Monday, April 17, 2017

"Broken Stairs" Are Something We Need To Address in The Gaming Community

How many times have you joined a new game, and before everything gets rolling one of your friends pulls you aside to give you a friendly warning. Maybe it's about Don the DM, who is going to try to see down your shirt. Just ignore him, he's harmless. Perhaps it's about Darren, who always seems to play Lothario-style characters in this LARP, and who is going to come up to lay down pick-up lines. Some of them are going to be pretty lewd. Just ignore him, it's something everyone has to deal with.

For some of us, these are just situations that happen. Things to be dealt with, and which we warn other people who don't know about them. The same way you'd let someone about to walk down a flight of stairs know, "hey, be careful, the third step from the bottom is broken."

Thanks for the warning... I guess...
While we all take it as a point of courtesy to warn players what they're walking into, it does beg the question... why aren't we fixing the broken stair? Because even if we all know about it, sooner or later someone is going to forget, or misjudge, or think maybe it's not as bad as everyone says, and break their leg on it.

So instead of warning new players away from problem players and storytellers, why don't we repair those problems so there's no warning necessary?

A Hard Look at a Common Problem


I've been thinking about this issue thanks to a post on Nordic LARP titled 19 Truths About Harassment, Missing Stairs, and Safety in LARP Communities. The post covers a lot of interesting topics, including how real-world norms seep into our games, toxic masculinity in geek culture, and the age-old trick of covering one's own repugnant behavior by claiming it was just what their character would do. It's a long list, but these truths can act as red flags for any game you attend, whether it's at a table, in a LARP venue, or even online.

I don't care how great your friend says this game is, I'm not staying.
There are two important things I want to reiterate, though, other than suggesting that we all read that article. The first is that in the gaming community we should all strive to work out our issues, to be open and honest with each other, and to genuinely try to make our community a better place. We're all here to have fun, and as such we should have a big table with room for everyone's dice whenever we can manage it.

The other, which is something I mentioned in my earlier post Want To Have More Fun At Your Table? Stop Playing With Jerks! is simple. Sometimes, even if you come at an issue with the best of intentions, you are going to find people and venues who cannot be reformed. It doesn't matter how many times you tell Simon he makes other players uncomfortable by invading their personal space, or how many times you make reports about harassment in some venues. No change is going to happen, because those people and places do not want to be changed. They might apologize, and claim this won't happen again, but when it does, the cycle cannot be allowed to just start over again.

The first step is identifying there is a problem with a player, storyteller, or venue. The problem, or problems, have to be laid out clearly, and they need to be understood. Once you know what's wrong, make it known somehow. If possible, talk to the person you have the issue with, and make it clear their behavior is not something you are willing to tolerate. If that isn't possible, perhaps because you feel unsafe confronting the individual in question, tell someone else. Tell a friend, tell the DM, or make a report to someone in a position to step in and handle the issue.

And, I am going to repeat myself here, if this problem cannot be fixed, don't be afraid to drop the ax.

By that, I mean that we should learn how to recognize our own problems within the gaming community. Maybe Jeff is a great guy outside of game, and you've known him for years. But if he cannot keep a rein on his temper, and his outbursts make other players feel unsafe, do not let him play. No matter how great Louis is as a storyteller, if he has a string of reports from players that say he sexually harassed them, kick him off the staff, and ban him from the venue. And if the entire staff has been told about an issue, and they see no reason to address the stair that's broken so many ankles already? That's when you leave. You leave, and you bring as many friends with you when you go. Because if that's the only stairway to the place you want to go, it's time to make you own. One with safe stairs, where players don't have to worry about that third one from the bottom tipping its trilby and catcalling them as they go by.

Hopefully, if enough of us decide that broken stairs aren't something we're willing to put up with as a whole, those staircases will either reform, or fade away as newer, safer options rise to prominence.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday post. Next week, something a little more upbeat... probably. If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my posts, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to support Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. All you need to do is pledge at least $1 a month to buy my everlasting gratitude, and to get yourself some sweet swag, too!

35 comments:

  1. I love this blog so much more for this article, great to hear an unyielding stance on the issue

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  2. Great Article, Neal! We have a female gaming guild locally, and while anyone is free to join, there are strictly enforced rules about in game and meatspace conduct. It's a shame that it's needed, but I also see it as a step in the direction we all need to go, where these type of things are no longer issues.

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  3. If you had a few less ads on your page it would be MUCH EASIER to read and enjoy.

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    1. I would love to have fewer ads on my page. However, with the 4 ads that are on there now, I am already making very little scratch. Most of that is because of how common AdBlock, and similar programs, are.

      If I can wrangle a bigger Patreon following, though, chances are good I'd reduce the ads.

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    2. There are ads on this page? Can't see them with ad-blocker, but I felt guilty after reading about that. As new patreon I hope it is now fair to still use a blocker?

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  4. Looks like the oversensitivity/hurt feelings brigade has foisted themselves upon the tabletop game industry, too.

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    1. Gotta love how you're oversensitive about oversensitivity. Maybe stop being so sensitive about people who are sensitive. Try some compassion instead. You might end up becoming a better person instead of the kind of person who resents not being able to be a dick to people and not get called out for it.

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    2. The irritating part is that some of these jerks are making Patreon money and the like to get on YouTube and complain about how "oversensitive" people called them an asshole for being an asshole. They are literally professional victims who whine about how unfair it is that they're no longer shielded from the social consequences of their anti-social behavior.

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    3. the funny thing is, the ones who have had enough of the oversensitive crybullies, DO have compassion. the thing is we are TIRED of being emotionally bludgeoned with your antics. your emotional volatility is YOUR responsibility to manage, not the world's, YOU WANT COMPASSION? THEN GROW THICKER SKIN. your fucking victim complex isn't noble, its contemptible

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    4. Right, because anti-sexual harassment policies are so emotionally draining to follow, which is why you're coming here to play martyr.

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    5. "You want compassion? Don't need it!" is what I'm hearing. What an odd piece of advice. That really is a funny thing, you're right.

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    6. Reminds me of the people who complain about all the lazy deadbeat immigrants who steal "their" jobs by being harder workers they can't compete with.

      Even if we didn't complain about anything, they'd still whine about how threatening we are by existing in public, rather than being safely segregated into ghettos, asylums, and kitchens.

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    7. @ unknown compassion:a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Being tired of someones plight is the opposite of the definition. Maybe reword your rant.

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    8. How can you even voice that argument here? So you basically are saying "*I* am not an asshole who sexually harasses women, my bard character is... and that's just something you are going to have to live with. my character wants to bang your character, so I'm roleplaying that, and you just need to grow thicker skin and let me say sexual things towards you because *I* enjoy it."

      And basically it comes down to you saying that everyone else just needs to "grow thicker skin" because you enjoy being an asshole and they don't get to curtail your enjoyment, even if your enjoyment is keeping others from enjoying the game.

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  5. Thank you for this. It's really shocking to me when people don't take issues like this seriously. It's not about hurt feelings, most of us are pretty much grownups and don't take the odd argument or in game insult/banter to heart, it's about not feeling safe or sometime not Being safe. Thanks for articulating all of this and trying to improve the world of gaming.

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  6. Snowflakes are trying to take over gaming. sigh. Go be butt hurt somewhere else. This isn't a college campus.

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    1. You're correct Luther, it's my blog. If you don't like it, the back button is right where it's always been. You're free to use it, if you need a safer space.

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    2. Gotta love how you're oversensitive about oversensitivity. Maybe stop being so sensitive about people who are sensitive. Try some compassion instead. You might end up becoming a better person instead of the kind of person who resents not being able to be a dick to people and not get called out for it.

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    3. Sorry we offended your fragile little feelings there, Luther.

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    4. A female not wanting some creepy dude to make sexual or sexist comments towards them is not them being "a snowflake".

      Just because you enjoy being creepy and saying sexually harrassing comments towards others does not mean they enjoy it. And your enjoyment is not more important than theirs.

      The entire point of this article is that often there is some misogynistic douchebag out there who ruins the game by making inappropriate comments to women. The women do not want to be spoken to this way. If you demand the right to speak to them like that anyway, then it is YOU who is the "snowflake" demanding to get your way in all matters.

      It's literally indefensible of you to be telling people to "go be butt hurt somewhere else" when what they are "butt hurt" about is some douchebag being creepy.

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  7. The two detractors demonstrate exactly why this article is needed.

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  8. Hey look: two broken stairs in the comments

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    1. Its just so funny, seems like its the old Police Scam, tell a bunch of thief's they won a trip and have to come down to pick up their winnings. They kinda smoke themselves out most times.

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  9. Seeing the trolls. Lot of people want to be jerks without consequence because they got coddled by a narrow community for so long. Now they get introduced to a wider gaming community and all of a sudden we're "invaders" "ruining" "their" hobby.

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  10. What a pretentious article. How about 'if you don't like your gaming group, find a new group'. See how easy that was?

    Nobody is under ANY obligation to cater to anyone elses feelings. I once felt uncomfortable in a game of Vampire due to how seriously they all treated it. So I never went back. Stayed friends with them all too. I just didn't like the way they gamed, and it was my problem, not theirs.

    Another time a player joined our game due to her boyfriend talking her into playing. She took issue with some of our crude humor. So of course we dialed it up to 11 after she tried to 'educate us'. We actually had a lot of fun that session :)

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    1. Taking a game too seriously isn't the same as being a disrespectful sexist jerk to people.

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    2. So, you're saying disadvantaged people shouldn't talk about these issues and just retreat from society whenever things get tough? Or maybe that people like you should never, ever care about other players being welcome?

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    3. Very brave to post anonymously, so the women and others reading this article don't identify you as someone they don't want to play with.

      Very courageous.

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    4. So, when someone tells you that your actions are making them uncomfortable, your inclination is to "dial it up to 11" and make them REALLY uncomfortable? And this makes you have "more fun"?

      I'm pretty sure that makes you a "snowflake" demanding that everyone else do things your way.

      Or you could have been a real man and a nice person and just dealt with it for an evening and told the guy that you didn't want his girlfriend to play because you are not comfortable being around women.

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  11. Exactly why I have an even number of guys to girls in my group. No little snot nosed DB like this guy would ever survive 20 minutes with the women I play with. They would honestly make him cry.Some day you are gonna piss the wrong women off man, and you will be truly educated. Ahhhhh....Good luck.

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  12. Age discrimination in gaming seems to be the elephant in the room. It seems all the rage to address the sexual harassment of the female in the game group as long as we don't invite old people to the party.
    I am now 45 years old, the age where age discrimination is supposedly legally unacceptable.
    I can't count the amount of times at a hobby shop or convention I have walked up to a table of people younger than myself and been told that the four person table is full,or a private game. Furthermore, posting for games I see group's of teens or twenty somethings who have no problem putting together a group. In days gone by I thought is was because both myself and my teenage son wanted to join.
    My is now 15 and I let him fly solo. He has no problem finding groups.
    How do game shop owners and convention staff deal with age discrimination? So far they don't. They are busy looking for sexual harassment, white racists, and any of the more popular issues that the sad puppies debate has made popular. Is it right, no. Is it legal, no.
    It's just easy to ignore.

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    1. I would say it goes the other way for me, i wouldn't want to deal with a 12 year old that made 12 year old jokes all night. They would not be asked back. I can see why a bunch of younger folks wouldn't want an old fuddy duddy like myself crucnchin their good time ether. I dotn take offense to that as much as I do just being a person that feels they need to make themselves better by putting others down, no room for that kinda person.

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    2. Not many kids play in the places I go, and many of the ones who do show up aren't into long games like I am.

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    3. Age prejudice is a big problem as well!

      ...but not the problem this article is addressing. I honestly think you should write your own post about ageism in LARP and gaming. It is an important subject!

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