In this, the last installment, of my analysis on the building and fostering of a local RPG community panel, we are going to explore what defines a gamer and how to create safe spaces for your local community. I have touched a few of the safe space principles in the first installment, but we’re going further in this installment.
First, let’s define a gamer. The answer is rather simple, though some would like to make it out as something more than it really is. Walk into your local game store, chances are that most of the people shopping or playing there are probably white males and most probably heterosexual. That single demographic group is what outwardly defines the term gamer, but is far from the truth. Gamers come from all walks of life and many do not fall into the stereotypical demographic above. So, as you can see, we are all gamers and there need not be stereotypes!
Many local gamers whom make up a much broader cross section of genders and ethnicities, may not find the local gaming scene as a welcome or safe place for them to be outwardly involved with. They tend to draw into themselves or into small circles of gamers where they feel safe. If you help to foster and create safe gaming spaces, you can hopefully entice some of the gamers back out into the public and to be more active.
All the panelists highlighted that a safe space and an inviting place to play was critical for creating and sustaining a local community. I wholeheartedly agree with each of the panelist’s perspective and ideas. I also support most of their suggestions that your local game store can be very much a hindrance to creating a safe place to game. In the first installment, I really focus on the idea of the local store being both a boon and the bane of this entire community.
Store owners tend to forget that there are many different demographics groups they need to try to appeal to. Not only as occasional customers, but as loyal clientele. Unfortunately, many RPG book covers, miniatures and gaming related products in general can be construed as offensive to different segments of the local gamer population. This does nothing positive for creating a safe gaming environment. Second, people that are not part of the local majority (demographically speaking) may have come in contact at one time or another with overt or event accidental bias and discrimination by local store staff, store owners or even the demographic majority. Therefore, they find these stores unsafe or at the very least, uninviting.
Several of the panelist commented that they tried to work with local stores when creating RPG communities and by doing so were able to address some of the potentially perceived issues with the store owner and did find some positive results, both with management and the customer base. Despite, this many gamers look to other locations that not game stores.
Finding a public space that is both open and inviting is the first step in creating a safe space for gamers to congregate and play! Several panelists mentioned that restaurants are good source of space and mutual relationships developed that was beneficial to both the RPG group and the business. More importantly, two things were suggested that really struck home for me.
The first was to ensure the leadership or organization staff of the gaming group was diverse in its makeup. It was specifically suggested to not have a “token” female or any other “token” representative of other demographic groups. The leadership team should be as diverse as the group itself. This not only promotes diversity and openness, but it also shows the group as a whole is committed to ensuring all people are welcome and have some type of input in how things happen within the group. The second thing that struck home for me was ensuring the message was loud and clear that any form harassment (sexual or otherwise) or discrimination was not permitted or tolerated. One panelist, I believe Jason Cordova, describe a sexual harassment situation that arose in their group and how a woman didn’t want to be seen as someone spoiling others fun by reporting it. Everyone should be empowered and unafraid to speak up when things are not right.
I know it seems like I am bashing the local game stores and in a way I am, but I do believe they are generally good places, but I support the idea that store owners, like everyone, have biases that need to be overcome. So I encourage everyone to look at their local game stores as a possible place to meet and play, but if the atmosphere is less than stellar, alternatives should be sought. To that end, there are many alternatives to look towards as a place to create, grow and foster a local RPG community.
My last point, just be good people!
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