Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sick Day Post #2: Holy Shit, We're Actually Going to Freak Out About the GenCon Industry Insider Thing?

Context: GenCon has a Guest of Honor track called the Industry Insider. I have very little experience with it; Michelle was on it a few years back and we weren't thrilled with how the Guests were treated (no budget for badges or rooms, no water for their panels), and I've since heard from other Guests who were kinda shorted - some guests were tapped for nine panels, some for only two. There have also been some questions raised about how the Guests were selected.

However! This year, there's been a great improvement: This year the list has gender parity (52% women). The representation of POC is still a little light (he said understatingly), and it seems to be hard to get across the notion that "well, if they don't apply, we can't accept them" isn't really the best way to go in an industry that is notoriously unwelcoming of POC and women at the best of times, plus GenCon is hella expensive and there's no money for these folks, even to cover hotels, but again, it's a good start.

So what has the Internet response been? Overall it's been pretty good, in the circles I run in. But, of course, the usual contingent of misogynists are annoyed by it. They don't (usually) come right out and say "we don't consider women to be actual game designers, because, for whatever reason, we hate and fear women" (though that's pretty clearly what's happening). Instead, they tend to say "why are these women on the list? They've done nothing in the industry!"

OK, look at the list. I'll name a few of the folks on it, just some of the ones I actually know (I don't know everyone, and we'll come back to that).

+Emily runs her own game company. It may not produce the kind of games that more traditionally-mind gamers think of when they think RPGs, but let's not be fucking essentialist, yes? Running a company is hella hard work. You do it, especially successfully (which she does), I'm pretty sure you deserve to be an Insider.

+Renee and +Anna, in addition to their gaming credits (which you can look up if you feel inclined) also do some amazing work blogging. I've spent literally hours reading posts on Anna's site, in part because I do want to sell games to women and it behooves me to pay attention when folks are being eloquent about the subject. Likewise, you could do a lot worse than reading Gaming as Women (in addition to Renee, +Michelle+Dymphna, and +Kira contribute there, plus lots of other women I don't know personally but enjoy reading).

+Monica developed Firefly, and at this point I really have to just smack my forehead, because I actually saw some butthead elsewhere on the Interweb talking about how +Eddy Webb deserved his slot on the list because of all the work he's done for various games (which is totally true), but Monica didn't because she's a "somewhat busy small timer." She hired Eddy to work on Firefly. Like, she was his boss. She's also developing Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Ed, and I've asked her to to work on it, meaning if she hires me, she'll be my boss. Like, she's the one responsible for making the game work.

As a line developer myself (Chill, Beast, Promethean, Demon, etc.), I gotta tell you, that shit is work. It's not something that you do lightly or casually. It requires skills far beyond writing game systems or writing prose - both of those things are necessary, plus you have to be a manager, which is its own special skill set. It's often invisible work, unless you're loud about it...which very few female game devs (side note: see how I used "female" as an adjective, there? That's how you use the word so you don't sound like a fucking reptoid) are. Wonder why that might be?

Look, I don't have solutions, here. I understand that as a male feminist, the bar for me is so fucking low I could step over it without breaking stride, and I don't need congratulations for treating women like people. I try to make the industry as welcoming a place as I can, and I don't pretend I have the answers or that I've never fucked up.

But for the record, here's what I do. These are things that I consciously, deliberately do as a game dev:

1) I hire women. I go out of my way to hire women. When I get submissions, I read the ones from women first (going by names). I don't hire every woman who submits, but I give them first crack at my brain. (Side note: I do this when POC and queer folks apply, too, but it's harder to know that right off the bat.) Sometimes I wind up working with women that I don't want to hire twice, but guess what? Not any more often than it happens with men.

2) I don't call women pet names (hon, sweetie, dear) unless we have a relationship that allows for that.

3) I don't shy away from giving women assignments on game mechanics. If you're working on a game I develop, you should know the rules and be able to write them. I have been writing and developing games professionally for close to 20 years, and it has not been my experience that gender is a determinant for ability to write or understand game mechanics.

4) I don't make jokes involving or about sexual assault (yes, men can be victims of sexual assault, too, but women are far more likely to have been assaulted, and anyway, "men might have experienced it too" is harder an argument for anything). If someone does it at the table when I'm running or playing a game, especially at a con, I'll call it out.

5) I don't hide behind "oh, we're all just here to play" or "I don't see gender/color/whatever, I just see gamers." No. I do see you. I want to see you, and if we're working together, I want your experience to color what you write and create. I am not the yardstick.

That's what I've got. I wish there was more. I wish there was some magical way to shut down the folks making death and rape threats against a cosplayer because her picture got run in an IndyStar article about GenCon that mentioned GamerGate. I wish there was a way to sit down with these dudes griping about the Insider list and say "look, I understand that story games might not be your thing, but guess what? D&D isn't my thing, but I can't deny its place in the industry." I wish there was a way to keep everyone safe.

But that's what I've got.