Tag Archives: conventions

Maelstrom – Unscheduled, Inclusive and now with Sponsorship

There is a new gaming convention coming out soon called Maelstrom, April 4th to April 6th. I want to mention it here because as taken from the website this is something that people here would be really interested in as it’s got a focus on being unstructured and inclusive. They got a lot of attention last year with their Diana Jones Nominated play-testing convention Metatopia for being a great spot to talk about design, as well as being inclusive to their guests with lots of discussion based around queerness, mental health, and social change in games.

That said, maybe Morristown NJ is a little too far for you, and the money isn’t there? Thankfully for this new convention, the people to the IGDN are providing a sponsorship to a designer from marginalized communities whose work supports the discussion and exploration of issues that affect marginalized communities. The best thing, for those who are still worried about it, is that having published material isn’t a pre-requisite to get the sponsorship.

There are more details on the IGDN website.



GaymerX: an event is born

GaymerX Logo

GaymerX Logo

“Queer culture, especially gay male culture, discourages geekiness. It puts emphasis on physicality and mainstream pop culture. You almost have to be closeted twice.”

This is the experience of Seattle queer geek community organiser Charles Logan, as expressed in a panel at GaymerX this weekend. The event, part conference and part convention, was a tantalising taste of what the queer scene and games culture could be like; a small hint that maybe one day I won’t feel alienated or isolated.

It was an extraordinary event; while it had precedents in Seattle’s Queer Geek community and the existing Gaymer scene in San Francisco, many attendees had never before had a venue for being openly queer and geeky. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. To look down a conference schedule and see it packed with topics such as ‘Gender in Interactive Fiction’ and ‘How Queerness is changing games media’ was uniquely thrilling and fundamentally affirming.

More than a couple of panelists acknowledged in different contexts that safe spaces are only ever ‘safer spaces’; the creation of a safe space takes ongoing effort, and mistakes will be made. There were certainly eye-roll moments for me: the EA panel calling male femininity an “extreme stereotype” of homosexuality (cringe), or the partner of a trans guy saying, in front of their spouse, on stage and on camera, that they are “not into cis guys” (not cool) [edit: many thanks to the panelist for apologising in the comments (12th August)], or the moment in a panel called ‘Knowing your roots’ where Uncharted’s Nathan Drake was described as someone “everyone can relate to” (perhaps a white, cis, male vision of ‘everyone’).

We’re all still learning how to get this right, but I personally feel optimistic that events like GaymerX will give us more opportunities to learn together.

Watch me hit the gay button

One issue raised in relation to mainstream games was that even though some studios within large publishers like EA are getting the greenlight to include same-sex romance options, there are tight restrictions on how this can be implemented: an engineer working on The Sims 4 recounted an occasion when a test build sometimes showed gay couples cuddling on park benches in the background; they were instructed to change it, because, “the rule is that you don’t get a homosexual encounter unless the player initiates it.” In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Anna Anthropy described this as the ‘gay button’.

Jessica Merizan, community manager for BioWare, said that she wanted to see gender options become non-binary in more games. “People don’t trust that community managers actually do anything, but I do advise on what our fans want. I really want to help reshape the misconceptions. Gender and sex are not the same thing, and neither are binary. Unfortunately, because of tech limitations, you always pick male or female. I hope that some day we will get through that milestone–that you don’t have to pick male or female–because that’s not how the world is.”

When queer romances have to be kept out of sight and out of mind, and with each BioWare game having a limited ‘word budget’, it’s hard to imagine EA allowing gender diversity any time soon, but it’s encouraging to know that the intention is there in its studios. The higher-ups may be worried that their bottom line relies on traditional boundaries of sex and gender, those on the EA panel at GaymerX left no doubt about what the bottom line is to them: “If you don’t want to buy our games because they have gay characters, then fuck you.”

Meanwhile, queer indie games are doing great work pushing far beyond the publishers’ comfort zones. Some of the best loved boundary-pushing work was well-represented, with panels on interactive fiction by Porpentine and Christine Love as well as Anthropy herself.

BioWare’s David Gaider put his weight behind the indie scene, arguing, “the publishers aren’t just capitalists; they’re copycats. As soon as one indie game breaks out they will jump on that bandwagon so fast. The best thing you can do is support the indie games that do what you want to see more of.”

The publishers may be keeping queer relationships hidden from view, but it’s clear that one way to ‘hit the gay button’ in the industry as a whole is to put your dollars behind queer indies.

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Harassment in nerd spaces, and encouraging honesty

by Maddy, originally posted at Metroidpolitan

Maddy writes about video games and geek culture for the Boston Phoenix magazine, and she manages their website. In her free time, she plays the keytar and makes cosplays. She is composing a musical based on the events of Super Metroid, and whenever it is finally done, she will put it on her new website, metroidpolitan.com.

The following piece of writing will tell an old story. It is a prologue to this story that I wrote about local fighting games meet-ups. I wrote most of this before I saw this video about “con creepers”, which has been going around the internet this week. I didn’t want to publish this story before, and I still don’t want to, but it’s an important story.

I hope this story encourages more people to talk seriously about experiences they’ve had at conventions, at gaming meet-ups, at comic book stores, or any other male-dominated spaces that (however unintentionally) end up housing predators and “creepers” who make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. People should feel like they can talk about their experiences without having to use jokey euphemisms (“creeper”) or make supposedly-satirical-but-sort-of-serious videos like the one linked above.

“Creepers” aren’t well-meaning men who don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong or don’t understand that they’re making people uncomfortable. In my experience, “creepers” do know that they’re making women uncomfortable and they don’t care, because in their estimation, women shouldn’t be hanging around “nerd spaces” in the first place.

I attended Anime Boston in 2011. I had a media pass, and I meant to write about the convention for the Phoenix. I did write about it, in fact, but never published what I wrote. I’m going to write a variation on that piece again, now.

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Metatopia 2012 – Panel Schedule

There’s a designer convention coming up next week in Morristown, NJ. It’s called Metatopia, and it’s main focus is to let designers come out and playtest their new games with a wide group of people who are interested in seeing what’s in development and giving their feedback.  It’s a lot of fun, and most people I’ve heard from have said that it was a phenominal time last year. This year shouldn’t be any different.

I’m posting these panels here because there I think they are of interest to the readers of The Border House. These aren’t all the panels, there’s a wide range that will be made available with the final schedule, but this one is pretty much complete and people were able to start posting this information. There may be some last minute changes, but for anyone in the North East who were looking for a convention to attend this may be something you want to check out.

“Addressing Controversial Topics” presented by John Stavropolous, Bill White & Brennan Taylor. Join our panelists for a discussion on handling delicate and/or controversial topics in your game design. Subjects include political correctness, sexual and romantic interactions and religion.

Saturday, 9:00AM - 10:00AM; One Session; All Ages. Location: Cairo.

“Women in Gaming – Shaping the Future” presented by Shoshana Kessock, Amanda Valentine, Avonelle Wing & El Wood. This panel of women in the gaming industry will discuss the importance of mentoring and encouraging women in the world of
game design and writing.

Saturday, 12:00PM – 1:00PM; One Session; All Ages Location: Cairo.

“How Not To Be A Jerk” presented by John Stavropolous, Amanda Valentine & Brennan Taylor. Seriously, this roundtable will address keeping inadvertent negative portrayals of gender, race, religion or culture out of your games. Sometimes you don’t even realize that something you’ve written will offend an entire group of people.

Sunday, 11:00AM – 12:00PM; One Session; All Ages.
Location: Cairo.

“Women in Gaming – Handling Sexist Confrontations” presented by Shoshana Kessock, Amanda Valentine, Avonelle Wing & El Wood. Sexism happens. How do we respond when it occurs? How do we tackle unconsidered sexism in our professional lives?

Sunday, 2:00PM – 3:00PM; One Session; All Ages. Location: Cairo.

What do you think about the panels? What questions would you like to ask, or what topics do you hope are covered in these panels?

A Small Aside from the NY Games Conference 2012

The following is a guest post from Jillian Schaar:

Jillian Scharr is a recent graduate of Vassar College and a lifelong daydreamer. She floats between jobs and cafes in the greater NYC area, writing about videogames and computers and fictional characters.  

New York Games conference logo, white text over a background showing a city skyline and red sky.

Panel 5 of this year’s NY Games Conference was entitled “The Power of Community—Integrating Social Design in Creating, Promoting, and Distributing Games.” Moderated by gameLab’s CEO Eric Zimmerman , the panel had men from Signus LabsScopelyGSN Digital, and Stardoll. When Marcus Gners, VP of business development for Stardoll, introduced himself and his company, the largest producer of social games for teen and tween girls, as “probably the oddball in the room today,” Zimmerman’s response was “This is a safe space for oddballs.”

It was a brief, well-meaning exchange that drew some laughs from the audience. But I couldn’t help being miffed by the assumptions beneath the inclusive language.

Gender was not a subject of conversation, at least at the panels I attended, but the scattered allusions and references were usually awkward.  Nothing like a “girlfriend-mode” gaffe. Just little things like Gners’ and Zimmerman’s “oddball” comment: casual correlations between female gamers and casual gamers and stories from developers who had switched from triple-A companies to social games talking about how “now even my mom/sister/grandmother/wife plays my game.”

Look, I’m not trying to start a fight. We all know that men make up a larger demographic of game players than women (or are at least perceived as such), and it just makes business sense to tailor your game to the largest population.  And if NYGC was about one aspect of the games industry it was about business. But I would encourage developers who say this, think this, plan for this, to reconsider what they mean when they say they’re making games for men, or making games for women. What is the difference? What assumptions are you carrying into your game design? What are the perceived points of mutual exclusivity? And what makes you think women aren’t interested in playing your Infinity Blades, your Halos, your Rage of Bahamuts?

NYGC was a great conference, and I had a great time attending it. I’m just getting a little tired of being treated as a peripheral gamer, of being welcomed “despite” being an oddball. A.K.A., a woman.

2010 PAX Booth Babe Survey

The Penny Arcade Expo Logo

The Penny Arcade Expo Logo

Here’s a chance for your voice to be heard within the gaming convention community. The Penny Arcade Expo, one of the largest and most fan-friendly videogame events in the United States, has just released a survey asking attendees their opinions on PAX’s “no booth babe” policy.

Rachel Edidin at Sequential Tart notes that PAX is generally a woman-friendly gaming convention, and one where the responsibility for good behaviour is placed upon the convention attendee. They have a short, sweet, and common sense rules of conduct posted clearly on each badge and in the convention materials.

The survey asks respondents about how they feel about the current “No Booth Babe” policy, whether they should be more lenient, and what sorts of attire should be included in the policy. It’s not often that any fandom convention actually asks attendees for their opinion about booth staff attire, particularly in a culture that tends to be very male-dominated.

Let’s boost the signal on this survey, and get the word out. Tweet about it, Facebook it, post on your blog, tell your friends, and let people know any way you can. With this survey you have the chance to have a real impact on any changes made to this policy.

[2010 PAX Booth Babe Survey]