Organized Play CEO Ryan Dancey, who recently resigned from the GAMA board of directors (see 'GAMA Governance Crisis') has released this public statement on his actions. Dancey declined to answer questions from ICv2, saying, 'At this time, I'm not going to make any further public comments about the situation:'
To the Hobby Gaming Community:
My recent resignation from the GAMA Board has created a firestorm of controversy, with many accusations being expressed in public and private forums which are not based on a full understanding of the issues involved. Some of those comments are based on intentional distortions of the facts by individuals pushing a personal and political agenda. My intention in resigning my Board position was to create a firewall for the Board so that this issue could be taken off the table and the Board could focus on the important, immediate work it has undertaken. Unfortunately, some individuals in the gaming community have refused to let the matter rest and are unwilling to move forward in a constructive manner. I am thus compelled to make the following statement.
To begin, let me set the record straight. I did not 'hack' into GAMA's email system. I simply went to a public website and read it.
I took this action because certain individuals acted repeatedly to control information regarding GAMA, its plans, its processes and its membership. They took these actions for purely political reasons - to protect their own positions, to advance their own agendas, and to make it as difficult as possible to mount an effective campaign against those agendas.
Late last year, I became aware though discussions with many industry insiders that GAMA was working on a revision to its bylaws, and to a reorganization of the ORIGINS Awards. The limited information that was available pointed towards a series of decisions that I felt were likely to seriously undermine GAMA as an effective organization, and the ORIGINS Awards as a viable recognition of industry excellence.
Immediately following the elections, I notified the Board that GAMA's email lists were not secure. I did so without being prompted, and of my own volition.
In my opinion, the industry only has one shot at an umbrella organization like GAMA. If GAMA fails, and the ORIGINS Awards fail with it, a dozen individuals will create separate trade associations and Awards programs, each with different charters and objectives, and each will aggregate a small, vocal minority of participants and none will ever be as successful or have as much chance for future success as GAMA does today.
To me, the actions of the old Board represented a serious and immediate threat to GAMA - the clear and present danger that their revisions would splinter the community irrevocably.
Members of the old Board were using their positions and their power to control the flow of information that was reaching the stakeholders in GAMA - including the Full Voting Members. Much of the business of GAMA was conducted by the Executive Committee, and often by a subset of that committee, and few if any of those meetings were documented nor were the results formalized and presented to the full Board. Certain members of the old Board insisted on closed debate sessions out of the public view on key matters such as the bylaws revision. Those Board members bound the rest of the Board to confidentiality requirements that are onerous and limit the ability of the Board to communicate effectively with the membership and the public at large. They attempted to limit access to GAMA meetings by barring non Full Voting Members from them. They threatened to sue Board members and Staff (and former Staff) members who spoke out in public. At least one letter was sent on the letterhead of GAMA's lawyer, threatening litigation, to at least one former staff member regarding comments made by that person in public about GAMA's plans and policies.
Insider control of GAMA's information created a very unfair playing field. Those people who stood opposed to those changes, of which there were many, could not debate or engage the Board in a process that was likely to address their concerns because they were not even able to determine exactly what the proposed changes would be or how they would be carried out, nor were any forums permitted where such debate could be held in an open and transparent manner.
When the Board finally moved forward with their bylaws proposal they attempted to use procedural powers vested in them by the Bylaws to call a 'snap vote' with less than a month of review by the Full Voting Members. They intended to call that vote via email, without any public meeting to discuss the proposal, and without any chance for opposition to present a fair case against the proposal.
When the revised ORIGINS Award process was announced shortly thereafter, we learned that the Chair of the Academy was changing the Awards from a process that had a blended vote between the public and the professionals in the Academy to a parallel set of Awards, one for the public, and one for the Academy. This change was undertaken without consultation or review by the Full Voting Members, and was announced publicly as a fait accompli. Because the entire process was kept out of public view and the decision on the process was made in the dark, nobody had time to react to stop the implementation of that plan, despite its obvious and fatal flaws.
That is the situation I found myself in late January and early February: Kept, like all of us, in the dark. Aware that significant actions were being taken to the direct detriment of GAMA and that those actions were being taken swiftly and in such a manner as to reduce the potential to rally effective opposition to essentially no chance.
It was about this time when I determined that GAMA's list servers were hosted by a system that had a public web interface. By going to the website, ANYONE could view the list traffic. There was no 'hacking' or 'breaking in' to the list. I went to a public web site and read it.
Over the next several months as I monitored those web pages, I watched in some horror as members of the Board who attempted to stop the process were shouted down, while defamatory and slanderous statements were made about myself and my friends and colleagues, and while members of the old Board continued to use their powers to keep the stakeholders from acquiring key information needed for informed dialog. This included such basic information as the names and contact information of the voters who would determine the results of the upcoming elections.
I also watched as certain members of the board went on unproductive and ultimately futile witch hunts, threatening litigation against various individuals for actions real and imagined. One member of the old Board used sophisticated computer data recovery tools on GAMA office equipment to locate and retrieve the deleted instant messenger logs of at least one departed GAMA staff member, then distributed those logs in an effort to discredit the individuals involved. The personal email systems, on GAMA office equipment, of departed employees was reviewed as well in a search for incriminating messages and certainly to determine what information those departed employees were sharing with others.
These efforts, wasteful in time, money and resources, created a climate of fear where many individuals both within and without GAMA felt that they could not speak out or take action without taking the risk of being sued, losing their employment, or being subjected to public and private harassment.
During this time, none of the information I gathered from the GAMA lists was directly shared with any 3rd party. I was able to second, third, and fourth source all the material I wrote and distributed about this conflict. My sources included public comments, discussions with the people involved, and commentary made by various Board and Staff members in private and semi-private forums where I am a participant.
It goes without saying that no significant material fact I wrote or discussed regarding GAMA was false. In the weeks since my resignation, despite hundreds of emails, web discussion group posts and telephone calls, no significant material fact presented by myself regarding GAMA, its policies, its actions or the back-room politics it engaged in has been discredited by any credible source. The efforts of a small number of people to use my actions to discredit the current Board are predicated on the hope that the community does not recognize the real fundamental truth of the matter: That some of those people engaged in a protracted, pre-meditated, activist effort to control GAMA and its future against the wishes and the input of GAMA's stakeholders. That I played a small role in revealing that truth has angered these people beyond apparent reason.
A strong and effective opposition did form to the policies advocated by the Old Board. That opposition came from all tiers of the industry. It was based on a cross-section of stakeholders and was and is representative in the best sense of the word. The actions of that opposition were sufficient to ensure that the old Board was removed and a new vision for GAMA was implemented. That slate of candidates was directly supported by two serving Board members with significantly more access to GAMA's internal communications than I did, and both are honorable and diligent professionals who would never have allowed false statements to be used to advance the cause, nor would either have knowingly allowed confidential or privileged information to be shared with the public.
Nothing that I did or said during this period can detract from the fact that a slate of committed volunteers stepped forward when their industry needed them and has offered to give of themselves time, money, effort, attention and resources to make the gaming community a better place to do business and a better hobby for our customers. The new Board deserves your support.
I believe in GAMA and GAMA's mission passionately. I believe that GAMA represents the best possible way to act as an industry united. The Trade Show, ORIGINS and the ORIGINS Awards are a foundation on which can be built important future projects like effective market research and industry representation in future matters of litigation and legislation. I believe that our industry without GAMA will be much worse off.
I acted out of an extreme sense that immediate, irreparable harm was likely to be caused to GAMA, and that without a way to anticipate and counter those actions, the whole cause could and would have been lost. I did not use any information I gained to purposefully hurt any person or to realize any financial gain. I did not repost even the most inflammatory parts of the information from those lists, even though it would have certainly of resulted in public embarrassment to many people and created the potential for litigation involving GAMA and its staff or management despite the potential to substantially advance the cause for which I was publicly advocating.
I did not lie to any person at any time about the situation. Had I been asked by GAMA how and under what circumstances I was able to divine their policies and processes despite their attempts at keeping their policies of secrecy in place, I would have told them exactly how I came to possess that information.
When it became obvious that this issue had even the smallest risk of marginalizing GAMA, I resigned my position without protest and on my own volition, and I remain committed to GAMA and to the industry as a whole.
Ryan S. Dancey
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.