New Years' Resolutions for Fighting Sexism
It’s the second day of the New Year, but any day is a good one for resolutions against sexism. Whether you’re a games consumer or a games maker, there are things you can do to make tabletop games a more inclusive and less sexist hobby. I’ve been hearing these things from creators and consumers, games journalists and publicists, for years. Those con badges are some of mine from 2011, and everything I’m going to say, I heard at every con. And I heard the same things before 2011. Heard them again in 2012. These resolutions will be repeated, over and over, until we’re all working to end sexism in games.
Let’s talk about money. Your money.
Speaking with your money is only one option of many that you have for dealing with sexism in games. For games that you don’t want to play, or ones that crossed considerable lines for you, opting out of commerce is easy. “I only buy games I do not consider to be [insert prejudice type here]” is a good game plan. But if a game has problematic content, yet the rest is something we want? It’s okay to like problematic content too.
It’s also important that we can talk about it, and identify in what ways a game is problematic. It's a great world, but the art is objectifying? Maybe the rules are sexist? Being able to point to flaws or questionable content makes us better, more informed gamers. It’s also something a number of companies and designers do listen to. It’s preferable to be polite when we're dismantling the bullshit sexist standards we find in a game, because it gives people who would uphold those standards less leverage. Being polite takes away their ammo, and as frustrating as it is, we don’t have to be obnoxious when calling out something as prejudiced or otherwise problematic.
We can hack games (house rules, creating/tweaking rules, removing rules) in order to make them into something we’re happy to play. I’ve talked about removing cards from Cards Against Humanity to make it a less upsetting and more enjoyable game to play, and that can be done with most any game. If you’re disgusted that the depiction of a woman on your character card is vampy for no reason, for instance, you can bust out some stickers or markers and retrofit your female warrior with reasonable armor. Regardless of game medium, you can do whatever you need or want to your copies to make it what you want to see. And that goes for stuff other than sexism—there is no secret Games Police that’ll confiscate your copy if you hack a game to be less biased.
So we can make decisions with our dollars, discuss dissatisfaction in public (including writing to or tweeting at game creators and companies), and hack games. Another key piece is encouaraging and elevating women's representation in game-related activities. You can encourage cons to include your favorite female designers, artists, writers, and editors as panelists or guests of honor. Ask cons if they have anti-harassment policies, and if the answer is no, ask them to put one in place, and volunteer to help.
If a woman you know is interested in making games, encourage her. No matter how far she decides to take that interest, you've already made gaming a legit better hobby by not shutting someone down and saying they can’t make a game. Encourage women to play games if they’re curious, and encourage the employment of women who make games by buying products they make (if you dig them). Follow their work: The Internet makes staying on top of releases easier than it's ever been. Make sure the companies that produce their games know how much you value games made by women.
My last word to you, gamers or soon-to-be gamers: Make the hobby better by being good people. When we lose our cool, we can apologize. If you sense that you're going to lose it, honor your own boundaries by disengaging—when we're at the point of screaming (either in voices or in all-caps) we’re not getting anywhere good. Wheaton’s Law offers a good, basic lesson on how to improve our conduct as people. Come up with new ways—your ways—to make the hobby a better one.
If you can do even one of the above in 2013, you’ve taken an important step in improving game culture, for yourself, your friends, and everyone else who plays. If enough people make a resolution to do one small thing to fight sexism, some day I’m going to get back to writing horror full-time. If that happened—if sexism got its butt kicked around the block by caring, honest, amazing people—I wouldn’t mind being obsolete.
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