2011-04-29 : A Fantastic Walking Eye Roundtable

The Walking Eye: Round Table 4: Sexuality, Identity, and Ladygamers

Kevin sits down with a few of his ladyfriends to discuss Feminism, Sexuality, and Identity politics at the gaming table. Feminist blogger Nora Last, podcaster Tori Brewster, and game designer Elizabeth Sampat talk with Kevin about all the different ways these topics effect them as gamers, along with a few tangents into some general feminism topics.

Go listen! It's good.

1. On 2011-04-30, Vincent said:

Here's the original "invisible knapsack" essay about privilege that they talk about: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.

(Tx Matt)


2. On 2011-05-02, ffilz said:

I will have to make time to listen to this, also read about it on Chris Chinn's blog.



3. On 2011-05-02, ctrail said:

They bring up the Penny Arcade comic, and there are some aspects of that which I'd like to hear some perspectives on from the people here. But I'm not sure whether this is the appropriate place for it and I don't want to hijack the blog. Vincent, what do you say?


4. On 2011-05-03, Silerias said:

Here's le new link:


5. On 2011-05-03, Vincent said:

I've edited it in. Thanks!


6. On 2011-05-03, Vincent said:

ctrail: I can talk about my own decision to go to PAX East, but I can't represent any other perspective. This won't be a great place to air grievances, if that's what you're after.

I went to PAX East because the money I'd make at the con, like at any, would be water and sunlight to my games. They made a hundred-some dollars off of me, and I made a thousand-some off of them, and hooray! That's another print run.


7. On 2011-05-04, ctrail said:

I wouldn't say that airing grievances quite what I'm after, but it's close enough to the line that I think I'd rather not risk being a poor guest. And I think I may have found some other resources to answer the questions I had.


8. On 2011-05-04, Judd said:

I've got to admit, that although I didn't go to PAX(east) this year, I feel conflicted about going in the future because of the Dickwolves crap.


9. On 2011-05-04, Andy K said:

Judd: Yeah. As I mention on the followup blogpost:

I forgive easily (I do!) but have a really long memory. So while I can see myself going to PAX, and can see maybe the possibility that Jerry or Mike might eventually grow whatever part of the brain is responsible for Human Empathy and begin to understand what they did, I'm really not as hot on them or their community (well, at least the part saying "Yeah, F those whiny Raped People!") as I used to be.


10. On 2011-05-04, Simon C said:

Mang, the comments thread on that podcast is hilarious. So many dudes who think they're the *first one* to raise these *serious concerns* because they're not sexist, they're just such *reasonable guys*.

Like all of these women don't hear the same brainfart comments every fucking day.


11. On 2011-05-05, Judd said:

Yeah, the comments on the podcast show the reason why such a podcast is needed.


12. On 2011-05-05, Simon C said:

Oh! One of the comments did bring up an interesting thing though: Rape in Poison'd.

I'm emphatically not saying that Poison'd is a bad/anti-woman game for the way it treats rape, but it's for sure one of the reasons I haven't played the game. I don't know if there's a way I could enjoy that.

I think for me, as a feminist I'm really aware of narratives around rape and how many problematic interpretations and representations of it there are, and that makes me think it would be hard to include rape in a game without being distracted by that analysis.

I dunno though. I haven't played the game so I might be wrong.


13. On 2011-05-05, Vincent said:

I do think you're wrong!

I think that any long-term solution to the problematic way rape's represented to us has to include thoughtful, critical, compelling, and careful representations of rape. Avoiding rape as a topic for fiction isn't a solution to the problem. In fact it'd leave the problem unchallenged.

Poison'd has some things to say about rape that are really worth your attention. It'll stand up to your analysis - even reward it.

On the other hand, god knows, nobody should play Poison'd who doesn't want to. Including you!


14. On 2011-05-05, Simon C said:


Fair enough! Maybe I will play it! I think I know you well enough to take your word for it.

I mean, it's possible I'd still find that exhausting and difficult, and I'd want to be really careful about who I played the game with. But ok. I buy it.


15. On 2011-05-05, Chris Chinn said:

I think one of the issues that gets overlooked a lot in these discussions about problematic material is the context in which it appears.

If we're playing some game that's fluffy PG-13 kind of thing, and rape (or whatever heavy, problematic thing) shows up, the question that's sitting on the table is "Why is this showing up, in this game, and what made you think it was a good idea?"

These discussions often get sidetracked into people fussing about "which things must NEVER be included" instead of talking about the real issue- the people at the table.  I mean, most of the stories of this kind of stuff showing up in play?  The game text mentions nothing of it, so this is a people thing.

The one thing games like Poison'd, or Steal Away Jordan, do, is they let you know pretty quickly what the heavy stuff is, you're going to be dealing with.  You can decide, if you do, or do not, want to do that with your escapism, right off the bat.

The question is not the magical list of forbidden subjects.

The question is, in context of the podcast, "What are all these problematic things in the culture of play, and how do we deal with them?"

(In context of designers, the question is different- how do you produce the space and give tools for players to handle whatever subjects you're putting in your game.  Sometimes that comes down to an upfront warning and leave the rest to them.)


16. On 2011-05-06, Ben Lehman said:

Indeed, as Chris says, it's a question of audience. Playing with a table of rape survivors, you may very well end up with people who are, uh, very interested in rape as game content. But the key is social contract: are the people are the table willing to go there?

There's a thing here about stretching boundaries, but before you can stretch someone's boundaries you need them to trust you.



17. On 2011-05-06, Simon C said:

The analogy that comes to mind for me is juggling (fun fact: I used to work as a clown).

Juggling three balls is easy. You can do tricks and stuff. You need the balls to be evenly weighted and the same size.

With a bit of mental effort, you can juggle tougher things, like clubs or rings. If you're really paying attention, you can do one club, one ball, and one ring. Not for long though, it's exhausting.

What really screws things up though is if you've got one ball that's much heavier than the others. It throws off your rythm, and you're spending so much effort keeping that ball going that you lose track of the others.

Rape in games kinda seems like the heavy ball to me. It's not that it's impossible to do anything worthwhile with it, just that it's such a heavy subject, weighted with so much idological baggage, it's hard to keep it in play alongside a bunch of other issues.

That's my intuition, anyway. Possibly in actuality it wouldn't work out like that. Rape mostly doesn't happen in the games I play.


18. On 2011-05-09, Vincent said:

Simon: Yeah, I get that that's what you're thinking. What do you make of Chris' comment? It seems to me to answer yours pretty well.

Let me just reiterate, too: Simon, you probably shouldn't play Poison'd, unless something comes over you and you find that you really want to. Also, you probably shouldn't watch The Devil's Rejects either.


19. On 2011-06-04, Todd said:

Chris asks: ""Why is this [problematic material] showing up, in this game, and what made you think it was a good idea?"

The thesis of the Walking Eye podcast (and of the discussion here) is that privilege is the reason why.

And thus the remedy is to be mindful that others may not share the safety of your privilege.

Sound advice.  But what happens when every care is taken to be considerate—to establish a healthy social contract and safe space—yet offense is still taken?

If the offended party is taken by surprise at her own reaction to a situation, how can the players who offended her be faulted for having taken her words at face value—faulted for having played within the explicit boundaries which she established at the start of the game?

(Especially when she gives no indication that she was offended, or any chance for the other players to make amends, vanishing without explanation. )

Elizabeth took responsibility for her share of the problem in her telling of the Fiasco story, but her roundtable cohorts argued that her self-assessment was wrong: that her reaction was 'completely valid' rather than 'the coward's way out'.

Ever since then, there has been a snowball of hearsay—in the Walking Eye comments section, here, elsewhere—from the home audience, all disregarding Elizabeth's own firsthand assessment of what happened—in favor of the version they imagine must have occurred.

Where's the checks & balances on this privilege thesis, to keep it from devolving into fuel for an irrational mob?  Wags such as Simon C and Judd, above, have declared that dissenting Comments are categorically tainted as proof of privilege, to be sneered at, rather than regarded as face value attempts to establish common ground and trust.


20. On 2011-06-06, Vincent said:

Todd: There's no certainty or security. You can never be sure you're doing the right thing or that you've done the right thing.

Checks and balances are unreliable, wags will sneer, irrational mobs will find fuel, you might offend someone even though they promised you that you wouldn't, they might not tell you what you did, and people still might think that it's your fault. All you can do is weigh your own conscience against the reactions of the people around you, case by case, with as much integrity as you can manage, case by case.

Only God can judge fair from unfair, and He probably doesn't exist.

That's life! Good luck to us all.


21. On 2011-06-06, Simon C said:

Hey Vincent,

I totally didn't see your reply to me at the time you made it.

Chris's comment makes sense to me. I'm totally not of the opinion that rape must never ever be the topic of fiction. It's just about my personal ability to enjoy something in a game.

I watched House of 1,000 Corpses and it was basically the worst thing ever. Like, I wasn't shocked, I just got really sad and annoyed. I will take your advice on The Devil's Rejects.


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