I've steered clear of the controversy surrounding the OGL, which I'm sure, if you're reading this blog, you will have heard of.
This is mainly because I haven't made up my mind about it. I feel sorry for publishers who have relied on the continued existence of the OGL for their business model, but on the other hand, evil faceless megacorporations are going to evil faceless megacorporation, and CEOs and Presidents owe a duty to the board to maximise shareholder value. Wizards of the Coast didn't create the OGL in the first place in the interests of 'the hobby' or because they were nice guys. They did it in the interests of being more profitable. They evidently think that there are other ways of being yet more profitable (though I understand there may be a bit of a tactical retreat taking place). Complaining about their behaviour now is a bit like the proverbial frog complaining about stung by the scorpion.
In summary - Wizards have behaved very badly, but nobody should let corporate PR and a commitment to CSR lull them into a false sense of security about what companies are. As a rule, Wizards - in common with lots of modern consumer-facing businesses - works hard to make itself appear fluffy, caring, and welcoming. It does this not because it actually is, but purely because it sees an advantage in doing so. It seems incredible to me that people don't get this, but then again suspicion of capital has largely disappeared from left discourse in recent decades, and hasn't existed on the right really sine the 1960s, so perhaps I shouldn't be all that surprised.
The thing that should send you running shrieking for your life from WotC-D&D is not really its OGL-related shenanigans but the way it talks about its customers. What worried me about Cynthia Williams' statement about D&D's 'undermonetarization' was not that she wants to monetize it (that's her job) but that she dressed up her ambitions for WotC as being to 'serve [customers] by giving them more ways to express their fandom'.
Not giving them more ways to express themselves, you'll note, or to express their creativity - or even, which would be perfectly laudable ambitions, giving them more ways to play, more worlds to explore, more options - and certainly not giving them better value for money (how quaint). No: better ways to express their fandom. The implication is clear; WotC does not want customers who merely buy D&D and then play it. It, like many companies, wants fans who identify with the brand in the same way that fans identify with a sports team - uncritically, irrationally, and loyally. It wants people who see 'being a D&D fan' as part of their identity. And, by extension, it wants as its customers people who see spending money on WotC products itself as an expression of who they are. It doesn't want to serve you by making products you'll enjoy. It wants to 'serve you' by convincing you that spending money on its products is a way of being who you are.
This, I submit, ought to be intolerable to human adults who value their agency, and in its own way, writ large across the consumer sphere as it nowadays is, it poses almost as significant a threat to our collective humanity as do developments in AI. Your identity is not a commodity, and should not be expressed through the commodities you buy. If Marxist critique ever had any overriding point of value to make, and it surely did, then it was surely that. Yet many, many people seem to have arrived at the position that there is absolutely nothing wrong with idea that it is so.
Once again I find myself lamenting the strange death of the 1990s nerd - the counter-cultural nerd, the unruly nerd, the nerd holding out what I once called 'the possibility and promise of non-conformity with consumer capitalism'. What happened to that nerd? I find them very difficult to find.
*[I am currently running a Kickstarter for the 2nd edition of Yoon-Suin, the renowned campaign toolbox for fantasy games. You can back it here.]