Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorist Problem

A truly disturbing article.

I encourage you to read and look within your game community - and yourself - and then figure what needs to be addressed and *do something about it*. Or at least bring it up as a topic of conversation.

If you have a position of authority or power or a voice that people listen to, use it give others a chance to speak.

"Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorist Problem"

Comments

  • That is one harsh world. Primitive, even. Do you have any insight into the historical causes of how it's come to be like this? Are gamers self-selected out of social and geographical areas where men hate women, or what?

    My attention, personally, is attracted to the nature of the host culture and how it interacts with the insular gamer subculture. On the one hand it's obvious that the tight-knit fraternity enables its members socially (also in being assholes), but it's equally evident that the fraternity itself grows in the context of its host culture - its members bring their own concerns and insecurities into the subculture to fester. Thus the witch's brew reported upon in that article seems to be the outcome of the US gaming culture being historically populated by a strong majority of white men, many of them socially under-performing; it's become a self-maintaining institution that attracts many kinds of people who have difficulties adapting to a complex society. Apparently some of those types are not merely shy, but racists and misogynists who find an environment willing to tolerate and foster their quirks. As we all know only too well, gaming culture often has rather low, low standards for who we'll associate with as long as they play the right games.

    Some of these elements are present in the Finnish gaming culture as well, but being as how it arises in a different host culture, the details are different. The conservative tendency to foster and support its members, and to be accepting of their faults, is there, as is the generally relatively low social standard (in e.g. expectations of dress and polite behaviour). My understanding is that misogyny is not as prevalent, which I believe to be a function of the host culture being somewhat less misogynic in general, and not some special feature of the Finnish gamer - I believe that if we simply had more misogynic people here and less rapid values against it, the fostering effect of gaming culture would certainly protect them in the same way here as well. As it is, the standards of the mainstream culture override the fostering effect, so that e.g. groping could probably not be passed off as a "joke" - I would expect your gaming friends to drop you like a hot potato were you outed as a groper. I also have the sense that gaming is less subcultural here than it is in the US, which means that the entire fraternity is not as absolutely protected within its own little echo chamber in how we dress and speak and act and believe - as gaming is seen as one culture hobby among others, its participants are expected to act like everybody else, according to the same rules of politeness and decorum.

    I am, obviously, not saying that I'm the right fellow to decide whether this problem exists here in Finland, and to what degree. To whatever extent it does, I hope that people will continue to speak up about it, so as to give us the opportunity to affirm our commitment to a society of equality - presumably that helps in forwarding the message that the majority does not consider this kind of thing acceptable. I for one do not want to give gamers any sort of a socio-political "pass" on running a secondary society with its own rules alongside ordinary everyday life. Being an expert on D&D does not give you the right to act like an animal whenever you feel like it.
  • We've had a very, very long discussion on the Dansih rpgforum facebook group about this article, and one thing that came out was that there are several women-only groups where this problem has been dsicussed for years.
    I stated in that discussion that one of the problems was that the majority of male gamers were unaware of the problem. We'd simply never been told. But the reason for this is that the women complaining about the problem have almost all been told by authority figures to not rock the boat.
    This, of course, exacerbates the problem. The majority can't be instrumental in solving a problem it doesn't know exists, and at the same time, I understand perfectly well why the victims haven't spoken up about it. I wish they'd cried it from the rooftops.
    In our thread we now have numerous examples, all anonymized, of course, but very plausible. The real names are know by the poster, and more and more are sharing their stories in public. I don't doubt their veracity.
  • edited April 2016
    I'd call it a "male terrorist problem" here in my country, more than a "white..." and as stated in the article, it's a problematic present in all hobbies. In peruvian culture, in the 90's, social problems (like common terrorism performed by organized paramilitary groups and acute economical crisis) prevented communities from forming and developing, until late 90's with a boom in anime related media. Then several clubs and magazines gathered people around and like waging tribes they declared a somewhat cold war against each other. Things like cosplay were unheard of and from my knowledge, the reason that a higher part of the active community were male was more about the general insecurity still present in society.

    We had to wait until late 00's for our first conventions, which started mostly as anime-themed parties, so until then, you only had the same problematics you would have in non-hobbie related parties, which are about the same. I've got no idea about how much of these issues were present at the moment. Nobody here has made studies about it, but I'm sure there has been.

    Because I was groped by a girl (probably under 18 at that day) at one event I organized myself. I kept it quiet, though I admit that it's different for men. If you get groped by a girl, you're supposed to be proud. If you get groped by a man, you are totally justified to retaliate and hit whoever touched you. But if he is physically superior and fear gets the better from you, you can only shut up and pretend it never happened. I still don't know how to feel about whatever happened at that event. However I know I don't feel proud at all.

    But from this I can take my imagination (and I've got tons of that) two steps furter and try to get a bit in the place of the actual victims, so I get the sheer terror. It's totally unfair to blame them.

    Now that we're getting more cons in my country, I figure the problem is increasing, though it still hasn't seen enough public light; I hope there could be some way to solve even before it reaches that point, as the community in my country is weak enough that a couple of scandals like this could wipe it for years again.
  • Thanks for sharing this, Paul; important and devastating article. I'm struggling to channel my despair about the situation into useful action.

    My experience tells me that men with these toxic attitudes and behaviors also tend to lack the emotional maturity to have productive conversations on the topic. And it seems like a high bar for the rest of us to be both courageous enough to broach the topic and skillful enough to affect positive transformation.

    I guess my struggle is, is the question, "how can we positively transform toxic people?", or is it, "how can we effectively identify and expel toxic people from the community?"

    Like, once a man has committed an act of terror, it doesn't feel like enough to say, "keep your mysoginist attitudes, but supress the associated behaviors while in this space." The presence of the attitude is enough by itself to poison the safety of the space. the subtle ickiness of game spaces is a big deterrent for my wife and other women I play games with, and the nebulous and deniable nature of it leaves me stumped. But its that subtle ickiness that fosters the terror.
  • My impression is that gaming, like any hobby:
    - attracts all sorts of people, many of whom are awesome
    - draws its worst people, and encounters their worst behavior, at events centered on hobbyist identity

    I am a huge Mets fan, but I never want to sit in the stadium section where everyone's wearing Mets jerseys.
  • edited April 2016
    I guess my struggle is, is the question, "how can we positively transform toxic people?", or is it, "how can we effectively identify and expel toxic people from the community?"
    I'd say you can play the long game and the short game simultaneously. Do what you can over your lifetime to improve humanity, but kick the douchebag out of the local gaming club today. I think many spaces have inherited an ethos of "we must be inclusive, especially to awful losers who are gamers because they've found rejection elsewhere," and I'd destroy that bullshit wherever I could.
  • edited April 2016
    This exist in the LARP culture as well, in the Nordic countries, and at conventions. The biggest roleplaying convention in Sweden has a room for HBTQ and women, so they have an area at the convention that they can feel secure in. That's just one measure that has been taken to both show and create awareness of the situation.

    The view of women is a problem in society, but I guess some work can be done in our hobby, like don't allow certain misogynistic characters in some scenarios, show strong female characters, and make some fantasy worlds equal instead of trying to blame "realism" to put women in oppressed situations - it's »fantasy« for God's sake.

    And then we got all the online threats to women that actually speaks up. At least show support for them. Listen to women that has something to say, instead of ignoring them, protecting your convention/scenario, or - worst case scenario - blame them for it.

    Here is an article about the sexual abuse in LARP culture that was a hot topic last year here in Sweden. So hot it even got the attention from the Swedish press:
    http://spelkult.se/vittnesmal/ (Swedish)
    http://spelkult.se/testimonies/ (English)
  • Thank you for the wonderful discussion, everyone. This is certainly enlightening.

    David and I were having a conversation about this, and about doing something which could improve the situation. We quickly realized that, were we to take some course of action, we would likely face public backlash of some sort (David has a better sense of the specifics than I; he made a pretty thorough list).

    The realization that even trying to fix the problem as a white, male gamer could potentially be dangerous (or at least risk exposing oneself to some serious internet harassment or other threats) really puts this whole discussion into perspective. I can only imagine the pressures present on someone who feels like an outsider and discriminated against to begin with.

    One hopeful note:

    I was reading an article about the continued prevalence of racism in the United States. The statistics they collected in the process of putting together this article were incredibly troubling. However, one extremely positive finding they exposed was that, generally speaking, in most situations where a problem was made to be publicly known, it would disappear. Make enough people aware that a problem exists, and the general majority will (sooner or later) act to diminish that problem, or even make it vanish altogether. People who are aware of their biases will find those biases diminishing over time, generally speaking. Now that they know it's something real, enough of them will compensate to create a better future for everyone.

    That's a hopeful thing, I think; it speaks well of humanity in general, and also of our chances of beating this kind of thing. My takeaway is: don't be afraid to raise these discussions, educate people, and make sure that those who might not normally speak up have a chance to do so. That may accomplish more than you think.
  • I think a key component in fighting this structural problem will be the insistence upon, adoption of, and diligent application of more robust, zero tolerance, safer space policies in gaming stores and at events. The Mount Royal Game Society is developing an excellent toolkit for writing safer space policies, which includes a wide variety of resources that might be useful for those of you on the organizing side of things.

  • Sorry, but this is just #ABridgeTooFar.

    The title 'Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorist Problem' is bad enough, but the fact people are defending that choice of words because of who said it and what it's being used for makes things even worse. So am I now expected to counter that expectation because of what I look like in the same way Muslims (or the people who 'look' like them) are expected to counter the same? Is this sort of rhetoric acceptable as long as it's being used for the 'right' reasons?

    And I understand holding an employer accountable for creating a safe work environment, but I don't understand holding a game company accountable for the behavior of their fans, which is exactly what's she's doing. Then she implicates Wyrd staff of harassment by name and gives us a phone number to take action against them. And considering that's the only identifiable name and number included, I find it dishonest to claim it's not about them.

    The company owner is the one who initially asked for the feedback that started it all, had this response to the article on Facebook, and made this statement on Wyrd's community. It's not perfect, and the 'self-defense' commentary reveals he doesn't really understand the problem, but what more do you want him to do? And why should we consider his statements any more credible than hers when we have no evidence and don't know either of these people?

    Sexual harassment is a real issue, but the exceptions being made in combating it and the expanding scope of responsibility is starting to be too.

    P.S. Here's the Vox article on the issue which is pretty complete and uses her 'previous' name repeatedly after interviewing her, which is why I'm assuming it's OK to reveal the legal links. Do I have to add that none of these people should be harassed?

    P.P.S And here's the OSNews post. What does this have to do with Operating systems? Absolutely nothing. So maybe it's there because this kind of harassment isn't isolated to tabletop gaming.
    We quickly realized that, were we to take some course of action, we would likely face public backlash of some sort (David has a better sense of the specifics than I; he made a pretty thorough list).

    The realization that even trying to fix the problem as a white, male gamer could potentially be dangerous (or at least risk exposing oneself to some serious internet harassment or other threats) really puts this whole discussion into perspective.
    Congratulations, you're thinking like a victim of terrorism.

    Not that you're wrong. At this point being falsely characterized can cost you friends, jobs, status, and your freedom. But the fact your response is even a thing shows how far this problem has gotten.

    #OppressTheOppressors
  • Remember, kids: No matter what you read, there's a 4% chance it was written by a sociopath.

  • So am I now expected to counter that expectation because of what I look like
    Given that the way to "counter that expectation" is to not harass or mistreat other people, or tolerate it when the people around you harass and mistreat other people, I think the answer is, yes, you are absolutely expected to counter that expectation. Fucking counter the hell out of that expectation. If you're a good person, you're already countering that expectation, but what the hey, counter it louder and harder so everyone knows you're countering it.
  • Just being a member of a local games club, I've seen enough to take harassment seriously and be inclined to believe people when they talk about their experiences.

    The internet isn't perfect but I'm glad we're talking about this stuff and I'd rather uncomfortably examine my habitual thoughts, even at the level of "Imagination and small groups and play are so essentially human. So why does the hobby skew male?"
  • edited April 2016
    Just being a member of a local games club, I've seen enough to take harassment seriously and be inclined to believe people when they talk about their experiences.
    Thank you! That's such a fantastic response. I wish more people would think like this instead of saying 'I see no evil' etc., and 'She must a be a fantasist' or what have you. The truth is, white cis het men simply cannot know the full extent of the problem, and whether or not one believes a complainant's story is beside the point: if someone alleges harassment or bullying, we should always treat them seriously and investigate their claim, otherwise no one will report any abuse ever.

    Here in the UK (and in many other countries I'm sure), great strides have been made in the treatment of rape and sexual assault complainants, but these offences are still chronically underreported, and looking at the responses to the blog post you can see why. Remember the vile abuse that Zoe Quinn was subjected to when she made her claims? It's simply got to stop. No ifs no buts.
  • @anon.adderlan, agreed, the writer's lifetime of anecdotes made her point quite well without needing to drag the beef with Wyrd into it. Just because the phenomenon of sexual harassment in gaming is real and pervasive doesn't mean that every single party accused is guilty, so it's always good to have more info like the links you provided.

    I think Paul's takeaway in the opening post of this thread is on-point, though -- Story Games isn't being exhorted to take up a cause against Wyrd, but rather to notice and combat misogyny in gaming generally.

    I don't love the title either, but I don't feel qualified to judge the pros and cons of fostering divisiveness vs grabbing eyeballs for a legit issue.
    I think a key component in fighting this structural problem will be the insistence upon, adoption of, and diligent application of more robust, zero tolerance, safer space policies in gaming stores and at events.
    Agreed. As far as I can tell, simply adopting a policy and communicating it is pretty easy and works pretty well.
  • As far as I can tell, simply adopting a policy and communicating it is pretty easy and works pretty well.
    Assuming the policy is good (Which all too often it isn't to begin with.) one also needs to enforce that policy, which is much harder.

  • edited April 2016
    Yes, do your best on enforcement! My point was that, even if your enforcement options are limited, don't let that stop you from adopting and communicating a policy, because sometimes a little goes a long way.

    Specifically, I'm speaking from experience at small events, where a policy is announced aloud to all attendees, who see everyone at the con receiving the message. I'm pretty sure this has gotten many attendees on board with the proper expectations, such that no further enforcement was needed.

    I am not claiming things will always go so smoothly, I'm just saying that sometimes simply making the point loudly enough can do a lot. ("Loud" is key -- I figure sticking a note in the middle of a large event pamphlet would be less effective.)
  • edited April 2016
    Just being a member of a local games club, I've seen enough to take harassment seriously and be inclined to believe people when they talk about their experiences.
    Thank you! That's such a fantastic response. I wish more people would think like this instead of saying 'I see no evil' etc., and 'She must a be a fantasist' or what have you. The truth is, white cis het men simply cannot know the full extent of the problem, and whether or not one believes a complainant's story is beside the point: if someone alleges harassment or bullying, we should always treat them seriously and investigate their claim, otherwise no one will report any abuse ever.

    Here in the UK (and in many other countries I'm sure), great strides have been made in the treatment of rape and sexual assault complainants, but these offences are still chronically underreported, and looking at the responses to the blog post you can see why. Remember the vile abuse that Zoe Quinn was subjected to when she made her claims? It's simply got to stop. No ifs no buts.
    It's taken me a couple of years to get to the truth of Gamergate, and by extension this whole 'manosphere vs SJW' scenario. Prior to that I thought people like Thunderfoot were credible, because he debunked creationists (easy prey really) and because...reasons. The problem is that these issues are subtle at the heart. Concepts like Patriarchy are subtle and easily misunderstood by MRA types who take to everything like a blunt instrument.

    Attitudes toward women are not easily understood by men because men simply don't have the same experiences. That's not a blame thing, it's truth. Unfortunately there is a rhetoric at the moment that paints men as the victim and feminism as the oppressor - just because feminists want to redress the balance.

    It's very sad that this issue gets the predictable treatment that it has from certain sources. In fact I see the rpgsite has resorted to some of the lowest behaviour imaginable in forum conduct from those assuming that the woman in question is being, at best, hyperbolic. This is exactly the sort of marginalising dismissive behaviour she talks about as the user in question, defending the article's author's position (if not her character), gets banned as a result. Don't forget the Pundit's constant exhortations of free speech either.

    Sexism is everywhere, sadly. The use of certain words, the prevalence of certain attitudes (take for instance the notion of 'rape' in video games that trivialises the act), are deep rooted and defended by insecure people who immediately go on the harrowingly defensive the moment anyone speaks out. It is very hard to get through to people, particularly when they are listening to those (like Thunderfoot for example) that make a living skewing the truth to make their point.

    I don't know if this woman was genuinely harassed as she claims. But if she, or others, do experience this (and doubtless some do), then it must stop and be immediately challenged.
  • edited April 2016
    This is all so disturbing. Not that we were unaware of sexism, racism and sexual harassment in gaming but it's a kicker to read through the author's systemic and unrelenting experiences.
    I'd say you can play the long game and the short game simultaneously. Do what you can over your lifetime to improve humanity, but kick the douchebag out of the local gaming club today. I think many spaces have inherited an ethos of "we must be inclusive, especially to awful losers who are gamers because they've found rejection elsewhere," and I'd destroy that bullshit wherever I could.
    A few years back now I found myself running a large student union gaming society at a respectable redbrick university in the north of England. The membership was diverse and the ethos was vigorously all-inclusive. We really were one of the few places where the alienated, anxious and socially maladjusted could find some community, support and fun. I'm proud of what we did as a society and I would hate to see the ethos of inclusivity, one of its best qualities, disappear from gaming.

    That said, ye gods, if I wasn't always on my feet putting out fires. Dealing with the socially maladjusted - yes, the awful losers - can be a full time job. I had quite a time pulling grown men to one side to explain that their language or behaviour wasn't going to be tolerated and what the consequences would be if apologies and corrections weren't forthcoming.

    There were challenges and spectacular failures but in the end we learnt that persevering to educate and socialise offenders enhanced our inclusivity. One guy prone to sexist comments went on to be a groomsman an his victim's wedding. I take that as a victory for our community but it was hard won.

    My presidential fiat and bully-tactics weren't perfect and - while I hate to say it - I think I failed many members of my society. The worst offenders would leave to find private groups that would accept their bigotry (intentional or unconscious) and breed sexism and intolerance outside of my oversight. These viper nests would often rear their ugly heads at the worst times, especially online.

    There's not much that can be done about online misconduct, sadly. But we must, as a community, keep our ethos of inclusivity and we must demand that the institutions, companies and organisers that service our community strive to make our spaces safe and free from bigotry, crime and fear.

  • My experiences are somewhat similar to Potemkin's, especially in that I've often seen the other side of the gamer inclusivity coin - how it feels to essentially act as a social charity as your gaming club, circle or group attracts the geeky sort of people (here understood strictly as the more or less socially maladjusted). On the one hand you have the series of problems of which misogynism is one striking example, but on the other hand you have this sort of a noble, charitable tradition of trying to help people engage with society at all - of trying to build towards functional creative cooperation with your co-players, frankly, as it seems that the creative cooperation necessary for complex gaming is a big part of why the culture is the way it is to begin with. I recognize in myself an instinctual habit to accept, emphasize and try to support the geeky drifters in our lives, the ones without much in the way of work or love life, for whom the gaming is often their most important social capital, even when they're not very good at it.

    This background makes a proposition of "banning the basement dwellers" somewhat more complex socially than it would be for some less inclusive hobby. The vast majority of the gaming microclimates I've witnessed don't practice any collective standards whatsoever, which practically idealizes a sort of implicit consensus that arises out of small interactions over the years. Bringing a broom to this environment can have a high threshold, socially speaking, as whoever decides to openly talk about the community values and goals of the group will be the bad guy who rocks the boat that will probably have been swimming just fine for most of the participants. In other words, it is exactly the sort of social environment where I would expect pits of old-fashioned vileness to survive and flourish, as nobody has the capacity to judge and demand better.

    I haven't had to address much in the way of misogynism in this way over the years (feel free to decide yourself whether it's because it's not very common around here, or because I'm blind to it, or what), but I'll give a parallel example of how the social standards in gaming seem to work:
  • edited April 2016
    Dealing with a difficult player, a real life parable

    Over a decade back I started an open D&D campaign at the university gaming club in Helsinki, meaning that the campaign took in whoever drifted in over the first couple of years - later on this campaign turned into a circle of friends who've been playing together for 15 years at this point, so in general scope it's been entirely successful, taking in new players to this day regularly, and being probably the most high-profile "open table" in Helsinki in general. Can't be entirely unsuccessful if you've got your own IRC channel :D

    The core group of the social circle that developed around that D&D campaign is composed of nerdy men, very typical tabletop gamers. (Not a misogynism story here, as far as I can discern the long-term gravitation towards a homosocial setup has mostly been due to creative interests of similar people being similar, and D&D being some hardcore geek shit in the first place.) I would characterize the social baseline of the group as reasonably well-adjusted - the members mostly have a social life, deal with strangers both inside and outside the hobby, wash themselves, exercise and so on, all that basic stuff, despite most leaning pretty clearly towards geeky hobbies and lifestyle choices.

    However, for a long time the group also had a particularly socially maladjusted participant. This started in my D&D campaign already, so I became intimately familiar with his creative habits, and the way they rubbed against those of the other players. This isn't a really dramatic horror story or anything, the guy was mostly fine socially - over-keen and not very perceptive, as geeks often are socially, but otherwise fine. However, he was very disruptive in a game due to a tendency to create bizarre characters, play them chaotically and swap characters all the time as he grew bored with the last one, or the last character died on him (which happened regularly in D&D due to how the game sort of encourages chaotic stupid characters dying). He was generally not very well attached to the actual events on-going in the campaign, and you would get the impression that the creative communication between the two of you was in some way incomplete, like he was looking for something other than what the game was trying to focus on.

    This tendency was bad enough that it regularly derailed the game and made it difficult for others to enjoy it over the years, as the problem player's most recent character would become the center of attention by being difficult to integrate in the group, or by doing something stupid (your basic "I attack the king" bullshit, basically), or by simply dying in a long-winded manner to some stupid, stupid situation. The sheer overhead of the character creation cycle was something of a burden, as he would often play a given character for only one session, meaning that we'd just spent e.g. 20% of a session incorporating a new player character for no long-term benefit whatsoever, at least until we learned to just not care and let him bring in new characters like the adventuring party had a revolving door for PCs.

    (I am sure that most of you have had similar experiences, I think that this particular sort of pathology is pretty common to gamers - the person I'm describing is not nearly the only sad geek struggling with his inner demons at a D&D table I've ever encountered, he's just special in how many years we ended up playing with him.)

    Coming to my point: in a more results-oriented hobby culture, where one cared about the results of the activity, a player whose performance stuck out like that would have been ousted a long time ago. However, acting upon the inclusive standards it does, our group bore with this creative dynamic for years and years. I think it was something like four or five years of regular weekly play, before one time the player himself decided that he would not be coming back; I sadly wasn't in Helsinki myself at the time, so don't know the details of what changed, but my impression is that it wasn't that anybody had particularly grown balls and kicked him out - rather, it probably was that the mounting collective sense of frustration with him piled up and started being evident even to socially clueless geeks to such an extent that he finally picked up on it himself and went off in a huff.

    Thus, what I view as the basic model of community policing in the gaming hobby: a difficult peer is dealt with by patiently forbearing them for years on end, never talking about any problems, never doing anything proactive to improve upon what you perceive as problems. Who blinks first loses, as then they're the evil ones rocking the boat, while you get to be the virtuous person who had nothing to do with the interpersonal drama. Just here to play, yes sir, I've no horse whatever in that race - y'all just feel free to continue using the gaming table as a communal toilet, I'm too timid to complain. That's your basic geek strategy of communal coordination.

    My story is about a gamer whose only sin was and is that he's maybe not very good at it ("it" being both D&D and general creative coordination with others). However, if I had to guess, I'd say that the group would react with pretty similar social tools to e.g. a raging misogynist (or racist, as seems likelier in this bold new era of Finnish fascism), were one to grace our gaming table. The only reason that we can hold onto any honor regarding this problem player episode is that the non-committal, socially passive forbearance of the group ultimately harmed only ourselves by being very, very annoying at times. Maybe we would act more decisively as a group if the issue was bigotry rather than mild PTSD-induced (the guy had a background as a mercenary, of all things) gaming incompetence, but I am personally doubtful - at the very least it would require one of us to take the lead in community policing in an unfamiliar way. I foresee it as likelier that the group would attempt to stay non-committal, letting the people "not getting along" fight it out among themselves. In other words, in a woman vs. misogynist fight a rpg group like this would probably tacitly support the bigot - not because the majority are particularly bigoted, but simply because the social rule is to not impose your own standards on others, not even when that standard is some basic shit one would assume you'd have picked up in pre-school already.

    Which brings my long-winded rambling to a conclusion of sorts: whether the article linked in that OP is relevant to my own situation right here and now is somewhat besides the point, as the real benefit is in developing responses and ideological positions about this stuff in case we need them later. As we can see from my case study, at least this particular gaming circle of mine cannot boast an active history of upholding community standards; insofar as we're not already a pit of bigotry, it's more of a function of the general Helsinki society than anything the group itself has done to maintain conscious standards. This is a valuable realization for the day when let's say a muslim immigrant wants to join the game and we discover that some particularly eurofascist member of the group just can't let it go, and we'll need to choose between the bigotry and the immigrants. (Just a slightly more realistic bigotry scenario for here and now, as I'm having real difficulty imagining these guys revealing unplumbed depths of misogynism at this late date.)
  • BTW since the Pundit banned me for talking about an rpg he didn't like (because...free speech) please respond to my posts here, since that's where I made them.
  • BTW since the Pundit banned me for talking about an rpg he didn't like (because...free speech) please respond to my posts here, since that's where I made them.
    You should have heard him bellyaching on G+ about a game being temporarily pulled on DT because they were - quite properly - following their complaints procedures.
  • edited April 2016
    Yeah, @catty_big and @ghostwhistler, I don't know why you think the interesting direction for this thread is "let's examine the Pundit and see whether he's a cool dude or not", but I will be the person to assert it's not interesting.

    Please move on. If you have questions/concerns, PM me.
  • edited April 2016
    @James_Stuart It's not a comment about him per se (although yes, my last post was heading in that direction), it's because he's at the heart of the maelstrom of voices both rubbishing this woman's claims and vilifying anyone who supports her and the wider anti-harassment in gaming movement, and as such it's appropriate IMO to mention him in this thread.
  • edited April 2016
    I think seeing him as the heart of criticism of the article is probably countered by just searching more widely on the internet, but that's beside the point. You have plenty of other venues if you want to express criticism of the Pundit or the sites he runs. Don't take a pretty reasonable discussion of how harassment can happen in gaming and push it to internet forum vs forum junk.

    Redirect or move on.
  • BTW since the Pundit banned me for talking about an rpg he didn't like (because...free speech) please respond to my posts here, since that's where I made them.
    You should have heard him bellyaching on G+ about a game being temporarily pulled on DT because they were - quite properly - following their complaints procedures.
    oh he despises me. But that's because he's incapable of being rational. I repeatedly asked him what the problem was as the reason given was because i posted about black sabbath (in the media forum which allows for music discussion). The ACTUAL reason was because i was critical of his appraisal of Tenra Bansho Zero as not-an-rpg (ie a 'story' game - the criteria that defines whether a game is one or t'other is entirely random and down to how he feels).

  • Yeah, @catty_big and @ghostwhistler, I don't know why you think the interesting direction for this thread is "let's examine the Pundit and see whether he's a cool dude or not", but I will be the person to assert it's not interesting.

    Please move on. If you have questions/concerns, PM me.
    That's fine. I wasn't intending to talk about him specifically, but the attitude shown in the discussion of this article on his site.
  • @Potemkin, I've never figured that I could change someone's gender attitudes, especially someone I only see for gaming. In the case of true misogynists, I'm happy to simply kick them out. If you converted someone from sexism via a gaming club, then I regard you as a full-fledged miracle worker.

    On the other hand, there are definitely some gamers who aren't fundamentally sexist but are prone to dumb shit coming out of their mouths at times, and that I can absolutely work with. Sometimes a raised eyebrow and a "Dude, really?!" is all it takes. We all have bad habits that can clash with who we want to be, and in those cases being told "not here!" can go down super smooth.

    None of us can see into anyone's soul, so I guess it might be hard to tell the difference. The reason I have to guess, though, is because my experience (with overwhelmingly decent gamers) says otherwise. On the one hand, I've met many people who are obviously not bigots but sometimes need to be more conscious of their audience. And then on the other hand there was that guy who harassed the women and grated on the men and hijacked the games and basically kind of radiated "bad guy". I'm sure he has legitimate issues, and I hope he gets the help he needs for them, but I saw no point in allowing him to stick around and treat fellow gamers poorly over and over. Three or so strikes and he was out.

    I wonder, perhaps that line has been blurrier in your experience?
  • There is no such thing as a fundamental human nature of being a bigot, I think. If you can make demands of people to act civilized, and they decide to respect your demands because they want to continue in the social setting, then it doesn't really matter whether they're harboring some secret hate or not. The standard in making demands of how people act in public and towards other people should not be about what they think, but about proper behavior. It would be impossible to somehow distinguish between people who are being momentarily foolish and people who have sinstains on the soul and should therefore be eternally barred from civil society.

    In other words, the practical hard line is not "is this person really a misogynist?", but rather "is this person willing to act civil for the sake of getting along with others?" Those who care more about their bigotry than their gaming should evidently be dismissed, while among the rest it really doesn't matter at all for any practical purpose whether they're just thoughtless or committed to hate.
  • Yes, do your best on enforcement! My point was that, even if your enforcement options are limited, don't let that stop you from adopting and communicating a policy, because sometimes a little goes a long way.

    Specifically, I'm speaking from experience at small events, where a policy is announced aloud to all attendees, who see everyone at the con receiving the message. I'm pretty sure this has gotten many attendees on board with the proper expectations, such that no further enforcement was needed.

    I am not claiming things will always go so smoothly, I'm just saying that sometimes simply making the point loudly enough can do a lot. ("Loud" is key -- I figure sticking a note in the middle of a large event pamphlet would be less effective.)
    Yup, announcing out loud and making clear that it applies to all attendees + staff/volunteers is key. Also important re: some of the other comments above is making clear to your community that enforcing the policy is not about determining who is right or wrong, or who is telling the truth, or judging guilt, or determining who is a "true" bigot and who is "just joking" or anything like that: it's about immediately and effectively addressing the concerns of people who feel unsafe. Everything else is secondary. (The MRGS guidebook I linked above goes into more depth on all of this, as do other resources.)

  • edited April 2016
    In other words, the practical hard line is not "is this person really a misogynist?", but rather "is this person willing to act civil for the sake of getting along with others?"
    Fair enough, let me rephrase to say that, in my experience, the line between those who could be persuaded to act civil and those who could not was pretty obvious even before being empirically confirmed. Persuading someone to do something they already sort of want to do is way easier than persuading someone to do something that means nothing to them or makes no sense to them. "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings but I've soaked up some sexist cliches" is obviously the former, while "I have no regard for women" is obviously the latter. Even someone who intends to behave for the sake of acceptance is going to find it difficult to pantomime some routine of respect if they don't actually harbor it.

    Again, that's in my experience. More shades of grey in yours?
  • Oops, cross-posted with @Felan! Despite my current back-and-forth with Eero about bigotry vs clumsiness, I completely agree with Felan that such distinctions are irrelevant to the practice of keeping event spaces safe.

    Hopefully the issue of offender exclusion vs offender rehabilitation isn't too much of a tangent here...
  • edited April 2016
    I've often seen the other side of the gamer inclusivity coin - how it feels to essentially act as a social charity . . . you have this sort of a noble, charitable tradition of trying to help people engage with society at all
    I think it's great whenever a niche hobby group strives for inclusivity! I don't think loving the sinner does any good without hating the sin, though. Accepting losers and pushing them to be better seems way more noble to me than accepting losers and letting all their antisocial tendencies fester.

    There's a guy in my frisbee pick-up group who liked to rant against feminism while we played. I kinda thought he was joking, but it was clearly a distraction for some of the people on the field who felt passionately about the issue and felt like someone was picking a fight with their beliefs. So, as someone who's been playing this game for a while, I told him to knock it off and stop distracting from play. Combined with grumblings from plenty of other players, that did the trick. He's a contrarian who didn't think he was in the wrong, but he was clear on why the group assembles: to play frisbee. If you're ruining others' ability to do that, then that's the end of the story -- you cannot be allowed to continue. So he stopped the ranting.

    So, Eero, it seems to me that if your gaming group met explicitly to play D&D, rather than as a hybrid between that and some sort of "this hobby is for losers" expectation-fulfillment charity, it would be literally impossible for a years-long pattern of disruptive play to emerge. I understand passivity and conflict-avoidance, but if you can't play then you can't play, and no one who's there just to play is going to suffer that in complete silence. Even if I'd never said a word to the loudmouth on the field, more and more people were seeing him as a distraction, and everyone who felt that way began to grumble about it. That's happened before, and no player who's had their every move grumbled about has persisted for long. They've all either shaped up or shipped out.

    I'm not saying that I don't think there's a place in the world for events where hanging out is primary and the stated activity, e.g. an RPG, is secondary. But "inclusively just hanging out" seems pretty radical to me, like no one should opt in unless they're ready to handle anything and everything.
  • edited April 2016
    I think seeing him as the heart of criticism of the article is probably countered by just searching more widely on the internet, but that's beside the point.
    Thank you for resiling from the rather more insulting way you originally phrased that comment, although you're still suggesting that I'm not aware of the wider scope of this issue, which, given our large number of mutuals on G+, is not only insulting but also absurd. And you still miss the point, which is that The Pundit and various of his sidekicks at The RPGSite and elsewhere are a large part of the problem, and therefore worthy of mention in this thread. Of course they're not the only ones, hence my expression 'maelstrom of voices'.
    You have plenty of other venues if you want to express criticism of the Pundit or the sites he runs. Don't take a pretty reasonable discussion of how harassment can happen in gaming and push it to internet forum vs forum junk.
    Again you seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that I'm somehow using this thread to launch personal attacks on people I don't like, in this case The RPG Pundit. You have only to look at my earlier post - which ironically ghostwhistler quoted in support of his own, similar, opinion - to see that "discussion of how harassment can happen in gaming" was precisely what both ghostwhistler and I were engaged in doing.

    But I suspect that at the heart of this lies your concern that the mere mention of The Pundit is likely in itself to trigger a flame war - a perfectly understandable position, he's a hugely controversial and divisive figure, the mentioning of whom has indeed provoked flame wars on various forums. However, if you intend that to be a matter for moderation, please make this explicit so that everyone knows where they stand.

    I will now 'move on', but before I do so I would request that in future you examine more closely a forum user's overall contribution to a thread before you moderate one of their comments in it. By all means respond to this if you wish, but I will make no further comment on the subject.
  • edited April 2016
    I think James is an awesome mod. Every disagreement we've ever had has been pleasantly and reasonably discussed over private messages.
  • Could Storygames even get into a flame war? We've got far too much zen for that.

    @David_Berg. To answer your question - although I think you and Eero got there - I think the majority of sexist behaviour is seen in maladjusted young men who are being hurtful out of thoughtlessness rather than hardcore misogynist beliefs.

    I worked for a while in schools with kids with Special Educational Needs and a large part of helping them feel less alienated and curbing anti-social behaviour was through a process of "socialising" - making safe social spaces where collaboration, sharing and communication were practiced in a way that couldn't really be achieved in the classroom. We'd play games and the kids would learn to get on, respect each other's contributions and generally gain more experience with social norms. Basic stuff, like thinking about what your words will do before you say them.

    In a way adult gaming clubs can act a lot like this. Socialising young men out of their alienated behaviours; behaviours that can be fed by the internet and a self-selecting misogynist online culture. Just by being there and showing that you are an adult male who doesn't think sexism is cool can have a big impact.

    Of course, if people are really intent on letting sexism and hate be their identity, then perhaps the more subtle nudging of social disapproval isn't going to shift that.
  • the only reason I mentioned therpgsite was to point out exactly the sort of experience the article talks about. She is saying that her experiences were stonewalled precisely because she's a woman 'complaining'. She wasn't taken seriously at all to the point her claims were not even investigated. That's dismissal.

    In attempting to discuss this very point, the user got banned after being stonewalled by people more concerned with whether or not a woman was talking with an acceptable level of honesty. Completely proving her point. They were not willing to discuss the point of the article - that claims made by women are dismissed - because they dismissed her claims, because she's a woman and...reasons
  • edited April 2016
    "Please move on. If you have questions/concerns, PM me." seems excruciatingly clear.
  • Discussing attitudes displayed on a popular rpg forum - as opposed to one individual - is pertinent I think.

    if you'd like to move the subject on to something else entirely, then please do so.

  • edited April 2016
    I think we've both been excruciatingly clear.

    Thread closed.

    edit: Attempts to revive a thread around this article and its reception, or harshing on other websites/forums (which is something that never fits the vibe here) will be closed.

    If somebody in a week or two wants to start something on social dynamics and harassment at conventions/local groups, feel free.


This discussion has been closed.