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Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem, by De Scriptorice, has been making the rounds in my circles on G+, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about it. Not because I’m of any importance, but because what that post describes is awful, and speaking up matters.

Yesterday, I read Why Should We Listen To Anecdotal Evidence of Harassment in Gaming? and Why I Don’t Play Magic Any More (both by Ferrett Steinmetz), and it clicked.

De Scriptorice’s experiences

Here’s an excerpt from De Scriptorice’s post:

I am thirteen years old and in a game store for the first time. I examine their selection of dice and take them to the counter to pay.

“How old are you?” asks the balding, middle-aged man behind the counter.

“Thirteen.”

“Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed!” he chuckles in glee. The Warhammer 40K gamers at the table behind him take up the refrain. “Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed! Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed!”

I run.

That’s one of the least-bad experiences she relates, which speaks volumes about the kind of shit she’s dealt with over the years.

My experiences

None of the experiences in those three posts jibe with my experiences as a white, male, cisgender[1] gamer.

I’ve gamed in groups with women, people of color, gay and bisexual folks, and folks with physical disabilities, and if there was harassment at any of those hundreds of gaming sessions, I didn’t spot it.

I love that anyone can sit down together and pretend to be other people for a few hours, no matter who they are in real life. This has shaped my perception of gaming as a positive force, and of gamers as a welcoming community.

But

But. But. The fact that I haven’t witnessed harassment doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not a real problem.

The world is much, much bigger than my worldview. Which is sometimes an uncomfortable thing to realize, but just as often a transformative, meaningful, mind-expanding thing to realize.

And at the same time, recognizing that there’s a harassment problem in gaming, and in related spaces like conventions and gaming stores (and related hobbies, like cosplay), doesn’t invalidate what I’ve experienced. Both truths are true.

It’s possible to both see gaming as a good thing, which it is, and as a hobby that attracts its share of assholes, bigots, sexists, and other problematic folks, which it also is.

Willingness to change

Seeking to invalidate someone else’s experiences of harassment in the gaming community is bullshit.

The same goes for fighting against inclusivity and diversity in games — that’s bullshit, too.

Change is good. Change can be hard! But it’s still good. When I see bigotry, I see people who don’t want to change even a little bit. Who don’t want to acknowledge that the world isn’t exactly as they’re currently picturing it. Whose personal identities appear to be so bound up in their current worldview that calcification is preferable to admitting they’re even a tiny bit wrong.

We — everyone, all of us — should be open to seeing the world in other ways. If someone says they’ve experienced harassment in the gaming community, accepting that as truth costs you nothing.

For those who aren’t open to that, well, Chuck Wendig says it best in this response to folks complaining about gay characters in Star Wars: Aftermath:

And if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct.

Harassment, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, and hate speech have no place in the gaming community.

The more gamers there are rolling dice and making cool stuff and designing weird adventures and sharing their perspectives, the better off all of us are.

That’s what I want gaming to be.

[1] My gender identity matches the gender I was assigned at birth.

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