Carving Out Space: Inviting Women to Design

So this one time, I was sitting at a game table talking about Dungeons and Dragons with a friend of mine when this dude sits down beside me. We're drinking. It's loud and we're at a pub for a Ryerson gaming night. This guy, who has been invited to this gather by my fiancee, looks at me and goes "You game?" I say yes. He grins and goes "That's hot!" He spent the rest of the night hitting on me.

Another time, I was prepping to run D&D for my then-boyfriend, his best friend, and their basement roommate, Tim. My boyfriend was excited, as he hadn't seen me GM yet and we were talking about what kind of world in D&D they wanted to play in. They had bought some expansion stuff that could make 3.0 into a steampunk setting. So I start thinking about it and do a bunch of prep work. When I sit down to talk to my boyfriend about setting a date, he says we can't play because Tim won't play. When I ask why, here's what I get: "Because…

Chasing the Dream: Your Con Will Never Be Inclusive Enough

Breakout has a harassment policy. It has an x-card at every scheduled game. It has a tap out policy for guests and volunteers. It has zero-tolerance for harassment or abuse. It tries to recruit women and minorities, smash imposter syndrome, be inclusive of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, races, abilities, mental health concerns, and sizes. Every year, the organizers try to find new ways of being a more inclusive and safe convention. Every year new things come into place, new options are added, and the con evolves.

But one thing remains clear, as an organizer of Breakout, my con isn't inclusive enough. The majority of our volunteers are men. The majority of our guests are men. And yes, the majority of our attendees are men. Most of these people are white. And while we have an amazing LGBTQ community, it's not enough. No amount of work or effort on behalf of organizers will make our convention perfectly inclusive
This is a really abrasive statement, and as much as I lo…

Game Review: Lost in the Rain

A long time ago I stumbled across a game about sad children in the early morning hours, and without looking too much into it, I hit order and forgot about it. It arrived. I stuck it on my shelf and never looked back. Until last week. This strange, mystical game that I had heard about online somewhere, forgot about, refound, and then eventually ordered was Lost in the Rain by Vivien Feasson. And here, my friends, is the premise:

It is said that children who get lost in the city on a rainy day end up devoured by the sirains. The only way to escape those starving creatures is to find other lost kids and stay close to them at all times. It is also said that the sirains always find a way to seep into the most closely knit groups. By using evil thoughts, fear, hunger and loneliness, they lure their victims and snatch them, one by one, to devour them in the dark. In the end, only one lost child will find his way home. The others will never be seen again.
Premise wise, Lost in the Rain had me at…

We Are Not the Same: Invalidation in Gaming

You know when you're at a game, and you're in the zone and you're doing the thing that your character is actually good at and sure, it's a spotlight moment for you. And you do the thing. You roll a critical success. It's fucking epic. You are jamming and talking and really digging what's happening. And then the next minute, someone says "Why are you doing that? It's stupid."

Be still your little gamer heart. You've just been invalidated.

Invalidation. It happens a lot at the game table and it's a way for people to weed out social behaviours they don't like or don't find interesting. Some of this is well intentioned and poorly executed. Some of this is just trying to control a situation to suit ourselves and that's also pretty crappy. None of it is a particularly good practice and one that makes us crappy citizens and mean friends.

Yet, the common thread of telling people what they're doing is boring, stupid, disinteresting,…

Breaking Down Tropes: The Lone Wolf

It's the quickest way to make a group of gamers hate you, the gm want to ignore you, and to earn enemies faster than you can roll a 1 on a d20: be the lone wolf. For years I campaigned passionately against the lone wolf. Why were you playing a group-focused game if you just wanted to sit in the corner and not be part of the game? Why were you even here? What was the point of this character? Yet time and time again I come across the lone wolf, grinning and mad, running free and unencumbered by petty connections to other PCs.

Why is this such a problem? Why is this so common, even still? What does playing the lone wolf add to the game or story? I wasn't convinced, even when the long wolf was suggested for me to write about, that the lone wolf trope could be anything but annoying. Yet the more I talked to people, the more I began to see a complex and interesting picture of the lone wolf as more than a new gamer's attempt to be edgy and something that may be worth taking a lo…

Public Gaming: Rules for Engagement

I've had a lot of people ask me about community building and convention organizing. They're two facets of our industry that are often underlooked and underpaid (mostly you never get paid) and they're two keystones to the foundation that is the gaming industry. Community, being the part where people talk about and engage with social elements in gaming, and conventions, being the part where we get together and play the actual games. The one thing both these have in common, besides the organizers, is public play.

Public gaming is a beast onto itself. So many people think of gaming as a private affair. You invite your friends over, you have snacks or food, or hell, even dinner together. You set up your map and minis, and you might be in a basement or a dining room, and then you play for a few hours where you share beer and some good laughs. You don't have to worry about offending people because you've probably been friends since high school. You may make lewd jokes yo…

Power Fantasies: Learning To Punch Up

Power fantasies are important. I was recently asked on the Gauntlet podcast how I felt about power fantasies. It's something I've been thinking on for awhile, and I was ready to answer Jason when he asked me. I think that letting people play out power fantasies, as long as they can learn to share the table, is important because it gives people such a good way to feel important to the world. It's such a rewarding experience and a good space to let people explore. It lets them feel empowered.
Now, what is empowered? I've been thinking of how to give people a chance to feel empowered in games. It strikes me that gaming is all about feeling powerful. Or at least, a lot of gaming is. Gaming is the only world where we can strap on some armour, grab a sword, and beat the mother fucking dragon. It's the only world we can overthrow the tyrant. It's the only world where our influence on politics feels real. We don't ask "What can I do?" in a game with a hop…