BasedCon 2023 Becomes the Culture Wars Battlefield of Its Dreams

Two days ago Id Software co-founder and former Oculus VR CTO John Carmack told his 1 million Twitter followers that he’d be attending Rob Kroese’s BasedCon again this year as a guest. When he was at BasedCon last year it flew under the radar, but gaming news outlet PC Gamer has turned this week’s announcement into a major story: “Doom co-creator John Carmack is headlining a ‘toxic and proud’ sci-fi convention that rails against ‘woke propaganda'”.

… Carmack is known for having something of a libertarian bent—he recently defended the idea of self-made billionaires (opens in new tab), for instance—and has never seemed particularly concerned about his public image. And he gets a lot of slack, because he’s a little weird and he made Doom and Quake. But headlining an event like this is a step too far for a lot of his followers on social media….

The pushback is typified by Alastair McBain’s tweet: “You literally made a game about shooting fascists but I guess now that they’re heading a con it’s totally excusable.”

And that’s the way BasedCon in its third year has finally struck the publicity goldmine Rob Kroese was always looking for. Because you can’t be an important right-winger if nobody is complaining about you. File 770 merely teased about the original announcement of the event in its 2021 post “BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees”. That was enough to inspire Kroese to run this meme on the BasedCon 2022 home page for months.

On the convention website Kroese explains what “based” means to him and why his con has that name.

Why “BasedCon”?

Rob Kroese

In internet parlance, “based” means something like “in touch with reality.” Based behavior is the opposite of social justice activism, which is about meaningless virtue signaling and beating up strawmen. Some based beliefs include:

  • Men cannot give birth
  • Guns don’t kill people; people kill people
  • A fetus is a human being
  • Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried
  • Discriminating against white people is racism

BasedCon isn’t about pushing any particular ideology, but honest conversations have to start with a shared understanding of reality. If you think people with a certain skin color can’t be racist or you expect people to use made-up pronouns when talking about you, you may want to do a reality check before coming to BasedCon.

The BasedCon “About” page also devotes several paragraphs to the now-familiar “lost cause” genre narrative, for example —

Sci-fi cons used to be a lot of fun. They were places where people of all colors and creeds could get together to talk and learn about science fiction and fantasy books, games, movies, and TV shows. Then, starting a few years ago, things changed. Cons became increasingly dominated by a small clique of authoritarian jerks who made them into venues for pushing social justice dogma and, in the name of “inclusiveness,” shut down any opinions that didn’t align with progressive orthodoxy. You may remember the Sad Puppies saga, which culminated in WorldCon voters selecting “No Award” in several categories of the Hugo Awards rather than reward people outside their tribe…

Of course, after today’s coverage on myriad game industry websites, Kroese claims sympathizers are making his cash register ring.

In contrast, John Carmack, who initially spoke only about what fun he had last year at BasedCon, has written a long and defensive response to the criticism he’s receiving and now claims he really “felt a little uncomfortable” a year ago.

Meanwhile, other right-wing sff writers are loath to see this publicity bonanza wasted on Kroese alone. Within hours Jon Del Arroz had produced a video about it to help sell his comics: “WOKE Journalist Tries To Cancel DOOM Creator For Attending ‘Non-Woke’ Sci-Fi Convention!”.