John Ward Out as GAMA Executive Director

The Game Manufacturers Association announced it will not renew Executive Director John Ward’s contract. An August 24 press release says:

The Board of Directors of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has passed a motion electing not to renew the current employment contract of its Executive Director, John Ward.

John Ward has served GAMA in the Executive Director role for ten years. He led the organization through a difficult time by building its annual events — the Origins Game Fair and GAMA Trade Show — and retiring its debt. The Board thanks John for his service and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.

This is a non-renewal, not an immediate termination, and Ward will be around to assist the transition to new leadership:

…An Executive Director job description and call for applicants will be posted on the website when the board is ready to consider applicants. The board encourages all enthusiastic, qualified candidates to apply. The board also thanks the outgoing Executive Director for agreeing to help during the transition period.

GAMA runs Origins Game Fair. John Ward first made news at File 770 on May 14 when he withdrew the event’s invitation for Larry Correia to be one of its guests of honor: “Origins Game Fair Drops Larry Correia as Guest”.

…Shortly after publicizing that Correia had been added to the lineup, John Ward, the event’s Executive Director, received so many negative social media comments (on Twitter, particularly) that he announced Correia’s invitation has been rescinded….

This elicited an enormous negative reaction among Correia fans on social media, including people who might otherwise have approved anyone with the kind of background Ward brought to the job. A press release about his hiring in 2009 stated:

…Professionally, Ward has extensive experience in the military and in state government. Ward is a retired Army officer with over 23 years of combined service in the military police and engineer corps. His military experience has provided him opportunities to deploy to Europe, Central America, Korea, and the Persian Gulf for the first Gulf War.

Ward also has over 20 years of government service in the criminal justice field, most recently in the juvenile system as the state of Ohio’s Bureau Chief of Parole and then Bureau Chief of Community Facilities….

The Correia matter was just one of the challenges Ward faced this year. Harassment allegations by one participant against another about an experience during the Origins Game Fair received wide coverage. Polygon’s story covered responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

GAMA’s official statement said in part:

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

A Google search did not find any more news about how the harassment allegations are being handled.

[Thanks to airboy for the story.]

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6 thoughts on “John Ward Out as GAMA Executive Director

  1. I’ve asked the wargamers about this and nobody knew the answer.

    What decision was made about the harassment complaint at Origins? Was the accused individual ever banned from future Origins events? The charges disgusted many of the wargamers and the individual making the complaints is well known in gaming circles.

  2. The fact that they’re keeping schtum about the harassment suggests that’s the cause behind it. There are a LOT more people who are anti-harassment than are pro-Larry.

    Accusations or settlements about harassment seem to be the reason du jour for otherwise inexplicable executive departures. If there was an out of court settlement with a gag order on everyone, this is exactly the result you’d see.

    It’s only been a couple of months; if the investigation is still going on, but looks well-founded (or growing), this is also exactly the result you’d see.

    Saving face for all by allowing him to finish the contract, but not asking him back.

  3. There are a lot more plausible reasons for Mr. Ward’s contract not being renewed that an attendee at a big convention being harassed and the resolution to that complaint (if there was a resolution) not being made public.

    1] The registration system for Origins has been horribly screwed up every year for years. This makes thousands mad – especially those running events.
    2] The current President of GAMA was kicked out of Gencon for not showing his badge and being rude to security.
    3] Membership in GAMA is reportedly down and attendance at the trade show events (not Origins) are reportedly down.

    I know first-hand about the registration problems. I read several news report about the GAMA President getting his badge yanked at Gencon. I also know some GAMA members for point #3.

    I’m not saying the Origins harassment complaint is unimportant. What happened according to accounts was very bad. I’ve been asking about the resolution to what happened but I’ve never heard anything. But this is not a situation where Mr. Ward was involved in the harassment or condoned it.

  4. @Lurkertype: keeping schtum

    My, you do read widely. Despite phonemes, that’s not even in Leo Rosten. And yet, language enrichment comes from lots of places. And thus we are improved. (Hey, I’d have said ‘omertà’, but appreciate the contribution.)

  5. I came across this from a GAMA board member, in which he very carefully avoids saying why Ward was not kept on. He does say that Ward was appointed ten years ago in very different circumstances:

    I wasn’t on the GAMA board ten years ago when John Ward was hired as its Executive Director. Many people, some of whom were intimately involved in the hiring process, some of whom were on the board at the time, many of whom were acquainted with the state of GAMA at that time, have assured me that John Ward was the best candidate for the position of ED when GAMA faced existential crises of finances and responsible organization. I believe them.

    It’s been suggested that because John was the right person for that job, ten years ago, he must therefore still be the right person for the current job. There’s a logical disconnect there. The right person to turn a company around is not necessarily the right person to envision its future. The right person to fight a war is not necessarily the right person to rebuild the landscape. And so on. The skill sets are different.

    Circumstances change, and GAMA’s have changed. The change is largely thanks to John Ward. The board gives him credit for what he’s done and applauds what he’s accomplished. So make no mistake: I thank John Ward for the hard work he’s done for GAMA. At the same time, I believe that a new voice and skill set would be better to lead GAMA for the next ten years.

    He also talks about wanting to see GAMA expand towards being something that sounds to me more like SFWA in terms of member services and industry leadership.
    So it sounds like he thinks that Ward may have been necessary to right the ship ten years ago, but he’s not the person to take on a further transformation.

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