GenCon’s Guests of Honor: Unless you’re Margaret Weis, forget it ladies

Oh man. After the response that I got last week, getting ready to write this post feels like walking back into a biker bar and punching someone in the face again. So let me disclaim by saying that my criticisms are in no way intended to dis the people that GenCon DID select as their guests of honor. I don’t know who most of them are, but I’m sure they’re infinitely more awesome than yours truly. Having met Will Hindmarch in the past, I can attest that he not only flies but can shoot lasers out of his eyes while reciting pi to 1000 places. (It’s true! Would I lie to you?) And the other 2011 GenCon Guests of Honor are EVER MORE AWESOME than that, I’m sure.

For those of you who didn’t go, here’s the list of 2011 GoHs:

  • Wolfgang Baur
  • Jeff Neil Bellinger
  • Ryan Dancey
  • Jack Emmert
  • James Ernest
  • Matt Forbeck
  • Mike Gray
  • Will Hindmarch
  • Brian Lewis
  • Gary M. Sarli
  • Stan!
  • Greg Stolze
  • Daniel Solis
  • Margaret Weis
  • Tracy Hickman
  • Jeff Miracola (Artist Guest of Honor)

Even so, I was disappointed when I was flipping through the program to note that of the 16 Guests of Honor, only one GoH – Margaret Weis – is a woman. And I can’t help but ask myself – where are the women?

BUT WUNDERGEEK, I’m sure you’re saying. BUT WUNDERGEEK – GAMING WAS INVENTED BY MANLY MENZ AND THE GUESTS OF HONOR ARE GAMING PIONEERS AND THUS WILL BE MENZ AND NOT WIMMINZ. THAT’S NOT SEXIST, IT’S JUST THE WAY THE GAMING INDUSTRY IS.

And, sure, it’s hard to argue with the facts that the pioneers of the gaming industry were mostly male. Certainly one would expect a convention as large as GenCon to honor early pioneers, and it would be reasonable to expect a roster of Guests of Honor to skew in favor of men because of this. But I think it’s a little disingenuous to claim that a list of “pioneers” would be exclusively male. What, then, of Margaret Weis? Is she an anomaly? Is she the noteworthy exception? Is she the Betsy Ross of the gaming world?

Furthermore, the GenCon GoHs are not just people selected for their role as pioneers in the creation of the modern gaming industry. Some, like Gary M. Sarli and Brian Lewis were honored because of their recent and/or current work for mainstream game/toy companies. Which begs the question, again, where are the women? I’m quite aware of the low numbers of women working in the game industry, but they do exist. The big players like Wizards, Fantasy Flight, Hasbro, etc, can’t be exclusively staffed by men. And unless these companies are hiring women solely on the basis of their looks, it stands to reason that that at least some of the women within those organizations have to be doing work important enough to be recognized by being named a Guest of Honor. (Hell, even if they WERE hiring based on looks, they’d still have to have some stand-out female employees. Let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that hot = dumb.)

Others, like Will Hindmarch, Greg Stolze, and Daniel Solis are writers and designers who have been working in indie RPG design and indie publishing. And if we’re going to open the doors to indie publishers, then the question becomes even harder to ignore. Where are the women? As someone who has dabbled in indie game design, I can tell you that there are A LOT of women doing fantastic work over here in indie game land who are all more than sufficiently awesome to be a GenCon Guest of Honor. Meg Baker, Emily Care Boss, Julie Bond Ellingboe, Elizabeth Shoemaker, Willow Palacek, Giulia Barbano – these are just women I can think of off the top of my head who would be good GoH choices, and just for indie RPG design. I know that there just have to be women working in other areas of gaming that I don’t participate in who are equally excellent in their own areas.

And if we’re going to include artists as possible Guests of Honor, then – DUDE, WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? There are a lot of fantastic male artists out there, sure. But I saw tons of women in this year’s art show whose art just knocked my socks off. If you’re going to pay someone’s way to GenCon, why not pay Sarah Frary, whose art totally and completely rocks my world? Or Stephanie Pui Mun Law, whose art has been a mainstay in the fantasy world for many years, even if her usual subjects are stereotyped as “female”. I’m not saying that OMG JEFF MIRACOLA SUX, here. I’m just saying, man. There are so many female artists whose stuff is just as good.

It makes me sad because a convention as large and as venerable can be seen as affirming the status quo of a male-dominated games industry. Even worse, it seems to lend credence to the idea that women just aren’t doing work worth honoring in the games industry, which isn’t true – though there are (I’m sure) plenty of people who would like to believe that’s the case so that they can continue to justify the sexism that runs rampant in game marketing and development.

Now I don’t think that any of this was intentional or malicious on the part of the GenCon organizers. But the problem is that gaming is a subculture that is steeped in sexism; being inclusive of women is something that takes effort and conscious thought. I’m sure they didn’t consciously decide to exclude women – it’s just a side effect of the fact that the gaming industry tends not to pay attention to those parts of gaming that women do get involved with. (Seriously, watch what happens in almost any gaming forum when the subject of casual gaming comes up and people rush to proclaim that casual gamers aren’t “real” gamers.)

The few women that do get attention are those who have become SO AWESOME that they simply can’t be ignored, like Margaret Weis. And even then, much as I think Margaret Weis is a badly needed role model, how much of her fame is due to being half of the Dragonlance Chronicles, rather than – at least in my opinion – the far more interesting game design work she’s done on her own post-Dragonlance?

I guess it goes without saying, but this is something I’m hoping to see the GenCon organizers work on improving for the future. Yes having a more balanced roster of Guests of Honor takes more work, but it’s something worth doing. GenCon has made noises about wanting to be more inclusive, and choosing to include more women in the lists of Guests of Honor would go a long way toward putting their money where their mouth is.

About wundergeek
In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

68 Responses to GenCon’s Guests of Honor: Unless you’re Margaret Weis, forget it ladies

  1. I don’t know if the author cares, but I keep coming back because of the high quality of her writing. I could not care less about sexism in gaming or selling to women but her way with words is both heart felt and hilarious.

    • Hazmat Sam says:

      See, I’m the opposite. Wundergeek’s never actually made me laugh and her taste is… suspect, but she’s one of the only people complaining about sexualized art that is a professional artist. For someone that hated that shit already but didn’t have any technical knowledge, that alone makes this more than valuable enough to give me strenght to continue after the occasional ‘Girls like Farmville! We Should make games more like Farmville so girls will play them!’ patronizing. I mean, the fact that she had to actually defend herself against people attacking her for besmirching the honour of pixels because she demonstrated were designed to fit the visual “slut” archetype shows how badly we need her.

      • Honestly I think sexism in games is a insanely low priority, but I do love her writing.

        • That’s like saying that sexism in movies is a low priority. Games are a huge, culture-shaping (and culture-reflecting) industry now.

          It’s easy for dudes like you and me to ignore the impact of sexism and misogyny, just roll our eyes at the booth elves and dominatrices and damsels in distress, and move on to the stuff we actually care about. Not so easy when you’re a chick.

          For comparison, as a Jew, I find the fascist obsession in gaming cons really offputting. Not just the Nazi stuff, though there’s sure plenty of that, but the real, root Fascist stuff. I’ve gotten lots and lots of excuses about why it’s OK, but that doesn’t mean it’s not callous to the inheritors of the shitty end of those symbols.

  2. Everbright says:

    Fuck the haters! I love reading posts from someone else who gets just how annoying most of life is when you have to deal with sexism. Keep it up, Wundergeek!

    RE: ‘Real gamers’ – some people regaurd folk who olny play call of duty as Not real gamers, but just dude-bro idiots. I think dividing the culture like this is ridiculous. If you like playing pen-and- paper RPGs, any of the new card game/board games coming out, causal games, or BIg Console games, YOU’RE A GAMER!

  3. Wilma Jansen says:

    I feel incredibly stupid, but I always thought Tracy Hickman was a woman. Thinking back, at least two friends I’ve discussed the Dragonlance books with referred to both authors as female (how is Tracy not a female name?!). I’m actually quite disappointed now. The Dragonlance books were never really my favourites, but I thought ‘a duo of female authors has written a wildly popular series, even if it’s not my taste’. I repeat, I feel really stupid.
    I agree with you that they probably didn’t exclude women on purpose, but the fact that you can have a list of 15 men and 1 woman and no one at the top says ‘people, this is just weird, we’ve got to get this closer to the 8/8 mark’ speaks volumes about sexism in the industry.

  4. knotty says:

    [Deleted]

  5. Jaclyn says:

    @knotty: According to Google, Tracy is a man.

    However, I’d like to point out, WG, that getting certain people as con guests isn’t easy, like you said in the last paragraph of this post. Not sure if you’re aware of the process, but it’s not really just a matter of shooting out an email and having the person show up. Sometimes it can be a monetary concern for the convention but I don’t suspect that’d be an issue with Gencon. Most guests don’t exactly come to conventions for free. After all, they have to cover travel, hotels, food, etc.

    Other times, the guest might not be able to come out because they have other obligations or the convention is too far away for their willingness to travel. Of course, there’s also the fact that not everyone in these industries attends conventions.

    Lastly, it could also be fan demand. Conventions look for guests they know are going to attract people to their conventions to see, and who even the veteran attendees would want to see.

    All of these taken into consideration, and the fact that the gaming industry is a male-dominated world, the probability of seeing female guests at a gaming convention are slim.

    If Gencon or any other con ends up with all male GoHs, well, tough luck. You’re always free to go to a convention’s forums and ask about a certain guest for next year and see if you get enough responses from other forum members and maybe the con will make it happen. A blog post, however, is more of a passive aggressive option…

    • Jesse Coombs says:

      So women can’t travel? I don’t understand.

      • Jaclyn says:

        No, I wasn’t saying women can’t travel, I was saying that not everyone, be they male or female, can travel, and with the sheer ratio of males to females in the gaming world, especially the popular people within that culture, you’re far, -far- more likely to be able to get male attendees.

        I… don’t think I was unclear about that at all, nor did I indicate in any way that when talking about con guest recruitment processes I was only implying females.

        • jessecoombs says:

          Cool. I just don’t understand the cost or the travel factors when they relate to choosing a man over a woman as a guest of honor or a panelist.

          This:
          “Lastly, it could also be fan demand. Conventions look for guests they know are going to attract people to their conventions to see, and who even the veteran attendees would want to see.”
          I totally understand.
          I would hope that convention-making people would take a few more chances with lesser-known people to get more women to become better-known. I hope that makes sense.

    • It’s definitely true that getting your hands on Guests of Honor is a arduous task for a convention, but when you end up with 15/16 GoH’s being male? Over and over again? The chances that women are the ones who keep calling in sick or having other plans (though it’s not like they’re at other conventions, apparently) is just implausible. It is one potential explanation for this particular situation, sure, but it doesn’t legitimize the trends within the community/industry.

      Also, saying a blog post is “passive aggressive” is like saying op-ed news articles are passive aggressive. If she put up a post that didn’t directly address the con, or didn’t allow comments, or didn’t have her name on it, *that* would be passive-aggressive. This isn’t.

      -C

    • Sunny says:

      Your response to everything seems to be “Oh well, too bad, stop whining” — I don’t understand why you’re here if all of your comments are complaining about the author writing a blog ON HER BLOG.

    • Nonny says:

      Okay, here’s the thing. Anytime something like this comes up, people cite the specific instance and the myriad of reasons why xyz is reasonable, because abc might have happened, etc.

      That’s… really not the point, though. The point is that overall, this is a common occurrence. If we didn’t frequently see women being underrepresented, it wouldn’t be something to point out and comment upon. But it’s commonplace. If it was really just this one con at this one time that had more men GoHs than women, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s the status quo. That’s why people are making a fuss about it. Because things don’t change if we don’t.

  6. Pollak says:

    I’ve never been one to advocate for the classification of gamers but I’m really starting to believe that maybe it needs to be done since gaming is so broad. Just like there are different classifications of athletes, journalists, writers, etc. why not gamers? However the dumb “casual” and “hardcore” classifications need to go. For what? I don’t know.

    OT: I was going to email you this but due to a fail on my part I couldn’t find your wordpress profile :( So I know you’re a big fan of Mass Effect and recently Bioware had a fan vote to pick the Femshep to be used in marketing and the box art. The results of said vote have stirred quite a bit of controversy from the design that won (Death to Blonde Shepard) to the vote itself (Femshep Shouldn’t Need Your Approval, Why the Mass Effect 3 Femshep Vote Was the Wrong Move). What are your thoughts on it?

    Sorry if I made a mess of those links as I am unsure how to add them in wordpress comments.

    • Hazmat Sam says:

      ” However the dumb “casual” and “hardcore” classifications need to go.”

      It’s fine, we just need another definition:

      Casual: A player that has the most fun playing simple games. Is ignored by the industry because they don’t care about gamer “culutre”, but mostly because they spend maybe five dollars at most on games. Actively dislikes blatant sex appeal in games; considers it deviant. Ranges from Famville “players” at worst to Angry Birds players at best.

      Harcore: A player that has the most fun playing at the highest level of skill.Since higher skill can only come from better games, (when was the last time you heard of a Checkers Grandmaster?) they demand more complex games, (not the same as complicated, keep in mind) and are thus also ignored by the industry in favor of Gamers who have less demanding tastes. Doesn’t care about sex appeal either way unless it’s perceived to be detrimental to the game. (Ex: Soul Calibur 4) Examples are Insomnia.ac, RPGCodex, and Soryuken, to get you started.

      Gamer: A person whose greatest pleasure is being a Gamer, that is to say, being part of the culture. Attending PR events like E3, arguing over which character has the best ass, circle-jerking about how game X is totally art (instead of whether game X is a good game) claiming game X has a better story than Shakepseare, and then making game X fanworks anyway for maximum narcissism, having idiotic arguments on the internet about whether Sony or Mirosoft are “gay”, and constantly seeking validation from artistic mediums on the faulty premise that “mere”games are inferior to art.

      An easy way to remember using the Touhou Projet as an example: A person that bombs-dies-contunes-bombs etc. is a casual. A person that strives for 1CCs on Lunatic difficulty is a hardcore. A person that has never played a single game and draws Flandre Scarlet guro doujins is a Gamer. I hope that cleared it up.

      • depizan says:

        Okay, what about the not insignificant number of people who don’t fit any of those three categories? Do we just call them “people who play games”?

        • Hazmat Sam says:

          So, you mean someone that neither plays for relaxation, skill testing, or as a tribal marker? I’m not sure what other ways you could have fun with video games; can you elaborate?

          • depizan says:

            If those are your intended categories, I think you need to re-write the descriptions. Though I’m not sure I’d say “relaxation” is quite the right word for what casual MMO players are doing. And you’re still missing people who play games for the storyline.

            But then people are far more complicated than stereotypes.

            • Hazmat Sam says:

              “And you’re still missing people who play games for the storyline.”

              That’s covered by “Gamers” as those are people that don’t derive pleasure from acutal play, and thus are in it entirely for the sign value. (otherwise they’d just read books or watch movies which have better narratives out of the nature of the mediums)

              “But then people are far more complicated than stereotypes.”

              All types are simply useful stereotypes for the same reason all science is ultimately useful fictions, (even so-called hard sciences like physics. Point Particles, anywone?)

              I mean, we know that people play games. That doesn’t really tell us anything. Why people play games, on the other hand, no that’s useful, but sicne every person plays for a unique reason, abstracting similar ones is necessary if we want to say anything meaningful.

              • depizan says:

                Then I’m afraid your vitriol completely obscured what you meant “Gamers” to represent. Though I’m not at all sure why you consider playing a game for the storyline to be a) worthy of derision and b) not actually playing the game. There’s also the fact that many people play for multiple reasons – they might pick up a game because the story looks interesting, the art is good, and they’ve heard it’s challenging. You seem very dismissive of people who play games for any reason but as a skill test, and, it seems as skill test alone. That isn’t actually saying anything meaningful, except that you like what you like and dislike everything else.

                There are more useful ways to talk about why people play games, if the intent is for the game industry to do a better job responding to them. The Bartle Test might be aimed at MMO players (who still don’t seem to fit your categories, especially the casual ones), but something similar could probably be developed to discuss games in general. That might actually give useful data.

              • Lawrence says:

                I think it was discussed here already but I agree with Sam on this: game has to be a test of skill otherwise is not really a game. Playing video game for a story is pretty much like reading a book because glossy paper feels nice or playing chess because our opponent shares interesting stories during play. Saying this I have absolutely no problem with people playing games for stories or art or whatever reasons they want and I absolutely see nothing wrong with it and worth condemnation. Still it wouldn’t hurt if people actually understand what game means even if they later decide not to play it but do something completely different with it.

              • tekanji says:

                Lawrence said:

                I think it was discussed here already but I agree with Sam on this: game has to be a test of skill otherwise is not really a game.

                Sorry, but that is just not true. As someone who has played games since before she could hold a controller or shuffle a deck, has studied the subject for several years, designed and built various types of games (both tabletop and electronic), and is entering the game industry, I can tell you with 100% certainty that being a “test of skill” is not a prerequisite for defining a game. There are plenty of games (including the widely known Snakes and Ladders) that rely on luck alone.

                But I don’t expect you to take me on my word on it. Here’s the definition of what’s called the classic game model (as defined by Jesper Juul in the book half-real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds):

                According to this model, a game is
                1. a rule based formal system;
                2. with variable and quantifiable outcomes;
                3. where different outcomes are assigned different values;
                4. where the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome;
                5. the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome;
                6. and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.

                In the same book, Juul lists seven other definitions of what a game is, starting with Johan Huizinga in 1950 and ending with Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman in 2004. These definitions include concepts such as playing a game being removed from “real” life but still captivating the player’s interest, promoting the formation of social groupings, governed by rules, a system in which there is opposition, a system with rules in order to promote a quantifiable outcome, including factors such as conflict and safety.

                In none of those definitions is the word “skill” used, nor is the concept relevant to the definition of what a “game is”. Skill is merely one tool at a game designer’s disposal (and one that I think modern mainstream video game designers rely entirely too heavily on). Other tools include luck, strategy, and storytelling. Well designed games will often incorporate two or more of these and other tools in order to make an enjoyable, immersive experience, but they are not required to do so in order to be seen of as “games”.

              • Hazmat Sam says:

                Oh, god, Half-Real? Seriously? Alex Kierkegaard refuted that nonsense more than a year ago.

      • Ikkin says:

        Can you please stop blaming fandom on everything that’s wrong with gaming?

        Yes, fandom can be rather… extreme in its excesses. But a whole lot of good stuff comes out of it, too, and there’s nothing inherently wrong about building communities around games the same way communities are built around books and movies.

        I mean, look at where you are. Do you really think there’s a single person here (other than yourself, perhaps) who isn’t interested in gamer culture? As terrifying as fandom can be at times, lumping everyone who’s part of it in with the Rule 34-obsessed fringe takes lots of good people with it. =/

        • Hazmat Sam says:

          Do note that 90% of that definition had nothing to do with rule 34, I just used Touhou because it’s one of the only series that has a relatively even measure of those groups of fans for easy contrast. (Do note that word; anyone that plays a game and enjoys it is a fan, so it’s impossible to hate the concept of fandom, but still like anything.) Rule 34 is probably the least annoyign thing about fandoms; I deliberately used the best type of Gamer as a contrast to the others to illuminate the functional difference without obscuring it beneath vitriol.

          Now, as to the worst sort of game culture, well! Where to begin? Luckily Alex Kierkegaard already described it at excruciating length.

          It’s possible to have an interest in the culture (you will note I mocked someone for being indignant for a game media mocking a booth babe for being ignorant of the industry, yes?) without being a Gamer. Recall that my definition is “a person whose greatest pleasure is [...] being part of the culture”. I’d easily forgive anyone caught up in the spectacle of a good PR event, (fuck, even I sperged out about FFg’s Dune retheme when it broke at Gencon!) but the instant people excuse Metal Gear’s terrible design as “Artistic License,” the instant they preorder a game out of brand loyalty, is the instant gaming becomes a quantum worse due to their actions.

          It’s the difference between taking notes from a Diago match on Youtube and watching a blind Let’s Play. Am I being understood?

          • depizan says:

            I deliberately used the best type of Gamer as a contrast to the others to illuminate the functional difference without obscuring it beneath vitriol.

            I think your vitriol leaked through anyway.

            • Hazmat Sam says:

              It’s possible! I suppose “these sort of people have more fun creating derivative works of gameX than playing a good game of gameX” can’t really be defended. For exmaple, take a look at the Organization for Transformative Works. Doesn’t that just make you want to laugh? You can only spin things so far.

              • Ikkin says:

                And now you’re hating on fanfic/fanart for… no good reason, really.

                Laugh as much as you want about “Transformative Works” and the general quality of fanfic, but if you take a step back and think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that many of the greatest works of literature are essentially glorified fanfiction. Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy are derived from the Bible. Many of Shakespeare’s works owe much to existing sources. A significant portion of works of visual art are, too — many of the best sculptures and paintings depict scenes from the Bible, or from Greek or Roman mythology, or other religious sources, or characters from works of literature, or from folklore. Then, consider folklore itself, which exists and evolves due to people telling and retelling and adding things to stories that they’d been told. Consider entire genres, like Arthurian romances, the Cthulhu Mythos, and superhero comics that exist because people enjoy the characters and concepts that are shared between multiple authors. If you’re willing to disregard all of that as useless and laughable, then you can tell me again how creating derivative works is indefensible… though I think you’ll find there will be a lot more resistance to that position.

                (And, yes, yes, I know 90% of fanfic is crud. But that’s what we have Sturgeon’s Law for)

              • Hazmat Sam says:

                You will note that none of those things were derivative works of video games. AA derivative game, like Duo Princess maybe, is laudable, but writing a story about a game will be inevitably terrible for the same reason that movie novelizations are.

              • Ikkin says:

                You will note that none of those things were derivative works of video games. AA derivative game, like Duo Princess maybe, is laudable, but writing a story about a game will be inevitably terrible for the same reason that movie novelizations are.

                Derivative works are different than novelizations, though. All that’s required to make a good derivative work is at least one element that can be drawn from and expanded into a full and complete story.

                Videogames might not be the ideal medium for narrative, but they are quite good at creating characters who the audience can be invested in (due, in large part, to the amount of time and effort you invest in them) and well-realized settings that can be used to tell completely different stories in. It’s not like every part of a game that isn’t mechanical is completely useless and incapable of being used well in a different medium.

          • Ikkin says:

            Do note that 90% of that definition had nothing to do with rule 34, I just used Touhou because it’s one of the only series that has a relatively even measure of those groups of fans for easy contrast. (Do note that word; anyone that plays a game and enjoys it is a fan, so it’s impossible to hate the concept of fandom, but still like anything.) Rule 34 is probably the least annoyign thing about fandoms; I deliberately used the best type of Gamer as a contrast to the others to illuminate the functional difference without obscuring it beneath vitriol.

            If you’re using people who have never played the game and are just in it for the Rule 34 as “the best type of Gamer,” you’re being horribly insulting to… basically everyone. You’re insulting people who identify with gamer culture and actually play games. You’re insulting people who enjoy making fanworks who think the Rule 34 stuff is degrading, perpetuates awful stereotypes, and is thrown around carelessly with little regard for people who don’t want to see it. You’re insulting everyone who has a different opinion than you do on the artistic value of videogames.

            Rule 34 guro doujins are not the best gamer culture has to offer. By suggesting they are, you’re not “illuminating the functional difference without obscuring it beneath vitriol.” You’re just avoiding overt vitriol in favor of comparing people unfavorably to something most of your audience is likely to have a massively negative opinion of. =/

            Now, as to the worst sort of game culture, well! Where to begin? Luckily Alex Kierkegaard already described it at excruciating length.

            Funny. Judging by that link, I’d consider him far worse than what he’s criticizing. That essay is barely readable — not only does he make the absurd assumption that the existence of an “art game” category implies that all other games are not art (?!?), but his inappropriate use of homophobic insults makes his writing simply embarrassing.

            …but the instant people excuse Metal Gear’s terrible design as “Artistic License,” the instant they preorder a game out of brand loyalty, is the instant gaming becomes a quantum worse due to their actions.

            I won’t disagree with the suggestion that people who defend/pay for things that they may not actually enjoy purely out of loyalty to its creators is a bad thing for the industry. (Though I’d argue that most people who preorder do so because they believe that they will enjoy it, rather than out of pure brand loyalty)

            However, you’re still lumping a massive, non-homogenous group of “Gamers” in with the worst of their lot in spite of the fact that most of them have little in common with that fringe.

            It’s the difference between taking notes from a Diago match on Youtube and watching a blind Let’s Play. Am I being understood?

            No, you’re not. I have no idea what you’re even trying to say with that comparison (what’s a “blind Let’s Play?” A “Let’s Play” done by someone who hasn’t played the game before?).

            • Hazmat Sam says:

              “You’re insulting people who identify with gamer culture and actually play games.”

              No, only people that gain more pleasure form the culture than the games. How many times must I repeat this?

              “You’re just avoiding overt vitriol in favor of comparing people unfavorably to something most of your audience is likely to have a massively negative opinion of.”

              Well, they shouldn’t, not near your average kotaku comment thread, at least. Some of those doujins are absolutely beautiful.

              “That essay is barely readable — not only does he make the absurd assumption that the existence of an “art game” category implies that all other games are not art (?!?)”

              It’s not an absurd position. If I call something a strategy game then I am asserting that other games are less strategic, otherwise they would also be strategy games, in additiion to whatever they already are. This is basic stuff.

              “Though I’d argue that most people who preorder do so because they believe that they will enjoy it, rather than out of pure brand loyalty”

              See, that’s still the same thing. Trusting a company to make a good game just because another company told you they would through exclusive previews is no different, and neither is assuming a game will be good because the last one was. (seriously, I preordered Civ 5. My brand loyalty was to PC Gamer for telling me it would be awesome and Firaxis because I empathized with a company.)

              “No, you’re not. I have no idea what you’re even trying to say with that comparison (what’s a “blind Let’s Play?” A “Let’s Play” done by someone who hasn’t played the game before?).”

              Yes, that’s exactly what a blind let’s play is. Not content enough with “Games” that are 40 hour cutscenes, what we have now is the phenomona of people that spend their time watching others play games to completely eliminate interaction, and the kicker is that most of the recorders playing aren’t even any good.So why are the people watching? Not for the story (games will always have worse stories because their primary goal is to be fun, not tell a narrative) but simply because this is what Gamers do. Now do you understand?

          • Lawrence says:

            [Deleted - no insulting other commenters]

          • wundergeek says:

            [This is also derailing]

            • Ikkin says:

              I’m a little confused due to where this is in the comment thread… I don’t want to reply to anything you don’t want me to (and I apologize if I already did before realizing you’d closed off the line of conversation) — are you considering everything starting from Sam’s response to me a derail, or just certain portions of it?

      • Pollak says:

        More often than not I agree with you Sam but in this case I would argue that you aren’t changing the definitions of “casual” and “hardcore”. The problem I have with those definitions is there is still a negative connotation to the “casual” definition which just breeds elitism. I don’t know about you but the elitist gamers are by far, the most annoying gamers out there even though my taste in games is the same as theirs.

        • Hazmat Sam says:

          “The problem I have with those definitions is there is still a negative connotation to the “casual” definition which just breeds elitism.”

          Why? I’ve clearly stated that these people are admirable: they don’t attend covnentions, they don’t fanwank, and they actually play games for fun. Sure, they’re not the best, it to does not degrade them to say that any more than it degrades me to note that Garry Kasparov could probably kick my ass at chess, or that Roger Ebert’s opinion should probably be given more weight than mine in a discussion on movies. (or, more relevantly: AccountingNightmare over me on Action Games)

          “I don’t know about you but the elitist gamers are by far, the most annoying gamers out there even though my taste in games is the same as theirs.”

          I dunno, I’d take David Sirlin on a road trip seven times over an internet rage-quitter.

          • Pollak says:

            I would argue that most gamers, casual or hardcore, play for fun. As for the rest I think I’ll just agree to disagree as I have a long weekend and won’t be around to comment on this matter any further.

  7. Ashardalon says:

    Lisa Stevens is almost always at Gen Con and she’s CEO of PAIZO!

    Paizo is the number #2 RPG company at Gen Con! Of course, I don’t know if Lisa has been offered a Guest of Honor spot and she passed.

    What about Shelly Mazzanoble?

  8. There’s some British woman who wrote a book about a school for wizards or something? Anyway apparently a few people like it.

    • John Beltman says:

      Did that get made into a movie or something? I thought I heard something about that.

  9. Hazmat Sam says:

    I agree with you that women are missing, but I seriously question your choices there. I mean, Breaking the Ice? You want the person that made that to be acclaimed? That game was terrible, and it’s not even the worst one on that list! Could you at least have included Dr. Jenna K. Moran? That woman is a genius whose body shuts down at times because it can’t keep up with her brain, for heaven’s sake! (Seriously. It’s a medical condition that’s why Nobilis 3rd took forever for her to write)
    /Rant

    As to the artists, they seemed pretty average to me, but I trust a trained professional in that field to be a better critic. Maybe the works look better in person or something.

    • jessecoombs says:

      I don’t think Breaking the Ice is terrible.

    • wundergeek says:

      Sam, your opinion is not the same as objective fact. Also, Emily Care Boss has designed games since BTI that are good, well designed games that are also worthy of attention.

      Also, you can’t decry a game designer because of the first game they ever designed.

      • Hazmat Sam says:

        “Sam, your opinion is not the same as objective fact.”
        So, does that mean you’re going to allow me to argue my case this time? Because I recall that you don’t seem to like it when I get into textual or ludic criticism. Either way, you should note that the burden of proof is on you to prove these games are good.

        “Also, Emily Care Boss has designed games since BTI that are good, well designed games that are also worthy of attention.”
        Case in point: “Wundergeek, your opinion is not the same as objective fact.”

        “Also, you can’t decry a game designer because of the first game they ever designed.”

        So, just to be clear, you’re admitting that it’s a bad game right? Otherwise there’s no reason to make this argument, which is “we can’t criticism a person for what they do as long as it’s an early thing they’ve done” Am I reading you right? We rip into William Shakespeare for Titus Andronicus even though his later works were superior. What makes this woman above criticism?

        But okay, let’s put that lunacy behind us and look at her resume and see if she’s improved. There’s two other romance games and I’m not exactly eager to spend money on the last one since, you know, I though Shooting the Moon was an apology for Breaking the Ice, and it was not, so ‘m reluctant to buy the last one (Do note that I am not biased against romance in general; I believe I’ve harped on about Houses of the Blooded, and Bliss Stage is brilliant) Sign in Stranger is screaming “gimmick” at me, but I admit I haven’t played it. So tell me, does it compare favourably to the competition? Say, Shock or Freemarket?

        • wundergeek says:

          You’ll notice that I haven’t deleted your comments that manage to not insult fellow commenters, and that I have deleted comments that do insult other commenters. You were warned, and I’ve been enforcing the no insults rule on “both sides”. If you don’t want your comments deleted, then play nice.

          Shooting the Moon and Under My Skin aren’t “apologies” for BtI. They’re meant to be part of a trilogy of games about human relationships. Each game is meant to tackle the subject of romance through a different lens. As for SiS, it’s innacurate to say that its competition is Shock: and Freemarket, since those games are designed to do different things. SiS is a game that tells story about the alienation and confusion of human settlers trying to live among aliens. It’s a game that tells immigration stories through the lens of sci-fi, not a game where telling sci-fi stories is the focus like with Shock:.

          • Hazmat Sam says:

            “Shooting the Moon and Under My Skin aren’t “apologies” for BtI. They’re meant to be part of a trilogy of games about human relationships”

            I know, and that’s why I was disappointed.

            “SiS is a game that tells story about the alienation and confusion of human settlers trying to live among aliens. It’s a game that tells immigration stories through the lens of sci-fi, not a game where telling sci-fi stories is the focus like with Shock:.”

            …You do know that a huge chunk of SF deals with cultural tensions via alien meaphors, yes? There’s no either/or here; I could do that easily with Shock, not that I’d want to, since using aliens instead of actual minorities is a cop-out.

            But I have a feeling you’ll disagree with me on that too, so let’s just agree that this stupid three-day advertisment needs more female bodes to match the males. I mean, hell, Stolze’s the only one with talent on that panel now, and he’s not done anything decent since Godlike.

        • Grush says:

          It sounds as if you’ve actually played Breaking the Ice (which, if so, means your stated opinion is evidence-based, and thus a breath of fresh air in the dismal world of RPG commentating); I’m not sure if it’s outside of the scope of the post, but I’d be interested to hear why you believe the game is terrible. When I played, the results were deliciously excruciating awkwardness, which (a) I was hoping for and (b) came about as much through expectation as the actual application of the textual rules (e.g., the “bad things happen” rule: a simple, effective application of creative constraints).

          • Hazmat Sam says:

            Right, then. I’ll tell you the problems this game has.

            First:

            “your stated opinion is evidence-based”

            This is true but I want you to keep in mind, to address the inevitable objection, that I did not play this game with a hobbyist. (The women that tabletop regularly around here are creepy, creepy, fuckers) but I feel confident in saying that this game is not intended for the experiences of the average player, so I don’t think my friend’s inexperience would’ve made any difference.

            You mention expectations, so I think it’s fair to say what mine were. First, I expected that this would give me something I couldn’t do in other games. Remember, Blue Rose came out that same year, and our group had a blast with it, but I was more interested in the idea of relationships that weren’t really the focus of BR (which is a fatal flaw for romantic fantasy, but hey, everyone’s done stupid shit they regret), so I thought a dedicated game would be a more interesting experience.

            The problem starts when you look at the influences in the book. Some of that stuff, like the Ron Edwards stuff, was excusable like disco or Lemuria: stupid as hell, but no one knew any better at the time. But then you have this woman proudly proclaiming influence from The Pool which no one, except our author, apparently, ever took seriously.It’s also dedicated to the author’s parents “out of love”, which shows such a fundamental misunderstanding of the subject matter that I almost backed out right then and there. (long story short: “love,” as we currently define it, is antithetical to romance) I mean, the author uses My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Notebook as examples to emulate, and seems to belive that Romeo and Juliet was a romance story, for god’s sake. And so on. Blah blah blah: the main point was that there were some misgivings straight from the beginning.

            Okay, so let’s get into the actual play.The first thing we did, was make characters, of course. Our Switch was that, duh, she’s a sex worker and I’m not. As such, the Rating was pretty much out of our hands from the start. (you’re probably imagining this to be the problem. You’re partially right)

            So, the next thing we had was that incredibly dumb word net. I didn’t have one, and hers was silver, so I picked gold for thematic consistency.I do not recall the entire word maps we did off the top of my head, sorry. (I do remember that we had hermaphrodite as one because silver brought up Mercury,and that’s the story about him that sticks in everybody’s mind.) We came up with triats, which was kind of awkward because nothing on the list had anything to do with my job at (I mean, what does mercury or the moon have to do with college?) so that was a bit of a struggle, but for her, but at least I managed easily (Gold + sex work does not require a rocket scientist)

            But let’s get this out of the way right now: Colours are an incredibly dumb way to characterize people. It took my friend bout half an hour to note that, yeah, she kinda wore more silvery stuff than average, and I don’t have a favorite colour at all. This method creates sterotypes just as bad as the ones you get by deciding “I’m going to write a fantasy novel and all the bad guys will wear black to show they’re evil.” The characters we had at the end were shallow cliches, and it only got worse as the game went on.

            And holy hell, this comment is huge. I’ll continue if you’re interested, but I have to go right now.

    • Willow says:

      Ooh, ooh, is the worst game on “the list” mine? Not that any games were listed, just designers.
      Emily Care Boss is one of the single most influential indie game designers, male or female. Breaking the Ice is showing its age, but she invented the relationship rpg.

      • Hazmat Sam says:

        You? Well, to be honest, I’d give your stuff a maybe two stars and a half. There’s certainly worse out there, but they’d certainly not be my first pick.

        “but she invented the relationship rpg”

        I know, and that’s why they’re usually bad. Herodotus invented the discipline of history, and it took a while to overcome him too.

  10. Genevieve says:

    Thanks for this – this year was my first Gencon as a participant in the business side of things instead of the gaming/gamer recruiting side of things and I will admit it felt very alienating.

    RPGs (and mainstream feminism) have come a long way in the last few decades, but you couldn’t really tell that from the convention floor.

  11. Jondi says:

    There were more female GoH’s at 2010 Gen Con, but yes…I have to agree with you on this point. There are so many women in the industry – authors, actresses, game designers, artists…etc. that would make wonderful GoH’s. I would like to see a more rounded out panel of GoH’s.

  12. John Beltman says:

    Liz Danforth might have been a contender. Artist, writer, editor. Around since the start of the hobby. Worked with RPGs, wargames, card games, computer games. In addition to that she works for the library association, writes a regular column for their journal called “Games, Gamers, and Gaming” and “From 2008-2010, I worked with ALA’s team of game experts on a $1M grant, funded by the Verizon Foundation, in support of libraries, literacy and gaming.” She attended GenCon Indy this year as a guest of a company putting out an MMO game.

    http://www.lizdanforth.com/about-liz-danforth/bibliography-in-progress/
    http://www.lizdanforth.com/about-liz-danforth/the-librarian/
    http://www.lizdanforth.com/2011/07/gencon/
    (Check out her two new art pieces on this last link!)

  13. I have to wonder how many women each year email and ask to be Guests of Honor. Blogging is all well and good — and we’ve seen some ways where blogging sheds light on things — but how many go to Gen Con’s front door to make themselves known?

    Having been a special guest at conventions, half the time it’s because I’m invited — and always because I know someone. The other half is because I ask. After all, convention organizers don’t know everyone in the hobby — they’re often well out of the loop because convention organizing is a very intense job. So they rely on people approaching them because they can’t vet the whole of several industries. (Remember, Gen Con covers many gaming hobbies, not just RPGs.)

    Take this moment as a call to action, and start asking conventions you’re attending (not just Gen Con, but all of them) if they would like you as a special guest or GoH. That’s how it happens. And if more women do that, then you have the attention of people planning these sorts of things. A snowball that could turn into an avalanche.

    - Ryan

  14. depizan says:

    @Lawrence

    “game has to be a test of skill otherwise is not really a game”

    Er, what? Apparently the entire role playing gaming hobby needs a new name then. Not to say that there is no skill involved, but I really wouldn’t call them tests of skill, since they’re not competitive games. (Also, as with many games, there’s rather a lot of random chance involved.)

    So, whether or not you agree with the book Tekanji quoted, games are rather a broader category for most people than you’re allowing.

    Also, and perhaps I should have been clearer in my earlier comment, but I doubt many people play games solely for the story. Or for any of the other reasons that get mentioned. I’m curious as to whether Hazmat Sam, who’s clearly a big proponent of games as tests of skill, would play a game that was nothing but a series of skill tests with no story line sticking them together. (Especially as he seems not too interested in Angry Birds, etc, which are exactly that.)

    • Lawrence says:

      Not gonna derail any further so only to clarify: “test of skill” was badly used on my part shorthand and metaphor but what i was aiming with it, is pretty much coverd by tekanji’s definition and i still belive it can pretty much be derived from it with a at least moderate amount of good will reading.

  15. Oberon says:

    I would absolutely support the GoHification of any of the ladies you named. Having met several of them, I can state from experience that they are exceptionally awesome. Also I have an entire disassembled Stephanie Pui-Mun Law calendar decorating my room.

  16. Willow says:

    I would think Felicia Day would be a shoe-in. Definitely a geek icon.

  17. Joanna says:

    I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but I went to an all girl school and while choosing college courses before our final exams I was one out 150 girls in my year applying for computer games development. Everyone else chose to do arts, law, social studies or science…there wasn’t even anyone applying for anything remotely computery. It doesn’t seem like there are many women fighting over a career in the gaming industry. There just seems to be a general lack of interest amongst girls. Even in software development courses, the numbers of females are scarce. This is a little unusual in this country considering software is one of our biggest exports. I don’t understand why women in general are not interested in software development. I know that the gaming industry is looking for women to recruit though because I’ve often been approached about how to attract women to the industry; cos dammit we need more of them!

    • Because a lot of us grow up with the idea in our head that “that’s for boys.” I don’t think it’s deliberate indoctrination, but it’s there.

      That said: I, for one, would welcome the chance to go back to school and study game design.

      • Joanna says:

        The school I attended before going to college was despicable. Run by nuns, forced to wear skirts and study home economics. If you wanted to learn something that wasn’t exactly “girl oriented” like wood or metal work, you had to go to a mixed school where the option was available. Schools like that shouldn’t exist anymore.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 189 other followers

%d bloggers like this: