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…
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 where I feel uncomfortable. But as a woman who puts out content in the tabletop community it seems wrong for me not to say something on the topic. So I guess I’m going there after all…
Let me start by saying that I’m not a very social gamer outside of my (very small) circle and I haven’t had any personal experiences yet of feeling excluded or harassed within the board game community. But the reason I haven’t stepped outside of my inner circle as of yet 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 confront someone about it. I’m not afraid 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 tabletop gaming, and interacting with strangers. It’s The Fear.
It’s so frustrating. Why should I feel threatened? 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 so often. Because of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and other reasons that still make say ‘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 a lot of 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 we shouldn’t ignore it.
I’m no stranger to experiences of harassment and bullying, and I do not take it lightly. I’ve worked in and been involved with quite a few different industries and ‘scenes’ (I hate that word but you get my meaning) in my 33 years, and here are some personal things that I have experienced… (and this illustrates a point at the end so bear with me!)
Note: the following is all pretty grim, with themes of bullying and sexual harassment.
I have had several incidences of harassment, mainly in my late teens- early 20s but as recently as 2014 when I was pregnant. For the three years I played in my band I was subject to ridicule every time we played gigs because apparently the guys in our area didn’t think women should play guitar in public. I was verbally harassed on a bus ride home from my boyfriend’s and then tailed on the walk home by another guy on a motorbike. I had a co-worker in my first job tell people I was sleeping with him (and a slew of other lies, including a fictional date we went on!) because I politely turned down an actual date with him and he didn’t like me very much for it. And this resulted in weeks of threats, gossip and accusations from other co-workers (such as I had various STIs, I was a home wrecker etc) making my working day hell. I had to confront him on several occasions, and talk to management every single day to try to put a stop to it (which never actually happened and I left that job for a better one, so FUCK that guy and the shitty management.) I had a guy sit next to me, touch me and flash me on an empty train carriage (in the middle of the afternoon). That was the worst, but I’ve actually lost count of how many times i’ve been ‘chatted’ up, touched without consent and generally made to feel uncomfortable across my years of commuting to different jobs. I was subject to the manager at my last job telling a customer that he was going to bend me over and spank me ( and errrr I was 6 months pregnant at the time) which meant that again, I was calling and emailing HR to file complaints every single shift. He literally couldn’t stop being offensive and inappropriate in those last couple of months before my maternity leave, and I just didn’t understand why he couldn’t just leave me alone to do my job. Since having my daughter two years ago, lets just say I have become a hermit for the most part. I know you’re probably thinking that this is a ludicrous amount of incidents for one person, but this is about 17 years worth of various bullshit at varying levels right there.
I’m not telling you this to ask for sympathy or to bash men, these were very specific occasions where bad stuff happened with bad people. But it’s to demonstrate the point; I have fought against this kind of thing so damn often over the years and I just I feel like I’m done now. I’m hiding, I’m in my bubble, I’m ok with that. But when I hear of people harassing and belittling other people in my beloved world of board gaming, I am really fucking angry, discouraged and scared. And i’m not ok with that.
On a personal level, I try to surround myself with good, friendly, safe people. My aim is to attend more cons, get involved, moved past my fear and continue doing my thing. 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 I must have my guard up a bit. There we go again, it shouldn’t really be that way should it? But for me at least, and for many others that’s the way it’s always been.
I won’t change the way I dress or act, in the sense that I’m not going to stop wearing cute clothes or change my fundamentally dorky personality to fit in. If people think badly of me for those things then… okay! I know it doesn’t make me any less of a knowledgeable tabletop gamer, or an unworthy gaming opponent if I wear a dress instead of a t shirt one day, or giggle like a maniac at silly jokes. I respect others for how they choose to dress or behave if it’s not harmful to anyone. We may not necessarily click or get on like a house on fire on a personal one-to-one level. And that’s ok, that’s normal. You don’t always get on with another person just because they’re into the same stuff as you, you might not be their cup of tea and vice versa. You can just be respectful toward one another and go about your lives.
So when a person or a group of people are deliberately excluding, belittlting, harassing or targeting individuals online- whether it’s because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, appearance or background, or any number of things- what can we do? Whether it’s online, or at con or at games store, how can we move forward? Here’s the tricky part in my opinion: you can’t force people to change sometimes, no matter how archaic their views or attitudes are. You can state your point of view, try and start a dialogue, attempt to get to get to the heart of the matter… and sometimes find it just isn’t worth your energy. But you can acknowledge it is happening, and you can say ‘this isn’t ok’, talk about it and let others around you know what’s happening. Saying ‘shut up and get over it’ or ‘well it hasn’t happened to me so therefore it isn’t a problem’ is definitely not the answer. I’ve noticed this past year that more high profile designers, publishers and content creators are speaking up and spreading awareness that this is a thing and shouldn’t be ignored, and it won’t be tolerated. Sometimes (and hopefully) these attitudes will catch on and more people will become aware, and self aware, and in turn evolved ways to exist in the community will start to grow.
Don’t stand for any bullshit. These kinds of people will always exist in a community, they always have, but we can still say ‘you’re not going to get away with your shit here, it’s not going to be tolerated, and we’re not going anywhere’. Social media moderators and con staff need to be hyper-aware, and generally I think we all kind of do. I think that’s where the land lies right now; spreading awareness, speaking up and respecting each other.
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…
‘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.
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!
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….
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!