2006-08-16 : GenCon 06 observations 1-4
The books this year were many and beautiful. The standouts for me - set aside 1001 Nights, which Meg and I designed - the standouts for me were Agon, Best Friends, Hero's Banner, the new Clinton R. Nixon matched set, and Carry. I don't have any criticisms of any others, those are just the ones I found especially arresting.
I would be really, really sad, though, if we lost outright our basement punk aesthetic. There's room at the booth for both Burning Empires and kill puppies for satan, I'm pretty sure. Suit design to subject, employ the full range of our tools, don't be afraid to be ugly when it's the thing to be.
Even though I didn't have any kill puppies for satan with me.
I was not a super good contributor to the booth. Don't argue with me about this - I know some of you might be about to but don't. My dad just died and I was emotionally exhausted the whole con. I was there for my own benefit, not the booth's, and I don't feel especially bad or guilty about it. My contribution this year was just my simple financial sponsorship, and that's good enough, I think.
But in terms of my own benefit? The con was a success beyond my best hopes. I didn't get to talk about my dad with everyone I wanted to - Paul and Danielle, especially, I would've loved a quiet dinner with you - but everyone I did get to talk with about him was there and strong and caring and awesome. My foreword in The Prince's Kingdom is even more true now than it was when I wrote it.
Compared to GenCon at large, the Forge booth is wicked feminist. Did we, for instance, have a single book whose cover featured cleavage as a cheap sales device? Or did we instead have several books where the game's about gender and gender relations, in a thoughtful, provocative, and critical way? (Answer: the latter.) Our games have their problems, same as we do, but we're fifty years ahead of the con at large. For god sweet sake, I saw a poster for one of the big-name games where the ghoul had visibly erect nipples.
"We're more feminist than RPGs in general," however, is damning with seriously faint praise. So let me say something in more absolute terms.
If you ask me, men-only space is generally conservative, no matter how liberal the men; women-only space is generally radical, no matter how conservative the women. The quilting bee has been and remains a radical institution, for instance. Mixed space might be either radical or conservative, depending foremost on the men's relationship with the power that they have. A bully of a man can make any mixed space anti-feminist.
Accordingly, the Forge booth is, overall, pro-feminist. Very few of us are bullies; as far as I've heard (and I think I probably would have, given how close I am to them; you should ask them if you're curious) neither of the women selling games in the Forge booth have ever had any problem with any sexism on the part of the booth as an institution. Individual Forge booth men in individual circumstances, I couldn't say, but taken as a thing itself, the Forge booth seems solid and good. I look forward to the number of women selling their own games there growing; I look forward to women taking positions of financial leadership in the booth (Emily's constitutionally better suited to primary sponsorship than I am, for an obvious example; my game's success let me afford it first, but her games aren't far behind mine). And I'd never ever minimize the work of Julie and Danielle, or Carrie this year.
I think the Forge booth is a fantastic avenue for women who're looking for success and fulfillment as game designers, and I'm really proud to be part of it.
Oh! Speaking of which, I got to playtest Emily's game in development, Sign In Stranger. If you don't feel envy at the fact, it's only because you haven't seen the game yet. It's hilarious, surreal, a bit disturbing, and (so far) ingeniously designed. It takes on a kind of science fiction that Shock: doesn't touch.
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