It’s 2011. I’m at a convention; I don’t remember which one. The only thing important about the year is that the Dresden Files RPG is out, and the general attitude among gamers at large toward me has shifted from “who the fuck is that guy” to “oh fuck, it’s that guy,” for better and for worse.
Kid comes up to me. He’s eager, wants to tell me about the thing he’s making. I try to be encouraging, though the truth is I haven’t developed the “game designer at large” part of my con persona yet.
He switches the topic, asks me about my heritage. He’s Latino, and awkwardly tries to hide his enthusiasm about talking to a Latino RPG designer. It bleeds off him, though, the pride. It’s a story I’ve heard a hundred times and am now living—someone sees someone who looks like them doing a thing, and it tells them that maybe they can also do that thing.
We part ways. I never see him again, online or in meatspace.
I don’t typically talk a lot (with recent exception) about being Latino, in the context of my involvement in RPGs, or even in general. There are a lot of reasons for that, which may yet be the subject of future musings, but for now what’s important is to note I’m not really visible in that regard, not waving that flag. Hell, I’m so low-key about it that I’m more likely to be erased by people’s biases than anything else, watching white people put their feet in their mouths on the topic of race while I’m standing right there.
In all those cases, being erased and being noticed, I’m taught the same lesson: a lot of identity is what gets imposed on you by others, rather than what you choose for yourself. I could not choose for that kid not to see me as a Latino RPG designer, for my success not to speak to that grouping. I cannot choose when people see me as white, and when they very obviously don’t see me as white.
There is a facet of community that doesn’t get talked about a lot, which essentially works the same way. When people can see you, they can also see who you talk to, who you share resources with, who has opinions like yours, who does the same stuff you do, etc etc. And you end up in groups that way, chains of connections seen from the outside as placing you in a community or a set of overlapping communities.
I imagine that, for example, I’m perceived by people as being associated with:
* A network of professional RPG writers and designers, especially my colleagues at Evil Hat Productions and the fan groups that have grown out of people who like their games.
* A network of professionals and fans actively discussing and/or working toward promoting social justice and diversity in the RPG hobby. This grouping is probably most relevant to the remainder of this post.
* A certain cadre of people who pursue creator-owned publishing in RPGs (which incidentally is kind of ironic, because all my work has been for hire, I don’t own shit-all that I’ve made, and have never published anything on my own in my life).
* The other regulars on the discussion forums I used to be more active on, like The Forge and Story Games.
* A philosophy of RPG design and play that emphasizes structuring the emergent fiction and creating satisfying color over other parts of the experience.
For the people looking in, those groupings are very real and very influential, even when I don’t perceive, acknowledge, or participate in the community they imply.
For the people looking in, my actions in a sufficiently public space speak for and reflect on the people that I’m grouped with, whether I like it or not.
My actions can, in part, determine whether someone wants to associate with other people whom they perceive to also belong to those groups.
I can disclaim those associations, of course, and my responsibility to those associations. But I don’t really have the power to make that disclaimer true, or to make anyone accept my actions as only those of an individual. I do not get to choose. The beholder always, always chooses for me.
It’s unfair, really, to be stuck with that. But it is a fundamental reality of having any kind of public life, which basically includes any kind of social media, unless you curate all your content to the Nth degree.
Given that, a question that’s worth asking is, when I find out that I’m stuck with the consequences of being grouped, and that my behavior has reflected poorly on others or driven people away from some community they think I belong to, what moral and ethical responsibility do I have?
The tempting answer is, of course, to say, “I have none. My actions are my own, they never represent anyone but me, and what other people think about that isn’t my problem.”
But if I say that, I pretty much have to abandon any claims I’ve made about social justice and diversity in my hobby. This is basically the same line of thinking that gets us to “not all men” or “not all white people,” the idea that one can suddenly disassociate from one’s communities at will to avoid having to deal with the splash damage of one’s behavior, or conveniently disassociate someone else from those communities as a way of dismissing broader critique about your group.
The outcome of everyone deciding that they’re never responsible for how their actions reflect on a larger group is that marginalized voices get silenced. And, here’s a hint: if you’re actually able to get away with doing this, you’re enjoying privileges that other people don’t get.
Just as obviously, the answer cannot be, “I’m always responsible, all the time.” There are a lot of responsibilities that reasonably take priority here—to preserving one’s safety, to self-care, to the communities and groups I do acknowledge and invest in, and so on. And I have to acknowledge that certain groups of people are more often pressured than others to take responsibility for their public image, or for influencing collective perception of a group they belong to, and I should protect those people from disproportionately bearing that burden on behalf of those with more privilege.
In between those two extremes, there’s bound to be a lot of disagreement, a lot of frustration, and a lot of criticism. I tend to try and invert power dynamics as much as I can, by reflex—that being, the easier it is for someone to disclaim responsibility to a larger group and get away with it, the more responsibility I’m inclined to believe that person should take.
Another question worth asking is, who gets to decide what that level of responsibility and accountability is, and upon whom it falls?
And again, the extreme answers fail. I can’t say, “No one else but me gets to decide that.” Because of course, I’m going to rule toward my own favor and my own comfort level more often than not, and protect my own privilege. Even as committed as I am to social justice, that bias is bone-deep. And that means I’ll let myself get away with what could be grievous harm to others, or at the very least, grievous hurt to others, and convince myself I’m justified.
And I can’t say, “X person / X group of people / other people always decide for me.” Because that creates a situation ripe for oppression and abuse, especially if bad actors try to use that to their advantage. And even given the best of intentions, there’s not a whole lot of natural justice in subjecting myself to the standards of people who aren’t really prepared to judge a particular situation.
In between those two extremes, there’s bound to be a lot of disagreement, a lot of frustration, and a lot of criticism. I tend to try and invert power dynamics as much as I can, by reflex—that being, if the standards are being set mainly by the people with the most power and privilege in the situation, the more I am inclined to disrupt that in favor of answering to those with the least amount of it.
I don’t have any easy answers, except to say this: I’m suspicious of anyone who advocates extreme or absolutist positions in regards to these topics, no matter what the position.
I’m watching, carefully, anyone in my corner of the Internet who dismisses the existence of our various communities to preserve their comfort zone or escape critique for their behavior, regardless of their perception of that critique’s legitimacy. Especially when those people have previously gained from leveraging the strengths of those communities, however loose they may be.
And I’m watching, carefully, anyone in my corner of the Internet who empowers themselves to answer the two questions above for someone else without first building a coalition of trust and consent from others in those various communities. Especially if those people aren’t planning an immediate break from those communities after they act.
Or, to put it more bluntly: Gaming peeps, we’re stuck with each other, unless we’re going to retire from public life entirely. Let’s do our best not to make that a problem for either of us, or for the people lurking out there, watching us.
And it case it needs to be made clear: If your reaction in reading this is to immediately come up with people other than you who need to read it, it’s probable I’m directing this at you as much as I am directing it at them.
I'm back from Rare Book School and so I'm just now getting to this -- my apologies. This is long and I go through a bit of social construction/community game theory to get there, but I think it's really valuable. Bear with me.
So, I recently heard about the game The Beast, and it sounds hella cool. Likely to pick up a copy, if I can find the room in my budget. That said, I'm curious if there are other games in a similar vein to this. Like, other erotic journal writing games, erotic solo games, solo or group journal writing games... really anything even tangentially related, tbh. Anyway, any recommendations?
After our soft-launch over the weekend, we are 20% of the way towards funding Princess Rowan's first book, Completely Charming. This will feature the third generation of the Charming dynasty, Princess Rowan Charming. (You might remember her, knee-high to an ogre, in Fayola's stories.) Rowan has one hand, but that's the smallest obstacle to her living up to her mother and grandmother's incredible legacies.
(Spoiler alert: by the end of the book, she does live up to the Charming legacy.)
Rowan continues our mission of producing stories of incredible princesses that you will not see anywhere else–the kinds of heroines which we should see everywhere. Our goal is to show young readers that anybody can be a hero, no matter your look or color or shape or heart.
I'm looking forward to this next round of Princess Charming, and I'd love to have you all along for the ride. If you've got little ones in your life, consider becoming a backer. If you don't, we're happy to donate your books to a library, children's hospital, or shelter.
Even a simple reshare of this post goes a long way to helping to make these books happen.
#Singularity emulates a dating reality show set in the #transhuman future. 4 players go on dates. The facilitator plays the robot gameshow host.
Each of the 13 pregenerated character was written by a different game designer/author, e.g. and .
Rachel Lewis' pledge brought us across the finish line for our first title, Completely Charming! This early reader title will feature Princess Rowan Charming in a chapterbook format suitable for new readers, brought to life with line art by Anna. I'm so looking forward to writing this!
Looking forward, we have four days left in the campaign. If we can raise that total to $5k, we'll roll out Rowan's second book, Two Princess Rowan Bedtime Stories, with full-color illustrations! It's a big hurdle, but I think we can make it.
Thank you everybody who has pledged and thank you everybody who has shared this project around. ( And feel free to reshare this post, too! )
Just wanted to check in and see if everyone's characters were reasonably finalized? I have your first adventure ready to go:
While at the public house in Wekeep, The Wizard's Boot, you heard a rumour about a group of folx who went out into the Ashwood looking for Stone Crab eggs. Sounds like Mistress Kenna pays good money for them for her magical experiments. Anyway, also sounds like the adventuring party has been gone a good while longer than they intended, and the keeper here Jai thinks they're likely dead. After all, Stone Crabs are territorial types, and if they made a wrong turn they might've wandered into one of the wolf dens, or worse, run into the ogre out there! Still, maybe that leaves an opening for you, enterprising souls you are!
Did any of you know anyone who went out with the last crew of adventurers?
Any of you want to focus on the Stone Crabs and their precious eggs?
Anyone ever want to see an ogre? Maybe not a good idea but bad ideas make entertaining times!
I'm sure there's more, too, if you root.
Obem’s Rest, largest city this close to goblin territory, claims the greatest port in human lands
Wekeep, at the base of the Wizard Kenna Zevril’s Observatory overlooking the Ashwoods
The small village of Mistvale, home to humans and hobbits alike, so long as you hold yer own. Last stop at the end of the Old Road
Borderland Cathedral of Lady Flamekeep, House of the Lords of Life and Death
Ehfo Caelora, the Elfland, nestled in the Deep Fen
The Dwarven Halls of Mohr, centred in Mohr’s Fire Mount which lies within the Black Peaks
- NAITCook Apprentice, 2010 - present
- Cut the Rope 2
- Platform Defense
- Cut the Rope: Magic
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