Members of The Game Manufacturers Association have expelled The Gaming Goat Games and its CEO, Jeff Bergren, from attending this year’s Origins Game Fair citing several violations of its code of conduct regarding harassment of convention attendees.
GAMA executive director John Stacy released a statement on September 23rd explaining the decision. “We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. Convention participants reported or caught violating this policy may be expelled without refund at the discretion of show management,” Stacy wrote.
“Based on numerous instances brought to the attention of the GAMA organization, including on the GAMA Member Facebook page, the Board has determined that the actions of both Jeff Bergren and TGG-Games are in violation of this code of conduct and they have been expelled from the show as an exhibitor.”
Origins Game Fair is one of the larger US-based tabletop events, hosted by GAMA and designed to serve the playing community. After cancelling 2020’s online equivalent following backlash over its silence regarding the Black Lives Matter protests and accountability from the Black community, this year’s dates were postponed from the usual mid-June slot in Columbus, Ohio to the end of September.
Bergren has a notorious reputation among tabletop community members, who cite a litany of instances in which they say he mocked other designers, companies and games - often on his Facebook page. BoardGameGeek user Michael Sewall has been curating a post with links to what he describes as “examples of offensive or problematic behaviour”. The screenshots reference several posts now either deleted or archived and show Bergren casually mocking Black Lives Matter protests, making tasteless jokes about pronouns and disparaging a store owner for reportedly removing him from Facebook retail groups.
Additionally, The Gaming Goat’s website once hosted a page titled “Kickstarter Publishers Who Didn’t Deliver” with a list of companies the board game retailer seemingly didn’t enjoy dealing with and an official statement regarding what it calls “the extremism movement” in which Bergren writes, “Under no circumstances, will we accept the terms of irrational cancellation culture, to be a determining factor in our business dealings.”
Both Bergren and TGG came under further scrutiny during the Kickstarter campaign for a rerelease of Tournament Fishing: the Deck Building Game, which launched on September 7th. The community railed against the inclusion of what seemed to be white nationalist imagery on the campaign’s page, prompting Bergren to first mock the notion then deflect and dissemble in now-deleted posts on his Facebook page. The fallout of this included several publishers and designers - LudiCreations, Artem Safarov and Side Room Games among them - cutting ties and denouncing the company’s actions.
GAMA Statement on expelling Jeff Bergren and TGG-Games from Origins Game Fair 2021— The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) (@TheGAMAOnline) September 23, 2021
We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Convention participants reported or caught violating this policy may be expelled without refund at the discretion of show management.
Gen Con’s customer service manager Mike Boozer said on September 15th that Bergren would not be attending the 2021 convention, though The Gaming Goat would still have a presence on the show floor. Boozer declined to explain the decision but mentioned that the organisation “take[s] our anti-harassment policies seriously.” As reported by Board Game Quest, Bergren claimed the same day that Gen Con security escorted him from the convention without explanation.
BoardGameGeek banned both Bergren and Tournament Fishing designer Greg Mahler’s accounts on the website, and at least one store in The Gaming Goat’s network of physical franchise game stores has left. Chris Cobb, owner of what was formerly called The Gaming Goat Austin, announced on September 16th that it would be going independent and changing its name to Tanuki Games. Cobb does not mention any specific reasons for the move, saying only that he has “ never truly felt that the corporate side of this business shared the personality and values of our store, staff, and community.”
Dicebreaker has reached out to GAMA for more information regarding its decision and will update this piece with any new information.