An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games
David Millians, Editor
Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
Many years ago, I met Jon Peterson at a fateful Gen Con event: a documentary about the origins of Dungeons & Dragons. I was excited to be a part of it and met several other folks who were interested in the topic, including Jon.
Alas, the documentary was not to be, but it turns out that seminar was the impetus behind Jon’s fateful path as one of the foremost RPG scholars in the field. Jon’s experience laid the foundation with his comprehensive work, Playing at the World; he followed it up with The Elusive Shift; and capped it all off with the story of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s tempestuous relationship in Game Wizards. Jon’s tireless efforts are an example of the kind of scholarship we strive for, and I’m proud to call him a member. If you haven’t read his book, by all means pick it up. And if you have, watch the recording to learn the details of how it came about. We look forward to hearing more about his next project!
Please welcome to our newest member, Lucio N. Pimentel! Next month we have Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, as our guest. Like our November session, we’re having our December session early to avoid conflicts with the holidays. Soon after, we’ll be releasing our Annual Report. We’re making great progress towards our goals!
Finally, I applied some minor editing to our videos to clean them up and make them more uniform. If you haven’t, please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Looking forward to wrapping up the year in December!
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I’ve been enjoying reading CAR-PGa’s newsletter each month, and there has been a concern I’ve become more aware of recently that I’d like to address. In Ted Skirvin’s convention reports, there is a “demographic” section for each convention. While I appreciate that the author is likely trying to highlight the increasing diversity of conventions, which is an exciting and noble pursuit, the approach is problematic and perpetuates discrimination in multiple ways. I’ve included the demographic section from the last couple of newsletters below:
“The con seems more diverse each year. I would estimate the male/female ratio (and I do realize that is a loaded concept nowadays) to be about 60/40. There were a few folks that I presume to have been trans. The ethnic/racial mix was probably something like 70% white, 20% black, 5% Latino and 5% Asian.”Ted Skirvin – October 2021, Dragon Con
Ted Skirvin – November 2021, Multiverse
“As for demographics, I’d estimate the male/female ratio to be about 50/50. The con was also very open to people of “non-standard” gender identities, and there were a few such folks present. As to the racial/ethnic mix, it was probably 50% white, 45% black with the remaining 5% comprised of a few Latino and Asian people. One unusual aspect was that at least half of the organizational staff was black.”Ted Skirvin – November 2021, Multiverse
Making the assumption that you can visually scan a person’s face and presentation and make accurate assumptions about gender identity, race, and ethnicity is incredibly problematic. Unless the author is able to get access to self-identified information from participants, data about gender, race, and ethnicity should not be reported. Additionally, the commentary presented by the author – in particular stating an understanding that the terms male and female are “loaded concept nowadays,” assuming trans identities, and referring to ‘“non-standard’ gender identities” is inappropriate and harmful.
If the author’s goal is to highlight the increasing diversity of conventions or to help people who hold marginalized identities better understand what conventions may be safe for them to attend, their aims may be better met through speaking of the inclusivity measures the organization, convention, or attendees have in place. Here is a non-exhaustive list of such measures:
- Gender neutral bathrooms
- Pronoun stickers, places for pronouns on name tags
- Diversity lounge/expo
- Pronouns of speakers in promotional materials or in talks
- Questions about accessibility when attending the convention
- Accessible entrances
- Medical Badges
- Presenters, guest speakers, and staff from a diverse range of backgrounds
- An organizational statement that addressed diversity and inclusion
- Ticket scholarships for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds
The author’s descriptions are disappointing and have no place in a newsletter for “An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games.” They reinforce outdated and toxic views of gender and race, and I recommend they be retracted immediately.
I look forward to your response.
RESPONSE FROM THE EDITOR
Thank you, Elizabeth, for writing to me about this. You’ve raised important topics for us all to consider and discuss. Your suggestions about gathering information about convention policies and beyond to better communicate to readers the nature of an event are valuable and should be part of our work in the future. Everyone working with CAR-PGa does so with the best of intentions, never with any malicious intent, but we can all learn from input like Elizabeth’s. We all see the world from different angles and differing awareness. We can help each other.
Examining the demographics of game conventions is an old one in our hobby, an attempt to glimpse the shifts in our community over the years and decades. As the useful and compassionate ways to gather and use these sorts of information change, we all need to adapt with them. I hope as we do so, we don’t lose sight of the increasingly visible involvement of women and people of color, a great boon to the growth and development of gaming. No one should be told by someone else what category they are in, even if they agree, much less if they don’t. As an editor, this is something for me to educate myself about in order to help authors share accurate, meaningful information. In this age of online data, imperfect as it is, self-declared demographics are likely a better guide than me or anyone else trying to estimate anything about a large crowd of people. Elizabeth has great ideas about how to view conventions and other events for diversity, inclusion, and other important factors. I am sure there are nuances of even the most basic version of this topic that I have missed. Please, let me know.
Folks, this is the most valuable letter to the editor I’ve ever received. Elizabeth is really digging into the topics we discuss and the ways we discuss them. Join the conversation!
FROM DAVID MILLIANS
Alerts from the Onion (2021 Nov 25) Good News RPG Fans: We’re All Constantly Playing Some Kind of Role No Matter What. https://www.theonion.com/good-news-rpg-fans-we-re-all-constantly-playing-some-k-1848105479. True and funny.
Ana, Tom (2021 Nov 29) The dark history of antisemitism in board games. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/board-game/feature/dark-history-antisemitism-board-games. From the New and Fashionable Game of the Jew in 1807 to the Pogromly in the 1990s.
Carter, Chase (2021 Nov 19) Games Workshop condemns hate groups after Nazi imagery appears at Spanish Warhammer 40,000 tournament. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/warhammer-40000-ninth-edition/news/warhammer-40k-gt-talavera-nazi-statement. The Imperium Is Driven by Hate. Warhammer Is Not.
Dix, Ellie (2021) The Game School. https://teacherhug.co.uk/listen-again-the-game-school. Ellie Dix’s podcast about board games as educational tools.
DZA (2021 Nov 13) Racism in Science Fiction and Fantasy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EleZhOQL_-M. Avoiding ignorant or racist mistakes.
Embry, Egg (2021 Nov 16) Origins Game Fair 2021- After Report Part One. https://www.enworld.org/threads/origins-game-fair-2021-%E2%80%93-after-report-part-one.683987. Attendance and excitement for games.
Hamilton, Brian (2021 Nov 3) Hero Kids: The Therapeutic and Healing Power of Adventure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=HAyXkHsoNOk&fbclid=IwAR1lGjK3JMQHFjv42haBXIrOAZNLqskNdPDFsxdHHxdmbS-CIZo-CmPYKOU. Therapeutic applications of the Hero Kids RPG and RPG in general.
Palmer, James & Jennifer Williams (2021 Nov 26) 5 Games That Explain The World. https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/11/26/holiday-gift-games-wargames. Games varied and insightful.
Percovich, Gianluca (2021) Games mean community: LATAM Breakout throws a much-needed spotlight on the tabletop RPG designers of Sudamerica. https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/latam-breakout/feature/latam-breakout-kickstarter-rpgs-designers. Games from the Global South.
Pierce, Leonard (2021 Nov) Dungeons & Dragons Is a Case Study in How Capitalism Kills Art. https://jacobinmag.com/2021/11/dd-ttrpgs-gygax-arneson-peterson-games-capitalism. Socialist take on the business history of Dungeons and Dragons.
Vedantam, Shankar (2021 Nov 8) Work 2.0: Game On!. https://omny.fm/shows/hidden-brain/work-2-0-game-on. Discussion with Dr. Ethan Mollick about the nature of play and games.
Viney, Alex (2021 Nov 3) Playing only trans characters in tabletop RPGs helped me understand myself. https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/roleplaying-game/opinion/trans-characters-tabletop-rpgs-help-understand-myself. Imagination, escapism, and self-realization.
FROM MIKE TRESCA
Tresca, Mike (2021 Nov 25) Gaming & Giving This Holiday Season. https://www.enworld.org/threads/gaming-giving-this-holiday-season.684005. Highlights three good game causes, Jasper’s Game from suicide prevention, RPG Relief Fund for creators suffering medical hardships, and RPG Research and the RPG Museum for expanded investigation of the hobby and its potential.
© Copyright 2021 by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa), ISSN 1071 7129. The CAR-PGa Newsletter is a monthly publication. For more information contact David Millians, Editor, Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA, phone (404) 808-1070, fax (404) 377-3491, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Back issues are available. Contributions of material from the membership are urged, and the byline is responsible for content. Deadline is the last weekday of the month, email preferred. Permission is granted to copy anything in the Newsletter, provided we get a credit line in the publication copying it, and it doesn’t have someone else’s copyright on it. Information, including details on joining CAR-PGa, can be obtained on the Internet at car-pga.org.