I got the new 5th ed. D&D starter box, which hopefully I can put to use sometime soon. So far, it looks a lot like what I was hoping for: more streamlined but adaptable mechanics, flexible combat (grid and figurines not assumed!), more open toward the actual story part of the game. I’m exited!
I’ve been reading more and more lately about exclusion and misogany in nerd culture -for lack of a better term. One of my close friends at writers convention was in a group of women assaulted on an elevator. There are growing discussions like this about the atmosphere of cons, and articles like this about gaming communities and online interaction. And it’s necessary. We’ve reached what should be a new peak in culture, where those things that were awesome but not broadly accepted in popular culture now are. That’s awesome. But it comes with all the downsides of ‘moar people’.
The first year I went to GenCon was 1998. I’d been playing D&D for a year or two with a regular group, and I’d fallen down the rabbit hole that was Magic: the Gathering- all with kids I was already friends with. My exposure to the stereotypical gamer had been limited to the local comic/hobby stores, so GenCon was a slight shock. There were plenty of perfectly fine people there, but also plenty of strange.. well..
So there were a lot of incidents of dudes getting bent out of shape over a game, like a child would. Lots of bad hygeine. The ratio of women to men seemed maybe 1/4, and the ones that were around always seemed just a little edgy, for good reason. It was also my first exposure to booth babes, the girls paid to wear chainmail bikinis and attract all manner of creepiness to the vendors. It was uncomfortable for me in the first place, when they were clearly disinterested in the Con itself, but it was worse watching a lot of guys whose definition of “talking to girls” went no farther than “trying to coerce girls back to the hotel room”. After a couple of years, it started to improve. Costuming was becoming more of a thing, there were less booth babes, and more girls in general, and people on the whole seemed better adjusted around other people/genders/inclinations. And frankly, it got too big not to.
At the time, I really chalked it up to the stereotypical basement-dwelling neckbeard types being, well, real. To some extent it was. But after I stopped going to GenCon, I wound up the last couple of years hitting DragonCon with the ex. She was big into cosplay, and I got a lot of experience with super-creepiness. She was on the timid side of sociability, and tended to attract a lot of creeps anyway. So throw sexy costumes into the mix, and often alcohol, and an atmosphere that encourages voyeurism, and you get a LOT of boundary-ignorant people. It stressed me out immensely; I had to warn off a number of guys who took my presence as “this girl is a prize and I’m your competition”. Even away from that, walking around and taking pictures I saw a lot of people who seemed to be using their camera as an excuse to harass women.
It’s not just the predatory behavior either, it’s the simple things that stem from the outsider attitude. When you let your subculture define you, and that subculture grows more open, you feel like your identity is being lost. You get defensive. Couple that with unhealthy social skills or attitudes, and you become unpleasant at best and abusive and antagonistic at worst. Then we wind up with internet bullying and diatribes about fake gamer girls.
Not everyone is a plain bad seed either, a lot of people are just socially ignorant. That doesn’t excuse any of the above shit though, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between someone just being uncomfortable and awkward and someone about to be an asshole. It’s bad enough that the culture, which is about sharing shit that we like, is carrying these people with it. What hits close to home is the gaming in particular, where you’re involved with other people directly. I grew up with it, I gained many of my closest friends from it, and I don’t like to see it perverted by bullshit.