Core Memory

Inside-Out-Core-MemoriesA few nights ago I finally had a chance to watch Pixar’s movie Inside Out. (Pico-review: I loved it.) One concept it uses (not a spoiler) is that some of our memories are “core memories” that anchor our personality, things that become central to the person we are; they are not immutable but they are very strong.

I assume we can all think of a few moments that stay with us through life, to which we turn back repeatedly either to recapture them or with the burning wish to redeem them. I can think of several, but there is one in particular that for four decades has been central to me. It’s the one that I think reflects the best that is in me, that represents the person I want to be, I try daily to choose to be. (So yeah, it’s a core memory that makes me look good, but rest assured that I have some that are not as proud. Another day’s tale.) Continue reading “Core Memory”

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Deaf as a stone

dice and pawns

An open letter to a commenter on this blog, and to the like-minded.

Dear Pierre,

FrankieYou are vocally against inclusiveness in games, as you have made clear both in your comments on my earlier post and in the discussion thread that had partly inspired it. When you started posting on my blog on Sunday, I allowed the comments through because I try to let the conversation flow as long as it remains civil, because I harbour silly hopes of good-faith discussion of serious issues, and because I don’t mind allowing people to be damned by their own words and deeds. I may also have been lulled into false hope because like me, you are French Canadian so I expected more meeting of the minds. But you’re skirting dangerous close to outright name-calling so I must attempt to bring this delightful exchange to a productive conclusion.

I’m not sure why you’re posting here. Unfortunately for my resilient idealism, you don’t seem to be here to engage in a fair-minded discussion. It doesn’t look from your words like you read the posts you were commenting on, nor the points that had been presented by various commenters on the original thread. When one of your arguments is demolished, you continue just repeating it until people have so thoroughly beaten it into the ground that it’s embarrassing, then you move to another flawed argument but you don’t bother acknowledging that your points have been rebutted.

This shows that your conclusions are not based on your arguments, since the arguments can be rebutted and your conclusions are untouched. Instead, you use whatever you have at hand to try to prop up your conclusions, namely that making efforts to address gamers who are not able-bodied straight white cis men is an affront to the latter, the only “true” gamers. Is there anything anyone could say or do that would lead you to say “Oh, I had not thought of that, or I didn’t know that, you make a good point?” I doubt it.

So the very essence of good-faith discussion is missing. You’re not here to exchange, but to restate your grievances. Do you harbour hope of changing my mind, or any of my readers’? If you did, you would try to convince rather than ignore and evade, wouldn’t you? And that requires listening as well as talking.

GemmaBut not only have you failed to make any valid points; you have failed to convince me or anyone else of the importance of your cause (able-bodied straight white cis men) compared to mine (inclusiveness). You see, there is no shortage of games, books, movies, comics, television shows and other fiction and non-fiction showing your constituency in starring roles; in fact, it’s hard to find anything else. Why do you object to a few depictions and mentions of anyone else?

The form of your comments suggests that you don’t know anyone who doesn’t look like you and you have convinced yourself that they do not exist. But I know real gamers, real people who are hurt by this forced invisibility. You have spent your efforts trying to keep difference at bay; I’ve spent mine — years of gaming and organizing conventions in many cities — trying to open the gaming community to newcomers. I started on this path because I wanted to spread a hobby I dearly love; now it has brought me in contact with a vast circle of fantastic gamers and even more wonderful friends. I sit at the table with people who are disabled, trans, non-white, people of different orientations and genders and origins, and we have memorable adventures in our shared imagined worlds. Saying no to inclusive language and illustrations is saying no to real people.

Is this really who you want to be, the guy who holds the gate against women, minorities, and marginalized people? This is your cause? “At least I defended futuristic super-submarines from wheelchair users and trans people”?

Cancer constellation in a circleI don’t think you bothered to read anything on my blog, but if you did you may have noticed that in the weeks since you started this kerfuffle, I’ve had to face my own mortality. My treatment is proceeding but the carcinoma is described as “aggressive”, so I have to seriously address the fact that I may not be here for very long. I asked myself whether it was worth bothering with stupid little game-related flame wars with the rest of my time.

And the answer is “Fuck yeah.”

Every day of our lives, we must act as the people we want to be if we want to be remembered that way. If I’m going into the ground soon, I want to leave the memory of one who tried to hold the door open for others to get in, not the one who closed the gates.

It saddens me that you prefer to be “sourd comme les pierres.”

Priorities

I just learned that I have breast cancer. On the anniversary of my grandfather death from cancer, that’s a fun coincidence. I’m skeptical about the concept of “beating” cancer; we all die anyway. In the end, I have likely passed the mid-point of my life, no matter what happens next. I’m an atheist so I feel no worry about an afterlife, whether toasty or cloudy, and I’ve always known that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to get tired of the things I love (like friends, family, cats…)

But I’m already dealing with depression, so the thought of the chore that is being sick, being miserably poor, experiencing pain and side effects, is daunting. So I’m not going to live forever, I’m not going to be rewarded or punished in an afterlife, and the world will keep on moving along just fine whether I keep a positive attitude, rage against the dying of the light, or ignore the whole matter.

But I’ve thought about the whole thing and decided that there is one thing that matters to me: whether I die this year or survive another few decades, I’d like to have been a decent human being. So my plan right now is to do all the reasonable things I can to buy myself as many good years as I can, but to spend as much time as I can on the things I care about — from friends and family to social justice to geeky pursuits — and to place people first.

Well, cats and people.

Cancer constellation

Dive, Dive, Dive!

cover of Deep Dark BlueWelp, having used the example of the Frankie West character from Deep Dark Blue (Evil Hat Productions) in yesterday’s post, I was then haunted once again by the wish to play or run in that kind of setting. (I loved Fantasy Flight Games’ Blue Planet v2 way back when). I loaded the first season of seaQuest DSV on Netflix, and longingly thumbed through David Brin’s Startide Rising.

FrankieAfter the stupid kerfuffle about whether you could have a character who uses a wheelchair on a science fiction submarine, and looking at Streaker and seaQuest built to accommodate frickin’ dolphins throughout their length, I want to yell at people who lack both empathy and imagination. Even as I wish I could play right this minute!

seaQuest_layout
Darwin the dolphin swam everywhere on seaQuest!

How can you not see how great it would be to have someone like this:

Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) - January 2010 trip
Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) – January 2010 trip

Popping out on the bridge or in the lab alongside this dolphin:

Winter the dolphin with a prosthetic tail
Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail

I swear as soon as I get a chance, I will play this character. How is that not the coolest thing in the middle of a big battle scene for the character to unlock their powered wheelchair from the gunner station, dive into the nearest moon pool opening, swim to the lab, get the macguffin, dive back in, zip to the torpedo bay, fix the problem, and swim back to their station?


Credits: Illustration by Arthur Asa taken from Deep Dark Blue, © 2016 Evil Hat Productions. SeaQuest layout from seaQuest V play-by-email sim by Crazynexus. Photo of diver © 2010 Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS). Photo of Winter the dolphin © 2008 Barry Bland.

 

Inclusiveness in games (Part 2): Doing our best

—This is Part 2 of a reflection on the efforts made towards inclusiveness in the role-playing game subculture and by extension, in related geek subcultures. You can read Part 1, where I talk about the background of this push for inclusiveness, here. Holy shit, I think I made it way too long but I really tried to make this constructive.

Caucasian AdventuresLet’s move on to what we can do about our own knee-jerk reactions to change in the face of pushes for inclusiveness. I’m addressing a reader who does not want to deliberately exclude anyone from our gaming hobby on the basis of gender, race, religion, orientation, disability, and so forth, but is nonetheless bristling at some of this newfangled stuff.

How far should we go in the name of inclusiveness?

TL;DR: As far as we can.

Continue reading “Inclusiveness in games (Part 2): Doing our best”

Inclusiveness in games (Part 1)

GemmaAll right, today is a long snark-free post (really!) about the efforts made towards inclusiveness in the role-playing game subculture and by extension, in related geek subcultures. Some people may recognize their point of view and even their own words in the examples I will use. If this is you, please understand that I am not mocking you or criticizing you. I am spotlighting attitudes and underlying assumptions in our geeky hobby that too often remain unexamined.

I want to address people who are not already entrenched in an opinion but do feel jostled by new language and new attitudes promoting inclusiveness. I’ll providing some background in this first part, then in the subsequent ones I will discuss some recent examples and use them to illustrate solutions, i.e., how I suggest we, as individual gamers, approach those moments when we feel jostled.

In a society where women get paid three-quarters of what a man makes and where people of colour are at risk of being jailed or even shot just for existing, some game publishers are now releasing books showing not only women and non-white persons in a variety of roles but also characters who are explicitly gay, trans, non-binary, disabled, aged, fat, or from other previously ignored groups. They may use weird pronouns like the singular “they”, “s/he”, “xe”, or “zhe” for certain characters.  In real-space, game event organizers are posting codes of conduct, declaring bathrooms to be non-gendered, adding braille signs, and similar actions intended to signal inclusiveness.

A lot of of this can be shocking if you face it for the first time in your life. As such gestures become more frequent, game books, stores or conventions can look very different from what they were decades ago. The question can be raised: how far should we go toward inclusiveness and representation of groups that appear to be tiny minorities in an already small subculture?

Continue reading “Inclusiveness in games (Part 1)”

Women-y Bits in Action Movies: Irreparable Harm

Trigger Warnings: Feminism, Sarcasm, Social Justice

Hey, it’s time for dude derision! A couple of days ago the trailer for the Ghostbusters reboot was released and unleashed a wave of anger, sorrow, and reportedly flaccid penises among the U.S.A.’s most vocal minority, Insecure White Men. The new movie’s four female leads, which do not even include any bikini babes, in lieu of the 1986 all-male line-up have left the MRA contingent weeping tears of impotent rage.

A masterpiece forever ruined...
A masterpiece forever ruined…
... by this desecration.
… by this desecration.

This is not the first time in recent years that a cinema classic has been completely stricken from loving memories after a sequel or remake made the original completely unwatchable. There is too little attention paid to this phenomenon, which has left the lives of too many IWMs joyless and tragic. How can true fans find any satisfaction in re-watching these classics, knowing that out there someone is enjoying a different version?

But the harm is far more insidious. These are not, in fact, merely different takes on the fictional universes so savaged: they represent visions unapproved by IWMs. Please take a moment to consider the pain of a self-respecting dude, a real man, a genuine bro forced to see headlines, images, friends’ Facebook statuses and perhaps even entire minutes of movie trailers containing fully-dressed, normally proportioned female characters with speaking parts. And not only that, but the lack of a strong central white man as the focus of the plot, which may irretrievably shatter fragile IWM psyches.

Even when male actors are given a heroic title role, as in last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, the damage done is considerable.

Can we ever enjoy this again...
Can we ever enjoy this again…
.. while millions are watching this?
.. while millions are watching this?

Sure, a white man may have the title role, but is it even worth it if he is forced to exchange lines of dialogue with women as if on equal footing? If we are forced to consider women’s points of view? The mere fact that he had to go through this ordeal somehow robs us of all satisfaction when the woman actually agrees with the man’s arguments.

And those who suggest that IWMs simply not watch forget once again that this does not address the problem: these offensive movies would still exist.

It’s not just about women given *shudder* major roles either: while the two examples above generally steer clear of this additional outrage, sometimes these remakes and sequels have also included people of color in speaking parts other than criminal, victim, or enabler.

No more can we savour this..
No more can we savour this..
Doing the unthinkable -- twice.
… with vandals doing the unthinkable — twice.

But IWMs remember that the Star Wars universe never had people of colour before (or women), just like Mad Max’s barren wasteland was never polluted by strong female protagonists.

Figments of your imagination. Never happened.
Figments of your imagination. Never happened.

And it’s not just among main characters either; while a brodude can be generous and tolerate your occasional chick, usually a cool girl, and the token minority, perfidious SJWs have made incursions among supporting cast in disruptive ways. Sure, it’s fine to have women and visible minorities in support roles — but they should be just that, supportive. Not all, you know, assertive and threatening. How can stormtrooopers be feared and respected throughout the galaxy if units can be led by women?

This...
This…
Not this!
Not this! Where is the strength, the leadership, the action?

Mark my words, this undermining of everything that makes action movies cool and exciting was foreshadowed by so-called “fan works” years ago.

Can you see the difference between Troops...
Can you see the difference between the manly Troops…
... and the girly stormtroopers in the later IMPS: The Relentless?
… and the girly stormtroopers in the later IMPS: The Relentless?

Hell in a handbasket, gentlemen. That’s where this is all going. Action movies are dying.

Pick your hills carefully

800px-GeorgePickettearlyphotoOne thing that never ceases to amaze me, and is often magnified by Internet discussions, is the willingness people show for picking the wrong hill to die on.

People say something casually without thinking about all the implications, without considering how this sounds to an outsider, without realizing they used the wrong word or a flawed approached.  But when called on it, instead of saying “Oops, my mistake, I should have expressed myself better / I need to clarify / I didn’t realize that… / I didn’t know about the context,” they  start arguing badly, resorting to a whole arsenal of flawed rhetoric to justify post-hoc what was an ill-thought position in the first place.

This is particularly frequent when issues of privilege and prejudice serve as our own blinders to the consequences of what we say.  “No, what I said wasn’t racist/sexist/ablist/homophobic/transphobic/etc., because I don’t want it to be!”  This is a stupid hill to defend.  I always find it much, much easier to own up to my ignorance or lack of reflection and back away slowly, with my mouth shut, rather than fighting a losing battle that makes me feel stupid.

If you want to die for a hill, make sure that: (A) this really is a hill and not a manure mound, (B) that hill is in fact a valuable position to defend, (C) there isn’t a higher, easily accessed hill nearby, (D) the cause for which you fight is worth going to battle for in the first place, and (E) you’re actually holding the top of that hill, not standing at its base.

gettysburg-cemetery-hill

Geek Women: A Short Ramble

Image copyright Kate BeatonI just noticed that my Geek Gals circle on Google+ has grown to 328 names, primarily met through common gaming interests but also reading, movies, and tech.

At the role-playing game table, women are often in the majority and rarely represent less than 40% of the group.  My husband has often found himself the only man at the table.

On my long work commute on public transit, women represent approximately 60% of the riders, and most of them are gaming on a phone or tablet to pass the time.  I often see well-dressed business women killing aliens, zombies or orcs on the way to work—but even more often from work…

(Because at works, it often sucks.  My company, for example: the only way to get promoted is to be an old white man.  I have seen many a young woman give up on the degrees she had earned and the tech career she had worked for to go do something else where it was easier to pay the bills.)

I guess this is also a good time to thank some of the wonderful people—of all genders—in the gaming hobby and other geeky pursuits that have worked hard to promote diversity in all forms.  Thank you, my many friends, for opening publishing, conventions, game design, etc. to become more like the diverse world I see around me and less like a gated community.


Credits: The image of the New Woman is from the wonderful Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant fame.

A Little Perspective, Please…

Edgy-Designer-thum140
Check out this Dungeon World playbook instead.

A couple of publishers — LotFP and Postmortem Studios, to be specific — have posted anguished mass mailings through OneBookshelf (DriveThruRPG/RPGNow) to urge us to download all their products right now in case OBS decides to remove them from the OBS store.  Under their new (actually existing, but now official) policy, OBS may not feel obligated to  allow just any product on their front page.

OK, anguished publishers, calm down.  I get why you’d urge us to download your stuff but realistically, we’re not about to run out of boobs, crotch shots, or even racist shit.  There are currently 384 products labeled “adult”, which is code for “juvenile”, on OBS.  For heaven’s sake, you can still buy Pimp the Backhanding there, you can get FATAL and RaHoWa elsewhere, you can get camel toes and vagina dentata, you can get any damn thing you made up in your parents’ basement when you were 14 and better yet (for you), other aficionados of the genre can easily find it to hand you their fapbucks for your “work.”

And, would you believe it, no one is even trying to ban that crap.  Hope to the Flying Spaghetti Monster it gets forgotten in the oubliettes of Time, yes; but prevent you from publishing? No.  However, not every publisher and customer want to support your cottage industry.  It’s called the free market, and you really love it when it plays in your favour, as I recall.


Edit: Check out this Dungeon World playbook by Ettin Productions as a healthy alternative.