GenCon First Impressions: HOPE FOR THE FUUUUUTURE

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.

Phew!