Last week as I was surfing one of my usual online haunts, I found out a woman, former gamer, and former game shop employee posted on the Internet that tabletop gaming has a "white male terrorist problem." She recounted a number of incidents of sexist behavior directed at her by male gamers both in real life and online. She openly stated that rape and death threats had been made by members of the community behind Wyrd Miniatures' Malifaux game.
Since reading her post, I've been watching the arguments, counter-arguments, and trollery develop. Some fervently believe her account. Others fervently deny it amidst the blue haze of their own sexism. A third group has taken the middle road, stating that while they question some of her claims and outright reject her hateful hyperbole, they consider the issue of sexism in gaming (and fandom in general) to be a serious issue that needs to be dealt with in a serious fashion.
As a result, the period leading up to this post has been one of anxiety, introspection, and anger. Dealing with identity politics, claims of sexual abuse, as well as the propaganda that is slung about by both sides in the fight is a twisted, confusing mess. I would compare it to "going down the rabbit hole", but it's more of a black hole with Dr. Hans Reinhardt/Maximilian as your only guide. This entire fight has led me to believe that like a black hole, no light can escape this "debate" (to describe it politely). Nobody is coming away unscathed, least of all the people both sides believe they are championing.
So, "In for a penny, in for a pound," as some would say. Here's my take on the whole situation and where I stand on it, one reason at a time.
- As a GM, I live to see my players have a good time. Because of that, I was moved to introspection by the recent online confession of an acquaintance and fellow third-party publisher. In it, he recounted the times he had the chance to call his fellow male gamers on their bad behavior and failed to do so. I can recall several instances where I was GM to one or more women in my group; there were multiple women in both my private and public groups; the other instances were at two different conventions, each a different year. The first two were Call of Cthulhu scenarios at a convention back in Iowa. There were multiple women in each event, all the players were close to my age at the time (early to mid-twenties) and everybody had a blast while respecting each other. The third was also a Call of Cthulhu scenario in which the majority of the players were men. There was jocularity around the table, and the phrase "Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich" was bandied about jokingly as they explored the haunted house - and even the sole woman player of the group laughed. I half-heartedly asked the guys to tone it down, but looking back, I feel I should have done more. Last year, I was running Beyond the Wall for a group comprised mostly of older male gamers, a couple closer to my own age, and a teenage girl. The experience hearkened back to my earliest convention games. Everybody was well-behaved, cheered each other on, and laughed at each other's foibles and botched rolls as well as their own. All that being said, in light of that one instance, my table will be a safe space within reason, which I will further detail below.
- For the past eight years I have been married to a wonderful, empowered woman, and for the past four years we have striven to help raise a young, outgoing, and empowered foster daughter. While neither of them are interested in gaming, the fact that the daughter of one of my best friends is interested in her dad's hobby (along with the above reason), was a precursor to both the re-ignition of the debate and this statement. If anybody at my table makes my friend's daughter uncomfortable, they will have two angry dads to deal with. The same goes without saying regarding my foster daughter.
- Having been a victim/target of abuse in the past, I am sympathetic to those who have suffered any kind of assault. At the same time, I reserve the right to be skeptical. Despite my dislike of his tribalist hyperbole, the RPGPundit made some good points regarding the issue in two separate blog posts here and here. To sum up both posts, he states - as I did in my last post - that the Outrage Brigade does not want to debate things in good faith. They want their way to be the only way and woe to those who stand between them and their goal. If that means smearing the names and reputations of those who call them on their own terrorist behaviors, then they will (and they have). I hold the right to hear both sides of the story and make up my own mind. I will not be fed a narrative wholesale without considering the facts. In this case, the other side of the story came from a statement from Wyrd Miniatures' Nathan Caroland concerning the claims made by the woman. Considering that requests for evidence made of the victim by the company have gone unanswered and that Wyrd Miniatures is a small company in a small, niche market, I highly doubt the woman's statements that the company is out to get her. That she suffered the cruelty and indignity of being assaulted and being either dismissed or threatened by others in the hobby, I have no doubt. However, to make false allegations is damaging not only to the target of the allegations, but also the victim and what little credibility they have in our troubled, victim-blaming society.
- I may be a nice guy, but I'm not a pushover. Having dealt with an abusive parent and no less than two abusive sociopaths in the past, I'm going to be taking a more hardline stance in dealing with abuse of any kind at my gaming table. You'll get one warning for bad behaviors in any game I GM. One. After that, you're done - blacklisted. I have no reservations about calling convention security or store management to help resolve the situation to the benefit of the group and perhaps even the hobby. If a game I run is at another gamer's house, I will demure to the host so long as the situation is resolved to EVERYONE'S satisfaction (within reason) and there is no imminent threat of re-escalation, later retaliation, or physical harm. If I'm running a game in my own home and I tell you to leave because you're blacklisted, you'd better do so. Conversely, if a convention or other game host refuses to deal with behaviors that cause one of my players to be upset or otherwise not have a good time, I will be more than happy to extend an invitation to the non-offending members of the group to game elsewhere with me; at the same time, I will advise the host that they are blacklisted for their complicity and I will not return. If this causes bridges to burn between me and the gaming community here or abroad, so be it. If there's anything I've learned from The Big Purple Cesspool, it's "no gaming - or solo gaming - is better than bad gaming".
While there are people in the hobby who would consider this concept policing or x-carding - it's not. In short, I want to beat the Outrage Brigade to the punch and let people know up front what to expect from me as a GM. Once a person is informed, they really can't claim to be triggered or otherwise "shocked" by the content of my games. Of course, I know this won't affect the Outrage Brigade in any way other than to expose their hypocrisy.
That's it in a rather large nutshell, folks. Seeing as how I've gone on babbling for so long, I'm going to hold off presenting the details of my idea (with examples for upcoming events) in my next post...
SHORT ADDENDUM: For those of you who are wondering, I am still going to go ahead with my plan to diversify the platforms I offer my material on. Right now taxes are taking up my time, but once tax season is behind me, I'll be doing more with regard to that quest.
EDIT(S): Sorry for the constant updates. I've been working on this all night while at my graveyard shift job. It's now 6 in the morning here and so my brain center is turning to mush. I just wanted to make sure people who know me and may be reading my blog don't feel I've neglected any details here.