Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Gaming.

I am occasionally reminded that hobby gamers, like everybody else, can include some of humanity’s best traits and some of humanity’s worst traits. Super Bowl weekend often seems to bring out the latter in droves, perhaps in a misguided effort to give all the sports fans who think it’s acceptable to mock people not interested in sports a proverbial taste of their own medicine. If, at any point in the last couple weeks, you’ve seen a comment somewhere about “sportsball,” you’ve seen one example of this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, “sportsball” posts are a mild example. A couple weeks ago, this came across my radar. (CAUTION: Long thread with some pretty toxic remarks.)  A summary for those who are smart enough to not follow the link: It’s a post where somebody describes a remark heard while in the return line at his local Target. The woman ahead of him was returning several hobby games she’d bought at Christmas for her family, and complaining about them being too difficult. Exhibiting one of the more reprehensible traits of humanity, the readers began to pile in to make fun of the woman, with only a very few wondering whether she might be selling her family short or otherwise trying to do something positive.

Cue the better parts of gamer culture: Rob Donoghue began trying to come up with a list of which 5 games might make up “Boardgaming 101.” His requirements were that the games should be able to be gifts that the recipient could open up the box, not get scared by apparent complexity, and learn to play just be reading through the rules. I was pleased to note that many of the columns I’ve already written here feature on the list generated through the comments on Rob’s post, and I’m probably going to use that list to guide some of my future selections, at least for the ones I’ve played. If you read my columns for reasons other than being related to me, the post I linked is a good one to look at, including its comments, both because of people trying to do something good in the face of others being jerks, and because some comments are from a non-gamer who gives her perspective on some of the particular titles mentioned.

The other person who tried to create a positive response is graphic designer and game designer Daniel Solis. His work actually might be a the usual audience here, because the list he started begins from “mainstream” games that you’ve probably heard of. It could probably stand a clean-up, and the drive seems to have left it, but it’s a good place to start.

I’ll close by giving Mr. Solis credit for something else: he consistently works to make hobby gaming a more inclusive hobby. He’s designed some great games with kids in mind, helped found a project to increase the inclusion of women and people of color in gaming artwork, and frequently offers general advice to people who ask. The same is true of Mr. Donoghue and all of his business partners at Evil Hat productions - although I have never had the pleasure of meeting any of them in person, I’ve followed them online through the better part of a decade, and have to describe them as genuinely Good People. I’ve never seen them say abything bad about anybody, and I hope that I never will.

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