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!

ebca09916ddcf4bc3e761ff2d350f570_original

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.

Gender is messier than a singular point on a two-dimensional line

My daughter is nearly four years old, which means that gender and the social construction of identity around gender is something that I think about on an almost daily basis. For one thing, it’s really hard to not hyper-examine the nuances of social expectation when you live with a gnome who asks “why” about everything under the sun approximately three hundred times per day.

There’s also the issue of trying to fight the awful socialization she’s picking up from the other children at her daycare. In the past year, since my daughter has started to become aware of gender norms and expectations, she’s gone from a self-confident little girl who didn’t particularly care what she wore as long as it was brightly colored to a child who is scared of the dark and climbing, will only wear girl colors, is obsessed with Disney Princesses, and insists that she is a princess – along with all of the attendant awful baggage that comes with.

So I spend a lot of time trying to teach her that being female doesn’t mean being limited by these reductive stereotypes, although my resounding lack of progress on that front has been discouraging to say the least. Something else that I am trying (and failing) to introduce as a concept is the fact that there are more gender options available to her than “boy” or “girl”. There’s an entire universe of gender options out there that I didn’t know about growing up, and I don’t want her to feel shoehorned into a gender by her biology simply because that’s the way that the majority of her caregivers conceive of gender!

Of course, actually having these conversations turns out to be super difficult for two reasons:

  1. Part of being able to teach her about this stuff involves finding language for it. And that’s HARD when talking about gender, because there is A LOT OF JARGON involved in educating yourself on gender issues that can be really hard to navigate without unintentionally stepping on toes. And figuring out how to phrase all of that in terms that a not-quite-four-year-old can understand is even more challenging!
  2. The language that a lot of people use when talking about non-binary gender identity is that of a spectrum, but I’ve never been a fan of the idea of gender as a spectrum. If gender is a spectrum, that implies that all possible genders exist as points along a single two-dimensional line with “male” and “female” as the two extremes along that line – which is incredibly reductive.

So it was with all of that in mind that I decided to make this comic – which will hopefully provide a useful visual representation for understanding some of the basics of the complexity of gender identity:

CLICK FOR LARGER, MORE READABLE VIEW
CLICK FOR LARGER, MORE READABLE VIEW

Why a complex view of gender matters: personal reflections on my own gender identity

My entire childhood, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was “failing” at being a girl. I HAAAAATE dresses, I’m disinterested in makeup, and hair? Between generally not understanding how to girl and having curly hair, my hair has always been a perpetual struggle for me.

(It didn’t help that my classmates ALSO thought I didn’t know how to girl. When I was 13 I cut my hair short and my classmates called me “Pat” – after the horrifically awful SNL skit – for a year.)

In high school and college, I’d joke about “being terrible at being a girl” or (after getting married) that I was “the man in my marriage”. But by then, I’d found ways of performing femininity that felt (mostly) comfortable for me. I still don’t wear dresses (unless I’m LARPing), and I mostly avoid makeup (except for LARPing or job interviews). But I’ve learned ways of dressing that look feminine without me having to put a lot of effort into PERFORMING FEMININITY. Because even now, that shit makes me feel like an alien from another planet.

This is how I feel whenever I have to put on makeup for a job interview.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started learning about non-binary gender identities and getting really obsessed with gender in general that I was introduced to the term “cis-by-default”, and was like YES. THIS. Because that perfectly describes how I feel about my gender now. If I had known that being genderqueer was a thing that existed when I was a kid, or shit even in college – I would have been all over that. I would be genderqueering like nobody’s business.

But finding out that’s a thing after 30+ years of figuring out how to be feminine without performing femininity? After having a kid and not having the time or bandwidth to even care about bathing regularly, let alone experimenting with gender presentation? No way.

In talking with my husband about this the other day, I compared it to a favorite pair of sandals. You get them because you like how they look, but it turns out that they just don’t fit right – they rub your heel, or they keep slipping off, or give you blisters. But you’re stuck with them because these are the only sandals you were given. Eventually you break them in, and maybe they end up not quite the way they’re supposed to – maybe you have to cut a strap to make them fit, or maybe they look too worn to be professional once you get them to that comfy stage. Whatever. What matters is they are comfy and are your go-to footwear.

And then someone shows you a pair of strappy ultra-high stiletto heel sandals. And shit, you love them SO MUCH. You’re mad you didn’t even know that strappy ultra-high stiletto heel sandals were a thing! Except… you have your comfy sandals. The ones that maybe weren’t supposed to fit you, but they fit now. And sure the new sandals might be amazeballs, but those things come with a learning curve. You’re going to fall on your ass and embarrass yourself in public at least a few times before you get it right, and who knows, you may even break an ankle. And shit, trying to be in school, do freelance, and have a three-year-old? I need sandals I know I won’t break my neck in if I have to chase my kid all of a sudden.

…but still. I have some awesome non-binary friends, and watching them experiment with their gender presentation makes me a little sad for younger me. For the me that definitely would have made different choices if she’d known those choices existed.

Indie publishers donate money to Pulse families and survivors [Freebie]

[Edited to add: The total has been updated to reflect a donation at the time that wasn’t reported back to me. Thanks to Emily Care-Boss for contributing and for letting me know.]

It’s been two and a half weeks now since the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, while I’ve seen some good, heartfelt conversations in private channels about the tragedy from those I know in the games community, the largest game publishing companies have been largely… silent.

At E3, the only AAA game publisher to address the Pulse shooting in their press conference was Microsoft, who led their event with a moment of silence. (Bethesda’s presenters did wear rainbow armbands, and their Twitter avatar was briefly given a rainbow background – though their avatar has been changed back already.) The lack of commentary from an industry famed for its continued reliance on misogyny, toxic masculinity, and heteronormativity to drive sales was disappointing, to say the least.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any contacts to speak of in the video games industry. But I do have contacts in the tabletop industry. Like, a lot of them. So I did some research and ended up contacting all of the indie publishers I know. Here’s a portion of the message that I sent:

The Pulse Tragedy

The mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was a horrific tragedy that has already touched so many lives. But worse than the loss and trauma, there is a real fear that I have heard expressed by many of my LGBT friends about how to navigate a world that hates and fears them when even their safe spaces, their spaces of refuge, are not safe.

There are so many talented and wonderful LGBT people in game development – developers, publishers, editors, designers, writers, that have contributed so much to our hobby. Without their voices and their talent, our hobby would be infinitely poorer. Unfortunately, while there are LGBT-friendly enclaves within gaming, the hobby as a whole continues to be unwelcoming to LGBT gamers. And I think the lack of response by “leading lights” in the gaming industry might contribute to that perception of gaming as an unsafe space.

And I get it! It’s hard to know what to say or do in the face of such brutality! And it’s hard to figure out how to express support in ways that are meaningful beyond “thoughts and prayers” or in ways that center the conversation around your distress and not the real needs of the people affected.

So Here’s What I Propose

I would like to have an informal donation drive, of sorts, to have publishers come together and donate money to a charity directly doing the work of providing services to families and survivors; The GLBT Center of Central Florida is a charity that has already been providing these services – you can read about their ongoing efforts here.

And I’m pleased to be able to report that people stepped up. Because much as I devote a lot of space to the problems that the games community and industry faces, there are a lot of good and conscientious people on the publishing end of things who are trying to make a real difference.

The Outcome: $1173 Raised for the GLBT Center of Central Florida

Indie tabletop publishing is an industry with incredibly narrow profit margins – it’s tough when RPG consumers expect stunningly beautiful, art-rich, 300 page game books for rock-bottom prices. So I’m pleased to be able to say that between the ten publishers who participated, we were able to raise $1173 $1223 in contributions. Here are the publishers (in no particular order) who donated:

The contributions were made individually by each publisher, who communicated the amount of their donation to me, for the purposes of knowing the overall total only. Publishers were linked to the GoFundMe campaign as well as the direct PayPal donation link, so that contributing publishers could use whichever was more convenient or ethically preferable. (Myself, I prefer to avoid GoFundMe whenever possible, because of the company’s problematic business ethics.)

(It may be worth noting that Peach Pants Press (aka me) is one of the listed contributors. I don’t believe in asking people to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.)

I’m grateful for the contributions made by my publishing peers and hope that this can be at least a small step from one corner of the games publishing industry to indicate that we care about LGBT people, and want to continue doing what we can to make safer spaces within the gaming community. All too often, silence can feel like a lack of support and caring. This small gesture can’t possibly erase all of the awfulness that happens within our community, but hopefully we can signal that there are lots of people who make games who want to do what we can to continue making gaming spaces better – more safe, more inclusive, and more welcoming.

E3 2016: Female-character-led games still WAY MORE INTERESTING

Last week I happened to see this piece from The Mary Sue about the disappointing numbers of games previewed at this year’s E3 that featured playable female characters. In it, TMS’ Jessica Lachenal expressed disappointment in the disparity between the relatively high number of games previewed last year at E3 that featured playable female characters and the seemingly lower numbers of such games this year:

After digging through the E3 2016 announcements for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and EA, I’ve only been able to count six games that feature either exclusively playable female characters, the choice to play as a female character, or a segment involving playing as a female character. This is a significant drop from E3 2015, where the illustrious Sam Maggs found 23 games that featured female playable characters. Seven of those games only offered female playable characters, as Feminist Frequency pointed out. — The Six Games at E3 2016 Featuring Female Playable Characters, Jessica Lachenal

To go from 23 down to six seemed like such a puzzling drop that it got me wondering. Were there really only six games featuring playable female characters being previewed at E3?

Let’s look at some (general) numbers (remember, these are approximations):

Happily, there were actually a good deal more than that! However, in order to come by this information, I had to dig up this list from IGN of all games featured at this year’s E3, at which point I did some perfunctory Googling of each game on the list to determine (as best I could with no more than five minutes per game) numbers and genders of protagonists.

Because this list was HUGE, I decided that I would not bother counting anything that was an “open world” game – which seems to be the new term for MMOs that aren’t RPGs, racing games – which are about vehicles more than people, and fighting games – because fighting games’ issues with gender are a phenomenon unto themselves, and remasters of existing games – because that’s just cheating. (Most of the games that I eliminated were open world games, although remasters were a close second.) If you look at all games previewed, there were 27 games featuring playable female characters, as opposed to 43 games which did not have playable female characters:

e3-games
You can find the spreadsheet this came from here, if that’s more readable for you

Granted, the point made in the TMS piece stands – fully 5 of the 27 games were games that were announced for the first time at last year’s E3. It’s also worth noting that more than half of games with playable female characters offer those characters alongside 1 or more male characters. And a large number of those games offer only 1 woman and multiple male characters. Additionally, Battlefield 1 makes the list, since it will have one sequence with a playable female character, while the rest of the game will feature only men. However, since it contains a playable female character, that’s enough to get it to count.

So while 27 to 43 doesn’t look like that bad of a ratio when you look at the numbers, things get a lot more depressing when you look at games with only 1 protagonist. There are only 11 games with a sole female protagonist, as opposed to 33 games with sole male protagonists! Even more depressing than the gender imbalance is the fact that SO. GODDAMN. MANY. of the dude characters that are headlining these games are just MORE OF THE SAME and represent ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING NEW:

dudezBecause what gaming is more of the exact same protagonist that they have been serving us over and over and OVER for the last several decades. Please, I would like someone to tell me how I’m supposed to care about YET ANOTHER installation of The Adventures of Scowly GrizzledFace McSquareJaw and His Continuing Journeys In the Land of Heterosexual Mostly Whiteness. Because at this point, I’m pretty much at the same point with this shit as I am with Spiderman reboots. IT WAS GREAT THE FIRST TWO DOZEN TIMES BUT I’M NOT DOING IT AGAIN. I’M NOT. I DON’T CARE , YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.

Seriously, the offering of nearly identical grizzled (mostly) white guys with the same damn stories and the same damn motivations pursuing the same damn goals in the same damn environments… it’s just… BORING. BORING BORING BOOOOORING.

Contrast this with the female characters on offer. Even though there are many fewer of them, and they still skew overly white, young, and “pretty”, the variety still manages to be so much more interesting and compelling:

E3-wimminz

Here you see women who are white, black, Asian, and Middle Eastern. Old women, young girls, and in between. Soldiers and magicians, mechanics and rogues. And more than their visual dissimilarity, their goals and motivations are different. You have women trying to survive, trying to save someone they love, trying to make a new home and new way of life. Women trying to become masters of a martial art, women seeking action and adventure, and women looking to wrestle the Fates themselves.

All of which are WAY MORE INTERESTING than killing things with guns, regretting That One Woman You Couldn’t Save, having sex with women you don’t care about, and staring broodingly into the middle distance. I’ve been playing video games since I was six years old, and I’m fucking tired of seeing the same stories over and over again. As a consumer, pretty much the best way that you can guarantee that I won’t buy your product ever is to not include female protagonists.

And shit, you can still have pretty much ALL OF THAT Beardy McScowlpants crap in a game and still get me to like it if you actually have a female character worth playing. Joel from The Last of Us is one of the most stereotypical exemplars of the ScruffyBeard McFridgedDaughter trope ever, and I still wound up yelling my excitement about how goddamn good that game was over the course of several posts.

But, alas, given the continuing reluctance of AAA publishers to include playable female characters in their games, it looks like I’m going to be complaining about all the unoriginal Scowly White Dudes in AAA games for some time to come.

New 7th Sea core book: lots to be thrilled about, but still comes up short [LONG]

A few weeks ago, Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games approached me about doing a review of the art in the new 2nd Edition 7th Sea core book, in advance of the book’s final release. (7th Sea isn’t a Magpie product, it’s by John Wick, but it’s being project-managed by Mark and Marissa Kelly, who are 2 of the 3 owners of Magpie.) I thought this was pretty exciting, given that I had previously been a huge fan of the fantastically inclusive art direction in Urban Shadows, so I said that I would be very interested in taking him up on the offer of early access so that I could have time to work on the review.

It turns out that the 7th Sea art was simultaneously exciting and frustrating, in the same way I find BioWare games exciting and frustrating. 80% of the art in this book is so so good, and there is exciting stuff I have never seen in a game book before, period. Which is why I find the areas where the book falls short all the more frustrating! Because it’s a fantastic book, but in terms of representation of women it still falls short.

Analysis numbers

Just as I would do with any large game book, I went through and did counts of the gender distribution of figures in 7th Sea core book art. I won’t clutter this review with lots of pie charts, but all of the results that I reference in this post can be found in this Infogr.am here, if you’re curious for specific figures.

While there were a lot of things to be excited about, the gender breakdown ended up being only slightly better than D&D 5E’s player’s handbook; of all the figures counted in the 7th Sea corebook, 35% were women, 55% were men, and 10% were unknown – which is only 5% better than the 5E PHB’s 30% representation of women.

When I mentioned these initial results, it was suggested that overall representation of figures isn’t necessarily the same as representation of focal figures – a point that I don’t necessarily agree with but thought worth investigating. However, when I re-did my counts focusing only on focal figures and eliminating background figures, there was only a 2% increase in female representation – which isn’t exactly a significant difference.

That’s not to say that the 7th Sea core book is as universally poor at equitable representation as the 5E PHB or the Pathfinder books that I examined, however. When it came to single-character illustration, 7th Sea fell just shy of parity with 19 women (47.5%) to 21 men (52.5%), which means that group illustrations are where the numbers fell apart and dragged down the averages for the rest of the book; out of 43 group illustrations, 8 had only one woman out of 3 or more figures, and 7 more had no women whatsoever.

So, not absolutely terrible – not by a long shot. But given the people involved and the high quality of art directions on other projects Magpie has managed, certainly disappointing.

Now of course, numbers don’t always tell the whole story – and there are a number of things worth looking at in a bit more detail. (It’s worth noting that I don’t want to end on a negative – since my overall feelings about this book are quite positive – so don’t let the fact that the first half of this post is pretty critical mislead you into thinking that I’m saying this is a terrible book, because that’s really not the case.)

My personal pet peeve: when men are men and women are sexy 

One of my absolute least favorite kinds of stupid game cheesecake artist is when you have depictions of a man and a woman shown as the same character type where then man is completely covered and the woman is dressed more revealingly. So I was rather annoyed when I spotted not one, but two instances of this irritating trope.

The first are these depictions of male and female highlanders: Highlander-m-f

I do appreciate the fact that the dress in both of these instances is historically accurate, but showing the female highlander with a sword and shield while her top hangs low enough to show off quite a lot of cleavage? Aggravating. And while the number of layers she’s wearing makes it a bit difficult to say for sure, I suspect that there’s some hip-thrusting happening for a more appealing pose – which is irritating in comparison to the male highlander who has his feet firmly planted with his weight distributed evenly between both feet. In other words, the male highlander is depicted as heroic, while the female highlander is depicted as pretty.

Still, mildly irritating is still a whole lot better than actually infuriating, as is the case with the male and female Jarls:

vikings-m-f

The female highlander is at least historically accurate, while all semblance of accuracy for the female Jarl is discarded in favor of sexy historical-ish flavor. A shield maiden should have armor that actually provides coverage of her arms and tors0, not some sexy leather tunic with a plunging v-neck that shows off her great rack. The male Jarl is heavily armed and armored, while the female Jarl is just a fashion icon.

And sure, only 2 pieces in a nearly 300 pages book is pretty impressive, given the overall art density. And while the Jarless earns a whole lot of side-eye, she is definitely a damn sight better than a lot of the bullshit art I lampoon on this blog.

Gender imbalance in group images: either you’re good enough to be a hero or villain, or you’re invisible

It’s not enough to simply say that the group illustrations are where things fall apart, because they’re the ones dragging down the overall average, because that would convey the notion that the group images are universally terrible – and they’re really not.

There are a large number of two-character images, and the great majority of two-character images depict men and women together in equally strong and interesting roles. There are far too many to pick out, but here are some of my favorite examples:

awesome-duos

When it comes to the duo shots, women are depicted as strong, interesting, and in a variety of roles – from magic-wielding warrior, to powerful noble, to alchemist, to daring swashbuckler. And there’s a lot to love! I love how the upward perspective on the female warrior in the first image is purely for heroic emphasis and not to emphasize her [ahem] feminine attributes, which is a gratingly common trope in fantasy art. I also love how angry the female noble looks as she steps on the back of the dead man at her feet, or how it looks like the female alchemist is the one running the show and the man is just her lab assistant. And the dueling swashbuckler? Epic.

Which is why it’s so disappointing that when the focus widens to larger depictions of the world, society, or a larger group of individuals, that things fall apart in a pretty bad way. 16% of the group images in the book don’t have any women at all, such as this illustration here:

no-fem-sailors

Admittedly, 5 of the 8 figures have no gender, but the three focal figures in this image are all gendered as male – which is disappointing given that the text says that women can do just about anything within the world of Theah.

Even so, that image isn’t nearly so egregious as this image, which comes from the section describing the Samartian parliament as being tremendously egalitarian, because Samartian citizen – regardless of background – may participate in the parliamentary process:

sarmatian-parliament

I see an awful lot of skin tones on display, but there are TWELVE MEN, and only one woman – who isn’t by any means focal. This lack of imagination on the part of the artist is as depressing as it is predictable. When told to depict a government, they drew mostly men with a token woman. Granted, that’s slightly better than the percent of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (4.4%), but not much! In a book that depicts tales of swashbuckling, heroism, magic, and adventure, I’d hope that it wouldn’t be too much to imagine that women might actually participate in public service.

Now that image has the most skewed gender ratio of any image in the book, but nearly every other image in the book that depicted 3 or more characters had more men than women – and usually by a large margin. (There were a few notable exceptions, like the image with five female witches, but those were more the exception that proved the rule.) 1 woman to 4 men seemed to be one of the most common gender ratios in group images, such as:

1-woman-witch

One villainess, four focal male figures. And sure they’re all cowering from her, and she’s center focus, but that doesn’t change the fact that there aren’t any other visibly female figures in what looks to be a pretty crowded public space.

It happens with images of heroes too:

crowd-1-fem

Again, one woman – this time a hero – and 4 men. I do appreciate that in this instance, the woman looks heroic and capable, but the fact that in all of the 7th Sea core books henchpeople are depicted as nearly universally male is disappointing. In either good or evil, it seems that in Theah if you are spectacularly exceptional, you can aspire to be a true hero or a true villain – but if you are female and ordinary, well best keep you out of sight.

You even see this on the cover of the book:
Cover

And man that’s frustrating – because this cover is awesome. I absolutely love how fucking badass the female hero on the cover looks – the pose and cocky expression are just fantastic. Morever, she’s centrally placed, not just shoved off to one side – which is a thing that you see on an awful lot of fantasy RPG covers with similar ratios of gender representation. This is a great cover! It would just be nice if it had more than one woman.

Things that fucking rock

I’ve gone on at some length already about the things that frustrate me about this book – but there really is a lot in this book that I’m quite happy about! Like the copious quantities of completely awesome female characters:

awsum-laydeez

You don’t even know how hard it was restricting myself to just a few favorites. There are so many examples of strong, active, and awesome women of all types – women that get to interact dynamically with their environment. Each of these women is a character that I would absolutely love to play – and in general the depiction of women as consistently appealing avatar characters in this book is fantastic. For all that I’ve devoted a lot of space to complaining about “where are the women??” – the standard of depiction for women who do appear in the book is one that a lot of other mainstream RPGs would have difficulty living up to.

However, how the 7th Sea core book really sets a new high-water mark is in its depiction of gay relationships between heroic characters:

gay-kisses

It’s possible that I may have seen lesbians that weren’t outrageously pornified in a trad RPG text, although if I have I can’t remember it. But I know that I have never seen a gay kiss in a mainstream RPG – so even by that standard this art is groundbreaking. But better than that, these depictions are genuinely fantastic depictions of gay romance. Both sets of characters are appealing avatar characters and not Evil Gays! And in both images, the romance is shown as tender and genuine and real – which knocks my goddamn socks off.

In Conclusion

Obviously, 7th Sea is a game property with an enormous amount of reach and popularity. Given that it raised 1.3million on Kickstarter, an awful lot of publishers are going to be looking to learn lessons from the 7th Sea phenomenon. So despite my disappointment that I feel like the new core book didn’t live up to its potential with its representation of women, overall I feel pretty encouraged that this represents a large step in the right direction when it comes to overall inclusiveness of art direction in a mainstream RPG product – given the influence that this product will have over future mainstream RPG products. And it’s definitely my hope that Magpie can continue to improve upon what they’ve already done. There’s still an awful lot of 7th Sea content in production, and hopefully they’ll take all of this into consideration and work on finding ways to do even better.

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. 

“But why does it matter?” Orlando is why it matters.

You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the mass shooting at The Pulse – an Orlando LGBT club, which was the largest mass shooting in US history since Wounded Knee. Some great things have been said by some great people. Chuck Wendig’s recipe for a mass shooting is fucking chilling and amazing, as is John Scalzi’s look at the complete and total copout of offering thoughts and prayers without doing anything further.

(Yes I realize it’s a bit sketchy to link to two cishet white guys after a tragedy affecting mostly queer brown people, but both of these pieces are about cishet white guys speaking hard truths to other cishet white dudes.)

And as someone who feels queer-adjacent without actually owning the identity of being queer (at least at present – since I very much present as cishet and 100% benefit from that privilege), I’m conscious of not wanting to take up space that should be claimed by queer voices speaking out on their own behalf. However. There’s a thing that I feel needs saying, and since I haven’t seen anyone else saying it…

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

One of the biggest ways that trolls try to silence me is to say that what I write here isn’t important. Who cares about what I think? After all, it’s just games. It’s not like it’s a matter of life and death, right? It’s all just pixels on a screen / images in a book/board game/card game – right? RIGHT?

IT’S. JUST. A. GAME.

If you’re someone who calls yourself a gamer, or are someone who would say that playing games is a primary hobby, how many hours per week do you spend playing games? All types of games? Seriously. Think about it and come up with an average number of hours per week.

Now think about that as a percentage of your life. How does that number compare to the time you spend, say, at work? Doing housework or other chores? I know that personally, I spend about as much time per week playing games as I do parenting my kid – and I know that I don’t have time to play as many games as a lot of my friends do.

Find something else to do with your time

Now think about the kind of reasoning behind saying that writing about feminism and games is a waste of time because “it’s just a game”. How does that work exactly? If you casually throw around the term “fag” and use the specter of homosexuality and queerness as something to shame the men around you into falling in line with narrow definitions of “acceptable” masculinity? How does being part of a game make expressions of hatred for queerness and queer people somehow magically acceptable?

Even if you’re not someone who engages in hateful speech or behavior – you don’t call other guys “gay” as an insult, you don’t tell women to shut up and get you a sandwich, any of that stuff. Being prepared to accept hate because “it’s a game” frankly isn’t much better. If you spend half (or more, even) of your leisure hours not “rocking the boat” in the name of “just having fun”, what makes you think you’re going to magically be any better at it when you find yourself around people using gendered/racist/anti-queer slurs outside of the context of games? What makes you think you’re even going to notice, when you’re spending such a huge percentage of your life learning to not see your friends engaging in hate?

What we do in our leisure time MATTERS, because our leisure is a huge part of our lives. And for most people, at least for just about all the Millennials I know, our leisure defines us far more than our shitty, dead-end, low-wage, soul sucking jobs.

Well done… I thought games were suppose to be fun, i am almost sure they’re not political. Because you know why? THEY’RE GAMES! They are pixels on the screen that doesn’t hurt anyone

I have spent a large portion of the last five years writing honestly about my experiences – my thoughts and feelings about the sexism I experience and why that matters. And yet, the thing that gets thrown at me over and over again is who cares. Who cares? WHO CARES?

I care, and you should too. 49 people are dead and 53 are injured because of our culture of homophobia and intolerance. The shooter wasn’t an entirely unique phenomenon formed out of the ether. He was informed by a culture of white supremacist patriarchy that told him that his rights were paramount. That being gay is un-masculine. That people who are women and queer and brown are less and other, and that their feelings and lives don’t matter – not the way men’s do.

While I agree with some of your analysis, I also think you sometimes take your analysis to the extreme side finding bias where it might only exist in the mind of the viewing.

Our culture told the shooter that only his thoughts mattered. That his FEELINGS of disgust were more important than the victims’ LIVES.

Do you ever get tired of being unhappy with entertainment? Have you considered seeking out entertainment that is geared toward women more?

Who cares?

Fuck you. Instead the question should be why DON’T you care? Why are you so prepared to disclaim the hurt of a fellow human being? Why are you okay with drawing lines around what is and is not acceptable for someone to feel hurt by?

for someone who’s not being heard that sure is a lot of words, fatty

It’s just a game?

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the stereotypes that caused the Orlando shooter to think it was okay to end the lives of people who don’t meet his narrow definitions of acceptable performance of gender and sexuality.

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the culture that teaches men that their masculinity has to fit the narrowest confines possible, that they have to mutilate themselves emotionally in order to be acceptably masculine, that teaches them that empathy is a weakness not a strength.

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the idea that we as a community don’t care about the suffering of those who are not cishet white men.

I think whoever wrote this has too much time on their hands and needs to get laid

It’s not a game because REAL PEOPLE ARE DEAD. They are dead for realsies. They won’t get to call pause for a bio break or a snack run, they won’t get to say brb – kid. They’re DEAD.

Also, I realize when you read this rude comment it will set you off and you will rant on twitter. Maybe you should focus on things that actually matter.

It’s not a game because real people are afraid to go to the bathroom in public. To go to work. To leave their goddamn homes. They don’t get to call pause on the hatred, on the wondering if some violent asshole “standing guard” over a public washroom is going to make them a statistic.

It’s not a game because people like the shooter don’t come from a magical thought vacuum. They are created by a toxic culture of hatred, and culture is something that we all create.

So why do I care? Because I can’t not. There’s just too much at stake.