Thursday, November 29, 2012

#1reasonwhy - Comment for Allies and such things

Okay, the big buzz had kind of left after the big push after #1reasonwhy first couple of days and while you can check it out and see all the big tweets from the really amazing people who came out with 140 character stories about what they face every day trying to do what they love, make games.

Two things inspired this post. The first was @GeekyLyndsay post over at Character Generation ( which talks about some really basic stuff you can do if you want to start being a good ally. She felt the need to do it because this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened before.

Here's a hint, it hasn't. It won't be the first time, and it won't be the last time there's a huge string of people talking about the crap they deal with in order to make games. Not just making them, but sometimes trying to make sure there's a little bit of not sexist crap in the game.

The other thing was that there was a guy who had done a blog post about it, saying that he felt bad because he was much more a 1reasonwhy before and now is trying his best not to be. Awesome, I thought that was commendable enough that I would follow this person on twitter. Then the next thing that they posted was a retweet from an aggregate twitter feed where the avatar was a woman's ass in a thong.

That's what caused me to put this out there, and this isn't unique. There are many websites that have a lot of information on how to be a good ally. I'm not a particularly special snowflake in this regard, but I figure I might as well try to say something rather than slam my first into the ground in frustration ... again. It hurts when you do that, it leaves emotional bruises.

With that in mind, here are some tips that might help you be a better ally:

1. Listen
I don't know how many times that was tweeted out, but not listening is the biggest thing on this list. That means when someone says "Hey, this happened" or "Hey, this is a problem" the first response isn't "No it isn't" because then you're just being defensive.

Also, pretending to listen and then coming up with a "No it's not" answer isn't helpful either. Stop and really listen, and if there is going to be any pretending pretend that what they're saying is true. What then? How would you respond to that? How would you feel if you had a problem and it was dismissed out of hand again, and again, and again.

2. Don't play Devil's Advocate
You might think it's fun, and it might be for you but that's because you probably don't have a personal stake in it. The conversation isn't about your representation, or how you're objectified, or how you're marginalized. Trying to poke holes into someone's argument isn't doing what you think it might be doing. It's not going to strengthen their argument, it's not going to be considered a fun mental exercise, it's going to make them feel even more marginalized because you're not questioning their argument (not matter how much you think so) you're questioning their many, many experiences.

3. Think about what you say
And when you say something, I mean on places like Twitter and Facebook and any thing you do that's public and recorded. I don't mean, "be a saint in all places" because I know I'm not. What I'm saying is that if you want to say you're helping women out in a certain field, and then retweet/share/repost/reblog something that is part of the problem you're not thinking about what you say.

The example above, with the dude and the twitter account. It's great to say that you want to help, but when the next thing you post is something that aggregates, "Hey, look how sexy she is" then you aren't really thinking about what you're saying.

Don't take this as you can't be like, "Wow, you mean I can't say that I find gender X attractive?" No, that's not what I'm saying. You don't have to become some sort of puritan locked in their room trying to self-flagellate the sin out of your body. But when you're doing something in public, like say the internet, think about the effects of your actions. Hell, think about how you relate to women in your private spaces too (Hint: If you have a rating system, that's a problem because you're not seeing women as people but as objects rated on their fuckability) but let's start in the public sphere.

4. Do your own research
You know how I've come to the little, infinitesimally small amount of knowledge I have? I've read a lot. I didn't have someone teach me about it, I didn't have someone hand holding me the whole way. I shut my mouth and paid attention. Then, when I didn't feel comfortable talking because I didn't think I knew enough about the situation ... I ... shut my mouth, paid attention and read up on the subject. It's amazing how this trick works in more situations too. The link above has good starting resources, and because I'm working in a new app I'm not sure how to link so I'm going to be lazy and tell you to check that one out.

5. Understand the terminology
You've made games, right? You know what a roll and move is? You know what DPS is? You understand ARPU and ARPPU? That's industry jargon and if you work in a place you get to know the shorthands because it's easier to use those when referencing things that are considered to be a common term.

You know what's one of the things I personally find the most annoying, and I'm not alone at this, when someone in a feminist space says, "Men" and a dude goes, "BUT I AM NOT LIKE THAT, HOW DARE YOU SLAP US ALL WITH THE SAME BRUSH YOU HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, MAN HATER!!!!!1~1~~~!!!!!!"

You know what "Men" stands for? It means "Men who are socialized to do these things in a patriarchal culture." Of course there are those who don't do X thing, but if you said that every time you said "Men" then it would spend more time on your disclaimers than you would on the actual subject itself. Seriously, try it where you work. Explain all the exceptions and disclaimers or full terms for jargon at a meeting and watch people look at you funny, and the meeting to take an extra hour.

"This is the ARPU which is the Average Revenue Per User which describes the amount of money spread out on average between all playing users and not just those who are paying." Or, probably more appropriate "This is a First Person Shooter, not to be confused with Over the Shoulder Shooters like the Resident Evil series and ..."

This is why we have shorthands, learn them before you get offended by their use.

6. Cookies are delicious but not all the time
You want recognition when you do something you think is good. That's okay, people are like that. One of my favourite Calvin and Hobbes bits is when Calvin struggles for three panels to do a push-up and when he gets to the top he shouts REWARD PLEASE!

When you do something as an ally which basically treats a woman like a normal human being, that's not worth a cookie. Yes it's fighting a whole pile of cultural programming, and upbringing, and it may seem like a huge amount of effort the first few times you do it. But think about it, you want a reward for treating someone like a human being. Reward please for treating someone like a human being. Repeat that with me. Reward for treating someone like a human being.

Does it sound odd? That just might be what you've done.

There are more, but this is a good start. It's a long road trying to be a good ally (note the idea here isn't perfection, you're a human being after all you will make mistakes) but it's ultimately rewarding in a wide variety of ways. If you make games, a wider pool of experience and knowledge only increases the quality of what you're making. If you talk about games, you'll find a whole new set of people to talk to games about. If you like games, you'll find that better games are going to get made.

Monday, November 26, 2012

cyberpunk thoughts with intentional lowercase

I've been reading a fair bit of cyberpunk games lately. I just picked up Technoir after looking at it longingly at Metatopia. I've read lots of Cyberpunk, CyberGen, Shadowrun in its various incarnations and something in particular has always struck me. It's got kind of this little bourgeois little dog whistle, doesn't it?

Wait, before the words bourgeois or dog whistle make you roll your eyes and leave the page hear me out. What I'm talking about in particular is how those games deal with poverty, and impoverished urban places because they all do them the exact same way. That way is OMG THERE ARE DANGEROUS POOR PEOPLE OVER HERE!

Let's break it down. Cyberpunk 2020 (and 2013) talks about the large mass displacement of people who have no actual social standing. Zeroes is the term that the game uses and while the Night City sourcebook does block by block, and building by building, through the city itself and it seems okay. Then you get to the nebulous COMBAT ZONE which is populated by the people who can't afford to live in the bad parts of Night City. There isn't much description other than it's a barren wasteland filled with gangs, gangs and bigger gangs who are more than willing to rip your head off for the button on your coat and live off of drugs, violence and sex all the time. All the time!  Even on the surface the Body Lotto seems like a wonderfully macabre idea, the various death counts in the various parts of the city give you the Lotto numbers.

Shadowrun does the same thing with places like The Barrens and Puyallup. Sure there are livable areas, but for the most part it's got a huge DO NOT ENTER sign on it. You don't want to go to the Barrens or worse Puyallup if you can avoid it. Of course, Puyallup does have some benefit of the doubt because there are magical reasons why you'd want to avoid a place like Hell's Kitchen but that's more like a natural disaster than a watch out for the poor people over there, they're dangerous.

Which leads me to what I've been thinking about. I want to do Cyberpunk, but I want to do it slightly different. I don't want it to be the cool, cybernetic mercenary doing the cool, cybernetic dirty work of the corporations in power. I want it to be more dirty, more street, and not street like it's going on in the games above. I mean, that's still very much the future based off of the "me" 80s generation where everyone is out for number one and the rest of you can go fuck off. People tend to try to form communities, even if we don't end up liking everyone in the community we've got something in common. Common enemies, a goal like survival, or even the fact that you all live in the same location.

That's why I think one of the projects I want to work on is going to be something that kind of mashes up cyberpunk with something like The Trailer Park Boys. You've got people who are friends, and are constantly in this boom and bust situation (though to be fair its mostly bust). I want the game to be wild, crazy and reckless and in the end you wake up in a jail cell waiting to get out again, ready to try to do it all over again.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Metatopia Thoughts

Did Metatopia last week. Finally had time to sit down and collect my thoughts about the experience.

1. It's amazing and if you design an RPG or a Board/Card Game then you need to make it to this convention.  It's got a knowledgeable dedicated group of designers and players who are ready and willing to give you a lot of excellent feedback. You're going to get a lot of unvarnished, critical, much needed opinions. The kind that most people wish they had.

You know those times when you bemoan the fact that you can't find playtesters? If you play your game several times here it's quite possibly the equivalent of fifteen indifferent test groups that you managed to cobble together. If you have a lot of products that you'd like to get ready, then this is the place for it. Make your way here, you will not be disappointed.

2. The people who show up for this are great, and the people who run it are spectacular. It was a well run machine despite the fact that this was an area that wasn't all that far from the coast after Sandy hit. The hotel staff was a pleasure to deal with, and they were acting like a small shelter for people to come in out of the cold. Classy acts all around.

3. The panels were fun, and well done. They were willing to go at some tough topics, and for the most part stayed on the surface level but then again it's a panel in a one hour slot so it might not have all the time that it needs. However, there's a lot of stuff going on and it will only get better from this point in time.

Now, specifically about my games.

AIR went beautifully. Not to say that the game didn't have any flaws, it did. Some large gaping ones that were exposed by the playtesting. But these flaws were less holes and more like shallow ruts, things that can be easily filled in. People really enjoyed all the elements, they just didn't feel like the game didn't bring any of it together.  Hopefully the changes address that.

I'm changing how the Downward Spiral works, it's not drastic but it's now a group thing rather than an individual thing. The keywords are also unique to each character, and are things that the players are going to invoke on themselves.

The air content is going to be in the entire station rather than just in one area, and it's going to be visible to all so that they can see what's going on.

PvP situations were sorted out, so now that works and could use some testing.

FIXER was a rather huge success. It needed some tweaking of the rules to get it moving, and I'm going to need to go over the math on the cards, but the core rules are pretty damned solid. A few people were interested and I'm going to be playtesting and prototyping for the next little while to get it to a better spot before I send it out.

BANK JOB, was a beautiful horrible mess. No tension, no panic, no anything. The idea is still good, they just didn't pan out. I think I really need to sit back and rethink that one. I have a couple of thoughts but it's going to require some time and I'll probably get to it after FIXER is more done.

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