The Writer & Movements

Over the last few days, perhaps you’ve seen it, there has been a great and tremendous groundswell effort on Twitter called #1reasonwhy, followed by #1reasonmentors and #1reasontobe. For those not familiar this effort was started by a question — “Why aren’t there more female game designers?” which is a wonderful question.

And then this whole idea sort of ballooned up and became a movement. It even had some rather idiotic trolls involved, which is always nice to see (not really).

I threw my hat into the ring to be a mentor, pretty much without any prodding – it just seemed to be the thing to do. And then I thought about it, still didn’t question it, and hold out hope that someone out there in the big world can be helped by some of the things I do.

Yes, yes, you can argue that loads of people already have been helped by what I do and who I am, and while I have some great evidence of that, I still…don’t always see it. To me, it’s one thing to give advice about sentence construction or idea generation, it’s another thing to be a mentor. That word…means things to me, it has weight and a responsibility behind it.

So let’s speak a moment about some relevant things. I’m a white male, well-educated, who grew up in an affluent town and because my family had a good income I was afforded many things that others would call luxuries. But not once have I ever been told to “check my privilege” or “back off white guy” (okay, I made that second one up) because how I was raised or how I live my life does not interfere with some very fundamental ideas I have. I outline them here:

1. Every person, regardless of gender, age, orientation, race or whatever other characteristic should be able to express themselves however they want — if that means they want to make games, write novels, paint pictures, be a florist, whatever…they should be free and able to do so without harassment.

2. Every person no matter what or who they are should be able to live comfortably, without the fear being belittled, minimized, marginalized or written off. Again “just” because you’re a….whoever you are does not mean that you’re in anyway inferior or second-rate.

What matters to me is the work produced. Is the book any good? Is the art captivating? Does the food taste good? Perhaps I’m a hedonist, but to me it doesn’t matter who or what someone is – if they want to do something and it’s within my power to help them (and they ask for my help) I’ll help, to the best of my ability.

With all the labels that get either put on people, or all the labels that get self-imposed (either out of pride or guilt or whatever), it’s not my place to cement them. It’s not my place to even deal with them, unless they come up in the course of working together. (And you’d be surprised how rarely that happens). I’m not one to debate how important the label is, because to me, I don’t see a lot of these labels. I’m sure some of them have a story behind them, I’m sure some of them get propped up as shields just as others are erroneous, but I don’t really see them, and not because I’m oblivious — when I work with someone, it’s not about their gender, their race, their whatever, it’s just about the work we do together. That’s pretty merit-based. And to my mind, pretty equal.

I’m proud of myself for saying I would mentor people wanting to get started in the “industry”. I don’t know if this post aided or ruined that effort, but above all else, I wrote the truth here, and that made me happy.

I’m proud of everyone who spoke up, especially so if they don’t normally.

We’ll talk soon.

PS You’re awesome.

I went to Metatopia, this is what I learned

Metatopia was this weekend, and it was wonderful. Recordings of some of the awesome things will be available soon, and when I know where they are, you’ll know where they are.

I learned a lot this weekend, and I want to share it with you.

1. The “game industry” should really be called a “game extended family”. Everyone knows each other, addresses each other fairly casually, and for the most part, is happy to see one another. For the most part this industry communicates via social media and e-mail so the opportunity to sit in a room and talk face-to-face is a welcomed rarity.

For me, I love talking to people. I might not always do it well, and I might not always have the energy on bad days to do it, but on the whole, I do love a good conversation. (Corollary: it’s best when the other people are warm and engaging)

Last year when I was here, I didn’t have a spot in the “family”, and as a result felt like it wasn’t a family, more like a tight-knit corporate structure where I’d have to impress people in order to gain entry. And while that is still true (impressing people is always a good thing), you don’t have to keep doing it. Once you’re in, you’re in. Until you get yourself out.

Now I have a spot in several parts of the family. And it’s nice to know that I don’t have to jump over some arbitrary bar constantly to grab for attention or praise or to be “good enough” for this family.

2. A lot of people are seeking permission from the wrong sources. I met a lot of people who are trying to make their dream projects come true, in all manner of healthy and unhealthy obsessive ways. I talked to a lot of people who sought a sort of approval from those who have already “made it” as if to validate that their hard work is not a waste.

Let me say this — You are not wasting your time. Depending on your situation, you may not be using your time most effectively or efficiently, but your hard work is worth it.  Keep going.

The permission slip you need signed? It needs YOUR signature on it in large indelible ink. This is your passion, this is your love and your hard work made manifest, so when the risks come (and yes, risks will come) the decision is not for others to make and for you to rationalize, it’s for you to accept and take ownership/charge of.

As I said to a dear friend, “Who’s the boss of you and your creation?

3. Transparency, not social climbing, wins. If you’re looking to “make it” then you can’t be moving pieces on some chess board, setting up machinations for some master stroke later “when things line up”. You have to make things line up, and you do that by being as clear and open about what you’re doing.

I don’t mean you can’t keep a secret if you’ve got something in the works and you don’t want it to spoil. I mean you can’t and shouldn’t target the “big wig” in the room and try to ingratiate yourself for purpose of currying favor for later. (It’s really weird and uncomfortable to watch, let alone be a part of). What those “big wigs” are looking for is how you comport yourself because word travels quickly and depending upon behavior, you WILL get talked about, but possibly not in the way you wanted.

Honesty is key for this. This industry runs as much on word of mouth as it does relationships, and just think how you’re going to be received if your rep is one of difficulty or machinations and weird scheming?

Someone said it best like this: “If you treat this like a game that you want to win, then you’ve lost already.” It’s not a game, it’s people who just happen to all be in the same business all trying to do their best at their respective roles.

4. Don’t be a jerk. I attended a panel about not being a jerk and was blown away by the different levels of social interaction that people consider: sexism, feminism, objectification, racism, discrimination, bias….and I’m sure loads more I just can’t think of right now. Throughout the panel I would ask myself “Why aren’t people just nice to each other?” followed by “How come I don’t have these problems with people? Am I a stealth-jerk?” I’m not a stealth-jerk. I’m just a really nice guy who doesn’t think of these things because in how I play games and live my life, I don’t act in such a way as to make these things a problem. I’m also savvy enough to catch myself having a problem (not all the time, but there are people around me who can/could point it out if it were an issue).

I don’t mean to diminish the experiences or problems with all the -isms and -ations, it’s just that I don’t engage in the behaviors that propagate them. So in my scope of experience, they’re not a commonly discussed and occuring problem. Maybe they should be talked about more (admittedly, too much discussion about them makes me feel slightly queasy, only because I don’t know how to remedy all the problems immediately and permanently).

* * *  

So yeah Metatopia taught me a lot and was a great experience. For game designers, people thinking about getting into the industry and people looking to do more in the industry, I recommend attending next year.

We’ll talk soon. Happy writing.