Roleplayers are a diverse community and because of that we often need to be even more tolerant of each other. However, we also need to take a stand in order to ensure an empowering, safe and inclusive environment for all gamers.
Throughout the years I’ve played roleplaying games with all kinds of people and most of them are great and decent human beings. There have, of course, been a few that I decided not to game with again, that for some reasons didn’t fit my playing style or simply showed some behavior that I didn’t want to have around me. There was once this guy that ate his character sheet after his favorite character got killed, and another guy that showed up with a knife and threatened the other players, and finally a guy that tried to make every encounter with NPCs of the other gender evolve around sex and rape (you might notice that these were all guys).
Of course, most of these were extreme cases. However, it also shows that the roleplaying community is diverse and has its problems, just as any other community. But, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, we also have a rather high number of people that have poor social skills and find the inclusiveness of the roleplaying community more forgiving of their short-comings.
We should continue to be like that. For many people, roleplaying games are both the training grounds they need to learn better social skills and to find people whom they can relate to. We must however to be vigilant and aware of gamers that corrupt and abuse this inclusiveness. I recommend that you read up on the Geek Social Fallacy.
The roleplaying community has been changing rapidly in the recent years. When I was starting out the only gamers I knew were white cis males. Today, this is not so. Though female players are still a minority I’m seeing more and more female players year by year. The same might be said about people of non-binary genders, different sexualities and color.
There are however still a few guys out there, who refuse to partake in games where there are female players or gay players or whoever that isn’t like themselves. If the only way for you enjoy a roleplaying game is to be with people who are exactly like you, so be it. I can only speak for myself, but in my experience the more diverse the group of players is, the more interesting and fun the game becomes.
But then there are those who are like predators in this environment. Who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Persons who attack, abuse and hurt people or groups of people. Persons who do not have a positive influence on the community. People like Zak Smith.
Stand with Mandy
When the Vampire V5 was published I learned about Zak after reading the Dogs with Dice blog. Though the blog was rather wordy it posted some serious questions, which White Wolf and later Paradox needed to respond to and later did. After reading the blog I decided not to buy this new edition of Vampire, though I am an avid fan of Vampire the Requiem and was at the time interested in the new game.
After reading through Mandy Morbid’s Facebook post, I felt really sad. For her and all of Zak’s other victims. And I was angry. At myself for not taking a stronger stand in the article where I wrote about the Dogs with Dice blog. Because we need to take a stand.
In order to ensure that the Roleplaying community continues to grow, we need address things like this. We need to address why women refrain from entering roleplaying conventions. We need to address how we portray minorities in roleplaying materials. We need to address all the things that can lead to a single person feeling shamed, left out or marginalized. We need to address all the things that set us apart but remind ourselves of all the things that bring us together.
It has nothing to do with being a social justice warrior. It has nothing to do with political correctness. It has everything to do with being a decent human being. It has everything to do with making sure that we all belong, and we are not tolerant of those who make us feel apart, abuse or threaten us or promote behavior or opinions that are straight-out harmful. That’s why we need to stand with Mandy.
Don’t be a jerk
I believe that anyone that has been an active member of the human race has experienced on one or more occasion feeling hurt and to have hurt another person. After all, it is inescapable. How we respond to it is what shows really who we are and what we’re made out of. Are we willing to forgive? Did we ask for forgiveness or say that we are sorry?
It’s ok to make mistakes, to err and to be human. But, as I often tell my children, it’s not ok to not learn from our mistakes and keep repeating them.
In the Icelandic roleplaying community on Facebook we have a simple rule: Don’t be a jerk. It entails everything you need to know about how you should conduct yourself in that environment. We might be different, we might have different opinions, we might not like each other, but in spite of that, don’t be a jerk.
I think this is a great rule. It’s more or less the same as the Golden Rule for Christians. Confucius wrote: Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself. Every religion, every culture has a guideline like this.
As the last days have shown us, however, we need also to be more aware and vigilant, in order to preserve all the things that are good in the roleplaying community. Therefore, we should try and be not jerks, but also take a stand against those who are jerks.