I go to Origins for the conversations, and the winner was one of the big ad hoc roundtables on Sunday night. Great talk for lots of great reasons, but the thing that really struck me came afterwards, on the way back to the hotel. Amanda Valentine, editor to the stars, remarked on how much she had enjoyed the conversation and, notably, how much she had felt a part of it rather than excluded because she was a woman. Now, on the face of it, this was great – I’m really glad that was the case, and I can safely say that it was not because anyone made any special effort to accommodate her. It was just the sort of conversation where people are thoughtful and respectful and topics wander the map, and that’s kind of as it should be.
But my heart sank some. Not because she was wrong – she wasn’t – and not even because in this hobby it was something that merited mention. Rather, it made me think about the makeup of the conversation. It included over a dozen people at various points, only two of which were women.
This is a little disturbing to me because, up to that point, it had been a pretty much perfect conversation in my eyes. Noting that gap called out two things. The first was a blind spot on my part, and while that’s always jarring, that’s just something to live with and learn from. The second, and perhaps more interesting and actionable item, was my asking of myself who else should have been there.
See, the rub is that I actually know a number of female game designers, writers and the like, and they’re pretty awesome (and despite appearances, only _some_ of them are named Emily). Of those I know, very few were at Origins, so it would have been hard for them to get in on the conversation, which is a decent intellectual answer, but emotionally leaves me wondering if I’m just facing another blind spot. I met a lot of guys at Origins, but I can only think of three women (Amanda, who came with Evil Hat, an editor from Outrider Studios whose name escapes me and who I met in the context of speaking to her husband, and Miranda Horner, who has a list of RPG credits as long as my arm) I spent any time talking to.
It is entirely possible to write this off as a function of the gender ratio at the convention, which I presume to skew male without any real evidence to back that up. The temptation to do so is rooted firmly in the squoodgy uncertainty that dwelling on this evokes. If I think about this in terms of bringing women into gaming, it’s this huge, impossible problem.
But thankfully, that’s not it.
See, the reality is I’m a selfish bastard, and I’m in this for cool ass conversations with cool ass people. I WANT Emily Care Boss, Jess Hartley, Filamena Young, Julia Ellingbone, Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat, Amy Garcia and many, many, many, many, others to be in on these conversations because they make it more awesome. I don’t worry about the absence of women in this conversations for some abstract reason, I worry because I fear there are awesome people out there who I’m not dragging into the circle because I don’t know about them! (I worry about it with guys too, of course, but when it comes to guys, let’s just say I have a very wide shot selection.)
So, help me sate my selfishness. Who should I be following? Who should I be looking forward to dragging into crazy ass conversations at cons? Who should be on my radar but isn’t (possibly because I’m a dumbass).