CW: In game referrence to child loss and suicide.
It’s been four months since I began the preparations to gather a committee of individuals to collaborate in running a new Gaming Convention in my small city of Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), Ontario. It’s been four days since we publicly announced we were running the convention.
In this time we have received countless support and love from the general population of the tabletop and gaming community. However, as I run most of the social media accounts for UnCon currently until the board is more solidified, I have received a lot of hatred, too. So much hatred and doubt and questioning and general negativity.
Why would people be negative about beginning a new, safe and inclusive convention? There is always room for more safe places to game, in my opinion, there could never be enough of them! So what’s the issue with the naysayers? What is picking in the backs of their brains, nagging them, pushing them to react negatively to this convention’s creation?
I have found it revolves around two things. My gender (being the head organizer of UnCon for this year) and our convention safety tools.
Let’s start with one I find easier to wrap my head around. The push back against safety tools. Many individuals – generally speaking, non-marginalized people who feel they do not need safety tools present personally – do not see the point for safety tools. Some of the comments so far have been stating that it “makes people weaker”, “pushes a political agenda”, “forces players and GMs to feel uncomfortable at tables because they have to ‘watch themselves'”, and all the like. Most of these individuals have never sat at a table where these safety tools were implemented.
To inform those who have never used safety tools, I have never seen one interrupt a game. Not once. X/O-Cards, Support Flower, etc., they are all there simply in case of content cropping up (or situations) that are triggering, concerning or generally high tension content.
Tuesday nights I run Curse of Strahd at a FLGS that has X-Cards in place at all RPG tables. My party was in Krezk, they had just returned from Vallaki with a dress to give to the Abbott for his flesh golem bride for Strahd. CoS is already a hardcover adventure that can be sticky at most times. The themes presented in it can be twisted, dark, and triggering to many people for many different things.
For this particular session, I was really grateful the X-Card was there. If only to comfort me in knowing that if lines were being crossed that players did not feel comfortable with, they could simply tap the X and I could draw that line back or make the content disappear entirely. The players had been gone so long the burgomaster of Krezk, Dmitri, was driven to insanity by the loss of his children (a major trigger for some, in general, considering it is child loss), and the players not being able to resurrect Ilya quickly enough, upon their return Dmitri hung himself. The characters discovered his freshly departed body hanging from the rafters of his home. They still had three free resurrections but they didn’t want to use both on Ilya and Dmitri so decided to use it on the son after Speaking with the Dead. Things became even worse off after that but that’s a different story for a different day.
The point being is that the X-Card was not used even in this intense situation. But, as a DM, I was overly grateful that it was present. If safety tools like this concern you at the table, you really need to stop and ask yourself why. Why is ensuring all content within the game is enjoyable (or at least neutral) to everyone at the table a bad thing?
But this pushback against convention safety tools has been relatively tame. If people want to combat the use of safety tools at a convention where you game with strangers and things can go quickly awry, then conventions who support safety and inclusion are simply not the places for you and vice versa. It is as simple as.
The second negative hurdle I have been having to overcome is being a woman who is organizing a convention. I love the organization, for one thing. I love being busy, I love tabletop and board games and LARPing and I love assisting others in making inclusive and nice, happy, safe spaces to just be happy and game in. Everything involved with convention planning is things I enjoy doing. Networking, especially!
But the amount of men I have at my heels, biting at my ankles like rabid little kittens, criticizing every portion of the convention is exhausting. And yes, some have specified it is because I am a woman. “I don’t go to conventions run by women, they’re always shit and the games aren’t fun.” “I’m not going to even attempt to go because I don’t feel safe as a dude in a room full of libtard snowflake girls.”
Those are direct quotes from the many I have received via e-mail and social media. And responding to them in a positive, professional manner can certainly try my patience but I do my best. I know that the majority of this amazing community is supportive and that’s what I’m holding onto as the days move onward.
Even individuals who have common goals and purposes in mind automatically assume that the convention is run by men. This saddens me only because it showcases the thought that only white men are running conventions. We need to really shine a light on all of those amazing diverse individuals who are and have been running conventions for years, and doing it well. Because clearly, even from people with inclusion in mind, they still believe at their core only white men are organizing and creating these spaces and that in itself is something that saddens and disheartens me.
Equality and inclusion seems like an uphill, constant battle, however, I will do my best to advocate for it. Because the more we talk about it, the better off we all will be as a community, and the more things will change for the better. Ultimately, I know that for every negative message I receive, I receive 10 more filled with love and support and for that I give this community my heart and deepest gratitude.