I believe activism is a creative act. If not quite the same as creating art, then extremely similar. It involves seeing something in the world that could be better, and stepping up and out with a plan to make it so. It requires an idea, a vision, and the will to explore it and produce it – and most of all, to share it, because it’s nothing until you do.
And like creating art, the moment you start people are going to complain about it or tell you do something else.
And you try to forget those moments. And you hang on to the other ones, where somebody responds. Where they say “I see what you’re going for, and it works.” It speaks to me. It helps me. It matters.
And there are other moments too, when you see someone else stretch towards the same vision. Where you sit with other creators and see how much you share, in your dreams and ideas and goals. Our time at and work with GX Australia was full of these experiences. We got to see people enjoying a safe space and products welcoming to them, and we got to work with people making those spaces and those making those products. Full credit must go to the people running GX for making such a great space and the great people they drew in as promoters and vendors. It was especially good to see scholars and educators present, and young people full of their own dreams and visions wanting to learn.
We were privileged to share our particular slice of booth with Cosm Games and in a moment of serendipity realised they and their game Crucible had more in common with us than we thought. To explain, I’ll hand over to them:
Crucible is an upcoming fantasy tabletop RPG from Cosm Games, focusing on themes of morality and diversity and using a unique coin-based system. You can read about the project in more detail at cosmgames.com but, for the purposes of getting the MESSAGE across, we wanted to talk about what we are trying to achieve in terms of creating a broadly accessible gaming space.
Our development team represents a broad spectrum of gender and sexuality, and it is important to us to create a space through our game in which players of all kinds can feelsafe and have fun. For a start, our rulebook uses gender neutral pronouns as default, whether referring to GM, players or in-world characters, so that no one is automatically excluded from any role. Our six different playable species cover a vast array of biological and cultural approaches to gender, sexuality, relationships, family units, ability and personal body image, and the overall culture of the game world accepts the spectrum of these as normal. We want EVERYONE who sits down to play Crucible to find something to identify with in the character options, game world and tone of the book.
When it comes to the issue of sexism within the world of Crucible, we are attempting to take an approach that both creates a safe space for people who experience it and encourages GMs and players to be aware of the issue.
We know that sexual discrimination, abuse and oppression are all too real for a great many people, so we have taken pains to avoid treating these painful issues as mere set dressing for any of our game-world cultures. You won’t find gritty characters with abuse-laden backstories or domestic violence used as a mere plot point. While there is plenty of darkness in the world of Crucible, none of it is explicitly based on sexual exploitation or other forms of gender-based oppression. We don’t want reading our rulebook (let alone playing our game) to be a triggering experience for anyone.
However, as gamers ourselves, we also recognise that simply leaving sexism and other problematic material absent from a game as written does nothing to prevent players and GMs from bringing their own uninformed attitudes to the table. To try to address this, our rulebook includes an extensive section of advice for GMs running Crucible games. We encourage GMs and their gaming groups to start out with a discussion of what level of problematic material they are comfortable exploring in-world, and will provide extensive advice for GMs on running problematic material in a way that is not exploitative and doesn’t risk turning real issues into a joke. We want to make explicit that a good game is one in which everyone feels safe and happy at the gaming table. This doesn’t have to mean total erasure of issues like sexism, but it does mean everyone being aware of each other’s comfort zones and checking their own assumptions about what material is ok. Narrative roleplaying done well, can give players a huge emotional investment in their characters’ lives; we want to make sure that whatever misfortunes a character has to deal with are ones their player is also willing to take on.
The MESSAGE is about men taking action to end slurs and sexism in gaming. We hope that Crucible will also be a step in the right direction, highlighting the need for discussion about these important issues amongst a gaming group and providing a safe space for tabletop roleplayers of all backgrounds to enjoy their hobby.