selecting people, again solely on color, is not a sign of respect, it is nothing short of noblesse oblige.

  4. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Candy: Thank you for your insights–I really appreciate it, especially from a long-time reader.

    I do want to say unequivocally that our efforts aren’t limited to anyone. Yes, we’re making a concerted effort to uplift black, indigenous, and people of color. But it would be against our core principles to leave behind or exclude anyone or to judge anyone’s art or work based on their race, gender, creed, etc. If anything, this effort is a reminder that we need to seek out and include others, especially those who are marginalized.

    I would love to support buddy programs and libraries at low income schools (the latter of which we’ve done in the past through educator discounts, but that’s no longer necessary since we’ll simply be donating games to those in need).

    • Candy Mercer says:

      Thank you for clarifying Jamie, I know you have a tremendous record of doing solids. I wanted to point out some counterperspectives that you may not have considered. I have been studying these dynamics for a while due to how it has affected my hometown, and like it or not there is backlash and counter reactions. I was shocked to even notice it in myself, as that reaction is really rare, I am of the in general support all. This is also partially informed by witnessing and growing up in Buffalo during forced desegregation and busing, and how though the progress was needed, the way in which it was carried out was a problem. They finally solved it with magnet schools which were a win for everyone.

      Thank you for all you do. You are a mentor to all. The lack of grace lately is stunning.

      I think you will survive Roomba, but people are having their entire careers ruined. One case I spoke out on was “ladies lingerie” in which those TWO WORDS shook a woman so much she had the guy excommunicated from his professional society. This man was a FREEDOM RIDER and married to a gender studies professor. Those two words were evidence of his corruption. SHE read the sexual intent, he was simply doing the hammy joke about elevator operators that we grew up with. And look at JK Rowling, if she was not who she was, she would be ruined. She would never get published again under her own name.

      • Candy Mercer says:

        Examining my reaction further, as I note this is a rare reaction from me.

        I think:

        a/being able to attend a con is a dream of mine and completely out of reach due to finances. it would be hard on my health, but it would also benefit my health.

        b/i would derive such great benefits and joy from the con, it would be an investment in me

        c/i would be a good rep at the con for the business and in general. i would help out, be a good person, do what i can to contribute to a welcoming community, and would find ways to pay it forward

        d/the intense need to be around my tribe of gamers is very acute right now. i have not been playing much, and actually hoping to use rolling realms as a starting point to get back in. i love gamers and so miss them.

        so I guess, i just wanted to clarify, and point out there is nothing about race in my calculus, and desire and sting…it is just the pure feeling of not being included in a group that you are so wanting to be a part of, so well played sir, well played 😉

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Candy: We’d love to help, especially given your longstanding connection to Stonemaier Games. Please let me know when the next opportunity arises (considering the current state of conventions).

          • Candy Mercer says:

            Wow, thank you, I was not asking or expecting, just wanting to dissect my reaction. Thank you. Just knowing that is really nice. I don’t think being an Ambassador should get you special treatment per se, but I do represent well, and consistently, and this is why. And it is why you are able to attract quality people into the Ambassador program.

            And this is they type of decency we should all aspire to, and just make our daily practice, and without getting culty, I think the Ambassadors do that very well, as do most gamers in general.

            Yeah we have our over minority of over entitled people, and our sore losers, but I have seen nothing but generosity and acceptance both locally and on the geek on the whole. I have never felt excluded in gaming despite being a single older woman who is not gaming because of her partner (and perhaps yes, as noted this is why this stung??).

            People meet me as a human, and respect my play at the table, and that spirit of fair play is what we need more of in the world. Gaming has so much to teach people about ethics, manners, math, problem solving, resilience, theory of mind, reading…its the total package wrapped up in fun. It is hard not to evangelize on these points!

            PS. I do not think I commented on this one, but the post that made me feel really good is how you were looking at fair ways to compensate your creative partners. THAT hit me hard, in such a solid way as there is so much abuse and lowballing in the creative field.

          • Allegan says:

            This is a bummer to read because Candy’s views seem to be taking away from the current messaging and make it a selfish pursuit. Disappointing to see you weskrn your message.

            • Jamey Stegmaier says:

              Allegan: I don’t see it that way, but I respect your opinion. Our mission to actively support BIPOC people is not weakened by our support of other marginalized people too. Our focus right now is still to create a very strong, lasting foundation to lift up BIPOC people. Since you seem passionate about this too, would you like to be involved in this process?

        • Candy Mercer says:

          I did learn a bit of a lesson, I dont think I was racism, but I felt that sting of exclusion that so many do feel. that thought is sticking with me. inclusion is something i do take for granted in some ways, and in some ways not, as I am being excommunicated from my community, and have felt the pain of broken relationships intensely, just because my thinking is more nuanced and balanced and because i question, and strive for intellectual honesty in my work. for that, i am being actively hated. it hurts, but i really try to have the strength of character to let it not be personal, and affect my conception of self.

          one more reason it stung

          like or not you have a close emotional relationship with your fans. you have built this intentionally but as i am sure you have experienced it can also have a dark side, and puts a lot of pressure on you. i think the sting also came from the closeness i feel to the company.

          this experience is causing reflection in me, and I do have to thank you for that. this was quite an unexpected plot twist, but this is how growth happens, sometimes when you least expect it.

        • Candy Mercer says:

          and one last one, not to belabor, but to truly look honestly at my reaction…

          yours was like the 5th or 6th such email in my inbox, each working to outdo one another…Panda Express, etc etc etc…Each suddenly seeing the light and making all of these gestures…my cynicism comes from my years of activism…and to me alot of these are not reading as sincere on some level…like if you really cared, you would improve wages etc. So I think there was some general frustration from that, which spilled over onto my reaction with you. I felt your ally post was really well done, and made very clear, and then…my cynicism took hold, and I think I doubted you. And that is not fair.

          I am a product of my climate, and I see in Olympia how businesses and people are basically being extorted…like if you do not have a BLM sign in your business, even if you support the movement, if the sign is not up you are a target.

          What I am seeing really scares me. Boyce put up a video today of someone who is tracking theatres, not only the quality of their statements, but the time it took to put it out etc. Basically they are creating blacklists, which is forcing speech and apologies. The forced quality really bothers me on so many levels.

          Thank you again for holding a space for us to be humble and honest without getting shamed. I can post some of this on FB and again I get the hate, the education, the mocking, and it has made me somewhat reactive on this area. We HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TALK THESE THINGS OUT…in this instance me being able to think out loud was really productive for me to figure out my resentment.

          I really did learn, I am not just lip service here to get a con scholarship. We have to be able to make mistakes, and we have to (re?) learn forgiveness, grace, and the ability to disagree in good faith. We have to put the person before their ideas. Right now the tribe is making people cut off relationships based on the flimsiest of pretenses.

          I personally am trying very very hard to not have problems with ideas and their expression, and only removing people who have a pattern of behaving badly, people that brag about turning my friends into FB for example. Whatever my friend says, it is not as dangerous as censoring it.

          And with Roomba, I think it will be a blip, but in the hands of the right mob, Stonemaier could be ruined, and I do feel protective of you.

          Take care, and I think I have said enough, and will try to make this my last post unless something warrants a reply. My intent was not to center my experience as being overly important, but to try to articulate a POV that I see bubbling up, and to be an example of positive accountability.

  5. Richard De Angelis says:

    I’ll make this quick. Thank you for continuing to serve as an example of ethical and accountable leadership.

  6. Tiffany Schmidt says:

    Thank you for saying this.

    One of the proofs that someone really has changed is the way they choose to apologize. It takes courage to admit when we were wrong, to accept that our actions caused pain, and to invite accountability.

    It’s so easy to leap to defending ourselves, or to point fingers back and blame someone else for their response.

    Past actions matter. Actions today matter, too. And choosing to apologize now, in this way, underlines to me how much you meant what you said in the declaration of action. I hope that it’s reassuring for people who were nervous, and and comforting for anyone who was hurt by previous words.

    And it’s a good reminder to me what a useful apology looks like – it’s something we could all get better at, me included.

    So thank you!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Tiffany: I really appreciate you chiming in. I think my post today is even toned down from how ashamed I am with myself. I look back on things I said, did, and wrote all the time and wonder, “How was that me?” Usually there’s years of separation in those retrospectives, but I make mistakes all the time–sometimes it’s weeks, days, or hours.

      But it was me, and I’m sorry. I know my actions caused pain to friends and strangers alike, probably more than I’ll ever know. I’m glad that people like you will give me an true opportunity to atone, and I understand it’s conditional on me actually being better tomorrow than I was yesterday, just as I’m more mature today than I was in 2013. Thank you for that opportunity.

  7. Matt Hayes says:

    Hi Jamey,

    I’ve been a silent appreciator of your work for some time now, and never felt the need to comment on your invaluable KS lessons. Now, however, I feel you deserve a message of support.

    The concept of atonement isn’t in fashion these days – but without it, there can be no personal growth and no brighter collective future. Had your 2013 post been ten times worse than it was, you would *still* deserve the chance to redeem yourself through subsequent words and actions.

    It’s a fact – not an opinion – that people can learn from their mistakes. That fact informs some of our best art; Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is a powerful example.

    Frankly, I’m disturbed at how quick some people are to actively assume the worst in others. As you continue along your very normal human journey of moral growth, I hope you know there are many people who will fully support you in that – rather than write you off from their ever-dwindling list of unblemished humans who never made a mistake.

    Kia kaha as they say in my parts, and if you ever want to chat more privately about this feel free to reach out!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Matt: I appreciate you speaking up and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the chance for redemption and growth. And if you find that list of unblemished humans who’ve never made a mistake, let me know–I’d like to meet them! 🙂

  8. Daniel Wattier says:

    Jamey, I appreciate your transparency and heart on this matter. I’ve been following you and your company for a few years now, and with every video I watch and blog I read, I’m more convinced that you are one of the most genuinely kind and caring public figures/influencers I’m aware of. I particularly appreciated your slow thoughtful response to recent events in a world where, it seems, a lot of folks are acting very reactively on both sides.

    In the very polarized environment right now, I think those who were genuinely interested in your apology will be satisfied by it; those who aren’t satisfied likely weren’t interested in it from the start, rather some other ulterior motives.

    Your reputation speaks for itself, thanks for being a great example of humility and generosity.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for your comment, Daniel. I appreciate you taking my entire body of work into consideration. I’m responsible for everything I post, but it is hard to be judged by a few mistakes and missteps among the thousands of other posts and videos I’ve made.

  9. MK says:

    Hei Jamey

    As others, I feel that your post shows a lot of growth. Whether it is enough for everyone….well, I feel it is more important that YOU think it is enough.

    If possible, I would suggest you use some of the money in general diversity, not just BIPOC. My son is starting to play games and we have a hard time finding characters that he can identify with (he is of asian origin). If you can, make sure to add diverse characters in future games you make.

    Please, do not take this as a complaint. I know it is very easy to criticize from the outside (as I type this, I realized I am asking you to do things about your donation money when….I have not donated anything in a long time. I am now off to fix that).

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks MK! As far as I know–or, at least in the way I’m viewing it–Asian people are included in the “people of color” portion of “BIPOC,” so they’re covered under this statement (and are represented well in recent products like Tapestry and Euphoria: Ignorance Is Bliss).

  10. MK says:

    Glad to hear that.

    My son is a bit young for Tapestry/Euphoria (and tbh for my little Scythe as well)…but I look forward to playing those games with him.

    For now we are playing simpler games (like ticket to ride first journey).

  11. Orianna says:

    I think that this is the most earnest post I have seen. Honestly, I dropped off because of a similar post. Your Halloween costume something or other which alluded to Guantanamo. To the people that say we are out of line, I kindly and humbly say that this is a movement long overdue. We are now at the table. I don’t care what others think regarding how we got here. History is the best witness and teacher. I am expatting right now and people in Mexico were still shocked about recent events. I paraphrase Will Smith, things are just up close and personal. Buena suerte. #blm #latinlivesmatter #lgbtqaally

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thank you, Orianna. I appreciate the opportunity to grow, mature, and move forward to a better future.

Leave a Reply