2013 Boston QUILTBAG Gamer Meetup Is A Go!

Just a quick note to let you all know that, yes, there WILL be a QUILTBAG (gay, lesbian, bi, trans, asexual, ally, etc. etc.) Gamer Meetup during PAX East this year! Sorry for the late notice, but I’ve been scrambling to pull this together in the last few weeks and I just got the details finalized. We’re doing something a little different this year and selling tickets for a little under $17.50 a pop — said tickets include an entree of your choice, soft drinks, and dessert. You can find more information on the FAQ page here on the blog or at the Eventbrite page. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, and I hope to see you all there!

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Kicking Ass At PAX East: Your Support Means The World

Well, here we are – Thursday, April 5th. PAX East Eve. Between the Omeganaut dinner I had earlier this evening and the industry party I just got back from, my weekend has honestly already started…but the Omegathon itself still lies ahead.

I am seriously in awe of how much this means to people. How incredibly happy so many of my fellow gamers were to see me make the finals last year. How many people have told me that they’re rooting for me to win this year. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you all, and to ask you to keep the good vibes coming.

Some of you were generous enough to donate to me directly, making sure I’d be able to get stuff to eat and pick up various supplies for the con. I want to take a moment here to thank you personally – Ross, Sarah, Jeanne, and my anonymous donors…thank you, honestly, so very much. That money’s helped a hell of a lot.

But more than that…it really, really helps to know that so many people have my back. Even if you weren’t able to donate, your support really does mean the world to me. And if you find me at the con, and I’m still in the competition at that point…a kind word really will go a long way. You’ve all done so much already that I hesitate to ask for anything more, even a show of solidarity, but it helps. It really does.

You are all amazing. And I hope to do you proud. See you at the con (or, if you’re not going, on the Internet, or around Boston, or whatever). Wish me luck. You all have my love, my best wishes, and my eternal gratitude.

– Themiscyra

GLBTQA Gamer Meetup Update: 3/28/2012

The Writing Wednesdays post will be up later today, but before I get to that, I wanted to take a few moments to pass along some updates regarding the GLBTQA Gamer Meetup:

1. We’ve added sponsors! Pretzel Crisps and Vita Coco have generously agreed to provide samples of their fine products, and VitaCoco will even have brand representatives on the scene. Many thanks to both companies.

2. I’m very, very, very sorry, but preregistration is closed. I’ve literally released every ticket I could, right up to the venue’s maximum capacity, and I can’t release any more. I can’t promise any special favors to anyone who hasn’t already registered. Now, that said, if you missed out, you are still welcome to show up and try to get in. I am expecting that there will be some last-minute cancellations and no-shows. If we have room, I’ll let you into the party. I just can’t promise anything.

3. Let me add a quick related note here: if you ARE registered, please don’t feel guilty about it. Please don’t go thinking you shouldn’t come or that you should give up your spot to someone more worthy. I’ve had a few people say stuff like that to me and it’s really bothering me. Are you down with the GLBTQ crowd? Then you are WELCOME TO COME. Seriously. I am THRILLED at the response to this event. A little terrified, sure. A little sad that I wasn’t able to accommodate everyone, sure. But seriously ecstatic. Even if you’re ‘just’ an ally, this party is for you. And I hope you have a blast. And I will try to do better in the future, as promised.

4. If you’re not able to make this meetup for any reason, GayGamer.net is throwing its own shindig on Saturday night (April 7th) starting at 9 pm at Fritz. I’m actually hoping that I won’t be able to make that one, as (with any luck) I’ll be competing in the Omegathon around that time, but I’d certainly encourage you all to attend. For those of you who really wanted booze at the Friday night meetup, well…there’ll be booze at Fritz! Drink and be merry.

5. Last but far from least: donations. We’ve gotten some really generous ones and I honestly think we’re in a good place. I’m not going to turn down further donations; if we end up with excess cash, well, we can send it along to BAGLY, as previously proposed. But I don’t feel the need to harangue people about it. Which is nice, because I hate haranguing people.

I’m really, really excited for this. I am in awe at the tremendous positive reaction this event has received, and while I plan to spend a couple weeks after PAX thinking about anything BUT meetups, I can tell you that your support means the world to me and I WILL be doing a hell of a lot more with this moving forward. Thank you all. I’ll see you in a little over a week.

GLBTQA Gamer Meetup: 15 Days and Counting

TL;DR: PLEASE DONATE USING THE LINK ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OR THE LINK ON THE EVENT HOMEPAGE. I ESTIMATE THAT WE COULD USE ANOTHER 200 DOLLARS IN THE BUDGET. YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL HELP. FURTHER DETAILS BELOW.

We are now 15 days away from the GLBTQA Gamer Meetup at Bocoup, and I remain absolutely astonished at the sheer scale of this event. We are very close to the venue’s absolute maximum capacity – I had to release all the tickets (RELEASE ALL THE TICKETS!!) and I’m still getting e-mails from people who are eager to go and worried they won’t be able to. I wish I could put those fears to rest. All I can say is this: I will try to get everyone in. We may have last-minute cancellations, we may see some folks leave early to go to other parties. If you show up at the door without a ticket, I might, might, MIGHT be able to let you in anyway, but I can’t promise anything at this point.

You know, every year has brought a new lesson. In 2010, I learned that there was a need for this event. In 2011, I learned that a simple, casual restaurant thing wasn’t really going to cut it. And this year I learned that the demand for this event – particularly given its expansion to cover locals who will not be attending PAX East – is IMMENSE. I’ve also learned that there’s at least some demand for a regular GLBTQA gamer meetup in the Boston area. Well, message received, and lesson learned: planning for the 2013 meetup starts…uh, let’s call it a week after PAX, okay? I’ll need some time to recover. And I’ll look into establishing a monthly event as well, along the lines of Women In Games Boston and Boston Post Mortem. The monthly meeting will probably be a much lower-key affair: just a bunch of gamers, journalists, and industry professionals getting together to talk games at a local pub.

And as for the annual meetup? Well, let’s call it the GLBTQA Gamer Reunion. Or the Spring Ball. Or…I don’t know what we’ll call it yet. Suggestions welcome because my brain is kind of fried. I’ll start fundraising for that one right after we pull this crazy thing off. I’ll find a bigger venue – hopefully a place that will offer catering and booze to those who are of age (while still allowing those who are not of age to participate). I’ll start campaigning for sponsors months in advance. I honestly did not realize what I was getting myself into. Now I know, and I’ll do better.

Okay. That’s enough talk about the future. Let’s talk about what’s happening now. Right now, we still need money. I haven’t had a ton of luck pulling in sponsors and it takes a good chunk of change to provide drinks and snacks to a hundred people. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got, but it’s going to be tight. Just two hundred more dollars in the kitty would be a HUGE help. Please consider donating. I’ve put a link over on the right hand panel, or you can go to the event homepage and follow the donation link from there. Several people have donated already, and I truly appreciate that, but I need to ask you all to go just a little bit farther.

I also have a couple announcements to make regarding the event (and I’ll be updating the homepage to reflect this): first, Phoenix Online has stepped up as our third sponsor, offering a financial contribution as well as some swag. We’ll be showing the trailer for their first commercial game, Cognition, at the meetup, and I’m trying to see if we can show some other video as well. I’m kind of biased here, because one of my best friends (who I seem to mention every other post) is hard at work on this particular project, but I think the game’s going to be awesome and I’m excited to show you all whatever I can.

Second – and I’ve been really, REALLY bad about announcing this, and I do apologize – Alli Thresher at Harmonix, who has been a huge, huge help throughout this whole process, has told me that Johnny Blazes and The Pretty Boys, a queer soul band she sometimes sings with, will be playing at Jacques Underground the night of the meetup. So if you’re looking for a rocking afterparty, there you go. It sounds like it’ll be an awesome time.

So there you have it. 15 days to the craziest thing I’ve ever done…and I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, have done it without you. Thank you all. This is going to be amazing. And the future looks even brighter.

UPDATE, REDUX: GLBTQA Gamer Meetup, April 6, 2012, Boston, MA

As some of you may have already noticed, I’ve added a new page to the blog specifically addressing the upcoming GLBTQA Gamer Meetup. If you didn’t see my previous posts on the subject, no problem! You’ll find all the pertinent information there. I’ll keep that page up to date as new information rolls in, but I may not always post those updates to the blog, so I recommend watching my Twitter feed or checking in on the page itself every few days to make sure you catch any further changes.

I do want to point out that I’m doing my best to step up my fundraising efforts. We’re currently a little over a month away from the event and our total budget is about sixty dollars. I’m extremely grateful to our donors, of course, but I am going to need further help defraying the costs of this event. If you represent a company or organization that might like to help sponsor the event in some way – providing food or equipment or other resources, or just helping with general cash flow – please don’t hesitate to contact me at cassandra DOT lease AT gmail DOT com. If you’d like to donate privately, really, any donation will help at this point – even if you can only give five or ten bucks. I’m accepting donations through PayPal but I’m happy to make other arrangements if necessary. I know money is tight for everyone right now, and I’m doing my best to make this a fun and free event for everyone, but I can’t do this alone.

I’ve also set up a CafePress storefront. Not the most ideal solution, but it’s the fastest and least expensive way to get event merchandise out there, and I think you might find some really great items there. I’ve added a bunch of buttons and shirts featuring the various ‘badge’ emblems you’ve already seen, as well as some shirts featuring a signature design I threw together inspired by the point and click adventure games of old. I’m happy to add additional products on request. Again, direct donations will be most helpful right now, but if you’d like something for your cash, please consider buying something from the storefront. The profits, after CafePress takes its cut, will likewise go to defray the costs of the event.

And, last but far from least, I’m making it official: any excess funds left in our budget after the event will be given to the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, or BAGLY. While this organization is not really related to the gaming community (and, I must emphasize, has no knowledge of and no affiliation with this event), they are a vitally important group for local teens and young adults who are struggling with their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As a young trans woman who was in a lot of pain and turmoil in the early days of my transition, I attended BAGLY weekly, and honestly, just having a place to go on Wednesday nights, a place where I was accepted and loved for who I was, kept me sane. They deserve any support we can give them.

As always, I’m happy to talk over any questions, suggestions, or concerns you all might have about this event. In the meantime, that’s where we stand. Despite all the stress, I have to say that I am still ridiculously excited and grinning like an idiot as I look forward to Easter weekend. This party is going to be – dare I say it? – fabulous. And I thank each and every one of you for your support and enthusiasm. It’s meant a hell of a lot. I can’t wait to see you all.

UPDATE: GLBTQA Gamer Meetup, April 6, 2012

57 days to go. 29 tickets left. Holy crap. This is quite possibly one of the biggest things I’ve ever done, and I’m amazed at how quickly it’s all coming together.

That said, I’m definitely going to need some help with this one. We’ll still need to borrow or buy some extra equipment – controllers, batteries, coolers, that kind of thing. And we’ll need a whole lot of snacks, soft drinks, plates, cups, utensils and napkins. We may need some other stuff as well. I’m trying to work out some sponsorship agreements but I can’t say anything for certain yet. If your company or organization would like to help sponsor the event, or if you’d like to donate to help defray the costs involved, please e-mail me at cassandra dot lease at gmail dot com.

In the interests of full disclosure and accountability, I’ve set up a public spreadsheet detailing the donations and expenditures connected with the meetup. I’ll be updating the sheet regularly, and anyone can view it whether they’re signed in to Google or not. If you’d like to donate, but would prefer to stay anonymous, please rest assured that you can – I’ll only put your name on the spreadsheet if I have your permission to do so. The main point of the sheet is not to keep track of the donors, but to give everyone an opportunity to review the figures involved.

While I can’t say for sure if we’ll have any excess funds after the event, I’ve been giving some thought to what I might do if there is any cash left. I’m giving serious thought to giving any excess to BAGLY, a wonderful local organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied youth. I was a regular fixture at their meetings in my younger days and I think their work is of vital importance. That said, I certainly welcome feedback on this issue. If you have suggestions for alternative charities, or reservations about giving any excess funds we have to BAGLY or to any other organization, please let me know. You can comment here or e-mail me privately as you prefer.

That’s all I have for the moment. I hope to have some more news for you all very soon. In the meantime, I would definitely urge you to register just as soon as you’re certain (or reasonably sure) that you’ll be attending the event. We might have room for some extra people at the door, but I can’t promise that. If your plans change suddenly and you realize you CAN’T come, please let me know so I can release some extra tickets to the pool.

See you all in April!

Local Scene: Women in Games Boston

I ended up giving my first Local Scene post over to the GLBTQA Gamer Meetup I’m currently organizing, but I’ve actually been planning to talk about interesting Boston-area events for a while now, and the Local Scene category was pretty much invented so I could talk about Women in Games Boston. Organized by the amazing Courtney Stanton, WiG is a monthly event at one of my favorite local pubs, The Asgard, designed as a safe space for women and allies connected with the game industry to get together, talk about games, and share news about job openings, upcoming events, and various other social groups. In practice, it’s really open to most women and allies of women, whether they’re actively employed by the game industry or not – developers, testers, writers, community managers, and other game company employees, yes, but also students and people in between jobs. In fact, I’ve met a few people at these events who aren’t really in the gaming industry at all, but nevertheless share an interest in gaming and women’s rights and women’s issues and make for perfectly lovely company.

My friend Katie and I have been attending these meetings since September, and just a couple days ago, Women in Games Boston made its triumphant return from the 2011 holiday break with a fantastic night of good food, good company and great conversation, as well as a full presentation from Heather Albano, author of Timepiece and game designer for Choice of Games, a company that makes wonderful interactive fiction adventures. (Honestly, Choice of Games deserves its own post, but I have to say I’ve been trying out all their products and I particularly enjoy Choice of the Vampire and Choice of Romance/Choice of Intrigues, recently collected in an omnibus edition for the Kindle.) Ms. Albano had quite a lot to say on the way gender and sexuality impacted their game design, and their struggle to balance maximum player choice with the demands of the genre, and her notes on the design process and the revisions they made based on feedback from beta testers and active players were absolutely fascinating.

From the relative gender neutrality of Choice of the Dragon, to the decision to allow a complete gender swap in the C.S. Forester/Jane Austen-esque Choice of Broadsides (in brief: you play an up-and-coming naval officer fighting wars and seeking romance, but you can choose to play as either a male or female character; if you choose to play a woman, the Navy is exclusively female, and the men of this world occupy the domestic sphere), to the creative substitution of gender roles with a completely different array of social roles in Choice of Romance and Choice of Intrigues, the solutions were inspired and intriguing but far from perfect. Ms. Albano was perfectly willing to admit as much, and showed good humor throughout, even as she pointed out areas in which the team had, perhaps, failed somewhat and areas in which players perceived failure due mainly to their own assumptions. As an example of the latter, she recounted player feedback from Romance and Intrigues pointing out that, male or female, your character predominantly plays the ‘woman’s’ part, just as characters in Broadsides predominantly play the ‘man’s’ part, regardless of sex. In Romance and Intrigues, though you can act boldly, though you can scheme and manipulate, you are the one who is courted, not the one who does the courting. You are the consort, not the queen, nor the lord, nor the wealthy merchant. You can have a profound impact on society, but you hold little tangible power. Some players objected to that, feeling that they should be allowed to go courting. Other players have commented in the case of this game and others that there is little to no substantial difference between the male and female roles in Choice of Games’s offerings – and to an extent, they are right, though I honestly prefer it that way. Maybe I’m saying this because I’ve been spoiled by Mass Effect, but with some exceptions, I play games to escape the pressures of gender roles and other societal constraints, not to suffer those constraints all over again.

And, of course, there were players who complained about the ability to play a gay character in all those games, arguing that there ought to be social consequences to such relationships, up to and including execution. Again, I prefer games that allow me to escape that grim reality (which is, sadly, still a reality in some parts of the world – the storm raging in Uganda springs to mind) rather than games that force it upon me once more. There is certainly room for games that explore these topics, that educate players on the real horrors of homophobia, misogyny, separate spheres and other social constraints, but I don’t think we need to address them whenever women or gay people or minorities are involved, and I am glad to see that the people of Choice of Games apparently feel the same way. (The exception to the rule is Choice of the Vampire, which is written with historical authenticity in mind – it begins with the Battle of New Orleans and currently carries the player through the Civil War, and the credits for the game feature a bibliography! Naturally, if you pursue a same-sex relationship in the 19th century, you must keep it hidden; but even in the case of Vampire, there is no risk of discovery and summary execution. The dangers are noted, but the game assumes you take certain precautions. Choice of Broadsides, based as it is on Regency romance and Horatio Hornblower novels, takes much the same approach; homosexuality is frowned upon, but the game assumes a certain amount of discretion.)

I won’t try to sum up the whole presentation – if nothing else, I certainly don’t remember all of it! Hopefully Ms. Albano will put it online in some form at some point. I will instead say that this is exactly the sort of thing you can expect from WiG guest speakers: a thorough yet entertaining exploration of a truly fascinating topic. In October, Matthew Weise from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab spoke about gender politics in horror/slasher games; later this month, Alexander Sliwinski from Joystiq will be offering a crash course in handling interviews and getting coverage for your game. And, of course, there’s also the awesome people, the good food, and all the conversation and networking you can handle. If you’re a woman in the gaming industry in Boston, or a friend of women in gaming, I seriously recommend this event.

I’ve already reserved my ticket – make sure you reserve yours.