The number of comments left on last week's essay tells me that plenty of people are as interested in this topic as I am.
One of the people who offered his thoughts was Will Mistretta. Will posted a fuller response on his own blog, "It's OK; Gary Sent Us." I don't mean to pick on Mr. Mistretta, because I think he raised some interesting points. I'd like to borrow a few of them as jumping-off points for today.
But I guess two things come to mind:
1. 4E's reception and marketplace performance are completely, 110% WotC's responsibility (or fault, if you don't feel like being charitable). The audience did not do the product a disservice by not being willing to overlook its lack of quality and fidelity to the D&D tradition. Rather, it's the product that let the audience down.
2. One man's "hooliganism" or "attacking" is another's "honest, passionate disagreement" or "sincere attempt at dialog/debate."
I don't believe in attacking players of a particular game, either. But is that really a that common a problem, or are some defensive fans engaging in the classic geek fallacy of equating criticism of their hobbies to criticism of their persons?
I take no issue with the first part of point 1. D&D is WotC's product, and its success or failure in the market is wholly WotC's responsibility. If bad word-of-mouth becomes a problem, it's up to WotC to counteract that with positive marketing. That effort was only partly successful with 4E, but it imparted some important lessons that will be invaluable in the D&D Next playtest and rollout. (History, of course, is filled with examples of lessons that were obsolete by the time their teachings were brought into play.)
As to the second part of point 1, whether 4E lacked "quality and fidelity to the D&D tradition" or "let the audience down," those are subjective evaluations. Clearly a lot of people feel that way. I don't begrudge them their opinion, and no one else should, either. I like some editions better than others, too. There are a few RPGs that I passively dislike, meaning that they don't appeal to me and I have no interest in playing them. There are none that I actively dislike, meaning that I revile them, consider them a knife in the gut, or think the world would be a better place if they'd never been published. No game--not even an international soccer match--merits a riot, whether it's in the streets or on your computer. I nearly added a YMMV at the end of that statement, but thought better of it; it should stand as an absolute.
"Passionate disagreement" is where we get into really interesting ground. I've read many variations of this argument: "The intensity of my response is just a reflection of my passion, and that passion should be appreciated by others." Let me rephrase it the way it plays in my head: "It's OK for me to be offensive and antagonistic, because I'm angry." To which I respond, "no, it's not OK."
As a fellow reader of an online forum, I'm not the source of your anger, but you're making me its target. If D&D Xe doesn't live up to your expectations, that isn't the fault of Conan_the_Beerbarian, HedgeGizzard, or Drizzt129 up to Drizzt953. Even if your fellow forumgoers and tweeters disagree with your opinion, that doesn't make them the cause of your frustration. Once that's acknowledged, it should be obvious that treating fellow roleplayers as if they are the problem won't get you anywhere.
If you're angry at Wizards of the Coast, then let them know. Call or send an email to customer service; the phone number and address are on the website. Send a tweet to the publisher, make a comment on their Facebook page, or even post in one of their forums about your dissatisfaction; social media are gaining validity as avenues for customer feedback, as long as the feedback is directed properly.
Just don't turn your disappointment with a product or your anger toward a publisher against fellow D&D players. That's where the line needs to be drawn.
Humans yearn to belong to groups. We identify ourselves by the groups we belong to; we congregate and take on the collective aspects of the group by dressing alike, talking alike, eating and drinking alike, watching the same TV shows, listening to the same music. We also define ourselves by the groups we're aligned against: mods vs. rockers; Coke vs. Pepsi; dog lovers vs. cat fanciers; Mac vs. PC; Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Most people will look at that list and think, "eh, so what. Nothing's wrong with some good-natured rivalry and ribbing." Such pairings seem innocuous to most of us, but every group includes a strident minority that wants nothing to do with members of the opposite party. Who gains from that situation? Dog lovers and cat fanciers have more in common as pet owners than they have in conflict. How much is lost when D&D players vs. D&D players winds up on that list?
I'll close by reiterating the two key points from my previous post. I support spirited debate, even argument, about the pluses and minuses of different games and editions. But when spirited debate crosses into malicious flaming and trolling, it tears us all down and harms the hobby as a whole. No publisher or game makes people act like jerks. The fans who engage in that sort of behavior are responsible for its negative effect and should be held to account for it by the rest of the community.