Update January 20th, 13:52PM EST:
On the Ion Game Design discord, Phil Ecklund has made a formal reply to questions surrounding the removal of his essays and footnotes from Ion Game Design games.
"I have it in writing from the CEO, Besime Uyanik, that my intellectual property is solely my own and my games will be produced under the same standards of excellence as they have for 40 years. All rules, footnotes, essays, & commentary will be continue to be published on the Wikipedia principle: anybody can comment on living rules for any factual, logical, clarity, grammar, or consistency issue, which if found meritorious will appear in the next publication. I will be solely responsible for the content. If economically possible, an assistant may help me with verification of the intellectual content. To date every word in every SMG game is a fact within the limits of my knowledge, although the rules themselves are but simulations of reality. No intimidation tactics attempted against any employee of Ion Game Design will be tolerated and may result in legal action if they constitute libel, harassment, discrimination, or defamation of character. This includes “cancel culture” tactics: those who promote their political agenda by resorting to widely disseminated slurs, obscenities, or lies while forestalling debate on the actual content. Besime has assured me that this workplace is harassment & discrimination-free, and my intellectual property is my own. I want to personally commend Besime Uyanik and Jon Manker, founders of Ion Game Design, for their honesty and integrity, and of course for giving me the resources and intellectual freedom to produce games of unequalled excellence that are still breaking new ground in the gaming community. My contract with Ion specifies that any game authored by me is remains my own intellectual property and as such reflect my values, and not necessarily those of other Ion Game Design employees. To repeat, I and I alone stand personally accountable for the intellectual content of my games, unless abridged for reasons of economy. My games are art that recreates reality reflecting my own personal artistic values."
Additionally, Ion Game Design updated their blog post, now dated January 19th, 2020, to make minor adjustments such as removing references to the removal of essays, the rewording of the section about footnotes, and the addition of a foreword.
As of right now, Ion Game Designs' policy is unclear. We have contacted the company for clarification.
Original Story Follows
Ion Game Designs is the owner of Sierra Madre Games, and publishes 'educational' board games that are 'historically and scientifically based' under that label, that are primarily designed by Phil Ecklund. Ecklund's essays have proven controversial in the past, but in the wake of fan uproar about Ecklund's COVID-19 comments, Ion Game Design create a blog post on January 18th officially stating the future games will contain no essays, but that purely factual footnotes would still appear once peer-reviewed by experts.
While we will honor our contractual obligations regarding game design work by Phil Eklund, we will not continue to publish essays or non-factual footnotes in our printed or living rules. We issue the following official statement: pic.twitter.com/CuEaHMeAkV— Ion Game Design (@IonGameDesign) January 17, 2021
Ion Game Design's Original Response
This response from Ion Game Design has not been 100% clear on some points. Originally two people involved at Ion, CEO Besime Uyanik and Lead Game Designer Jon Maker, released statements, but these were quickly taken down.
Since then, Ion has responded to questions about the situation on Twitter without making it clear whether reprints of Ecklund's games will still feature the essays, and rulebooks that still contain them remain on the Ion website, with the essays.
In response to being distanced by Ion and the uproar online, Phil Ecklund posted to his public Facebook page, decrying "cancel culture" and defending his essay in Pax EmancepationI, with many of the comments on Facebook expressed sympathy for his situation.
Phil Ecklund's Essay History
Despite the pandemic comments seeming to be the final trigger, Ecklund's work has received criticism for years over accusations of promoting climate change denial, and favoring colonialism. Even as far back as the original American Megafauna in 1997, Ecklund's work contained critique of the concept of man-made climate change.
The 2015 edition of Pax Pamir also featured an essay entitled "A defense of British colonialism." which prompted considerable backlash online when the Game Brain podcast bought Ecklund to the public attention again.
The situation came to a head when Ecklund posted anti-COVID-19 lockdown sentiments to his public Facebook page on January 9th. These comments were then mirrored by users on Twitter, prompting the responses from Ion Game Design.