Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Twisting in a wind of words

Fact: I don’t rank video games with our game types; I see digital games and I see tangible games. I have not been into video games since my son who is now 36 had an Atari.

I was vaguely aware of this Gamergate shit when I saw some seminars were cancelled at an event in Austin. I thought they were some sort of electronic bullies or vandals; I had no idea of the misogyny involved. I deplore their behavior; they seem to be a bunch of teen-aged cyber-bullies and assholes. I have not read any of their manifestos, so I had no idea that they had made an otherwise ordinary word used in medicine and science to describe one half of our species into a pejorative.

I think more people that are not male (just what term can I use?) would find a lot of enjoyment playing RPG’s. (BTW, an apostrophe to indicate plural acronyms is correct by all the style books I have followed. It might be changing, but it is not there yet; it is not indicative of the possessive case.) As a former teacher (a real teacher, not someone with honorary degrees and being brought up on sexual abuse charges; thanks for that comparison) I was quite good at crafting teaching aids and handouts, as well as having developed a very effective tool that involved role-assumption/playing  in the classroom.

In my opinion, role playing has become too rules-heavy. Most of the excessive rules are about stuff you may never do or encounter as a Player Character, or only do so after a considerable time playing. In that instance, you learn by doing. I do not like Skills and Abilities ratings for that reason; I am firmly entrenched in the ethos of the Old School about learning by doing and never being afraid to try something. So I figured out a method to boil it down to the basics needed to have fun.

I wanted to run games for only not-males; Jim Ward and Merle Rasmussen have done so in the past and related how much fun they were; I briefly sat in on one of Jim’s, observing. I wanted to try it for myself and thought to accomplish two tasks, teach the basics and run a fun adventure.

Through innocent use of otherwise ordinary words I have offended some people, for which I apologize. I did not know that the word “Female” had been used as a pejorative in a war of words of which I was ignorant. I did not know that offering to boil down the mass of rules was going to be seen as some sinister insinuation that not-male gamers are too dumb.

By restricting to only beginners that were not male, I thought to provide a friendly and fun atmosphere. This is based on classroom experiences; nobody wants to sit there thinking they are missing out on something or the only one not getting it. Frankly, I do not wish to introduce RPG’ing to a bunch of younger males (at least not below 12 or 13); that is based on classroom experience. In that regard, and that one only, you can label me sexist.

I was vilified by someone I do not know in a public forum, instead of being contacted (God knows I am easy enough to get hold of) and informing me of the concerns my listing apparently raised.  Had that happened, I absolutely would have done a quick edit (I sent the same description to GaryCon and have not heard a thing about it except several inquiries about signing up.) Attacking a stranger, in a public forum is a cheap shot, in my opinion. (I do not consider myself some sort of celebrity and am constantly humbled by the people that see me as that); I’m just an old dude that still plays games,  likes to write adventures and was once involved in the beginning of our modern hobby, involved with a minute section of the population.

When attacked, I defend vigorously. I felt I was unjustly attacked and attainted for a word that has more than one meaning and is a pejorative in a tiny percentage of the population. I hope my attacker got a warm rush of satisfaction.

I really am sorry, and a bit befuddled, by all that has transpired over a listing in a convention website. I am not guilty of any of the behaviors that my words have been twisted into, and never have been.
I have been told that the instigator of this likes to stir the pot. I would not know because I cannot recall having met her; I did Friend her on FB when I saw a bunch of mutuals but I probably “know” less than 10% of my “Friends”; there are over 2000 of them. I never even saw her initial post on my Wall.

So what is the “politically correct” term for members of our species possessing ovaries and not testicles? I still intend to call infants baby boys or baby girls; if they change their mind later I will change what I call them.

So, having gotten all of that off my chest, I reiterate that I am sorry some people were offended when they read what I wrote. But this game is still off-limits to males.


  1. Tim, thank you so incredibly much! I am sorry I didn't contact you directly. Two friends of yours had recently posted some things that made me think you would not be approachable, but it was wrong of me to make assumptions about you based on them. I know your intentions were good, but it was very hard for me to see wording that appeared to assume gamers are men and women are there as guests. It's a problem women used to encounter in professional situations often and have worked hard to eradicate. I thought people knew not to do that. Apparently that is not as well known as I thought--I've been shocked at the number of people who didn't know it was an issue! A beginners game, and a game for only women or for women and nonbinary folks, sounds like a great idea! Wording for single-gender groups can be very tricky, so feel free to check with other folks (or me if you're not too angry, which I certainly understand and think is more than reasonable!)

    1. Great post. Maybe "Hi, I'm looking to run an inclusive game for those identifying as female and non-binary in order to learnmore about the many differentpeople in our wonderful hobby and also to have a great time gaming!"

      I hope that works. As a transwoman even I fall foul of some whose measure of 'cautious English' is more finely tuned thanmy own.

  2. Just a suggestion, but if you're looking for the correct term to refer to female gamers, try "gamers". I get you want to include people who don't know much about gaming, but that includes a ton of guys.

    1. That is offensive to others. A bunch of people may not know much about gaming.

  3. As a female gamer who's been around awhile, the wording, not the intent, was problem. We're constantly looked down on and treated as 'outsiders', even though I likely know more about it than many of my male peers. Its very valid of us to react that way because we grow tired of the feeling that we do not belong in gaming, video games or table top, merely because of our gender.

    I think the best option here is listen to the feedback you're getting from the female gamers and possibly adjust the wording. Again, you clearly didn't mean to offend, but it happened. You can't simply say 'well, I didn't MEAN to offend so you shouldn't get offended.'

    No one is saying you can't have an all female game, but try wording it so it doesn't sound like we're super rare or only at the con because a MALE is dragging us.

    I didn't need a male to introduce me to gaming, I wasn't dragged into tabletop by a boyfriend, I rolled in because I've always loved storytelling and fantasy.

  4. Can people who find it offensive provide suggested wording?

  5. As a trans woman I don't care what you call me as long as its not in anger. If you mistakenly misgender me and it was a slip of the tongue I'll tell you not to worry because I know, one day, you'll automatically do it without thinking.

    Im not that easy to offend and from my perspective it looks like someone steeped in the 'lore' of womanhood has jumped on your comments militantly and claimed them mysoginist when in fact they were just a little 'unenlightened' (not judging). We all come across new things allthe time in our current age and too many want to be offended to have some thing to do in their day, imho. This feels new to you, so you're gonna stumble. If someone wants to have a go at you for that when the aim was to be inclusive then god forbid they become a parent.
    "You're not walking yet! What the hell is wrong with you?"

    I say brush it off. Be the grown up the internet so sorely needs and just sigh and move on. Not everyone is offended.

    Best of luck. x

  6. Hi Tim,

    As a side note, I think you should keep in mind that there are women who don't have ovaries, and men who don't have testicles. In fact, there are some women who have testicles and some men who have ovaries -- and many of us are gamers!

    Just thought I'd point that out.

  7. I'm sure all those women were just a bunch of mean old meanie pants being mean to the innocent man who doesn't know any better. Couldn't be at all reasonable that, after decades of gaming, we might expect our fellow gamers to have any sort of inkling of the rampant sexism in gaming or the experiences of women gamers.

    Perfectly reasonable to blame it on everyone else and shelter the feelings of the poor ignorant victim... the one who said sexist crap in the first place. Rather than listen, let's all just jump to his defense despite the numbers of women who've been driven from gaming by grognards and gatekeepers.

    To set matters straight, it's not the game listing I am objecting to. I was totally down with giving Tim the benefit of the doubt on that. It's the ugliness of his response and the "Oh, he means well, shut up you evil internet mafia bully-thugs for daring to be offended by this poor gentle grognard who deserves all the respect that you haven't gotten over decades of involvement in tabletop rpgs. It's not like your personal experience is worth anything."

    If we keep making endless excuses for men like Kask, we keep villifying any woman who sticks her head up over the wall no matter how polite she is about it, we accuse them of thuggery and bullying no matter how measured and gentle the response, well, men like Kask have no motivation to change and the fact that his blog responses have been so entitled and smug.

    "I am sorry some people were offended when they read what I wrote." is not an apology, and I'm sick of everyone telling me how he didn't mean anything and how they're sure he's super-duper nice while painting ALL the women who've objected as over-reacting and needing to back off and be nice about it.

    35 years of putting up with this crap, and I demand better. If he's going to try to make money off gamers in this century, he should learn to live in this century.

    My name is Christine Doering. I have called Tim Kask out on Facebook and received no reply. I don't have an account here, and I refuse to have this conversation where he can sit smugly behind his wall of privilege and people bending over backwards shielding him from the backlash of his willful ignorance and contempt.

    I'm sick of being erased and silenced and seeing other women driven away from the hobby because they can't stand the way they are treated while people bend over backwards to make sure guys like Kask aren't offended and their delicate feelings aren't hurt.

    Just brush it off, my ass. Come at me, bro. You know where to find me. I've made it pretty clear.

    1. You have issues....

    2. I have issues with this sort of crap. Yes. Yes, I do.

    3. Kask doesn't owe you a reply for "calling him out on Facebook" Christine, get over yourself. Your not liking his wording is fine, but your projecting responsibility for your 35 years of frustration onto his shoulders is not acceptable.
      Kask never said female gamers need things dumbed down. That's you making an assumption about his meaning and presenting it as fact, and now you've worked yourself into a state of outrage because you haven't received the apologetic response you feel entitled to. The word "ladies" is proper and polite english not an insult.
      Finally, you aren't even the intended audience for his game description so he certainly isn't seeking to marginalize you and your 35 years of gaming experience, he's seeking beginners and non-gamer females. He's inviting them to try out the game in a walk-in format where they can learn as they go rather than needing to familiarize themselves with 100+ pages of material before they can begin.
      Forgive an older gentleman for using old-fashioned polite language, it was a blurb and not a painstakingly thought out manifesto decrying women's leaving the kitchen and attempting to join the gaming table with the menfolk. Blurb; as in, likely was written in a couple of minutes, scanned quickly for typos before deciding it got the point across and pushing the send button.
      You'll probably never read this since I'm posting smugly from behind my own wall of privilege. If anyone has far too delicate feelings, it's you. After all, Kask only sought to encourage more female non-gamers to try out RPG's. You've lost your mind because he referred to your entire gender with the word "ladies". If you've felt "erased" by male gamers over the last 35 years perhaps it's because you're as unpleasant in person as you are online.

  8. I'd love to work with you, as a member of a fledgling group to provide support and connection for not-dudes who verb games, to have a meaningful conversation about the barriers we face and the sorts of landmines out there that can be avoided if you know to look for them.

    Will you be at Gen Con and would you be willing to let us buy you dinner?

    1. (assumed my name or my signature would show up.
      --Avonelle Wing
      Double Exposure, Inc.
      (DEXCON, DREAMATION, Metatopia, First Exposure Playtest Hall at Gen Con, Envoy and IGMCRHB)

  9. Hey, woman here, I want to let you know that I really love the basic idea of this event (to introduce people who are new to gaming to RPG's), and I really commend your thoughtfulness in offering such an event. I think the issue is that wording of the event suggests that only female-identified people are newbie gamers (and, by leaving out the word newbie, also implying that ALL female identified people are newbie gamers). I think we could all agree that neither of these things are true. I think you could keep the spirit of the event by targeting it at newbies and either making it gender neutral ("for newbies only") or by making clear that this event is "for women and girls who are new to gaming only."