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Gaming's race problem
August 13, 2014 12:28 PM   Subscribe

GenCon, the best four days of gaming starts tomorrow. It is also very white.
posted by cuscutis (56 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yay for the shoutout to Gaming as Other! Those conversations rock.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:39 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind, GenCon also until only a couple of years ago used a ball and chain as the logo for their "non-gamers" track. Which is still called SPA. Ugh.
posted by kmz at 12:44 PM on August 13


What does SPA stand for?
posted by ocherdraco at 12:52 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The only room for color in the world of mainstream fantasy are on the monsters. Contrast the Hobbits and Elves with the Orcs and Goblins. There's your gaming race problem.
posted by Renoroc at 12:53 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


A minority of this article is about Gencon as such. I know virtually nothing about the tabletop/board game/collectible card game community that this targets but if he says that said community is almost entirely white then wouldn't it stand to reason that most keynote speakers and judges for awards would be white as well?

Regarding cosplay as a Nazi, I don't understand it at all (not that I understand cosplay as anything really) but if someone is dressing as a Nazi for fun, I can definitely understand why someone else would think that's not funny. That having been said, what are you supposed to disallow as a costume? A demon? A dictator? A warlord? An evil wizard? Is the problem that there is an historical Nazi regime?
posted by koavf at 12:54 PM on August 13


If anyone's going, say 'hi' to my buddy Matt for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:54 PM on August 13


@ocherdraco: "SPA" is "SPouse Activities"
posted by koavf at 12:56 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


That having been said, what are you supposed to disallow as a costume?

"Uniforms of a regime that murdered millions of people and tried to murder millions more, some of whom are still alive" wouldn't be the worst place to start. And it is against the official costume policy:
20th & 21st century uniforms may not be worn as costumes. These include any uniform that can be construed as a military uniform from any country or a uniform worn in an official capacity, such as security guard, police officer, deputy, fire marshal, paramedic, etc. Active duty military personnel are permitted to wear their government-issued uniforms.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of potential for rules-lawyering in the realm of "No, this is a uniform from the game Reich Star, which takes place in the 22nd century."
posted by Etrigan at 1:05 PM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Roleplaying (in one form or another) as Nazis and a sort of Nazi sympathy -- not toward the tenets of national socialism, necessarily, but the image and history of the Nazis -- has been a sticky and problematic issue in tabletop gaming since the inception of WW2-based tabletop gaming. I'm not even a little surprised it still comes up.
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


he says that said community is almost entirely white then wouldn't it stand to reason that most keynote speakers and judges for awards would be white as well?

No. He said that the management and the judges and panels are mostly white, not that the community is mostly white. That is a very important distinction and it speaks directly to his point.
posted by winna at 1:18 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I'm not even a little surprised it still comes up.

It's been causing a real fuhrer lately.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:19 PM on August 13 [21 favorites]


not that the community is mostly white

Hm? "For all that GenCon offers, it lacks in minority gamers. Last year was my first GenCon, and as I explored the convention, I saw almost no one who looked like me. "
posted by smackfu at 1:20 PM on August 13


The community that comes to GenCon isn't the gaming community as a whole.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:22 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Just in the time that I've been involved in playing various games, I will say that stuff is shifting a lot. I remember when I first stumbled onto World of Darkness how many people would roll their eyes and tell me that all the "gypsy" stuff and the clumsily inserted racial caricatures in W:tA and whatever were "just a game" and not meant to be taken seriously. Recent versions of the same game line still have problems, but they are worlds better and suddenly the majority of my gaming friends are like, "Remember all that awful stuff in oWoD?" But the games themselves took so long to just (sort of, mostly) stop being overtly racist, and it's going to take yet more time to get a broader reach of people actually playing. Still not sure it feels like they're making much of an effort here, though.

With regards to the Nazis, if you're worried about rules lawyers, all you'd have to say is, "20th & 21st century uniforms and costumes which closely resemble them, per staff discretion". I'm not totally against the idea of using the Nazis in media for the purposes of art and social commentary, but the US history of slavery is also something that has been used to good effect in media and is still not an appropriate thing to cosplay. It seems okay to draw lines that err on the side of making sure people are comfortable in that space.
posted by Sequence at 1:24 PM on August 13


What's wrong with "Spouse Activities"? What non-gamer but a gamer's long-suffering and yet still indulgent husband or wife would actually go to GenCon, and would accept anything less than some pretty nice spa treatments as compensation?
posted by MattD at 1:25 PM on August 13


It's not "Spouse Activities" per se as that is non gendered, but that the icon for it was a ball and chain.
posted by cuscutis at 1:30 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


I know virtually nothing about the tabletop/board game/collectible card game community that this targets but if he says that said community is almost entirely white then wouldn't it stand to reason that most keynote speakers and judges for awards would be white as well?

Only if you make the logical leap from "whites are overrepresented in the power structure" to "... so I guess it's OK for them to not make any effort to reach out to those who are historically less represented."

I mean, seriously, this is like arguing a tautology. Yes, it would stand to reason that if the people in charge are almost all white, and they aren't actively trying to reach out to minorities, minorities will not be present. That's exactly the problem.

(also, and I say this in as respectful way as I can, but if you admit you don't know anything about these communities, perhaps self-reflect a bit before commenting)
posted by tocts at 1:32 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


There's also a heavy (economic) class-based component to this as well; since race and class tend to be more correlated than not in this country, I think that goes a long way towards explaining the gap in white/non-white participation.

I've been concerned about the commodification of gaming for some time now, starting around the time that Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer/Games Workshop started to really take off in the early '90s. I gave up playing Magic in high school when it became clear that regardless of how much time I spent refining my strategy in building/playing my decks, I was always going to lose to people who could afford to spend more money on single cards. Similarly, my enthusiasm for GW ebbed considerably after I saw how much players had to spend on miniatures that weren't even painted, for crying out loud.

Even for nominally pen-and-paper-based games like D&D or World of Darkness, players (at least the GMs) have to make a considerable outlay on books, dice, and assorted playing aids. Board gaming has gone similarly upscale -- if you want a strategy game that's more complex than Monopoly, prepare to spend upwards of $50 on it. There's pretty clearly a bar on most tabletop gaming for anybody without a certain amount to spend in discretionary entertainment funds.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:37 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


The only room for color in the world of mainstream fantasy are on the monsters. Contrast the Hobbits and Elves with the Orcs and Goblins. There's your gaming race problem.

I was just looking through the new Player's Handbook and I was very happy to see several illustrations included people of color as player characters. All human except for a black dwarf.
posted by bq at 1:38 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


"Remember all that awful stuff in oWoD?"

What's bad about that is that they were positive stereotypes -- noble savages and exotic others and that nonsense. I owe the world in general an apology for being in high school and playing a Wendigo Philodox who was a Navajo and was angry all the time. Reading Sherman Alexie at the time did not make that okay -- in fact it made it even less okay. But we were all white or Asian and nobody called me, or the book, on that bullshit.

I've lost interest in tabletop gaming, mostly because it would mean seeking out tabletop gamers to play with, sight unseen. (I know one good soul but I can't make his nights.) If I play again, it's going to be with friends who are good enough to play Cards Against Humanity with.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:39 PM on August 13


I was just looking through the new Player's Handbook and I was very happy to see several illustrations included people of color as player characters. All human except for a black dwarf.

It's a pretty even split between male and female characters, too, with the females in functional clothing and armor.
posted by designbot at 1:40 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Even for nominally pen-and-paper-based games like D&D or World of Darkness, players (at least the GMs) have to make a considerable outlay on books, dice, and assorted playing aids

You can fake most of that.

What you can't fake is time to play. If you're working 12 hours a day every day trying to keep food in your house and you and your kids in your house, you don't have time for gaming. You're working at work, working at keeping your home running, or sleeping.
posted by eriko at 1:45 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


There's pretty clearly a bar on most tabletop gaming for anybody without a certain amount to spend in discretionary entertainment funds.

At the very least, it's a lot easier to chip in for board games and RPG books. With M:TG and other CCGs with artificial rarity (or whatever that concept is called) the closest thing is a draft and even with a draft you can't play the deck you want to play (as opposed to the board game or RPG system/character you want to play.)
posted by griphus at 1:48 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Boardgaming also seems to skew more conservative than other nerdy pursuits. One of the most popular voices in boardgaming reviews is a conservative christian with a dozen children, and he seems to be representative of a large number of boardgamers that I know.

Luckily, I think the barriers to entry in the boardgaming world are low enough that new voices can emerge. Kickstater seems to be having a huge effect and new publishers are springing up everywhere. Anyone who can get a $3000 together for cardboard and printing can become a boardgame publisher, and the hobby is extremely novelty-focused so these people are getting attention.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 1:50 PM on August 13


Even for nominally pen-and-paper-based games like D&D or World of Darkness, players (at least the GMs) have to make a considerable outlay on books, dice, and assorted playing aids.

Increasingly it's not that hard to find games like that available for free in PDF. If you already had a smartphone, even a cheap one--which is already often the case for poor people of color--then you wouldn't strictly speaking even have to buy dice. But that's a relatively recent development.

Time is still definitely a thing, but the entry point for a lot of games like this is more typically somewhere in adolescence or early adulthood when commitments are low. Once people have kids, it's hard to get a regular game together, even with middle-class white people. Being POC and poor does not preclude having hobbies, but it has classically put some severe limits on what kinds of hobbies you can take up.
posted by Sequence at 1:51 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Increasingly it's not that hard to find games like that available for free in PDF.

And some of the systems are freely available as web pages:

Pathfinder OGC and their downloads page

A hypertext SRD for D&D 3.5, which can be downloaded (link on front page)

And then there are tools like roll20.net; a quick search for free rpg tools or rpg tools also reveals a lot of things out there that are free/low cost (beyond the need for a computer/internet connection).
posted by nubs at 2:08 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The SRD is also up live on D20SRD.org and hella useful.
posted by griphus at 2:13 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Kickstater seems to be having a huge effect and new publishers are springing up everywhere.

It is having an effect, and in many cases a positive one. For example, I'm continually impressed at Stonemaier Games' articles on running KS campaigns. For example, even though it wasn't the main thrust, I was happy to at least see diversity (and problems in the lack thereof) acknowledged in one of the articles about the Tuscany campaign. There are also some up-and-coming designers on Twitter who I've seen be vocal about keeping misogyny and racism out of the hobby.

At the same time, KS is a double-edged sword. There have been a number of hugely successful campaigns that have been absolutely appalling, particularly when it comes to the representation of women. Anytime miniatures are involved in a game, there's about a 95% chance that there will be at least 1 moderately to majorly offensive pure cheesecake miniature -- to say nothing of even the "normal" miniatures, which are often divided starkly into male power fantasies and male sex fantasies.

As someone who both loves gaming (board and RPG), and is an incredibly tiny player in the industry (as a side gig currently), it can be really frustrating.
posted by tocts at 2:15 PM on August 13


Regarding cosplay as a Nazi, I don't understand it at all (not that I understand cosplay as anything really) but if someone is dressing as a Nazi for fun, I can definitely understand why someone else would think that's not funny. That having been said, what are you supposed to disallow as a costume? A demon? A dictator? A warlord? An evil wizard? Is the problem that there is an historical Nazi regime?

As a former WWII reenactor, this would really bother me. The community here in Detroit puts on frequent WWII educational shows at Historic Fort Wayne, and great care is taken to make sure that people aren't hurt or offended. That means no Nazi armbands, flags, etc. Pretty much the war reenactments consist of Green Uniforms (German) vs Brown Uniforms (American/English), with only the tiniest of symbols allowed on hats and such. People know which side is which; they don't need large triggering swastikas to figure it out. No one would ever consider, say, wearing a Nazi uniform to Taco Bell after the battles. That would very clearly cross the line from "educational historic portrayal for the community" to "lacking empathy and vying for attention."

It could be very hurtful for some people to walk into a gaming convention and see unexpected Nazis walking around. It's not the same as going to see a WWII movie or reenactment, where you know what to expect. Also, these people presumably aren't historians with a set of strict guidelines as to how to portray historical figures in a respectful way, so you could end up with everything from Captain America Red Skull to SS Nazi.
posted by Shouraku at 2:30 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


I've been an RPG gamer since 1986. I've attended Gen Con off and on since 1993. And I've been a black woman my entire life.

I understand the author's frustrations, because I've had the same ones myself. But part of me wonders which segment of the RPG hobby he's involved in? I saw a number of ethnic minority people take up the hobby when White Wolf's World of Darkness RPGs took off in the 1990s (and I have no doubt that the writing and artwork in those games was a big reason why). I remember with pleasure standing in line at the White Wolf booth to get that first edition of Mage: the Ascension, seeing a black character ON THE COVER OF THE BOOK, and having a great conversation with the black White Wolf employee who sold me the book. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Mage cover, stage whispers> Is this your character? How did you pull this off?

HIM : You know, every single non-white gamer at the convention has asked me the exact same question ? It's my character, but this cover wasn't even my idea!

ME: THAT'S FANTASTIC!

HIM: I KNOW, RIGHT?

ME: WHAT ELSE CAN YOU SELL ME?

I saw another wave of non-white gamers come in with Magic: the Gathering (not an RPG, of course, but it premiered at Gen Con '93 and still maintains a presence there). I still tend to see most non-white gamers playing those games, as well as some of the small-press RPGs. I'll admit there's confirmation bias showing there, since I tend to prefer those games.

I probably have a different perspective than the author because I've been at this for so long, but the number of ethnic minorities (and women!) involved in RPGs has been slowly increasing at Gen Con (and other RPG-related conventions) for a while. Certainly we've seen much more representation of other ethnic groups in RPG artwork--D&D since 3.x edition, Paizo right off the bat, Onyx Path (now publishing World of Darkness), Green Ronin, and so many others. That's helped more than I think a lot of people realize.

But I also feel the hobby still has a way to go. I think a little of that is the nature of the RPG hobby itself. Most people I know got into RPGs because they knew someone who played or ran an RPG, and that person (or initial gaming group) introduced them to the hobby and basically taught them how to roleplay. Finding a group that's compatible with you and willing to teach you the basics can be an uphill battle, though--every gamer I know has at least one horror story about a group with a play style that was very off-putting. Combine that with our country's unresolved race issues, and it's easy to see why it might be harder for a black person or Latino person to join up with a group.

Another factor at play is that becoming successful in the RPG hobby as a publisher is hard, folks. Most white people who try aren't able to pull it off, and Jerry Grayson (Khepera Publishing) and Eloi Lasanta (Third Eye Games) are the only GoCs (Gamers of Color) I know of that have managed to carve out a niche for themselves. When you don't see a lot of GoCs out there publishing successful RPGs, it's easy to feel discouraged.

Anyway, I'll be at Gen Con on Friday (can't stay more than one day this year due to work, alas), and I'm going to track down the Gaming As Other panel to learn more and hear other perspectives. As I said, I'm coming from a position somewhat analogous to "See? We don't have to sit in the back of the bus anymore! Things are better now!", so my perspective is most likely skewed. At least in the last decade or so, I've had the distinct pleasure of not being the only black person at Gen Con (though admittedly it makes it tougher to meet up with people--I can no longer say "Just look for the black chick in the dealer room"). Heck, the year before last I met up with Jerry and Eloi, and we were joking about forming our own gang (since, you know, we were three black people standing in the same area talking to each other, so of course the white people would assume we must in a gang together...oh, never mind).
posted by magstheaxe at 2:49 PM on August 13 [41 favorites]


Even for nominally pen-and-paper-based games like D&D or World of Darkness, players (at least the GMs) have to make a considerable outlay on books, dice, and assorted playing aids.

For those that don't know the new edition of D&D is out and it's available for free as a PDF. And it's good.

Also the artwork in the new book is more diverse: it's not just White dudes in armour. There are more women then men in the book, for starters. A nice change of pace.
posted by chunking express at 2:50 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Another factor at play is that becoming successful in the RPG hobby as a publisher is hard, folks. Most white people who try aren't able to pull it off, and Jerry Grayson (Khepera Publishing) and Eloi Lasanta (Third Eye Games) are the only GoCs (Gamers of Color) I know of that have managed to carve out a niche for themselves. When you don't see a lot of GoCs out there publishing successful RPGs, it's easy to feel discouraged.

Dude: Mike Pondsmith. I don't mean to diminish what you're saying at all, but Mike Pondsmith is the shit.
posted by mobunited at 2:57 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Its not acceptable to cosplay a Nazi. Would it be acceptable to cosplay as a KKK member? Hint: no.
posted by bq at 3:13 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


GenCon is the only place I have ever, ever been where there was a line for the men's bathroom and the ladies' was nearly unoccupied, so I don't think it's exactly an even demographic slice of the country in any regard. That said - virtually every Kickstarter I've done work for, whether it was an RPG, card game, or minis, was at least 50% run by women (often more) or PoC. Kickstarter is pretty awesome in that regard.
posted by tautological at 3:27 PM on August 13


The whiteness of the RPG community has become very apparent to me recently. I moved to Birmingham not that long ago, and have been going to a well attended RPG club. Birmingham is pretty much exactly 50% non-white. In a club with a regular attendance of around 50 or 60, I believe that there are 2 or 3 non-white regulars.

This obviously can't simply be put down to non-directly racial socioeconomic factors. Racial and economic lines don't break so cleanly. At work, the majority of my clients (all Legal Aid eligible) are non-white, but then so are the majority of my ("middle class" income) colleagues. That almost certainly reflects the hiring policies of my employer, and I think the disparity is a reflection of the need for the kind of action this piece calls for. It's not just gaming of course, it's all sorts of primarily social activities, but gaming is both a good example and something I have some limited power to do something about, simply by virtue of being involved. Being non-racist is an active state, not a passive one. So now I need to give consideration to how I can actually do that.
posted by howfar at 3:52 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I've been attending gencon for years (and am posting this from my hotel there). It seems to me that the gender imbalance has been improving faster than the race imbalance. I used to almost always be the only woman at a table but as of a few years ago ran games for an all-woman table. I'd still be surprised to see an all-black table though, even among the independent games.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:02 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


As a former WWII reenactor, this would really bother me

The rule is actually a very old one -- I've been at wargaming conventions in the early 1980s that had it. The problem was, well, people being dicks, of course. The rule then was "nothing newer than 1850", the key being "No Civil War Uniforms, People!", which was the major source of dickishness in wargaming in the 1980s. I suspect if you were dumb enough to come in a Nazi era Wehrmacht Heer uniform, you'd be politely asked to leave, and if you were dumb enough to come in a Nazi era black Schutzstaffel uniform, you'd basically have everyone there lining up to beat the crap out of you for being that much of a dick* bad then.

But, alas, the world is much more stupid today, and I suspect a bunch would be defending the SS guy.


* Wargamers know the difference between the Heer, the Waffen SS, and the Allgemeine SS. The first would get some respect, probably, but they'd still be asked to leave.
posted by eriko at 7:55 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I hate Illinois Indiana Nazis!
posted by kaibutsu at 8:05 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I can imagine that RPG's in their initial iteration were also a pretty white hobby, a tendency which propogated on to the second and third generation tabletop gamers. So I wonder if part of the problem is a complete failure of outreach. Crossing a color line can be as intimidating as hell, and if it's for a completely optional entertainment, then, well... I think the tabletop community could do well to think hard about how to effect some good outreach.

I was just visiting a friend in Chicago, and we mentioned the tendency of every big serial RPG publisher to put out a quickly-forgotten Africa sourcebook. For example, Call of Cthulu's 'Secrets of Kenya', or White Wolf's 'Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom.' I've never been quite sure what to make of them; they're pretty clearly failing to make a connection to the RPG audience, which is, of course, overwhelmingly white and ignorant of African history and myth. Of course, there's a pretty big difference between publishing sourcebooks about Africa and connecting with North American POC's.

And yet.

There's so much amazing myth to be found in Africa. When travelling in Ethiopia it felt like myth was alive and ran through the core of so much of daily life, in contrast and juxtaposition with the spread of modernity. Monks and cell phones, pickpockets and an explosively growing university system: Seems like an awesome place for a game of Shadowrun. (It's also the only part of Africa I've travelled to and had serious conversations about science fiction with locals.) Is this where the sourcebooks are coming from? Some authors who saw that there's a whole other world of mythic culture out there, and tried to package it up for Western readers who couldn't really be bothered to give it a shot? Maybe these stories need to be woven in at the outset, instead of brought in as expansions and additions.

('Changeling,' in its reviled first edition, actually did this with the Eshu. A good idea in the wrong game, I suppose.)
posted by kaibutsu at 8:39 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


GenCon is the only place I have ever, ever been where there was a line for the men's bathroom and the ladies' was nearly unoccupied,

Try a Guided by Voices show. Or a Rush concert.
posted by 99_ at 8:56 PM on August 13


The talk about banning modern-era military costumes reminds me of this post from last year, a short documentary wherein the film maker, a journalism student, participates in a Vietnam War reenactment by playing as an embedded reporter. Per one of the other participants, "Oh you pretty much have to say all kinds of racist things, it wouldn't be realistic without it."
posted by XMLicious at 10:10 PM on August 13


I haven't been to GenCon since it left Milwaukee, but the first time I went, I actually went for some Star Trek stuff. While we were there though, GoC Larry Sims introduced my friend and I to roleplaying through his awesome game, Battlelords of the 23rd Century. It completely changed the direction of our nerdom.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 PM on August 13


"Oh you pretty much have to say all kinds of racist things, it wouldn't be realistic without it."

That's pretty fucking horrible. I've never seen nor heard of anything like this at any reenactment that I've ever been to.
posted by Shouraku at 11:01 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it didn't seem like any reenactment I've heard of or seen depicted in film footage either. As you may gather from the title of the post there, their dedication to accuracy also involved American forces torturing and summarily executing Vietnamese irregulars (who were mostly played by Caucasians speaking Mock Vietnamese.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:24 AM on August 14


The only room for color in the world of mainstream fantasy are on the monsters. Contrast the Hobbits and Elves with the Orcs and Goblins. There's your gaming race problem.

You're not kidding, Renoroc. I was playing a board game (with fantasy elements) recently and noticed that one of the characters, a female orc, had strikingly African facial features... and cornrows. The character's "gimmick" was that she was raised by paladins from an early age, and was pious and churchy, but would frequently turn on a dime and start acting like an offensive stereotype of an angry black woman irascible, combatant harpy.

From the box: "Even with her training, she is always at risk of succumbing to her chaotic Orcish instincts..."

The game is called Red Dragon Inn (expansion set 3). Here's the character in question.
posted by duffell at 4:11 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


The game is called Red Dragon Inn (expansion set 3). Here's the character in question.

... wow. That is... wow. How does... wait, no...

Is there a word for enraged but dumbstruck at the same time? Like, I don't even know how mad I should be, because the writer/artist couldn't have been, like, actively racist, but it's still just so amazing that no one saw this and said, "Whoa, dude, hold up..."
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


... There's so much amazing myth to be found in Africa. ...

Spears of Dawn is an "OSR" D&D game set in Fantasy Africa. I probably should have made that an FPP when it came out. It's an interesting project. The guy who made it commissioned all sorts of art and released it all to the public domain, so other people could make their own modules, etc. Ejiwa Ebenebe did the cover.
posted by chunking express at 6:31 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


Two points: the "biggest table-top gaming convention in the United States" does not equal the "best four days of gaming".

Second, I remember official Eastern and Middle Kingdom SCA events from the early 1980s which had WWII Waffen SS uniform clad reenactors that fought with shag-carpet armor and propane tank helmets over their uniforms and participated in feasting and festivities with not a blink of an eye from the crowd. Talk about culture clash! It isn't just an issue with gamers but with a broader conception of political correctness, sensitivity, and the enforcement of rules upon the unruly in a public setting.
posted by mfoight at 6:46 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to what degree religion's influence, on people either directly or filtered through their culture affects how the demographics of gaming skew now, at least in regards to RPG's. I know growing up, the church my family attended, hammered pretty hard on the whole role playing opens you up to demon possession / leads kids to commit suicide angle. It was non-denominational and predominately white, but was pretty Baptist influenced. And that attitude seem to kind of be just the general consensus in the larger community there even through the 90's. I wonder how much effect that concept that still has on other people whose communities tend to have a specific dominate religious influence. Doubt its the predominant one now, but seems like it could be a factor.
posted by coogerdark at 10:29 AM on August 14


so you could end up with everything from Captain America Red Skull to SS Nazi

Ugh, see also: all the idiot marvel fankids who think it is the height of awesome coolness to yell HAIL HYDRA at every possible opportunity. It's their stupidity which is the real offense there, though.
posted by elizardbits at 4:14 PM on August 14


kaibutsu - you should write up some preliminary material and shop that around!
posted by porpoise at 10:35 PM on August 14


I'm a little surprised that Illinois/Chicago RP con has so few Americans of Asian Ancestry, or is this demographic entirely invisible?

Was in Chicago a few years back and was surprised at the number of people who looked like me, walking around downtown. This is compared to growing-up/living-in Vancouver, having spent 4 years in Iowa.

But other than Ken Jeong going full facepaint Drow, RPGing outside of Magic is *not* an Asian stereotype. I wonder if the Magic/Asian stereotype is more a Magic/(Slimy)Entrepreneur axis?

Aside from getting 2 of my Asian friends*, I can only remember one other Asian in all of the groups that I've gamed with.

*(us 3 were 4&1/2 of the Asians in our grade - and we were friends not because we were Asian but because we were similar kinds of nerds and one had an overlapping "I'm a friend with a Chinese!" {"and now two of them and one of them is cool and can buy booze underaged!"})
posted by porpoise at 10:50 PM on August 14


But other than Ken Jeong going full facepaint Drow, RPGing outside of Magic is *not* an Asian stereotype.

The gaming stereotype for Asians is Starcraft.
posted by Justinian at 1:32 AM on August 15


Almost everyone I played D&D with in high school was Asian. (I'm a brown dude.) I live in Toronto. I suspect it's mostly a function of demographics. And yeah, D&D is in competition with video games and magic now. I think there is a smaller pool of players right now in general.
posted by chunking express at 8:26 AM on August 15


Got back from Gen Con late last night! (I was only there for Friday).

Dude: Mike Pondsmith. I don't mean to diminish what you're saying at all, but Mike Pondsmith is the shit.
posted by mobunited at 5:57 PM on August 13


Whoa...how did I miss meeting Mike Pondsmith? I recognize that face, so I know I've seen him around the RPG convention circuit.

I've been attending gencon for years (and am posting this from my hotel there). It seems to me that the gender imbalance has been improving faster than the race imbalance. I used to almost always be the only woman at a table but as of a few years ago ran games for an all-woman table. I'd still be surprised to see an all-black table though, even among the independent games.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:02 PM on August 13


Co-signing on this. The number of women who are not "booth babes"(argh!) but are actual hard-core RPG-ers/LARP-ers/CCG-ers/board gamers/etc. has increased dramatically compared to what I was seeing in 1993. But an all black table (or all-Latino or all South Asian?) Not there yet.

Okay, some notes on yesterday's GenCon. Let me just say that because of this Metafilter thread, I was consciously counting the black folks I saw as I made my way around the dealer room floor. I counted fifteen obviously African-or-Caribbean-descended people in roughly 30 to 45 minutes before I found my friends and stopped counting. Not as many as perhaps I would like, but it felt good to not have to look that hard.

I also made it a point to go by the Discount Salmon booth. Discount Salmon won Tabletop Deathmatch 2014, and was doing brisk business at their booth. Delightful people, fun game, and another black game designer joins the fold--whoo-hoo! I was happy to buy a copy, and I encourage you to do the same. Especially if you have kids, because I think kids will LOVE this game!

After doing a handful of activities, I made my way to the Friday 5pm Gaming As Other panel. The panelists allowed me to record the audio, and I have put the raw, unedited panel up on Soundcloud for them as are interested (and I plan to send the link to Strix so she can post it on the Gaming as Other website). I also encourage those who are interested in helping this initiative to reach out to Strix and let her know you''re willing to help.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:37 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


I was just looking through the new Player's Handbook and I was very happy to see several illustrations included people of color as player characters. All human except for a black dwarf.

I was pleased to see the same, and the fact that female characters tend to be clad more for practicality than for cheesecake appeal, but I'd also point out that the 4th Edition Player's Handbook included characters of color, including a rogue who appeared to be an Asian woman and a halfling with dark brown skin. (Of course, there are also characters with scales and horns.) WotC has been moving in the right direction, at least, for some time now.
posted by Gelatin at 8:37 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


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