Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Race, Gender, and GenCon

This post is flawed.  Even before I start typing from my notes, I can tell you already: This post is flawed.  And I can't see the flaw, either.  But I can tell you why it's flawed.

It's flawed because it's being written from a position of privilege.  I'm a white male.

But I'm going to try to get it as correct as possible.

It's been a rough year for race relations in the US. It's also not been a good year for gender politics.  Police shootings and associated protests. GamerGate. And more. There are a thousand incidents every day that don't make the news because we dismiss them as being too minor or unimportant.

I've been demoing games at GenCon for eleven years, now, and I've seen a ton of change in that time. A ton. When my wife started attending (and demoing games), I started paying attention. And I kept paying attention.

Have I mentioned that my wife is a non-White woman? Or that she's amazing and awesome?

I've heard apocryphal stories of GenCon in the eighties and early nineties. I wasn't there. I didn't see it.  I'm told that the release of the first edition of Vampire: The Masquerade heralded a huge change in the gender balance of the convention (to wit: Women started appearing in numbers instead of being very rare at the show). But - even in 2007 when Steph started demoing - there were still gamers who didn't listen to her. They wanted to talk to "the rules guy."

She went to KublaCon one year and spent most of the show demoing Dungeon Twister: Forces of Darkness, and had similar responses from the people learning the game. She called me every night to make sure some of the rules calls she'd made had been accurate - and they were. To this day, I think she's probably better at that set than I am, even if she dislikes it.

Over the years, fewer and fewer people have refused to listen to her. More and more folks have come to the realization that women can (and do) know rules every bit as well as their male counterparts.

Things are changing.

Not fast enough, mind you, but they are changing.

This year, I noticed more non-white attendees that I'd seen before, both as attendees and as exhibitors. It's not perfect, but - again - the numbers are shifting. I know the convention itself has policies about hate speech and discrimination, but that won't necessarily change individual behaviors. But those behaviors are (slowly) changing for the better.  Even in Indiana.

It was interesting to me to notice the staff elsewhere. Not in the booths - I'm talking here about the convention center staff and the waitstaff and kitchen staff and the like outside the convention hall. Nearly all of the fast food employees near the convention center were non-white - unless you needed a manager or a supervisor. The nicer the restaurant you went to, the more likely you are to have a white server.

Interestingly, between the time I wrote this and the time the post went live, Anna Kreider had some similar observations (and her post is almost certainly less-flawed than mine).  You should definitely give her post (and her blog) a read when you have the time.

But the point remains:

We have a long ways to go. Progress is being made, but that is not an excuse to stop pushing.

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