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Save Vs Game Industry

Posted by on April 21st, 2010 with 6 Comments

The image here at left is the registration logo for GenCon’s “SPA” (Spousal Activities) program — as they say “Activities for the Better Half.” The program, started some years back, isn’t the worst idea in the world — things for the non-gaming spouse to do, if they choose to come to GenCon. All well and good, I suppose. But check the logo.

Ball and Chain. Get it? Har Har.

This darling little bit of misogyny in the name of “humor” has been called out in other blogs, such as this excellent open letter from Critical Hits to this rather more scathing entry at The Seven Sided Die. The comments that it has drawn, both there and on various internet fora, have come down to the predictable two camps: “Lighten up, it’s a joke,” and “What the fuck, GenCon?”

It’s not so much that I’m humorless, or looking to be offended here… although I do note with some interest that a fairly high number of the “it’s a joke” arguments feature some slap at the bogeyman of “political correctness.” It’s always been a maxim of mine that the more a person bitches about “P.C.”, the more likely they are to be speaking from a position of privilege and looking to maintain it.

It’s just that you’d think that a convention that represents not only the hobby itself, but also to a large extent the industry (by virtue of being its largest gathering, larger by orders of magnitude than the nominal trade show, GTS) would take much greater care not to reinforce the image of gaming as an emotionally-stunted, borderline-asperger’s, arrested-adolescence boy’s club.

You’d be wrong.

In a comment responding to the Critical Hit post, Jeannette LeGault, Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC, responds, basically saying that since the majority of shareholders of GenCon LLC are women, and she herself picked the icon, that people should just get over it. Read the rest of the comment — it’s completely dismissive, and yet another example of what passes for professionalism in this sad, dying little niche industry.

It’s a shame — I love RPGs, and I love gaming. But I am actively embarrassed by my industry, and (more often than not, sadly), many of my fellow hobbyists. That’s not a good place to be, but I honestly don’t know what to do about it.

6 Comments

  1. Precisely. I expect better from the brand/company that represents me (and several thousand other gamers). The dismissiveness of the official reply just bothers me.

  2. Clearly, the ball should have been a twenty-sided die. That would have solved the problem completely. :)

  3. Theron says:

    Jesus wept.

    Your last paragraph nails my sentiments exactly. And it’s barely my industry, just one I’ve supported extensively for most of my life.

  4. Ian Sturrock says:

    As I said in a comment on artbroken’s livejournal:

    I don’t MUCH like the idea of a special series of events targeted solely at non-gaming spouses anyway. It’s already a bit of a ghetto, and a patronising one at that. Adding the ball-and-chain image is really horrible.

    I’d far rather gaming conventions made an effort to be more inclusive of women IN GENERAL, gamer women or not. That means making a deliberate stand against sexism, for starters, and making it clear that sexist attitudes will not be tolerated. It means ensuring there are a wide variety of activities available — available to everyone, not just to the ball-and-chains who have been dragged along by their geeky spouses and who Just Don’t Understand. The majority of “non-gamer” wives/husbands I know will very happily engage in some degree of social gaming too, if it’s inclusive social gaming rather than social gaming that’s still mostly populated by assholes who assume that women are there only to be leched at or easily defeated in-game because they clearly wouldn’t grasp the rules, let alone the tactics. And I know probably hundreds of female gamers who would either be very wary of going to a convention, because they quite rightly suspect it is going to attract large numbers of the kind of gamers who either actively or passively ensure that women feel unwelcome; or who go to conventions DESPITE frequently feeling unwelcome & being deeply uncomfortable with the sexism of much of the gaming industry.

    Yes — have bellydancing classes, and Irish dancing, and costuming classes, and knitting, and all sorts of stuff like that. Brilliant. But make it a part of the con, rather than sticking it in the ghetto. Make it something that couples can do together, rather that just something that comes across as just a way for women to occupy those empty heads that clearly couldn’t cope with the more cerebrally geeky activities going on in the main hall.

  5. Laura Skarka says:

    Just to go on the record. As I said before, I find the “humor” implicit in ‘the old ball and chain’ reference antiquated and not really very funny in the first place.

    Speaking as a woman who got in to gaming on her own at the age of ten, and not through a boyfriend/husband/or brother, the only reason that I am not more offended by this badly chosen icon is that it is simply ‘more of the same’. The same sexism, the same exclusionary ideas, and the same sterotypes that I have dealt with on and off since my discovery of D&D in grade school. I find it almost as misguided as the “it’s okay to grope me” button idea from a few years back.

    What rankles the most about the stupidity of this particular image is that it gives the lie to what my experience has been recently, and at GenCon; a feeling that we had progressed as a “people” past this point. At least partially.

    Thanks, GenCon, for killing my buzz.

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