Friday, January 16, 2015

Thoughts on other's thoughts on Gaymers

Yesterday, Kobold Press republished an updated version of a 2004 article by Evtan Bernstein called "The Many Faces of Gaming-Gaymers." (Article runs in two parts.  Link is to part 1.  Part 2 is here.).  Bernstein has written a nice piece examining some of the main issues related to LGBTQ issues in the gaming community.  Overall, I find his piece enlightening.  In fact, I'm tempted to go back and read the original 2004 piece that appeared in The Silven Trumpeter to see what's been changed in the update.  Unfortunately, it's out of circulation now and I'm not feeling terribly compelled to go and find it.  While some of the changes are obvious (references to gay marriage would have been a lot different in 2004), I'd be interested in seeing how his answers to his article's four main questions came out.

For those who are interested, those questions are:

1) Why is the presence of gay gamers significant? 

Ultimately, the answers are what you'd hope for.  Gays are significant because we inject something new (and often uncomfortable) into games with strangers.  Social discomfort is the bane of all good roleplaying.  So, we need to deal with this issue to better the roleplaying experience (and often, the roleplaying itself) of both the LGBTQ individual and of parties that might be uncomfortable with him/her/[insert pronoun for an asexual person that is less offensive than "it" here].  I agree with this statement immediately.

I try and approach every table by subtly letting other parties know they are playing with a gay man.  After I've put it out there, if there are concerns, we can deal with them.  Perhaps I ought to try and be more accomodating (at least at Pathfinder Society games, with home games there is a good gay-straight mix and it's rare to meet anyone with concerns about socializing with gays.  In fact, I'd say that there's more of a stigma (from both straight and gay acquaintances) about being a gamer than about being a gay.  Then again, I live in Washington, DC known for it's abnormally large population of homosexuals and it's unfathomable per capita alcohol consumption.

2) What is the current gaming tabletop landscape like for LGBTQ individuals?

The current state of gaming diversity is good.  We have gay designers along with female designers, etc.

3) Should gamers make more of an effort to include LGBTQ characters in their games?

Each individual is welcome to make their own choices about including LGBTQ characters in their game.  (Kudos for noting that it's the issue about including LGBTQ characters.  LGBTQ players are here to stay).

4) How can gamers—regardless of sexual identity—portray more convincing and more realistic LGBTQ characters in their games?

First of all, I generally play straight, male characters at the table.  Part of that is that it's MY fantasy.  Part of that is because I generally play at an asexual level.  GMing is another matter, entirely, I'm afraid.  In fact, my first character to really develop any sexual mores, Rhyss Ravenwind, Number One Bard in the Fallben Kingdoms, plays his Lothario-like sexuality more as a farce than as a true sexual gambit.

The article gives us the expected lines about avoiding stereotypes, while encouraging us to lean in a little to them to find something that develops a character.  May I interject a suggestion?  Try and treat playing a character of another sexual orientation or gender identity the same as you'd treat playing a character of a different ethnicity or a different assigned gender.

This probably resonates well if you have any players in your group who are girls or who are non-white.  If a man decides to play a female PC in a group with a female player, I'll bet he's going to play her much differently than he would in a room full of the boys.  Look, any male can fall victim to the boys will be boys insensitivity vacuum if he's left in...well, a vacuum.  Be mindful and you won't be offensive.  Great if there's a member of that group present.  If not, how would you play them in front of one?

Now, my three issues with the article...

Issue 1: Gaymer's tend to be seen foremost as video gaymers.  I'm aware this is an article about gaymers in the RPG world.  But, gaymers tend to be viewed as video gamers more than as tabletop players.  In fact, at a GenCon 2014 screening of gaming in color, a documentary about gaymers, director Phillip Jones admitted that he was shocked at how large GenCon's attendance was and that he was very aware that he focused almost solely on the video gaming experience at the expense of tabletop.  Locally, you can take a look at the DC Gaymers meetup group and see they are focused solely on video games.

So, we need to start working to make sure that people understand that Gaymer is a term that applies to LGBTQ players of all types of games.  Partially, that's good for diversity.  Partially, that's good for expanding the hobby's visibility to an entirely new audience--people that know LGBTQ individuals who game, but don't know anything about tabletop RPGs!

Issue 2: Lead character in a novel.  This is really just a quibble.  How could you skip over Ringil Eskiath from Richard Morgan's A Land Fit For Heroes series?  What's awesome about Ringil?  Well, he's a total badass.  He also fucks dudes and FUCKS THEM HARD.  There are only a few sex scenes in the series, but they are both physically and emotionally explicit.  Finally, Ringil has a lot of the neuroses that the rest of the LGBTQ community shares from growing up in a world that in many ways didn't want us.

[By the way, the last book in the series, The Dark Defiles, is out for sale.  Those of you who don't like to wait between books should jump into this!]

Issue 3: Should you include LGBTQ players v. playing LGBTQ characters.  This isn't a quibble or an issue at all.  I am so happy that this distinction was drawn I can't say so enough!

Gaymer out.