I’m a white, male gamer. And I’m standing up.

I try not to take sides on the internet. As much as I love all
that it makes possible—including my work—it can be such a terrible platform for
discussing important issues. The tonal and facial cues that make real dialogue
possible are stripped away, which, more often than not, simply lead to flame wars
and intractability. Yet there are times when I simply need to get on my soapbox
and take a stand, because it’s that important. All the more as I’ve become the
de facto face of Catalyst Game Labs due to my social media work over the last
several years.

I’ve been gaming for thirty-four years; attending cons for
twenty-eight years; and working in the industry for twenty years. Beyond my
family and my faith, this hobby is my life’s passion. A nerd, a geek, a gamer:
I fit into it all and embrace it with wild, public abandon. I’ve met almost
every last one of my friends through gaming—including my wife—many of whom I
still talk with each month. Not to mention the endless, fantastic people of our
community I constantly interact with day-to-day through that social media. It’s
hard to even articulate the phenomenal joy this hobby has brought Tara and I
(and now my kids as well, as they’ve grown up enmeshed in all of it as well).

So it always pains me when I see this community I love
hurting anyone. Cuts me to the bone.

I came across an article over the weekend telling the story of
numerous horrifying, painful experiences in a hobby that should have brought the
writer as much joy as it does me. And yet there is a vile, vicious pollution
whose currents churn our hobby’s underbelly.  

(I’m not linking to the article because this isn’t about a
single person, but about the numerous posts and articles I’ve read over the
years…about the conversations I’ve had…about everyone who gets marginalized.)

I’ll admit that I almost never see such things, so out of sight,
out of mind (doesn’t make it right and I’m ashamed of it, but that’s how it’s
been in the past). I’ve been exceptionally blessed across those thirty-four
years to game with literally hundreds (perhaps even thousands at this point)
and it simply doesn’t happen around me. Yet a few times a year I hear or read
about it, as is the case of the article I read over the weekend. And of course,
in those instance, I’ll re-tweet or post a short comment to spread awareness
(did that to some uproar almost a year ago).

Yet this time felt different. It tore at me with a far greater
impact than previously. I certainly wish all instances of hearing about these
things would pummel at me with such force, but it hasn’t been the case. After a
retweet, I usually let it go. So what made this case different? Especially as
there’s another, powerfully insidious force at work here. 

I’ve seen it happen before and I watched it unfold regarding this article now.
“That seems exaggerated.” Such an innocent remark. Especially taken against the
context that you do need to be very careful about what you read on the
internet. (When I’m checking news sites, even on some of the most trusted sites
on the planet I’ll often go to multiple sites to verify events). The problem,
as I see it, is that “that seems exaggerated” can lead to “I think the author
lied about some of that” to “how can I believe any of it if some of it is a
lie?” And taken in the context of “I never see that,” the slippery slope of
dismissal has reached the bottom of the hill and the author is either viciously
attacked for “compromising her situation,” if not outright lying or perhaps
even worse, simply ignored.

Even I’ve felt those tendrils burrowing through my empathy,
hollowing out my capacity to believe.

So then I’ve wound back to the question bugging me,
especially given the possibilities that its all exaggerated: why have I felt compelled to draft up a giant post and make a public stand? Because of another
experience a few months ago.

A woman in the industry that I’ve gotten to know and respect
over the last year had just returned from a convention; a con I’ve attended and
immensely enjoyed several times. And during a conversation discussing that con, she matter-of-factly tossed out numerous instances of sexual harassment across
just the few days of attendance: ugly and incredibly brazen, right out in front
of people. Now in each case, she backed the guy off with strength and some
choice words; she certainly wasn’t looking to anyone for help, as she can take
care of herself. But it was—for me—the stunning juxtaposition of how much she
enjoyed the con (and will keep attending)…and oh, yeah, the usual sexual

Think about that for a moment.
“The…usual…sexual…harassment.” I’ve attended well over a hundred conventions all over the world. And I can recall maybe one or two instances of being
uncomfortable in all those years. And yet she keeps going to cons year after
year with  “the…usual…sexual…harassment.”
Just like the woman in that article…just like so many women….


All of that made it personal. Exceptionally personal. After
all, this wasn’t an anonymous person on the “oh be careful what you read”
internet. This was a co-worker. This is someone who in a very short period of
time I knew that if she said this happened, then that’s it. No discussion. It

So when I read this latest painful treatise, it wasn’t
some abstract: it was this woman I’ve grown to respect; it was all the amazing
women who bring so much to our hobby and have to swim through cesspools to do so—Jill
Lucas, president of FASA when I started and the best boss I’ve ever known;
Sharon Turner-Mulvihill, whom I’ve worked with across numerous companies and who
edited all my novels; our amazing demo agents, such as Tina Vo and Amanda Mitro
who make attending Gen Con so enjoyable; other industry professionals whose
work I respect and enjoy, such as Lisa Stevens, the CEO of Paizo, or the award-winning author Jennifer Brozek, or the award-winning game designer Monica
Valentinelli…the list goes on and on.

It was the thought that my daughter is just about at the age
where we let my son start to roam the large conventions by himself…and if I let
her off the leash, is someone going to grope her; going to snidely joke “old
enough to bleed, old enough to breed”; or corner her in an elevator for something even worse….
I have to make the choice of treating her differently than I did my son versus
opening her to those deep currents, to be slopped by filth?

In the end, even if the article is exaggerated—even if
numerous articles and situations are exaggerated—that is irrelevant to me. Even one instance
is unacceptable.

This. Must. Stop.

Do I think my words will make it so? No, unfortunately I
don’t. Nor am I some white knight come to provide protection. After all,
there’s strength there that dwarfs my own; not sure I’d be willing to keep
attending cons if I had to deal with the cesspools at every step.

Instead, by standing up perhaps a few men who uncomfortably
looked the other way or stayed quiet when the vile jokes fly might find the
courage to stand up as well. And perhaps just an ounce of support might be
found when a woman reads this and knows there are men who’ve long worked in
this industry that will stand up and publicly shout down such crap from the rooftops. And even if none of that happens, it’s still the right thing to do.

I’ve certainly not been perfect. I can look back across a
lifetime of con attendance and gaming and cringe now and then at stupid
comments I’ve made. And for that, I publicly apologize to any woman who ever felt as
though I didn’t respected her, or made her feel as though she is less valuable
as she is to our hobby, community, and industry.

And perhaps for that very same sense, there are men who feel
ashamed to stand up. Well shake it off. Do the right thing. Stand up. This will
only change if we shine a bright enough light down into those repugnant
currents. If we get enough people saying this is not okay we just might push
those currents down where they’re too afraid to come out any more.

Now let me be absolutely clear, here: Harassment or bullying of any
sort against anyone for any reason—be it gender, race, religion, you name it—is
not okay. And if I hear anyone around me gatekeeping with that tired old
mantra “you’re not a real gamer,” I’m gonna slap that down. Catalyst employees know this and swiftly take care of any such situations. (If anyone has
ever had any issues that were not treated appropriately by one of our employees or Catalyst agents, feel free to email me
and I’ll immediately follow up). So this filth laps onto far too many. But it
seems pretty clear to me over the research I’ve done that women, by a large
margin, take the brunt of this hurt.

For anyone that feels even a moment’s regret over any of
this, or experiences they’ve had, please spread this post. Plenty of others are doing the
same and doing it well. But we need to do it more. I’m adding my voice to
theirs to swell the chorus and shine a light on those currents.

And for all those amazing gamers that make the hobby
brilliant for millions of people all over the world, thank you!

I’m a white, male gamer. And I’m standing up.


[Posted with permission of Heather Coleman, Catalyst Game Labs Owner]

The first convention I went to was in 2007, and a few friends decided to give me a warning.

“You’re GOING to be touched by people. It’s gonna happen, so you might as well accept that now. If you’re not okay with being touched by random strangers, then you probably shouldn’t come. And it’s not just this one; ALL conventions are like that. X Convention in 3 months is bigger, so expect even more of it there, too.”

Sure enough, though, they were right. I had a lot of people come up and just hang on me or hold my hand or smoosh their faces into my boobs. (A couple just grabbed them from behind me.)

It didn’t strike me how off their warning was until a few years later. My friends made it seem like it was normal, and that you simply didn’t attend a convention if being touched made you uncomfortable. “If you go to a football game, there will be concessions; if you go to a convention, there will be groping.” To them, it was routine. But it shouldn’t be. 

I didn’t experience any of the snide comments like the author talks about, but people in general were certainly handsy.

Back then, I didn’t have a personal bubble. I’ve never considered my chest to be a private area, so I didn’t feel like I was being sexually harassed. I was fine for the duration of the convention. But that type of invasive behavior is not okay, and the problem needs to be addressed. Nobody should ever feel unsafe at a convention. Everybody has the right to their own personal space.

Cosplay is not an invitation to touch.

Cosplay is not an invitation to touch.

Cosplay is not an invitation to touch.