Well I’m pleased to announce that it’s finally complete and ready to be released into the wild!
The land of Sexonia is a dangerous place, a land of fantasy and adventure beyond your wildest imaginings. Maybe you got into adventuring because your village was destroyed by orcs, or to prevent fire elementals from taking over your kingdom, or maybe just because it was better than staying at home and settling down with that nice boy that your parents wanted you to marry. Whatever the reason, you can’t go home now. The kingdom needs you. And more importantly, that chain mail makes you look totally hot. Are you seeing anyone right now? Could I maybe buy you an ale some time?
…I’m sorry, where was I?
SexyTime Adventures: the RPG is a Dungeon World hack in which you play a party of fantasy adventurers having adventures and being sexy.
If you are looking for a game that lets you combine feminist satire, fantasy adventuring, and shittons of sexual innuendo, then this is the game for you! It has a move called “The Male Gaze” and PAPER DOLLS AS PART OF CHARACTER CREATION. Because I want to destroy all gaming!
It is not a standalone hack – you will need a copy of Dungeon World to play. Currently, SexyTime Adventures: the RPG is only available in PDF; you can buy it from my page on the UnStore. It will also be available on DriveThru RPG once they approve it (although I’ll get to keep more money if you purchase through the UnStore).
[Note: Those of you who read my blog know I love to swear, right? Well I drop the f-bomb a lot in this post, like a lot more than usual. I have zero apologies about it, but still – fair warning for those of you who aren’t okay with profanity.]
I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while. I wrote out a good half of it months ago, then quietly shelved it because I wanted to start trying to focus on more “positive” things for a little while. It’s hard being that feminist who writes about harassment all the time, and I worry that writing about it too much will cost me readers. Who would want to read a blog about nothing but harassment? Hell, I wouldn’t.
But here I am, blowing the dust off of this post. Why? Because Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t able to sleep in her own house last night because she committed the crime of Having Opinions About Video Games While Female:
Folks, it’s been a hard few weeks to be a ladyblogger in games land, folks. D&D 5E ConsultancyGate is already the gift that keeps on giving. Then we’ve got the Zoe Quinn “scandal” in which a bunch of MRAs decided to doxx her in the name of “ethics”. (Spoiler alert: not actually about ethics) All this in addition to the “quiet” daily aggressions against ladybloggers and lady game designers that take a predictable toll.
Just recently a woman that I looked up to as brilliant, funny, and a bright new light in game design decided she couldn’t deal with the bullshit and shut down her G+ account. Which I found devastating, but certainly understandable. Still, I couldn’t help but vent my frustration on Twitter:
So all of that happened, and still I sat on this. But then Anita Sarkeesian didn’t get to sleep in her own home because of knuckle-dragging fuckwits decided that they couldn’t handle a woman having opinions and they needed to SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.
I am lucky, insanely lucky, that the only trolls I get are both laughably bad at trolling and incredibly lazy. I have never had any credible death or rape threats. Nor have I had any real problems with sock puppets, aside from that one time a dude created one sock puppet and gave up when I blocked it right away. No one has ever made a video game about beating me up, or sought funding for a crowdfunding project about how awful I am as a human being. I’ve never been doxxed, stalked, or harassed offline.
But these are things that could all happen to me in the future because I am a woman Having Opinions About Games on the Internet.
So the fact that Anita Sarkeesian is willing to stick to her guns, to keep making videos despite facing all of these things? She’s a superhero, people. A MOTHERFUCKING SUPERHERO.
And I realize that all of this is a hell of a prelude to what was originally only 300 words, but I have SO MANY STRONG FEELS ABOUT THIS, YOU GUYS.
The thing I was actually going to say
You know, I feel like it’s pretty obvious to say fuck the guys who engage in this harassing misogynist bullshit. That shit should be a no-brainer, right? If you’re the type of dude who thinks that telling Anita she is a fucking twat because you don’t like her videos? Congratulations. You’re exactly the type of dude who needs to FUCK RIGHT OFF OUT OF THIS HOBBY.
But you know, that’s not exactly controversial. (I mean, unless you’re That Dude. In which case, go fuck yourself.)
No, what I want to add is that it is time to start holding fake “allies” accountable for their bullshit. Allies, if you want to be an ally, then actually be a fucking ally. Or if that’s just too hard, then SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO THE FUCK AWAY.
Because here’s the deal, it’s actually harder for me, and for many feminists whom I’ve talked with about this, to deal with a fake ally than it is to deal with actual misogynists. With up-front misogynists, they wear their misogyny on their sleeves so you already know it’s not worth investing any emotional energy into an interaction with them.
Fake allies? Man, it can be so. Fucking. Hard. to tell the difference between an ally who needs educating and a misogynist who wants to hide behind the ally label. Sometimes it can take years, years of friendship and regular interaction to realize that an ally who you thought was one of the good guys? Totally wasn’t.
And friends, let me tell you, that will fuck your shit right up. Because emotional investment isn’t a switch you can just turn off. You can’t just say “oh, I was mistaken about the kind of person I thought you were, I no longer give any shits about you or what you think” once a certain level of relationship has been established. Cutting ties with someone who has become toxic is hard once those ties have been allowed to persist, even when we KNOW that cutting ties is what’s best for us.
So these days, the majority of emotional damage I take is from asshole fake allies who want to claim the ally label as a way to stroke their own ego and be the hero of their own story. And I figure enough is enough. So this is me, declaring war on fake allies:
It is time to get rid of allies who…
…occupy more emotional bandwidth than misogynists and anti-feminists
…prioritize their feelings over the well-being of the feminists they claim to support
…brag about having feminist friends but sever all ties with women that tell them things they don’t want to hear
…dominate the conversation
…don’t know how to shut up and listen
…place constraints on acceptable expressions of marginalization
…use tone arguments (“I can’t listen because you’re too angry”)
…want feminists to prove their lived experience
…tell feminists they’re being oversensitive while simultaneous requiring that one walk on verbal eggshells to converse with them at all
…tell feminists they are mentally ill and need help
…make feminists gaslight themselves by making them second-guess their own memories and perceptions
…insist that not all men are like that
…tell feminists they are depressing when they talk about their lived experiences
…say feminists are making everything about them
…support and defend men with proven public records of misogyny
…don’t promote women’s voices
…say that you have to separate art from its creator
…try to shout feminists down when a thing is criticized that they like
…say that a feminists “owes” them for the times when the faux-ally was just being a decent fucking human being
…use friendship as a weapon (“I’m saying this as a friend, but…”)
…call feminist spaces toxic
…don’t understand the need for safe spaces that don’t include them
…attempt to silence feminists by tarring their reputation
…are not willing to consider the fact that they might be wrong
While I have some posts coming up that are prompted by interactions I had at GenCon, this will be the last post I write explicitly about my experience at GenCon itself (at least for the next little while). I’ve talked about the things that made me excited, as well as specific crappy things observed in the dealers’ room. But I didn’t address negative things outside of the dealers’ room, so here are some observations about things with varying degrees of crappyness.
Bad: Some dude mansplained my shirt to me
One of my birthday gifts this year was a shirt that said “FAKE GEEK GIRL: REAL GEEK WOMAN”. So of course I wore it to GenCon. I mean, how could I not?
Friday morning, I got dressed in The Shirt (and also pants) and headed out to get breakfast, bleary from a late night of awesome awesomeness. As I was standing in line, two guys spotted my shirt. One of them looked excited and said, “oh wow, that’s an awesome shirt! My wife would love that shirt? Where did you get it?”.
Pleased, I said that I did love the shirt but that it was a gift and I didn’t know where it was purchased. And that’s when Complimentary Dude’s mansplainy friend chimed in with, “but you’re not fake”. Which led to the following conversation:
Me: I’m… not a girl.
Mansplainy Friend: But you’re not fake. You’re–
Me: Not a girl. I have a toddler. I pay taxes. I am a woman.
Mansplainy Friend: Yes, but you’re not a fake woman.
Me: Okay, but you’re getting bogged down in the definition of one word. Do you not understand that this shirt is commenting on a larger social phenomenon where women like me have to fight to have our interest in geek culture seen as valid?
…at which point Mansplainy Friend tried to continue the argument, but thankfully Shirt-Complimenting Guy got him to shut up and I collected my breakfast and left.
And I suppose that I really should have expected something of the sort to occur. After all, I did wear the shirt rather expecting that hanging out primarily in tabletop RPG areas would mean that it would provoke some kind of a reaction. Still, in my defense, I don’t think anyone can be entirely blamed for being surprised when someone attempts to mansplain their own clothing to them when they are still in a severely under-caffeinated state.
Bad: I didn’t X-card the jokey sexism in a game that I ran
I was a GM at Games on Demand this year, which turned out to be tons of fun for all of my games except one – a game of Zombie Cinema. (Zombie Cinema is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a fun little game that creates zombie movie plots. It’s eminently replayable and never leaves my bag at conventions, in case I ever find myself with spare time, friends, and desire for a pick-up game that lasts about two hours.)
The problem with that game? There were six people at the table, including myself, but I was the only woman. And three of the six players were, well, the bro-iest of bros. Still, because some of the random character gen options specify gender, we wound up with three female characters, so I was hoping things would turn out well.
Early on in the game, however, the bro players started tossing out stuff about “protecting the women”, which was irritating. I jokingly had my character, a middle-aged mom and secretary, call them on it. At which point it promptly became a running joke throughout the rest of the session. And not the friendly sort of running joke, a “oh this clearly bothers you, so now my character is going to keep doing it” kind of running joke.
At the time, I just thought that it was a B- game of Zombie Cinema. There were some amusing jokes, like how the zombie plague came to be known as “raibola” (rabies/Ebola), but mostly it was a slightly sub-par but still amusing enough for the price of a generic ticket game of Zombie Cinema.
It wasn’t until I ran into James Stuart, the “new” proprietor of Story-Games, fellow GoD GM, and one of the not-bros at the table for the game, that he helped crystallize my annoyance by asking if I was okay with what happened in our game. He said that he was reluctant to X-card them since I seemed okay with it, but at the same time it seemed pretty gross. And at the time I was like, “oh yeah, I was okay, it was just kind of irritating is all”.
But since then I’ve examined that reaction and now I regret not X-carding the jokey sexism once it became a nasty little running joke, because it was a joke that made the game less fun for me. I got trapped in the mindset that because Games on Demand was paying for my badge, I was obligated to provide the players with a fun game. But I forgot that my fun was also an important part of the equation, and the “ha ha girls suck” running “joke” throughout the game definitely made it less fun for me.
And all of this despite an excellent all-hands meeting on Thursday night that stressed that GMs had to consider their own fun as much as their players when deciding what to X-card! So it’s not even like this was a possibility that hadn’t been addressed.
So that’s something I think I’ll need to work on being more aware of next year.
Bad: Casual harassment
I didn’t experience as much of it this year as I have previous years, there was only one creepy dude on the street of the “oh god avert your eyes, don’t make eye contact, stick close to your group” variety that I encountered this year, although he was a doozie. (He started singing at me and pelvic thrusting, although thankfully he didn’t approach me and I was able to give him a wide berth as we passed him on the sidewalk.)
But let me turn that around and say that this year was the best year I’ve had in terms of street harassment. So the fact that I go to GenCon expecting to be creepily harassed and made to feel unsafe by at least one dude while at the convention? That’s messed up.
Another insanely not-cool moment was my very first night at the convention, at a party where I was going to head back to my hotel with my hotel roomie and her boyfriend. On the way out, she stopped at a table to say hi to someone that she knew, and a dude literally grabbed her hand and started trying to pull her into the booth. At which point I started hovering very visibily while wearing my best “we need to leave because I need sleep face”.
And, you know, generally my friend and convention-roomie is a super capable woman and I would trust her to be able to handle her own creeps. But at the same time, Creepy Arm-Hauling Guy was large and I wanted to at least try to shame him into letting go. (Which he did, though probably not because of me, and we made our escape, and that was the end of that.)
And maybe it was because we were at a party? But you know what, fellas? Being drunk is not an excuse for harassing women, even if it’s just because you want to get to know them. Calm the fuck down, and if you can’t behave yourself around strange women when you’re drunk, then DON’T FUCKING DRINK.
One of the things that I forgot to mention in my post about good things about GenCon was the fact that the opening ceremonies of the convention specifically mentioned the harassment policy and that harassment was not okay, and that anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable should seek out convention staff who would take the situation seriously. WHICH IS GREAT. The fact that GenCon has gone from having effectively no harassment policy to having a well-written policy that staff are being trained on? That’s awesome.
The only signs spelling out the complete policy were in the badge registration area. There weren’t any in the dealer’s room area that I or any of the people that attended the Women in Gaming panel had spotted. And I didn’t see any outside of the main convention center, either.
And that’s a problem! If nothing else, there needs to be at least some basic “cosplay is not consent” posters in the dealers’ room, because that’s where a whole lot of cosplay is happening.
The other problem is that a whole lot of people just don’t need to go to the badge registration area. Because I was running through Games on Demand, I picked up my badge from the GoD staff without ever having to go through the badge line. And for the most part, trips to the dealers’ room to acquire specific items were the only trips that I made into the convention center itself. The one panel I was able to go to (all the others overlapped with my GM slots! Curses!) was in the Crowne Plaza – all of which were areas that didn’t have any sort of signage to raise awareness of this policy.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of people don’t attend the first day of the convention, or don’t manage to be awake in time to hit the dealers room in time for the opening ceremonies, or aren’t able to stand close enough to hear what everyone else is saying.
This is something that is important. If you want to change the social norms around toxic and harassing behavior at conventions, you have to change expectations and raise awareness, and signage is an important part of that. GenCon is just too big an event to do it in a more individualized way.
Back in 2011, I started photographing all of the women on banners (or other prominently placed promotional art) that I saw in the dealers’ room for the purposes of blogging about it. This year was challenging – there were more than 2800 booths. That is a lot of walking; both times I did the full circuit it took me two hours.
And I’m pleased to report that things are getting better… slowly. I’m starting to see a few game publishers who are obviously making an effort, and some of them are even getting it right. The publishers getting it wrong are still in the majority, but I have hope that they’ll only make their products look increasingly dated as the rest of the hobby moves on without them.
So let’s get on to the pictures!
Doing it wrong
Speaking of dated, the fact that I even remember EverQuest being a huge thing makes me feel creakingly ancient. So I felt even older when I saw a booth for EverQuest Next at the show. EVERQUEST NEXT? I felt like I’d fallen into a time warp back to the era of terrible MMO UI design and shitty sexist armor designs:
God. I almost feel embarrassed for Sony at this point. This hits pretty much every checkbox on the “is this terrible” list and barely breaks a sweat, while simultaneously managing to look like a piece of promo art for a game released 20 years ago. Did they just hire the same artists again? Because that wouldn’t surprise me at all.
And yet, sadly, this will probably make lots of money, because gamers. But who knows? Maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong.
Next up, Force of Will – an anime-looking card game thing that didn’t appear to be doing too much business on the two occasions I went past their booth:
I have to say, the no-pants knight there is pretty run of the mill, but the artists of the witch really worked to sneak in that underboob. I mean, she’s wearing shorts under the skirt and otherwise seems reasonable attired, but then – BAM! BOOB WINDOW! Shit like that always makes me suspect artist shenanigans.
Art Director: Right, we want a strong, empowered female character who definitely isn’t sexualized.
Artist: Gotcha. [draws practical outfit with boob window]
Or maybe it was the art director after all. Either way, I call shenanigans. And also, I’m not going to stop at your booth ever, so have fun losing a sale from someone who came to this very large dealers’ room specifically for the purpose of finding things to spend money on.
Or take another example: Grey Fox Games. I literally have no idea what kinds of games they publish, because I saw cleavagey demon chick and promptly meh’ed any other details about their games out of my brain.
If I remember correctly, HC&D Game Supplies was one of approximately 3 million general CCG booths at the show this year. I was actually keeping an eye out for good deals on deck boxes, since my Magic collection is a serious mess right now, but chainmail bikinis are an automatic deal-killer for me:
And sure, these weren’t the most ridiculous chainmail bikinis that I saw at the convention. Honestly, as far as game boobs go these are actually pretty tame. Still, not failing at women is the low-hanging fruit of not automatically killing a sale when it comes to getting my money.
This next one… This next one looks pretty decent at first blush:
Two humans, PoC humans!, beating up on some orcs. And they’re both wearing platemail, so yay? Except look at the woman’s armor – it’s one of the worst examples of boobplate I’ve ever seen. The plates are molded specifically to her chest, to each individual boob even, which is objectively a terrible idea. Not only that but there’s this bizarre jewel thing right on her sternum? And again, that’s just really bad armor design! The artist wants to call attention to her boobs so bad that he’s putting her in potentially fatal, or at least very seriously injuring armor. So big fat fail on this one, guys.
Moving on, here is a matched pair in the WTF ARE THEY EVEN WEARING category:
Realms of Havoc is, I guess, a CCG? Which, you know, whatever. I hadn’t heard of it before I got to the show, and I’m certainly not all that likely to try it out when it’s being advertised with HOLY SHIT A LOT OF SIDEBOOB, ragged clothes, and a wedgie of doom.
And then we have Dark Age which is, you know what, I don’t really care because LOOK AT WHAT SHE’S WEARING. She HAS to have had some serious waxing done because what the hell is she wearing? This is like the ultimate cameltoe wedgie of doom! How can I possibly take any game seriously that advertises itself with cameltoe wedgies??
The problem with banners in the dealers room is that the people making them tend to operate under one of two assumptions: 1) just have a sexay lady on it 2) have a lot of dudes and shove a woman on there as an afterthought. (If #2, sexualizing the woman is an option that can also be taken, and is encouraged if you’re operating from the Awful Manual of Promotional Material Design.)
In terms of sexualization, neither Mage Wars nor Freeblades are terribly exceptional, although I will say that I’m getting really, really tired of sexualized crypto-Natives in my games, which is how the Freeblades mascot reads to me. The woman in the Guardians Chronicles banner was clearly tagged on as an afterthought, at which point the artists took the opportunity to go LOL BEWBZ. (Seriously, the most skin any of the men are exposing is their neck. It’s just ridiculous!)
And Iron and Ale? [sigh] To be honest, I actually like the lady dwarf, even if I am firmly of the opinion that lady dwarves should always have facial hair. But she’s also suffering from a severe case of Fantasy Party Smurfette in that it doesn’t matter how large a group of fantasy adventurers is, because there will only ever be one woman.
WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON HERE? This is like the worst FemShep ever. She’s surrounded by dudes, her tech armor is… I don’t even know what’s going on. Her thighs are just bizarre – her right thigh is bizarrely skinny and her left thigh is bulging weirdly and kind of bending in the middle? And let’s not forget that her breasts are bizarrely spherical with individual armor compartments, which just makes my head hurt.
I don’t even know what to say about this. Dude, dude, and BONDAGE DOMINATRIX. Bondage dominatrix with ridiculous anime/80’s hair.
Oh hey look, it’s another game where the women are an afterthought and are both showing cleavage. Seriously, I’m getting bored writing this section and can’t be bothered to say anything else. Thankfully, it’s time to look at the stuff I saw that sort of failed but sort of didn’t.
Doing It Only Sort-of Wrong
Next we have what was one of the most puzzling contrasts I saw at the convention. On the right, the banner for Counterblast is actually pretty cool. We have Space Tiger Guy and Space Lady Redhead firing lasers at tentacle aliens! That’s pretty awesome! Except look at the banner right next to it. Which is for… bombshell babes minis.
Here’s another entry in the SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR series:
Infinity is yet another CCG. But honestly, I actually kinda liked the art, except for how the artist drew interesting characters with dynamic poses and then overly-emphasized the boobs. The medic? Is actually super cool. I really like the character design and the action of the pose. But WHY ARE HER BOOBS FALLING OUT?? Ditty for the other girl? She has some really interesting character design, except WHY IS SHE WEARING BOOB PLATE?
Come on, guys. That’s like running 95 yards, then dropping the ball on purpose, saying “fuck it”, and leaving the field to get a beer.
Last in the “so close and yet so far” collection is this banner for Valiant:
So the two figures that are women are pretty awesome! Not to mention that one of them is fat and heroic and attractive? Holy crap! That’s awesome! …except that only 2 out of a total of 12 figures are female, and neither of the female figures are focal figures – they’re both background figures. So women are allowed to be fully clothed and heroic, but only if they’re in the minority and kept out of the spotlight? Not cool, dudes. Not cool.
Doing It Right
All right! Now for the stuff I’d much rather write about! The stuff that I actually super liked! First up, this banner for Citadel Sky Pirates, which I found quite delightful:
None of the banners in their booth had any overly sexualized ladies, and I found that I really liked the Sky Pirates banner. Both of the women have really excellent character designs, neither have unrealistic physiques, and both look heroic. The woman on the right looks sexual, sure, but she doesn’t look sexualized. (I realize that might sound like a pedantic distinction to make, but for me it’s a key difference.) And it’s also worth mentioning that the pirate on the right was one of the few PoC I saw adorning banners in the dealers’ room. (As much as companies have been making slow strides with their depiction of women, they have farther to go with PoCs.)
Next up, my favorite booth of the entire convention!
WHAT. WHAT. THIS IS SO AWESOME I CAN’T EVEN.
Heroic women! Women of color! Women doing a job! Women sharing focus and screen time! Equal numbers of men and women! Focal women and background women and OH GOD IT’S JUST SO GOOD. I was kind of sad that I already own all of the Pandemic products I want to, because it would be nice to give them some money just because.
But of course, the other notable publisher that managed to succeed at gender and racial diversity is Paizo, as demonstrated by this very large banner across the back of their booth space.
Fifty percent women, fifty percent men, and, at least by my reckoning, more than fifty percent PoC. Dear Paizo, I love you. And I’m deeply sad that Pathfinder just really isn’t my gaming style, because I would dearly love to give you lots of money. So I’ll just have to settle for blogging a lot about how deeply awesome you are.
Speaking of deeply awesome! Here’s an awesome thing:
It’s a lady adventurer! In the snow! APPROPRIATELY DRESSED TO THE WEATHER!
I got so excited about this that I stopped to snap a picture and didn’t even try to be surreptitious about it. One of the people at the booth seemed very puzzled by this, so I apologized and said, “I’m sorry, I just was really excited that your banner had a woman in the snow wearing appropriate clothing. That’s something I never see!”
At which point the publisher told me very earnestly that women are very important and that they want to represent women. And then he dug out a product catalog, which was very nicely produced, glossy, and on heavy stock and gave it to me. Which just really blew me away.
THAT. THAT is a model of how to interact with female fans, publishers. I was absolutely blown away. So SHADOWS OF ESTEREN, Y’ALL. Did you know that it won an Ennie? Did you know that the art is fantastic? Check it out, because seriously, so impressed.
When I walked past this booth, I first had a little eyeroll moment until I realized, wait a minute. These women are actually all awesome and not sexualized. WUT. I mean, yeah they’re all blonde women, so maybe it would be nice if one of them wasn’t white. But still, a game publisher putting only awesomely characterized female characters on their banners? Progress!
Last up, I just really liked these War Machine banners. On the left, the lady in red just looks really cool, and not impractically dressed for the winter weather – which is an automatic +1000 points from me. And the lady on the right, similarly, her armor seems practical and her poses looks dynamic without being overly sexual. Best of all, they’re just drawn like that isn’t really a thing that needs to be called attention to. And that? That is what I would DESPERATELY LOVE to see more of out of my dealers’ room experience!
Well, folks. I’m back from GenCon! And there is SO. MUCH. I want to write about! So the goal is to get up a flurry of posts in the next week or so covering a wide range of topics related to GenCon and how my experiences there reflect on the community as a whole.
However, I have come down with the most instantaneous case of con crud I have ever suffered (I imagine I must have contracted it about 5 seconds after entering the convention hall) and am also deeply sick right now. So I might just collapse on a couch at home and play Final Fantasy while moaning about how miserable I am for several days (seriously, I’m so whiny when I get sick). I guess we’ll see what happens.
I have so much I want to write about! But I thought I’d start on a high note and talk about the many things this year that made me feel SO FULL OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE YOU GUYS. SO SO FULL OF HOPE.
1. Things I saw while walking around the convention
Walking around the convention hall, I was pleased to see so many women attendees – in the dealer’s room they seemed to account for around 35-40% of attendees. And I was especially pleased to see lots of families with young children in tow. I didn’t see as many men wearing babies in slings as I have in past years, but I did see instances of face-meltingly adorable family cosplay. Like the mother and daughter both cosplaying as Super Girl, or another mother and her son both cosplaying as Iron Man. And then there was the mom in street clothes with an 11th Doctor fez, accompanied by her two daughters – one cosplaying as Elsa and the other as a princess (?) I admittedly didn’t recognize.
All of which made me so happy. It’s so great watching the hobby literally expand into the next generation. I can only hope that this new generation of nerds in training will do better than the generations that have gone before them.
The Women in Gaming panel (that I was on! Wow was that nerve-wracking!) was also something that gave me a lot of hope. It was packed(!) with women, many of whom were eager to jump into the discussion to tell their story. And all of the women who spoke emphasized the need for women to support each other in bringing other women into the hobby instead of turning into gatekeepers because we want to be “not one of those women”.
Also encouraging was the fact that there were men in attendance at the panel, and that they largely behaved themselves. Some of them did make comments, but they were largely on point and supportive. And they didn’t try to mansplain or dominate the discussion either, which was a relief. (Well except for that one guy who said we should just make games instead of speaking out about sexism. But there’s always going to be at least one, I guess.)
Lastly, I was about to triumphantly post NO CORPSE TITS IN THE DEALERS ROOM. Only someone on my G+ posted a picture of a life-size statue of Thay, so I guess I have to amend that to “no corpse tits that I personally observed”. [sigh] Baby steps?
2. MIKE MEARLS Y’ALL
Saturday afternoon, I was lucky enough to have a great lunch with Tracy Hurley and Mike Mearls where we talked about sexism and misogyny in the industry, and about the issues with trying to increase the diversity of representation in games themselves. The meeting was prompted by ConsultancyGate (if you don’t know what that is, be very thankful), but the conversation mostly focused on other things.
Mike was very open about the difficulties that he’s faced in trying to push inclusivity in the game products he’s worked on. He talked about how he’d been assuming diversity of representation was the default, only to realize later that there were many others who had assumed the opposite, who feared they might face consequences if they pushed their content “too far”. And now he’s working to actively make D&D products more inclusive going forward (something which I will write about in further detail later).
All in all, it was a really great conversation in which both Tracy and I were encouraged to be honest about our feelings and personal experience, which – let me tell you – is not always the case when talking with male industry professionals. Coming from the head of the flagship product of RPGs, this means SO SO MUCH to me. I left our meeting feeling like the new direction of art in 5E D&D isn’t just competitiveness with Paizo, as some have suggested, but a genuine desire to do better. I look forward to seeing what comes out of D&D under his direction.
(Amusingly, I will note that when we asked Mike if we could blog about the meeting, Mike said “of course”, then said he hadn’t wanted to assume that we would because he didn’t want to sound all HEY FEMINISTZ PLS GIVE ME COOKIES THX. Which, ironically, made me want to give Mike feminism cookies, and I don’t even believe in feminism cookies.)
3. Games on Demand
This was my first year of running games at Games on Demand, although for the last many years I’ve spent most of my convention at Games on Demand. It’s funny, because the notes that I made for this post before writing it included “lots of women GMs”. But then when I asked one of the organizers, he told me that about 15% of the GMs were women or non-binary by his tally.
Which. Huh. Okay. I guess my brain fooled me on that one. But the women I saw who did come out to GM were really bringing it to their games and I saw people really having fun at those games. (Can I just take a moment to say that I am insanely jealous that I didn’t get to play Karen Twelves’ Apocalypse World: Olive Garden scenario? So very, very jealous.)
So yeah, the total number of not-dudes at Games on Demand might have left something to be desired (and let’s be clear, I am not attacking GoD here. This is a problem GoD staff have been working for multiple years to ameliorate, but it is hard because both the causes and possible solutions are difficult to pin down). But overall, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion was really a breath of fresh air.
For one thing, there were equality stickers freely available at GoD (I stuck one on the back of my badge – might as well make it a useful space since that’s what winds up getting seen half the time anyway). The ever-fabulous John Stavropolous also wrote an amazing “instruction manual” on how to run games with some great sections on how to help everyone feel safe at the table as well as tools for dealing with problem behavior and helping make sure everyone feels welcome. (And honestly, this is a great document for anyone who runs games, not just GoD GMs.)
And more generally, it was awesome meeting so many new people who are committed to building a supportive and progressive tabletop community. I was also lucky to run into a fair number of people who made a point of telling me that they appreciate my blog.
There was so much bile on certain parts of the internet prior to the convention that it was really hard to remind myself that things were getting better. But I talked with several people, not just women!, who made a point of thanking me for blogging that it made me feel really good that this is the direction that most gamers are heading in. Speaking out makes a difference, and things will get better.
Stuff for next time(s)
I’ve got so much more to talk about! There’s the inevitable picture post, where I go through my many shots from the dealer’s room. I’ve also got a not-so-happy post about Stuff I Didn’t Enjoy at GenCon. But on a more positive note, I do intend to do some post-GenCon followup writing about some non-WoTC publishers who I felt like were really Doing It Right – Pelgrane and Paizo. And I might also do some followup about a previously blogged about topic.
WordPress.com doesn’t seem to have an option for globally turning off comments on the entire blog, so I’ve turned on manual comment moderation, which means theoretically every comment will need to be approved before showing up and thus hopefully achieve the same result. So if you’re a regular reader, or even a new one, and are trying to comment and not seeing your comment show up? It’s not because I hate you. It’s because I can’t trust the internet to play nice right now.
If for some reason this turns out not to have worked (because who knows, I’ve never done this before and seriously I still have shit to pack), then I ask people not to engage with any trolls who might show up. Normally “don’t feed the trolls” is a policy I disagree with, but in this instance… yeah, that.
This was going to be a quick link post before I get into my car and drive the waytoomanyhoursthankyou to GenCon, leaving my family and my cats behind to weep over my absence (they won’t) and wail bitter lamentations until my return (yeah right).
But then some stuff happened. Mostly behind the scenes on various social networks, and mostly to people who aren’t me. (Although some of it was directed at me personally.) So I started accumulating crap in this text box to blog about until I realized that I was putting more thought into this than I’d originally anticipated. So newer patrons, I promise my paid posts aren’t usually this disjointed.
That said! On to the good stuff:
The two stories I was originally going to link to come courtesy of The Mary Sue.
FIRST. It seems that the staff of Jezebel felt it necessary to make a post holding their management at Gawker to account for the fact that they are getting trolled with violent rape imagery by anonymous trolls and Gawker is doing… absolutely nothing about it. So TMS had this great piece looking at the thinking behind their moderation policies and how it’s actually fucking worked to keep trolls out of their comment sections.
Which. Jesus. Anyone who’s been to TMS will have seen that their discussion threads can get pretty lively. While I’m not as regular a reader as I used to be, I certainly can’t say that I’ve seen anything other than civil discussion on TMS posts that I’ve read on their site. So can we please let the “banning anonymous commenters will kill discussion” myth die already? Please?
My personal experience is that the opposite tends to be true. Trolls suck oxygen out of the conversation and make people afraid to speak up with their opinion. Conversations here on GMMaS improved about a million fold once I started banning trolls and deleting troll comments, and I get many more comments from visitors “just passing through” that I’ve found really valuable.
So Jesus, Gawker. Get your act together and try to be marginally less terrible, okay?
SECOND. This is so horrifying – a woman, married and pregnant with her husband’s child, discovered that her husband was a horrible, horrible Reddit troll. When she asked him to stop, he lied and said he would then didn’t. And when she demanded that he get counseling or they would split up, he apparently felt that making people feel horrible about themselves online was more important to him than his real life marriage and his real life about-to-be-baby.
And sure, the obvious caveats apply. This could be a fake. But honestly, this is so horrible, so sad, and so utterly, utterly COMMONPLACE that I have zero difficulty believing that it’s true. Which leads me to echo TMS in saying that we have to, have to start holding our friends and family accountable when we catch them doing this shit.
Don’t say “it’s just online” or “it’s not serious” or “he’s just an asshole” or “it’s just a joke”. That makes you complicit in shitty fucking behavior. Say “wow, dude, that’s not fucking okay” and actually stop talking to people who refuse to stop this kind of behavior. Because this sort of behavior LITERALLY KILLS PEOPLE. (And I mean that literally, not figuratively, even though literally apparently also means figuratively now which is just the wooooorst.)
If you discover that someone is being a shitty human being, it’s not unreasonable to say that if they refuse to stop being a shitty human being, you should refuse to keep being their friend.
Here’s a thing that I have been mostly-not-a-target-of-but-still-kinda. Some dudes are attempting to blacklist some people, mostly women, from the gaming industry because of reasons that boil down to a long and really boring story that boils down to the fact that some dudes just really don’t like women having opinions in public on the internet, like, ever.
Anyway, this gave me occasion to post the following on Twitter:
OH NO, random dude I don’t care about! PLEASE NO! Don’t get all those awful dudes that I have blocked anyway to promise not to work with me! HOW WILL MY LIFE HAVE MEANING?? Because my entire life revolved around whether misogynists are willing to throw me a couple scraps to let me write for them!
This got me thinking that really the only way to properly convey this sentiment was with a venn diagram:
(My love of sarcastic diagrams and flow charts knows no bounds. I love them more than misandry jokes, which I also really really love.)
Lastly, I’ve been meditating recently on the block functions of various social networks and how aggressive curating of my social networks has kept my G+/facebook/etc a very civilized place to be, for the most part. But the fact is I have a couple super persistent trolls who just really want to bypass all that and tell me how awful I am. Like, really really awful.
For the most part I think this is silly, since I mostly only find out by accident or when someone in my circles happens to mention it to me. So I drew the following out one lunch when I’d forgotten the book I’d been intending to read (this is ballpoint pen on copy paper in about half an hour, so the quality isn’t the best):
Lastly, a policy note:
Either tonight or tomorrow morning, I’ll attempt to lock down comments on my blog while I’m gone. (Last time it didn’t work, which was irritating). I don’t want to have to watch the comments while I’m away trying to enjoy myself. In the mean time, go hug a kitten?
The incomparable Leigh Alexander wrote this piece about Tidus and Final Fantasy X, which I can identify with deeply. I’ve played the game four times and sobbed at the ending every time. This is a game that will forever have a place in my heart.
Now that things are calming down a bit at the day job, I’m starting to turn my attention back to more complex posts, as well as more posts about actual games I’m actually playing. I’ve also started chasing data points for my thing about sex workers in video games, although simply opening the spreadsheet makes me wince:
I fear this is turning into my white whale. I WILL CONQUER YOU! NO SPREADSHEET CAN DEFEAT ME!
I also intend to write about my thoughts on Lightning Returns, which I’m mostly enjoying. And of course I’m sure I’ll have several posts about this year’s GenCon. So there’s a preview of what’s brewing.
I’ve been really busy with prep for GenCon. That said, instead of actually finishing up GM prep materials, I found myself having to write this. And after writing it, I thought it would be good to put up a bit more visibly:
WRT “proof” of harassment, I am not obligated to “prove” my personal experience, not even to have it evaluated so that it might be (in)validated by an “objective” third party. The entire idea is nothing more than victim-blaming, because it places the obligation on the harassed person to “prove” that they have been victimized. If you’re not willing to believe me when I talk about my lived experience, how can I reasonably believe that you’re suddenly going to take me seriously if I jump through this extra hoop? Especially when that lived experience dictates that jumping through the hoop is useless, because the goalposts are just going to get moved anyway. “He wasn’t being serious”, “it wasn’t actual harassment“, “that’s just the way he is”, etc etc etc. So if I say “I’ve been victimized” and your response is “prove it”, you’ve already proven to me that you don’t have the basic human empathy for this interaction to be worth my time.
I get to decide who is worth my time and who isn’t. You are not entitled to my time OR my attention. Nor am I obligated to care if you think that I am lying.
Which, by the way, is an accusation that has gotten thrown around a lot. And you know what, FINE. We’re part of a hobby where the harassment and marginalization of women is so routine that it’s taken for granted. Anita Sarkeesian. Jennifer Hepler. Jade Raymond. All documented, all in the public eye. But if I speak up about my particular experience? And I don’t provide reams of documentation spanning multiple years, or if I say I don’t want to name someone because I’m trying to avoid the inevitable fallout of such an act? Easier to believe that I’m just making it up for the fun of it. You know, for attention. Because it’s not like women face social and professional consequences for speaking out about that stuff. And we certainly never have to try to balance the desire to speak truth to power with the need to protect our own personal well-being.
Lastly, the idea that victims of harassment would pay attention to what the person who instigated that harassment has to say on the subject of their harassment is, frankly, ludicrous. You know what many victims of harassment want? To be left the fuck alone. And that’s what block functions on social media are for! Which many victims of harassment use to keep their social media mostly tolerable. So if a guy that I’ve blocked makes a call to have people report his block-worthy behavior with a supposedly “neutral” third party… Good for him? I’m not necessarily going to be aware of that. Because again, NOBODY IS ENTITLED TO MY ATTENTION.
That said, it’s not anyone’s business but I have been having conversations with people behind the scenes and am trying to make something positive come out of all of this nonsense. Make of that what you will.
Just a quick update. GenCon is only one week away and I still have so much prep to do! I’ve got a thing that I’ll try to get up before I leave, but this month’s posts will likely be a flurry of post-GenCon stuff. I’ve got some really exciting things planned for GenCon, and hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it upon my return.
I’ll try to at least put up a freebie even if I don’t manage anything else, but no promises!