At PAXAus!

Arrived in Melbourne for PAXAus! Come say hi!

I’m on a panel Friday evening and moderating one Saturday afternoon. Please come along!

Cultivating Safe & Inclusive Nerd Spaces –  Friday, 4 November  at 6:30pm in Kookaburra Theatre
So you’ve recognized our community has a problem with inclusivity & hasn’t always prioritized the safety/needs of people from different backgrounds. But enough about the problem–what are you going to do about it? It’s one thing to want safe, inclusive spaces. It’s another to make them happen. This panel is targeted at everyone who wants to take an active role in creating more diverse & inclusive nerd spaces. Come along to learn specific, practical, tested strategies for building such spaces.

Geekological Diversity: Tabletop Edition – Saturday, 5 November at 2:00pm in Kookaburra Theatre
We hear a lot about issues of diversity & representation in video gaming. But what about the tabletop side of geekdom? Don’t those nerds deserve to see themselves represented in their games too? So who’s doing this well? Who’s doing it badly? What does that even mean? Can you have good games that handle representation issues poorly? How do we engage with problematic games as conscientious gamers? Join a gamer, creator, blogger, & academic to explore these critical questions.

Otherwise, I’ll be attending a few panels, wandering the expo hall, tabletop gaming heaps, and chatting up people who might be interested in getting involved with the tabletop side of GXAustralia.

Twitter is the best way to get in touch if you’d like grab a drink or have a chat.

I’ll be rocking some awesome tights and also my amazing, amazing Pacman nails. #modesty

Nail art featuring Pacman, all four ghosts, teeny cherries, and the maze
Possibly my greatest accomplishment of all time.

-Brit

Updates: On radio silence, PAXAus, GXAustralia, & more

Hello, all!

A few updates about life at A Place at the Tabletop:

  • First up, apologies for the radio silence! The major work project I have been working on went live recently and consumed my brain/life/soul in the process. Then I immediately jumped a plane to Byron Bay to go do acrobatics in the bush with no connectivity for a week to recover from that nonsense. I am back on the grid now and you can expect a return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
  • Second, happy to announce A Place at the Tabletop will be hosting a panel at PAXAus!
    Geekological Diversity: Tabletop Edition – Saturday, 5 November at 2:00pm in Kookaburra Theatre
    We hear a lot about issues of diversity & representation in video gaming. But what about the tabletop side of geekdom? Don’t those nerds deserve to see themselves represented in their games too? So who’s doing this well? Who’s doing it badly? What does that even mean? Can you have good games that handle representation issues poorly? How do we engage with problematic games as conscientious gamers? Join a gamer, creator, blogger, & academic to explore these critical questions.

I’ll also be on another panel on the more general issue of how to create kickass nerd spaces that aren’t full of assholes:
Cultivating Safe & Inclusive Nerd Spaces –  Friday, 4 November  at 6:30pm in Kookaburra Theatre
So you’ve recognized our community has a problem with inclusivity & hasn’t always prioritized the safety/needs of people from different backgrounds. But enough about the problem–what are you going to do about it? It’s one thing to want safe, inclusive spaces. It’s another to make them happen. This panel is targeted at everyone who wants to take an active role in creating more diverse & inclusive nerd spaces. Come along to learn specific, practical, tested strategies for building such spaces.

Come say hi!

  • Also, remember when I said to watch this space to see what happened with getting drunk with one of the organisers of GXAustralia and offering to help grow the tabletop side of next year’s con? Well, it’s official!

    Be on lookout in the Kickstarter updates for a post from yours truly about all the awesome tabletop stuff we have planned for our second year. (Also, if you’re planning to attend and want to get involved volunteering, running games, or speaking on panels about tabletop issues, hit me up on Twitter!)

    And while we’re on the subject, if you care about queer representation and general inclusivity at cons (which I assume you do if you’re here!), you should definitely be throwing money at the GXAustralia Kickstarter. Back now for early-bird rates for a pass for yourself or someone else, or just throw in a few bucks in solidarity if you’re not going to be able to make it out. 9 days left!

Hope to see some of you at one of these cons!

-Brit

Welcome to A Place at the Tabletop

Like all worthwhile pursuits, this project started out as a rant on Twitter.

I’d recently attended the amaaaaazing GXAustralia con, where I spent several days surrounded by badass queers insisting on taking up space and feminist theorists deconstructing sexism in video games and trans activists urging designers to examine how limiting the gender binary is in our nerd media (and, may I say again, SO MUCH AWESOME HAIR). I was on a panel with a group of kickass queer women talking about how to build safe and inclusive nerdy spaces. I had the creators of Crucible (a morality tabletop RPG with heavy themes of diversity & inclusivity I’d backed on Kickstarter a while back) over to my house for dinner where I traded cocktail-making for a chance to playtest. “I should put together a casual dinner for people to hang out as the con winds down” turned into my accidentally throwing the somewhat-official impromptu after-party that garnered about 5x the number of people I booked space for. Plus All the Feelings about being in a space where I just felt 100% comfortable and accepted and like I belonged, with no need to ‘defend’ my right to be there. It was an incredible time.

There was only one problem I had with the entire weekend: Pretty much all the talk was about diversity and representation in video games. Where was the discussion on diversity and representation in the tabletop side of nerdery? 1

Now, I want to be clear this isn’t a slight on the organisers of GX–it was a little bit where their networks were and a little bit tabletop-side sponsors not coming through at the last minute and a little bit that there was only so much that could be fit into the inaugural event with the resources available. But the major issue underlying all of this is: People just aren’t talking about it much.

A few people are–Analog Game Studies is an excellent centre of scholarship in the area, for example. Brenda Romero has an interesting TED Talk on some related issues. And I’ve seen the conversation crop up occasionally among the same crowd working so fervently for increased diversity and representation in video games. But there hasn’t been much attention to the issue.

So my first thought was to determine whether or not it is an issue at all. I started discussions on social media, where responses ranged from “huh, interesting, hadn’t thought about it” to “YES, THIS IS A PROBLEM” to “I don’t really think the situation is that bad?”

So like any self-respecting analyst, the first step for me was to gather more data.

The next morning I dug through every one of my board games for a preliminary survey of “Do people who are not straight white men exist in games I own?” The answer was… sometimes.

A majority of games at least had some depiction of women (although not necessarily playable characters)–only three had zero women depicted in any way. About half had zero acknowledgement that people of colour even exist. Only two or three included any acknowledgement that queer or gender-diverse people exist.

And this was just looking at the standard of ‘exists’. Not a standard of ‘exist in numbers roughly equivalent to their population numbers’ or ‘form an integral part of game play’.

So, yes, tabletop gamers, we have a problem. Maybe not as severe a one as exists on the video game side, but we definitely are not immune to the lack of diversity and representation plaguing the broader nerd community.

It’s time to look at this issue more closely. It’s time to stop pretending that because many games are abstract, there aren’t representation issues. It’s time to talk about the issue of diversity in tabletop games similarly to how we talk about the issue in video games.

I’ll start by evaluating my own game collection and see where we go from there. (I’m also taking recommendations of games to review, so if you’re local, invite me over for a game or come to one of my game nights. And if you’re a designer who wants me to evaluate your own game, you’re more than welcome to send me a copy!)

I’m starting at looking at representation across four broad categories: Race/Nationality, Gender, Sexuality, and Body. Go read The Scale for an in-depth look at the metrics for evaluation, then be on the lookout for the first post tomorrow morning (roughly weekly after that).

Because there is a place at the tabletop for everyone. And our games themselves should reflect that.

A massive thank you to the beta readers who provided feedback and helped me hone The Scale into its current form: @lizduckchong, @surprise_bees, @pinkwink, @CosmGames, @JimmyGeekPA, and Gareth G. In addition to saying all the lovely and supportive things that encouraged me to actually do this, your critical feedback was invaluable. The most important part of being an ally is having people who challenge you and hold you accountable, and thank you for this kind of support as well. Y’all rock and I owe you all cookies.

Notes:

  1. Um, I may have gotten drunk with one of the organisers afterward at said impromptu-afterparty and volunteered to grow the tabletop side of the next GX? Cough. Watch this space.