Shiny Happy Bloopers

I posted a video to my You Tube channel this week, purely just for fun and instant regret once posted, but I am not one to remove something i’ve spent time editing, once it’s done it’s done, and that’s it. It is a bit silly, but I think it illustrates how tough solo video making can be, especially if you’re often doing it with no-one else around (for the most part in my case) because you kind of have to be your own best friend and confidante, and sometimes, at least in my case, your own worst enemy too. So here’s my silly, sweary and endlessly frustrated moments from my 6 months of making videos…

My Take On The Topic of Inclusivity. Gulp.

Please note: This gets into some grim, personal stuff, and if you’re just here for the board games then it’s ok, I understand. 

I’ve been trying to write this piece for some time. This subject is difficult for me, for a number of reasons, and when I go down this path it takes me to a place I don’t want to be. But as a woman who distributes content in the tabletop community, even on a minor scale i.e. I’m not very well known, I don’t have thousands of followers or subscribers, but you get my meaning, I’m still here regardless and it seems wrong for me not to say my piece on the topic. So…I guess I’m going there after all…

For a start it’s hard for me to write about inclusivity in a sense, as I’m not a very social gamer outside of my circle and thus far I haven’t had any personal experiences of feeling excluded or harassed. But the reason I haven’t demonstrates my point; I’m scared, and that’s not right that I should feel that way. But I do. I am dreading the day it happens to me, and I’m sure it will. I feel like my time is coming, like I’ve ‘got away with it’ for too long, and when it does I’ll have to front someone up about it. I’m not shy to do that, I just hate the fact that I’d have to. So the subject of inclusivity is the very thing holding me back; from being more present in the real life world of table top gaming, and interacting with strangers. It’s The Fear.

It’s so frustrating. Why should I feel threatened or scared? I love the hobby just as much as the next person, it’s supposed to be about having fun and interacting, being a woman shouldn’t make a difference to anything. But I hear about it happening often, far too often. Not just threats and dangers to women, but people of different ethnicities, disabilities and sexual orientation being targeted. My response is usually one of ‘What the actual fuck?’ Why would somebody say that/do that/behave that way?’ But these things do happen. Perhaps not to everyone but to some people. On the other side of the coin, not everyone is putting out nasty negative vibes or doing bad things. But again, some people are. These are the people really spoiling it for everyone else and it’s our responsibility not to ignore it.

I’m no stranger to bad experiences and I do not take it lightly. It’s very much the case that in every community, every hobby, and every culture there just is a specific brand of arsehole, narrow-minded bigots and dangerous people. I’ve worked in and been involved with quite a few different industries and ‘scenes’ in my 33 years. For the three years I played in my band (in the early ’00s) and I experienced nothing but pathetic old hat sexism that showed me that there was no progression for women in rock music, at all. I worked in jobs where I was belittled and objectified, I had stand up for myself, argue my case and prove myself every single day. I have had several cases of sexual harassment, mainly in my early 20’s but as recently as 2014 when I was pregnant. To name a few: when I was 15 I was grabbed and nearly pulled into a moving vehicle. I was verbally harassed on the bus ride home from my boyfriend’s, and on the walk home after that a bloke tailed me to my doorstep on a motorbike shouting obscene things at me (a different person from the guy on the bus). Because I looked cute, it was a hot day and I was wearing a short skirt. I had a guy in my first job tell people I was sleeping with him and another slew of lies, because I politely turned down a date with him and he didn’t like me very much for it. Resulting in weeks of threats, gossip and accusations from other co-workers, making my working day a living hell. I had to front him up on several occasions, and talk to management every single day to try to put a stop to it. I was assaulted by a cab driver on my way home from a night out. I have been flashed and groped on an empty train carriage, and pestered and harassed as a commuter travelling into London. I was subject to the manager at my last job telling a customer in the store (along with several other incidents over the space of a few months) that he was going to bend me over and spank me (as this wasn’t vomit inducing enough, I was also 6 months pregnant at the time) which meant that again, I was calling and emailing HR and filing complaints every single shift. I’m not telling you this to garner sympathy or to bash men, these were very specific occasions where bad stuff happened with bad people, and I’ve met many great people before and since, men and women. But it’s to demonstrate; I have fought against this kind of thing so often over the years, and now having been dealing with a major anxiety and depression disorder in and of itself I feel like I’m done. I’m hiding from life. So when I hear of people harassing, belittling and being shit to other people in my beloved world of board gaming, I am really fucking angry, discouraged and scared.

So what’s the solution? For me personally, I try to surround myself with good, friendly, safe people. I mostly use platforms that haven’t got a reputation for people tearing each other to shreds. But really, putting myself in only safe nice places and shutting out the rest isn’t a great help, it’s still hiding. My personal aim is to attend more cons and get more involved. Get lots of advice and make sure I’m going to be around a few key people whom I feel safe with. If I am harassed or made to feel excluded, or anything negative should come my way I will be prepared. Which is sad really, but you have to be prepared and have your guard up a bit. There we go again, it shouldn’t really be that way should it? But that’s life, having to be prepared for the worst just in case. But, I will stand with anyone who feels the same way, I will unconditionally stand up for anyone who I see or hear being excluded or hurt by others. I will be there for you and I will help if you need me.

I will not change the way I dress, or act, in the sense that I’m not going to stop wearing cute clothes, or changing my fundamentally dorky personality to fit in. If people think I’m a silly tart, fine, it doesn’t make me any less of a knowledgeable tabletopper, or an unworthy opponent if I wear a dress instead of a t shirt, or laugh like a drain at dumb jokes, and it’s not hurting anyone. Just like I respect and don’t judge others for how they choose to dress or behave if it’s not harmful or nasty to anyone. We might not necessarily click or get on like a house on fire. And that’s ok, that’s normal. You don’t always like someone just because they’re into the same stuff as you, and that’s also ok. As long as you’re being respectful to each other. 

Here’s the tricky part when it comes to the perpetrators of bullying or sexism, or homophobia etc., the thing is, you can’t force people to change. You can argue your point, tell them why they are incorrect, you can spell it out in as many ways as you can think of, but sometimes you just cannot change some people, no matter how archaic their views or attitudes. But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it either, whether it’s on a forum, or at a con. But you can’t silence people either; no matter how much shit they talk. So what is the way forward? I don’t think I have a definite answer right now but I have a suggestion: Awareness. More and more high profile designers, publishers and content creators are speaking up, spreading awareness that this is a thing that shouldn’t be ignored, and it won’t be tolerated. Pretending it isn’t happening, and saying ‘shut up and get over it’ or ‘well it hasn’t happened to me so it’s not a problem’ is definitely not the answer. This is the worst thing you can do.

So my suggestion is this- wherever you’re at, don’t stand for any bullshit, defend yourself and others, be a safe person for people to interact with. Accept that even though you cannot change or silence others, you don’t have to agree with them or like it or put up with it. These douche bags have always been and will always be, but we can still say ‘stop, you’re not going to get away with your shit here, it’s simply not going to fly. If you really feel the need to be gross, racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever, check it at the door or expect that others aren’t going to put up with it.’ People who moderate forums or social media, or staff at cons need to be like hyper aware, and generally I think we all kind of do, and I think that’s where it lies right now; spreading awareness, the notion of respect, positivity, and ultimately, cliché as it may sound, being a decent fucking person to each other.

I think I’m done. I don’t think I’ve said anything particularly prolific or ‘new’, but they are my thoughts. I’ll be writing something on objectivity and the representation of minorities in tabletop gaming next week. Then I’m done, for this year anyway! Thanks for reading.

Shiny Happy Meeples Mini Gift Guide

I love the holiday season, and I loooooove buying people presents. I am a just a little bit of a master gift finder and an Internet shopping sleuth. This is the time of year I thank myself for all those random screenshots I took to remind me of a person or a store. I have a very good long-term memory and ridiculous attention to detail; I will remember a little thing that someone mentioned in the past, or perhaps something they looked at six months ago but couldn’t afford. I like to think I get to know people well enough to know what they’d like to receive.

Despite my Christmas this year being on the lighter side, I still love looking for potential gifts, and (usually) finding things that I love for myself! When it comes to board games gift ideas, there will be a ton of gift guides out there I’m sure. So, on this mini ‘gift guide’ I am featuring four small businesses/people who I discovered throughout this year and loved their products. So read on, and get gift inspired!

Armored Owl is an online Etsy store that I discovered on Instagram earlier this this year. AO sells beautiful chainmaille jewellery and accessories. One of my current favourites is this necklace, it looks very dragon-princess-like. It’s all so pretty, I can’t handle it. Here’s a little from the storeowner, Rebecca, a board game enthusiast and talented human, hailing from Chicago…

‘I got started with chainmaille 1.5 years ago at a gaming convention (Gen Con). After my husband and I took a class to learn how to make chainmaille dice bags, our interest in chainmaille took off… Soon I was learning tons of different weaves and making keychains, bookmarks, and jewelry. (And he made SIXTY chainmaille dice bags as favors for our wedding!)

After about one year of making things and working on my skills, people started asking to buy the things I made, so I started selling dice keychains at a friend’s booth at comic conventions and then I opened my Etsy shop. I’ve got an out-of-control owl collection that inspired the name, Armored Owl, plus Athena is a favorite Greek God of mine so chainmaille armor and owls seemed fitting.

Every Armored Owl chainmaille piece is created by me. Each and every jump ring is opened and woven and closed by my own hand. I work with aluminum, Stainless Steel, and copper. I use crystals by Swarovski and Czech glass beads for accents, as well as metal charms. Depending on the piece, it takes anywhere from thirty to 90 minutes to make most of my pieces. If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for in my shop, feel free to contact me about custom orders.’

You can find Armored Owl here and just for Shiny Happy Meeples readers Rebecca has offered a 10% discount code for any orders $50+ and is valid until 31st December. Use SHINYHAPPY at the checkout.

Another store that I found through Instagram is Infinite Sinn, who makes amazing home ware and clothing with gorgeous and unique fabrics. I am in love with the meeple pillows, in love! Here is a little from Cindy, the very cool lady behind the sewing machine…

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‘I’m a self-taught fashion designer in Virginia Beach, and have been sewing for about 15 years. I grew up in Los Angeles with two older brothers and a sister who would spend quality time with me by playing Duck Hunt and Yoshi’s Island, or make me memorize lines from Bruce Lee films, and appoint me the responsibility of recording episodes of Dragon Ball Z in my formative years. Now I play games like Skyrim, spend nights Terraforming Mars with friends, watch anime by Miyazaki, read graphic novels like Y: The Last Man, and fangirl over everything Star Wars. I’m a chronic daydreamer, I get lost in whatever magical world I’m obsessed with at the time and try to re-imagine their characters and objects into clothing, accessories, and home decor items.’

Visit her amazing shop here.

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A few weeks ago Eldritch Essences popped up on my Twitter and I fell in love with the store. The Lovecraftian theme is one that I can’t resist and I just really love candles okay? These scented tea lights, melts and candle ‘hex’ jars are all handmade and perfumed from scratch and come in a variety of vivid colours, with super cool scent names inspired by Lovecraft. Having spoken with the storeowner, a lovely chap from Yorkshire, England, he has some really wonderful ideas in the pipeline too, so pay the store a visit, and keep an eagle eye out for up and coming products. You can also follow on Twitter for product updates!

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So I’ve covered clothing, homeware and jewellery that I think many a tabletop gamer would appreciate, but lastly I wanted to mention a potential gift idea that nearly every board game fan could do with….

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The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming: Rules Every Gamer Must Live By is the new book from Geek & Sundry writer, mad experienced tabletop gamer and author Teri Litorco. I started reading the book this week and am really enjoying it. It’s kind of a walk-through for new gamers, introducing them to the hobby and giving guidance on how to understand and respect the culture around tabletop gaming and each other. For long-term gamers it also serves as a friendly and funny reminder on good ideas of what to do, and indeed what NOT to do when gaming. A couple of things made me think of what I was getting at in my ‘etiquette’ video the other week, only this is written with some great detail and panache, two things that I certainly do not possess in my videos! It’s also full of handy tips. I like to think of myself as a seasoned gamer by now, but I certainly do not know it all by any means! I’m probably what would be considered a non-social gamer; I am yet to host my own games night with virtual strangers, or RPG with new friends, or actually play a recent RPG, attend a con, or find a FLGS that is local and I actually like, so all the information covered in the book was most welcome to me. I also love that throughout the book there are ‘scenarios’ to demonstrate Teri’s points and as well as fun tabletop facts. So if you’re looking for a book about the hobby that is isn’t A History of Board Gaming, or a dry rehashing of stuff-we-already-know, and fancy something that is  based on a tabletop gamers real experiences then you’ll probably love this book.

You can find it on sale here.

…And that’s Shiny Happy Meeple’s Holiday Gift Guide! I hope you enjoyed reading, and happy shopping you lucky lot. Keep an eye out for my ‘Festive Fantasy Wishlist’ coming soon to my You Tube channel.

Have a fabulous holiday season!