Self-Promotion Sidebar: The Watch is live on KickStarter

It is perhaps an indication of how busy I’ve been juggling school and running a KickStarter that I forgot to make a post here linking to the KickStarter – which is an oversight since I posted here several times about The Watch while it was development. So!

The Watch is funding on KickStarter through March 19th!

As for what is The Watch? Well:

The Watch is a tabletop roleplaying game set in a “light fantasy” setting known as The Clanlands. It takes place during a dark and horrific war between the now-united ten clans who live there and an invading force, known only as The Shadow.

The Shadow is a powerful and insidious enemy that is able to enter the minds of its opponents and slowly turn them to its side; twisting them into unnatural foes. For reasons unknown, The Shadow is able to more easily influence the minds of men, and has turned a great deal of the clan’s soldiers against itself.

With most of its fighting force crippled or worse, the clans have joined together and begun enlisting new warriors to defend their homes. Women and non-binary femme people who seem better able to resist The Shadow’s hold have been recruited, trained, promoted, and formed into a new order: The Watch.

In The Watch, you’ll play a group of elite soldiers who are called upon time and time again to defend villages, attack The Shadow’s forces at key locations, scout the enemy’s lines, and much more. Each mission comes with its fair share of costs and compromises and you’ll need to navigate them in order to be ready to heed the next call to action.

It’s in these in-between moments where the rules for The Watch focus themselves: What do you do to unwind from the pressure that threatens to pull you down? Who do you spend what little free time you have with, and why? How will you hold off The Shadow’s influence so that you can see the end of this war? That’s what you’ll have to find out for yourself…

For more information, you can check out the campaign page. You can also join our community over on Google+, if you have any questions for either of us before you back! (We encourage that.) Additionally, I can promise that the finished book will be chock full of instructions and examples, for people new to PBTA roleplaying games or who are unsure what they should be aiming for when running the game. (Because I was the one who wrote the entire book. Phew.)

As of the time of this post, our campaign is at 65% with 24 days to go. I’m not too worried about funding, but I do very much want to start opening up stretch goals, because I am SUPER excited about opening up our exciting stretch goals – which will involve, among other things, expanded content and hiring more art from the fantabulous Claudia Cangini! Seriously, here’s what we hired her to do for the KickStarter page:

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absolutely cannot wait to see what she comes up. I hope you’ll join us in making this project absolutely awesome!

Project Update: The Watch (freebie)

Hi, folks

I’ve written previously about The Watch – the low-fantasy roleplaying game about female and female-of-center soldiers fighting to retake their homeland from a nebulous threat called The Shadow – here on my blog. This past weekend at GenCon, my co-designer Andrew Medeiros and I ran a whopping seven sessions of The Watch – and we’re really happy with how it’s shaping up! I plan on writing in more detail about how that went, but in the mean time, I need help from you – my readers!

There’s a limit to how far we can take this on our own. We’re looking for some external playtesting, and we’d like to be able to get feedback by mid-fall so I can look at getting the first draft of the book finished by the end of the year.

If you’d be interested in running either a one-shot, a con game, or a small campaign for some folks and are willing to commit to getting us some playtest feedback by September 30th, then please mosey over and fill out this form so we can get you set up with the latest version of the playtest documents.

Thanks for your time and attention!

Promotional Sidebar: Princess Charming, Round 2! (freebie)

Two years ago, Josh Roby and I ran a successful Kickstarter to create a series of children’s books called Princess Charming, that featured active, competent princess characters who do more than wait around to get rescued. Thanks to support from more than 300 backers, we raised more than $14,000 to make 6 books featuring two princesses – Kadri and Fayola. And now we have a NEW KickStarter, because we’d like to make MORE books about MORE awesome princesses.

From the KickStarter page:

The third princess of the Charming dynasty is the unstoppable Princess Rowan Charming. Rescued by Fayola along with her mother Imogen, Rowan enjoys a life of safety and security with her two moms. Safe, that is, except when she sneaks off to go adventuring. Which only goes to show that you can take the princess out of the danger, but you can’t take the danger out of the princess!

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Only one thing slows down our Rowan — her friend, Prince Sundara, who insists on coming along. Something about Rowan having only one hand and that he has to protect her. But he only gets in the way! Somehow Rowan has to make the boy understand that he’s not cut out for adventuring… before he gets hurt. …

But we also have stretch goals for two more princesses – Chandra and Nayeli! And we really hope that, since we’ve streamlined how the stretch goals will work to make unlocking subsequent princesses easier, we’ll get to do all three.

At the launch of the project, we’ve kept things simple: you get one book for $10, two books for $20, and so on. When the project funds, you can tell us which books you want: any of the new Princess Charming books that we’ve unlocked, any of Kadri or Fayola’s that rolled out in the last batch, or any combination thereof.

It’s also worth noting that if you’d like to support the project but don’t have any need for children’s books, we’re happy to donate your copies to worthy places like libraries, children’s hospitals, and shelters.  We’ll send you a PDF of the titles, too, just so you’re not completely left out of the swashbuckling princess fun.

I hope that if you have children, or there are children in your life, that you will at least share the link to this campaign. The Kadri and Fayola books made as part of the first campaign are works that I am immensely proud of. Being able to tell the story of Kadri, a gender non-conforming princesses who wants to like “girl things” and “boy things”, and who doesn’t want what she can do to be limited by her gender was immensely satisfying – as this was precisely the sort of story that I could have benefited from as a child! I’m even more proud of being able to tell the story of Fayola, a black trans lesbian, without any aspect of that identity being presented as an obstacle, stumbling block, or flaw – while still showing her as heroic and worth rooting for.

Josh is a wonderful co-creator to have on this project, because both of us are committed to telling stories that don’t ordinarily get told. And both of us are committed to doing the work needed to make sure we get this right.

It will be awesome getting to tell the story of Rowan, a disabled woman raised by two queens who are heroes in their own right, who comes into her own as an adventurer and hero. But I very much hope that we get to write more stories than just Rowan’s, because diversity matters.

So here’s the link again. Thanks to all of you reading for your support.

Followup to my last post

[edited to add final paragraph, noted in italics]

[Edit 2: See end of post for update as of June 29, 2016]

Some of the response to my last post has been supportive, which is nice. But unfortunately, a large quantity has been full of straw-manning, ad hominems, and abusive language. Like the person who commented simply, “Idiot.”. Or the person who told me that I should kill myself with cyanide in a comment that managed to combine homophobia, racism, misogyny, ableism, and fatphobia in only four sentences. Impressive.

The remainder of unhelpful responses can be broken down into two camps: 1) I shouldn’t be writing about Orlando because I’m not queer and 2) I’m trivializing the Orlando shooting by trying to talk about games.

In response to the first, I happen to believe that it’s important for non-queer folks to educate other non-queer folks. My unfortunate experience with trying to talk about sexism and misogyny has been that some men will ONLY listen to other men. Some people with privilege will ONLY listen to people with the same privilege. In writing this post, I was conscious about not duplicating things already being said by queer voices, and in my other social media channels I have only been retweeting/posting/sharing things said by others.

I’m not saying that I ally perfectly, because lord knows that I don’t. But I reject the assertion that only people who experience a given marginalization can speak to that marginalization, because in order for change to happen you need people of privilege to stand up to other people of privilege. So, if after trying to strike a balance between boosting the words of queer people and shouting some sense into non-queer people you still don’t think that I have a right to speak, period, because my identity, then I can’t help you because that is something I’m never going to back down from.

In response to the second, this entire blog is written out of a belief that POP CULTURE IS CULTURE and YOU CAN’T SEPARATE THE TWO. If you disagree with that fundamental premise, you disagree with the entire premise of feminist media criticism. I’m not going to spend time and effort on having this argument yet again, on defending the purpose of holding a critical lens to entertainment media to examine what it says about us as pop culture creators and consumers. Because you will never convince me that pop culture criticism is a waste of time, or is “trivializing” other issues, simply because the medium I happen to focus on is games.

All of that said, I’m closing comments on the previous post, and if things get out of hand here I’m going to lock down comments on the entire blog for a while. Doubtless people are going to want to keep shaming me, but I’m not obligated to provide them a space to do it in.

It’s worth noting that throughout ALL of this I HAVE been listening to queer voices and asking for advice in how to proceed, and those voices have been saying a lot of mixed things. There’s a lot of division over this right now and it’s really hard to know how to proceed. In the end, I decided not to delete the post, because I have a policy of not deleting posts. Partly this is for transparency and accountability, although there are MANY other reasons which I won’t go into right now.

Update: June 29, 2016

After continuing to have conversations about this matter, I decided to organize a donation drive to raise money for the GLBT Center of Central Florida – a charity that is providing services directly to Pulse families and survivors. You can read more information about the results of this here.

It’s also worth noting that while I continue to stand by what I wrote and how it was published, what I am not proud of was my response to some of the criticism that was levied. There were some people who were very open and genuine in sharing their pain and distress over what happened, and I responded to them in ways that weren’t acceptable.

I was in a really terrible place and was having to stay on top of deleting lots of horrible shit full of racism, homophobia, and misogyny and had been marinating in that for a few days when I saw these comments, which made it difficult for me separate people from trying to share their pain in a genuine way from people trying to shame me for what I wrote because of my perceived identity. Instead of stepping away to get some space and perspective, I responded from a place of pain, anger, and trauma, and that wasn’t okay. As such, I have taken steps to contact the people involved and make direct apologies. 

Hiatus ending, lots of stuff in progress

Hi, folks!

I’m actually working on the final formatting for a post that will go up in a few minutes, but I wanted to take a moment to address something that I had already apprised my patrons of.

You’ll have noticed that there haven’t been any new posts in the past month. That’s because my life kind of got turned upside down, but in a good way. It turned out that I had the chance to go back to school to upgrade my credentials, something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while, but I had to do it starting the January term. As in, right now. So getting all that sorted had to take precedence, which required putting the blog on pause.

I’m happy to say it all worked out. I’ve just finished my second week of classes and I’m happily optimistic about where this will lead. And now that I’m finding my feet, I’m working on getting back into the swing of things blogging-wise. My schedule may end up being less predictable – there will be homework and exams and the like to schedule around. So, for instance, I’m putting up a post today and another on Monday, and that might be more the way things go for a bit. I honestly don’t know! This is a new and weird adventure.

What I do know is that I have LOTS of things I want to write about, and that this blog is my number one priority for freelance scheduling for the forseeable future. And now that the “who the fuck knows what I’ll be doing with myself for the next year and a half” uncertainty of the past month+ has finally been resolved, I can get back to working on plans for providing more and better content for you, my lovely patrons and readers.

Thanks for all of your support, and for sticking with me.

Administrativa: FAQ, and update to the comment policy [LONG]

So here’s the deal. My comments policy is not all that complex: 1) no insults 2) no derailing 3) my house, my rules. And yet, this is something that a lot of commenters seem to struggle with – especially #3.

Since re-opening my blog, I’ve taken a much more liberal approach to enforcing the comments policy. I pretty much have zero fucks left when it comes to people coming into my space and behaving like an asshat; I don’t feel bad in the slightest about summarily trashing comments that insult myself or others, and I’ve grown to quite enjoy replacing derailing comments with sarcastic memes. Because again, see #3 – this is MY house where I make the rules.

But of course, there are certain types of people (men) who think it is LITERALLY JUST THE WORST that I don’t run an open forum for them to insult, abuse, and generally dispute everything I’m saying here. And those people get really. Fucking. Tiresome.

mary poppins

Because I’m getting real tired of this shit recently, I figured that it’s probably time to clarify the comment policy, just for the sake of transparency, so that when people whine about me removing their comments, I have something to point to instead of having to repeat the same five responses over and over again. I will also be updating the comment policy in the sidebar accordingly.

So. FAQ first, and then updated comment policy.

Frequently Asked Questions and Complaints

While this is not a comprehensive list of the terrible comments I get here on this blog, these are definitely the worst offenders. You’ll note that there are a lot of links in my answers to these questions. That’s because Go Make Me a Sandwich is not and never has been a 101-level feminist blog. I do not have the time, interest, or obligation to educate you if you have not done the basics of self-education with regards to feminism as it applies to geekdom.

1) BUT ALL THE MENZ GET OBJECTIFIED TOO

[sigh] No. Just… no.

First, attempting to dispute that game art is sexist by saying that men get objectified too completely misses the point. I have written extensively on how game art in every segment of gaming consistently under-represents and over-sexualizes women as compared to their male counterparts. This is not speculation – this is based on careful analysis and data collection of a wide variety of sources.

My original article written for Pelgrane covering video game art is here. Additionally, you can find many other posts using the same methodology if you search the “numbers” category here on my blog.

Second, saying that all men are idealized in games and game art is demonstrably factually incorrect. Male characters in games have always enjoyed a diversity of depiction of body size and shape that does not exist for female characters.

Third, male power fantasies are absolutely, categorically not the same as sexualized depictions of women. See my takedown of people who claimed that male characters in TERA were “as bad” as female characters. Or you can read either one of these great posts tackling why that’s just not the case.

2) THAT CHARACTER IS STRONG AND EMPOWERED AND WANTS TO SHOW HER TITS, YOU ARE SLUT SHAMING

For this, I am going to straight up quote myself from this post I wrote about the first Bayonetta game, since Bayonetta is a pretty classic example of a character that is frequently cited as “strong”, “liberated”, and “sexually empowered”:

If Bayonetta were an actual person, then it would make sense to proclaim that her sexuality is a choice and that she’s an empowering female figure. But she’s not a real woman. Everything about her was designed to be sexually appealing by a man who in his own words thinks that all women should strive to be as sexual as Bayonetta. …

It all comes back to the male gaze. (Seriously, please visit that link if the male gaze is a concept you’re not familiar with.) When looking at fictional characters like Bayonetta, you can’t disregard the creator. It’s not enough to say that she embraces her sexuality, because at no point did Bayonetta ever get to make a choice. Her creators made the choices for her. So I totally agree with Jonathan Holmes in his assessment of Bayonetta:

she’s an empty shell of a character; a shell made from here creators’ sexual fantasies, negative stereotypes, and misconceived notions of the female gender.

As for the people who claim you are somehow sexist or slut-shaming when you hate on Bayonetta, the same point applies. Bayonetta is not a person with agency, she’s a fictional creation devoid of any free will or choice. It is not slut-shaming to decry Bayonetta as a hollow stereotype whose sexuality is nothing more than a harmful perpetuation of the stereotypes surrounding female sexuality. It is a judgement on the designers and writers who created her to be what she is. Bayonetta is not for women, plain and simple. She is designed by men for men. As such, I feel no need to pretend that she’s a positive role model.

3) WHAT’S WRONG WITH CATERING TO MEN’S SEXY DESIRES

Nothing! Nowhere have I ever said that I think that there should be no games ever that include sexy women, for cishet-normative values of sexy. What I object to is the idea that every woman in every game must be designed to appeal to the cishet male gaze, because that makes no goddamn sense.

Women have represented juuuust under 50% of the video gamer market for quite a while now, not to mention that 85% of all consumer purchases (which includes video games) are made by women. And yet nearly the entire games industry is focused on designing characters that exist solely for the sexual pleasure and titillation of a presumed male player.

And that sucks! It would be like going to a restaurant that purports to serve people of any gender, but any cisman who walks through the door gets punched in the face. And if you try to complain, the restaurant staff deny punching you, and the other patrons form a lynch mob and run you out of the restaurant.

Further, this kind of thinking assumes that all men are a monolith, which they are not (of course). As shocking as this may be, not all men who play video games are straight. So the hyperfocus on the hetero-normative view of game development also does a disservice to men who don’t really care about sexy women, thanks.

4) GAMES ARE MADE FOR MEN

See the above response.

5) WHY DO YOU WANT TO CENSOR ART AND STOP ARTISTS!

Again, see #3. Also, stop being stupid.

6) IT’S THE ART DIRECTORS YOU SHOULD TARGET

Art direction is definitely a huge piece of the puzzle; I’ve written about the inconsistent art direction coming out of WotC, how internally inconsistent Magic: The Gathering’s art direction is within their own product line.

However, the ingrained sexist attitudes of the artists doing the work is also a huge problem. To quote Erik Mona of Paizo from a comment that he left on my old post about Pathfinder and racial diversity:

“The number of times over my 10-year career in this industry that I’ve had to send back an image with a note like “um, thanks, but can I get this without hard nipples showing through the leather armor, please?” would shock just about everyone.”

So does art direction need to get better? Absolutely. But the artists are just as culpable.

7) WHY DO YOU HATE WOMENZ WITH BIG BOOBZ?

I don’t hate women with big boobs. I am a woman with big boobs. What I hate is that there is a complete lack of body diversity of women depicted in games, despite that male characters come in every shape and size imaginable. It’s the bullshit double-standard that pisses me off, not the boobs or the women they’re attached to.

8) YOU ARE A MASSIVE PRUDE

Quoting myself again:

One of the charges that routinely gets hurled at me is that I’m a sex-hating prude that hates sex in games and thinks that people who put sex in games are just the worst. Which is pretty ludicrous, but it’s the lowest-hanging fruit of dismissive criticism aside from “she’s crazy”, which means it’s something I hear a lot. For a lot of people, it’s easier to attack the messenger than it is to engage with the message, especially when the message is openly critical of something that you like.

For more details on why I actually quite enjoy sex in games when it’s done well, go read the rest of the post that’s taken from.

Or if you’re too lazy, the TL;DR is: I’m not against all sex ever in games. I’m not against all sex ever in art. I’m not against all people ever who like sexy art, or who like sex, or who like sex and games. The end.

9) WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT THIS INSTEAD OF [X]?

Where do I even start…?

First, asking this question somehow implies that I can’t care about more than one thing about the same time. Frex, if I care about Cause Y, then why would I devote time to writing about Cause X? Which is silly, because the vast majority of humans are capable of being passionate about more than one thing. Odds are, you don’t spend all of your free time pursuing ONE activity. So assuming that me taking time to write about something that I feel passionately about – feminism in games – completely precludes the possibility of me engaging in other sorts of activism is… odd. (For more on this, see Derailing for Dummies)

Second, in application this question is almost always racist. Every time I have seen it used, people are asking things like “why are you writing about feminism in video games when you should be writing about female genital mutilation”. Or the violence against Afghan women and girls attempting to access education? Or poverty of women in the Asian subcontinent?  Which becomes really awful when you think about the context.

I am a white, middle class, cishet, able-bodied Christian-ish woman living in Canada. I am privileged as fuck, and I acknowledge that. So for me to devote myself to some crusade to save “foreign” brown women from the evils of their own culture would be the height of White Feminism. And while I am a feminist who is white, I do my damndest not to be a White Feminist. (I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I really do try.) And not attempting to save brown women from their own culture is the low-hanging fruit of not being a goddamn White Feminist.

Third, asking this question is really just trivializing my passion. I write about feminism in games because I am passionate about games, and sexism in games is something that impacts me personally. So for you to say “well actually, this thing you’re passionate about isn’t really all that important” makes you the asshole.

10) IT’S JUST A GAME

Refer to point number three of the previous response.

11) WHY DON’T YOU PLAY SOMETHING ELSE OR MAKE YOUR OWN GAMES?

Telling me to play something else if I don’t like a particular game is predicated on the assumption that there are a cornucopia of games out there that are perfectly enlightened and not at all sexist. Which, uh, yeah. Yeah that’s not even close to being true.

Usually, my game selection process involves finding the games that are the least sexist and still appeal to my play preferences. It’s a lot like the Monty Python spam sketch – “how about the spam eggs sausage and spam, that’s not got much spam in it” – in that one my primary criteria is always “is this game at least only minimally sexist?”.

Case in point, I play a lot of BioWare games, because they do get an awful lot of stuff right. Even if they really do fall on their faces when it comes to women. Like, a lot.

As for “why don’t I make my own games”? Uh. I do.

12) FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!1!1!eleventy! RAARGH!

Quoting myself again from this post in which I first implemented the comment policy:
most of all, I want this to be MY PLACE …

It’s not my place when I feel constantly challenged to assert my expertise on the matters I’m discussing, when I feel that I must always re-affirm my credentials.

It’s not my place when people come here to tell me that I’m crazy, ugly, irrational, stupid, ignorant, or a fascist.

It’s not my place when they tell me that harassment against women doesn’t matter.

It’s not my place when they tell me to lie down in front of a train rather than continue to speak out.

I can’t handle the volume of negative comments that I get anymore – it drains my energy, wastes my time, and sucks air out of the conversation. This was never intended to be a forum for other people to vent their hatred, and I’m tired letting toxic comments stifle real conversation in the name of welcoming free speech. Fuck free speech. This is not a democracy, and I am not obligated to give you a soapbox.

If you want a forum to tell me that I am wrong, or stupid, or even to just vent your hatred of women, that’s called THE REST OF THE GODDAMN INTERNET.

13) YOU’RE AFRAID OF REAL DISCUSSION

A lot of the time when I replace a comment with a meme, said commenter whines that I’m not “interested in real discussion”. Which, uh. Yeah. You’re right!

The reason I haven’t entirely closed down comments is that sometimes commenters are able to provide valuable and interesting perspective about a related topic or angle that I didn’t have knowledge of. Take, for example, my post on Lightning Returns and cultural appropriation. There were some really interesting things in the comments said about the history of oppressive violence in Japan against Christians. Similarly, in my post about MMOs and the lack of diversity of female body types, where a commenter provided personal perspective as a female employee who had worked on one of the MMOs I wrote about. That’s the sort of thing that I want to allow for!

The sort of thing that I have zero interest in, however? Shit like sea lioning, insults, cred-checking, or mansplaining. Especially since a lot of what people (men) attempt to mansplain is my own goddamn feelings.

So, you know. Not interested in real discussion? Yes! Way to hit the nail on the head! Where you go astray is thinking that I somehow actually give a shit or think that’s a bad thing.

Policy: Removing and Replacing Comments

If you violate rule #1 (no insults), your comment will be trashed. Period.

If you violate rule #2 (derailing), your comment will be replaced with an appropriate meme of my choosing.

If you complain about rule #3 (my house, my rules), your comment will be replaced with a meme on the first offense, with summary deletion thereafter. You don’t get to come into my house, trash my shit, and whine when I tell you to get the fuck out.

NEW RULE #4

WRT #2, any comment that resembles one of the above questions will be removed and the commenter will be instructed to see the FAQ for reasons why their comment is a waste of everyone’s time. Further, comments on the FAQ itself will not be allowed. This is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship.