Who’s fun matters, again?

May 8, 2012

I’ve always talked about how to have fun with games – and a lot of that has been also recognizing the things that get in the way of fun. I consider racism, sexism, hate of all types to get in the way of fun… but it’s always funny to see how many people will argue that you’re stifling their fun by saying you don’t want that stuff… because clearly 1) their fun depends on having hate in gaming, and 2) their fun matters more than your fun.

Liam brings up the core point that I’ve been saying and continue to point out:

The question to ask isn’t “How do we attract more women (or people of color, or queer people) to gaming?”

It’s “How do we stop driving them away?”

Part of it might be actually listening to the folks you want in. Typically it seems like every year or so there’s at least a couple of game forums that get into hand-wringing about it, and mostly the conversation pattern goes like this:

1. Someone brings up the question
2. People weigh in (varying from “This isn’t a problem” to “Here’s why”)
3. Marginalized group is ignored, attacked, and basically shoved to the side in the conversation. This may repeat across different conversations until the groups learn to either never talk about who they are or what they want, or they leave the space altogether.

4a. “Happy Ending” – only the most privileged folks remain in the conversation, and give each other hugs and cookies for having had a “pleasant” “reasonable” conversation and come to reasonable conclusions that in the end, nothing really needs to be done except the most superficial of symbolic actions. (Larger historical parallel – MLK’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail and his comments on “The White Moderate” are terribly on point in these situations)

4b. “Unhappy ending” – the angriest privileged folks act completely out of pocket, are not reined in by moderation, and the most assertive folks who argue against the ridiculousness perhaps hold on and fight back. Moderation becomes, “Close the thread”, thereby declaring both sides equally invalid in the perception of the community. Longer term, mods eventually start simply saying, “Don’t talk about being a woman, because that’s political and it has no place on these boards” or equivalent.

Notice in this process, the marginalized group remains marginalized, excluded and silenced.

At the first GenCon I went to, this question came up: “Why should we care about people of color?” And, the issues of who matters, and who’s fun matters highlight everything wrong with that question.

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