Brisbane Game Stores Get The MESSAGE!

We were busy over the weekend! The MESSAGE staff visited the preeminent game stores in Brisbane to give them their official The MESSAGE accreditation. Both Good Games Brisbane and Ace Comics and Games have been passionate about their support for The MESSAGE from the very beginning, keen to make their stores as inclusive as possible. By displaying their MESSAGE signs, they send a sign to all customers that women are part of the hobby and sexist behaviour will not be tolerated. Great work, guys!

Good Games Brisbane can be found at 74 Little Edward Street, Spring Hill, right next to the Domonios Pizza. Ace Comics and Games is upstairs of the Queen Street Mall, at 121 Queen Street. Both stores have also been added to our list of stores on our Those Who Get It pages.

Do you know a store that supports women and inclusive gaming? Or one that doesn’t? Let us know at message@gamermessage.com

Cassie from Good Games Gets The MESSAGE

Cassie, owner of Good Games Brisbane, proudly shows off her certification. Some loon looms nearby.

Pol From Ace Gets The MESSAGE

Pol from Ace is equally proud of his shiny laminated accreditation.

Countdown to White Ribbon Day

The chief inspiration for The MESSAGE is the White Ribbon campaign, dedicated to leading men in the fight against violence against women. They are currently doing a publicity push as they count down to their national day of awareness, which is Nov 25. Check them out, sign their pledge. The Australian site is here, not sure about their presence internationally. http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/
 
Also, comments are now turned on! We apologise for that not being the case earlier.

Special Guest Blogger: Karen McLeod

Since the MESSAGE is all about listening to women, once a month we’ll be handing the blogging reins over to someone of the female persuasion for their view of the landscape. Our very first special guest this month is Karen McLeod.

I’m a gamer.  And female.  Actually, I just like to play.  In life.  Any old thing.  I like having fun.  Word games.  Banter.  Role playing.  First person shooters (PC only – consoles are for pussies). 

So how does this intersect with my gender?  Well it doesn’t particularly, in my mind.

Y’see, I think of myself first and foremost as a person, rather than as a woman.  So I become immersed or involved in all sorts of things as a person, without regard to gender.  For example, when reading Lord of the Rings, I identify with Frodo and Gandalf, not Galadriel or Arwen because they are women.  I follow a tale through the eyes of the narrator or the person in the centre of the action.  When reading John Steinbeck’s wonderful translation of the King Arthur tales, I identify with Arthur and Merlin and Lancelot.  When reading tales with multiple characters, like Game of Thrones, or stuff written by Tad Williams or Peter F Hamilton, I see the gender of characters as being like another colour or aspect of character, rather than as delineating a great divide between male and female.

Same thing when PC gaming, which for me is an immersive experience.  When playing Half Life 2, I am Gordon Freeman, totally immersed in running around City 17.  And annoyed with Alyx I am, not because she’s female, but because she’s a bloody bot, and insists on running into the line of fire.  When playing Fallout 3, I don’t think about gender.  Too busy running around shooting bad things.  Same for Rage, the Bioshocks, Skyrim and the early greats – the Dooms and the Quakes.  Busy busy busy – exterminating cacodemons, mutants and the like.

So when gender becomes an issue in a game, my first and main reaction is surprise.  I was surprised when Fallout 3 gave me a choice of gender.  I was surprised when Alyx ran up a ladder in Half Life 2 to give me a gratuitous pantyy shot.  My first thought was: “What did she do that for?”.  Then the obvious explanation hit me, and I thought, ”Oh that’s right.  This game is written for 14 year old boys.”  Cue eye rolling, and moving on to the next bit in the game.

When reading or playing a first person shooter, it’s easy to become immersed and enjoy the moment as it is.  A book or a piece of software allows that to happen.  I don’t need or even want the experience to become gender-specific.  I’m much more interested in the business at hand: the morality of honour; how to resist the temptation of the One Ring; ridding the world of evil; shooting stuff; and so on.

It is not so straightforward when the fun requires interaction with other people.  Sexism cannot be ignored when there’s a person in front of you behaving in such a way.  Now, for years I played D&D and never experienced any sexism: I suppose because I was playing with friends.  However I have experienced it when playing with people I didn’t know: at a role playing convention.  Initially, I didn’t experience it as sexism.  Understanding it as such came later.  At the time, it just felt like rudeness.  Breathtakingly bad manners.  An example would be that players would ignore my suggestions for an activity in the game, but then accept the same suggestion a moment later when made by a man.  Or talk over me as if I was not there.  That sort of behavior causes me to disengage, excuse myself and leave at the earliest opportunity.  I mean, where’s the fun in that?

Does that matter?  I mean, does it matter that I disengaged, stopped playing in that environment and never went back?  Well, probably not, really.  I don’t have tickets on myself.  I reckon I’m smart and good company, but so are lots of people.  It certainly didn’t matter to me – I make my own fun.  I might wonder if other women felt the same way, and simply and politely excused themselves and left.  And maybe that doesn’t matter either.  I’m sure there are many chaps who would prefer a men-only gaming environment.  A meeting of like minds and all that.  But it might matter to you, if you care about missing out on the joy of discovering what each individual can bring.  You might care about losing a chance to experience all the colours of a gaming world.  You might even think that a woman can bring a certain authenticity to female characters, which could be very interesting.  And there’s the social aspect.  A woman is easier to talk to, flirt with and generally be around if she’s actually there in the first place.

I guess it’s up to you.  If you are enjoying someone’s company, and their contribution to a game, and they start to withdraw and maybe even excuse themselves politely and leave, perhaps there’s something more to it than a preference on their part.  Perhaps they are experiencing discomfort.  And perhaps that discomfort is due to differential treatment based on gender by someone at the table.  If you start to wonder about that, ask her.  Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t that.  But if it is sexism or rudeness, by taking the initiative, you have just created an opportunity for yourself.  You have created the opportunity for her to stay and keep being a source of enjoyment and good game strategy.  The problem of her departure can be fixed.  Easily.  Simply. 

All you have to do is identify the offending behavior (by asking her what it is) – and then fix it.  For example, if she doesn’t like being dismissed as a non-person, treat her just like any other player. Listen to her as you would any other player.  Take her advice.  Adopt her suggestions – when they make sense.

And then she might stay.  And you might all have some really great fun.

 

Karen McLeod started gaming with Doom, using the work network as a LAN, with a screen minimized to 5 centimeters square because the hardware hadn’t caught up with the software.  After the disappointment of Rage, she is waiting with baited breath for Bioshock Infinite.

Why We Need A Flag

One of the questions we face in presenting this (or any) movement, is the question of why it is necessary. Not that people do not recognise there is a problem, they certainly do; but rather that they do not see why we need a movement to fix it. Surely, the thinking goes, there are those who see the problem, and they are doing their best to fix it and be better people, and there are those who do not see the problem, and never will. To ask the former people to wear a badge is not only unnecessary but distracting, adding tribalism or flag-waving to what, ultimately, is just about being a decent human being.

To answer that query, I’m going to tell you a story. For those of you outside Australia, you need a fair bit of background, so please, stick with me.

In Australia, just as in other countries, we have radio shock-jocks. They are typically right-wing, inflammatory personalities given to dreams of vainglorious quixoticism which in fact are simply exercises in stroking their own egos, and in these quests they typically oversimplify facts, drown out debate and preach righteous anger. One of the most pernicious examples of these folks is a man called Alan Jones. Alan Jones has made a living – a vastly well-paid living – over the last twenty years or so speaking on right-wing talkback radio under the glorified image of being a voice for the people. Some times he has even taken that position beyond his microphone and added his voice, fame and media control to political issues.

The illusion he presents is of course false. He is not the voice of any people. He is stridently supportive of the conservative party in Australia (dubbed the Liberal party, confusingly) to the point of gleefully publishing their own propaganda. This, combined with his proven habit of taking large sums of money from various industries and special interest groups to speak in their favour has earned him the nickname “The Parrot”. But he not only lies about himself and his position, he of course lies about his opposition and their positions. He has been regularly found guilty by broadcasting regulartory bodies of direct, outright lies about government policy, recorded facts and long-standing scientific research. His lies are used to enforce his views which are not only rightwing but as reactionary as possible, criticising any force that is against the status quo and regularly targetting for attack the very weakest groups in society, such as refugees, immigrants and other minorities. His unrepentant tendencies to be abusive, defamatory, exclusionary, bigotted and hatemongering have earned him a reputation as one of the most despised men in the country – but his loyal audience, the owners of his radio station, and the sponsors who back his radio time, adore him.

Slowly, however, his crimes – actual crimes – have begun to bring him down. More and more the regulatory bodies have been called into investigate his “inaccuracies” and have censured him. In 2005 he incited a race riot by calling for white Australians to react violently to Lebanese immigrants; 7 years later he was found guilty by the media courts, and an official apology has been ordered, some damages to be paid. Those who believed he should be perhaps taken off air for these and so much more wondered what kind of activities it would take for that to happen.

Then, a month ago, without realising it at first, two woman changed everything.

On the 31st of August, Alan Jones was commenting on the Australian Prime Minister, a woman he has selected as a target for particularly barbed attacks. She is a natural target because her party is not his party of choice (the more progressive Labor party) but as with many media commentators on the Prime Minister, his attacks on her were far more vehement than he would reserve for a male, whatever their politics. He was equally vicious when attacking other female “enemies” in the political arena, something that had become a favourite topic. When the Prime Minister was speaking at an event in the Pacific Islands about a program designed to encourage women of those regions to enter politics, she stated that societies only reach their full potential when women are participating. Alan, working in a narrative that most of his current targets for scorn were female, reacted to that statement with disbelief and rage. He screamed “Women are destroying the joint!”.

Accustomed to being lambasted for daring to be in politics at all, women responded to another overt example of this misogyny in the press and across social media. It made world headlines, in fact. Academic, writer and lecturer Jane Caro tweeted:

Got time on my hands tonight so thought I’d spend it coming up with new ways of “destroying the joint” being a woman & all. Ideas welcome.

The twitter-sphere enjoyed the joke and joined in with enthusiasm. #destroyingthejoint became one of the highest trending hash-tags on twitter. Jane Caro and Jenna Price realised there was a lot of anger out there, both about Jones and against those who wanted women to shut up and stay out of politics, and whose attitudes were obvious in the misogynistic tones and language they used. Ms Price created a @JointDestroyer twitter feed, and then a Destroying the Joint facebook group, which soon had over ten thousand(!) members. T-shirts and badges were made. Events followed. A social media community was created and fostered into the real world.

Then Alan put his head over the parapet one more time. Speaking at a public event a little over a week ago, Alan Jones decided to make a joke about the very recent death of Prime Minister’s father, saying that her father likely “died of shame” at her political record. The callousness of this remark reverberated across the entire country, and the anger echoed across social media once again. 

It was not the first time there had been a gigantic output of rage from the Australian community against Jones. It had happened countless times before. It was part of his legend, it was proof to him and his faithful of his importance, and his power. Being hated made him great, and even those who opposed him knew the outrage would do nothing to stop him continuing his program and making money. That, at least, was the assumed truth, the accepted wisdom. He made money by shock, so nothing he said could ever be shocking enough to unseat him.

But things had changed since the last time. Social media was now in full swing. More importantly, tens of thousands of people were primed to use it. Primed, fostered, encouraged and emboldened by the Destroy the Joint movement. The Joint Destroyers were quickly joined by other social media campaigns, most prominently a Sack Alan Jones group, and an online petition on Change.org. Within days, 100,000 people had signed that petition to call for Jones to be sacked. Meanwhile, the social media group numbers swelled, and their leaders put them to work. Every day, Jenna Price and associates recorded who advertised on Jones’ radio show, and directed her audience – growing ever more enormous – to send complaints to those companies. Her followers were eager to respond. After a week of this, more than a hundred companies had pulled their advertising and yesterday, Alan Jones’ radio program was forced to go to air without any advertising at all. No small thing when the man’s time on radio is the most expensive radio time available in the country. The damage to the radio company and its parent company is of the order of millions of dollars. Their share price has plummeted. There are now questions about whether said company can afford to keep Jones on air.

The accepted wisdom said that Jones was absolutely, fundamentally untouchable. That nothing could ever stop him doing what he did. No matter what laws he broke, no matter what lies he told, no matter how hate-filled his invective, no matter how much poison he spoke, no matter how much he polluted debate and society by doing so, he was here forever.

The accepted wisdom was wrong. He is not gone, but he has been wounded more than anyone could have ever imagined.

The accepted wisdom was that “slacktivism”, politics via social media and the like, is weak and powerless and could never accomplish anything.

The accepted wisdom was wrong. It can accomplish the impossible.

And it happened not just because of social media, and not just because of twenty years of Alan Jones’ lies and harted and not just because women are becoming more and more tired of the obvious bigotry aimed towards them, and not just because that bigotry has become increasingly clearer with a woman as Prime Minister. It also happened because all that anger had a focus. Because social media had a flag to rally around. What began as a little joke became one of the most powerful movements in the history of Australian politics because it brought people together behind one powerful idea.

Forgive my hubris, please. I am not egotistical enough to suggest that my cause is as important or as universal as the cause of Destroying the Joint, or even that we might ever have such influence. But I am inspired by this success. It shows me what a hash-tag can accomplish. It can become a flag that brings hundreds of thousands of people together into a powerful, wonderful force for change – a force that can accomplish the impossible.

And that’s why I started this. To give us a flag. It might not catch on in exactly the same way, but maybe it will. Maybe it will bring people together who are united on this issue, who share a passion for making things better. Maybe together we can change the environment on a massive scale – and accomplish what accepted wisdom says is impossible.

I’m keen to find out. If you are too, please, join the facebook group, follow us on twitter, buy a t-shirt – and use the hashtag. Send #theMESSAGE.

Cross-Post: Where’s The Fire?

What’s the problem? some ask. Here’s the answer to that question. Again, from Steve Dee’s blog earlier this year.

Posted on  by dconstructions
 
The MESSAGE: Where’s The Fire

I have been asked, by a wonderful friend of mine and reader of the blog, to provide more examples of the problem. Especially since I’d like the MESSAGE to go out to all gamers, and the example in my video are just a tiny few and all from video gaming. And no offence to the lovely man, but I’m not going to do that. For a few reasons.

Firstly, because I’m just too lazy. Secondly, and more importantly, because I don’t want the MESSAGE to be about that. Everyone is talking about the bad behaviour. Sometimes it seems we’re falling over ourselves to talk about it. We all love to be outraged, and the internet makes it so easy to partake in the theatre of scandal and the rush of mob justice. Which is not to say the outrage isn’t justified or the justice not deserved, just that I don’t want to tread over old ground, or simplify things. It’s too easy and too convenient, and I want to be more intelligent then that. I want to really talk about the issues, not just condemn and move on. I don’t want to condemn anyone, really. I want this to be a safe space for men as well as women, that’s about solving problems not sticking labels on people.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how activism works. I know that even the most concerned and thoughtful person needs to see a problem, be convinced of its real presence, its damaging effects and it’s looming threat before they’ll step up and sign a name or click a button. But here’s the thing: if you don’t already know there’s a problem in ALL gaming, you haven’t been paying attention. And maybe you haven’t. That’s fair. But I bet you know someone who has.

See, I could tell you a bunch of horrible stories, but there’s a much better way to see the problem, and that’s go and get the stories from the source. Go and find a female gamer you know and ask her. Ask her about breathy, handsy guys at conventions and LARPs. Ask her about GMs who have banned them from the table or pretended they didn’t exist. Ask them about the trials of finding decent artwork to represent their character. Ask them about the lewd, rude and crude comments. Ask them about having their character be raped. Ask them about the fawning and the hitting on. Just ask them. Anecdotes aren’t data, but they pack more punch than any data I could show you.

And you must know  a female gamer. Surveys done by Wizards suggest they make up about 25% of the roleplaying industry, and about 20% of the hobby gamer industry in general. They’re over 40% of video gamers and about 70% of cosplayers. Statistically, if you know five gamers, you know a woman who games. If you don’t know five gamers, including online, then get out of the basement and meet some. If you don’t know any women gamers, then maybe that’s because you haven’t asked any women you know to play. Maybe you should. Maybe you could specifically look for them, because a lot of them are being ignored, or trying to find good games amongst the dross and the gross.

And once you’ve met them, do them the courtesy of sitting down and talking to them. Ask them about their bad experiences, and listen to them. Because, off the internet especially, we’re not doing enough of that. If you don’t know what the problem is, you’ve DEFINITELY not done enough of that. And when they’ve finished, apologize to them and commiserate with them. Acknowledge that their experience matters and the stuff that happened to them isn’t acceptable. And then come back and tell me you know what the problem is.

If you really don’t know what the problem is, seriously go and do this. Heck, do it if you know what the problem is anyway, because it’s worth doing. If every female gamer you ask tells you she’s never had a problem or witnessed a problem with a creep or jerk,  I will eat my hat. Live, on webcam. When – as I expect they will – every female gamer you ask tells you a crappy story, come back and pledge to the MESSAGE, or sign up for an avatar, shirt or a badge when we go live next month.

But most importantly, actually talk to women. And listen to them. Gamers or otherwise. That’s really the first step. That can make all the difference in the world.

Cross-Post: Why We’re Doing It

This was posted on the gaming blog of Steve Dee on the 4th of July, 2012. We think it’s still a great summary of what we’re trying to do, and why.

The MESSAGE – Why We’re Doing It

Since we put the idea out there, we’ve got some feedback, and since we started the crowdsourcing, even more. Everyone wants to know exactly what the point is, and what we hope to accomplish. And until today, I didn’t know myself. I had some ideas, but it wasn’t crystalizing for me. I had the theory, but not the deep-down emotional reason to do it. That changed today when I grabbed a random shirt from the shelf and put it on.

Upon unfolding, I realized I’d grabbed my shirt with “SUPPORT SAME SEX MARRIAGE” on it. I picked it up two years ago at a march. I don’t really think of it as a political shirt any more. I wear it because I like having things I enjoy on my belly. Dinosaurs. The Violent Femmes. Daleks. Equal rights.

And like my love for those things, my politics is a very personal thing for me. Private, even. Yes, I use my facebook to point out lies and slander, but I use it precisely because it is semi-anonymous. I’m a shy guy, and face to face, I don’t talk politics. It’s not something I want to bring into the social arena, because I don’t want to judge or pressure my friends. My politics are mine and I don’t expect them to be anyone else’s.

Activism is my job; I don’t usually meet people at marches or anything. And I don’t march for my friends either. Some people do both of those things, and that’s great, but I go for I guess perhaps more theoretical reasons. I don’t march for refugees because I know any refugees and have seen the damage done to them, because I don’t and I haven’t. I don’t march for gay marriage because I love my gay friends and want them to have what others do, because really, I know like one gay guy and I hardly ever see them (hey buddy!).

As a result, I typically forget that my politics HAS any kind of human dimension. Which is why I completely randomly put on, and then forgot I was wearing, my SAME SEX MARRIAGE shirt last year, when I was going out to hang out with Darrin and Stefan. They happen to be gay, but I’d also forgotten that. On the way into the restaurant, I was suddenly panicked and embarrassed. I didn’t want to look like a try-hard, desperately trying to show off how politically correct I was. I didn’t want Darrin and Stefan to feel like I was going to make them part of my political identity, my awesome gay friends to prove how liberal I was. I put on a coat and put it out of my mind.

But later on, I relaxed and forgetting my shirt, took off my coat. And a bit later Stefan saw my shirt, and he smiled. And Stefan, when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face, his whole body and his whole heart, because he’s that kind of guy, the kind of guy with nothing but a giant heart full of love beneath his chest. And with that warm smile still spread on his face, he said “I like your shirt”.

And that was that, but I remember it, because it brought home what that shirt could do. Not change the world or even change a vote, but just say to somebody else, be they friend or stranger, that they are welcome. That I welcome you. That, astoundingly, I don’t want to burn you, or imprison you, or discriminate against you.

We all get that same kind of buzz out of shirts and badges. We see someone wearing an Invader Zim shirt and we feel “hah, I have kinship, because I share that passion.” And it’s more important when it’s something small or weird that feels like nobody else knows but you. And it’s HUGELY important when there are great masses of people doing everything they can to exclude you, or silence you, or discriminate against you, or destroy you, or just let you know, casually, how much they despise you. In that kind of environment, wearing a little sign that says “I welcome you” can make all the difference in the world. It can put a smile on someone’s face.

We’ve already made $400 on the kickstarter, which is great. A huge amount of that is down to one woman in particular, who saw what we are doing and I think had the same kind of reaction as Stefan did that day. Saw a sign saying “you are welcome” in a world that wants her gone. So she put in a very large amount of money, because those signs are just that important.  And thanks to her passion and Stefan’s smile, I finally get it.

I know we need to do this. And I know why we’re doing it. To wave the flag that says “You are welcome here” in a world that wants you gone.