Next Week: The Random Fangirl Live!

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, mostly because I’ve been plugging away at the job search and working on various other projects. Among those projects, however, is a little talk I’ll be giving at Women in Games Boston next week. I already wrote up a description for WIG, so I’ll just repost it here:

In recent years, the transgender community has become increasingly visible, with singers, soldiers, journalists, game designers and more coming out as trans, and trans activists of all ages crusading for equal rights around the world. With numerous trans people involved in the geek and gaming communities, you may easily find yourself interacting with members of this diverse community as co-workers, employees and fans.

This month’s talk will offer a basic overview of transgender identity and a primer on preferred terminology (as well as a few words you should avoid like the plague) before explaining how you can help support your trans co-workers, how you can be the world’s best boss to trans employees, and how you can build trans-friendly and trans-inclusive games. We’ll also touch on games and blogs that can give you some insight into trans identity and the struggle trans people face every day before moving on to an extra-long Q&A to address any lingering questions.

Last I checked, there were still tickets available, and the event is free, so if you live in the Boston/Cambridge area and want to come see me speak, reserve your spot today. We’ll be downstairs at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square from 7 to 10 pm next Tuesday, July 30th, and I’ll be going on at around 8. WIG Boston is a safe, open, accepting space that welcomes women and allies of all backgrounds, whatever their connection to the video game community (developers, students, journalists, fans, you name it), so as long as you conduct yourself according to the party policy, you’re more than welcome to attend.

Want me to speak at your event? Feel free to e-mail me at cassandra dot lease at gmail dot com and I’ll be happy to discuss the details.

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!

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.

Local Scene: GLBTQA Gamer Meetup – 4/6/2012

Since this thing’s already started blowing up on Twitter (I have awesome friends), I suppose I’d better promote it here as well. This year, I’m organizing the second annual All-Ages GLBTQA Gamer Meetstravaganza (don’t worry I am not actually calling it that) in connection with PAX East. Note that this is in connection with the convention, and not actually a con event – there are plenty of awesome people who aren’t attending PAX, and I wanted to open this up to every gay, bi, trans, asexual, queer, questioning, or simply GLBTQA-friendly gamer and game developer in the area.

I’m still working out the details (and may have some exciting news as we get closer to the date), but for now, I can tell you that it will start at 6 pm on Friday, April 6th and go until about 9. Darius Kazemi has graciously volunteered some lovely space at Bocoup, just a short distance from both South Station and the BCEC and we plan to have food, non-alcoholic beverages, and Rock Band. I’m certainly looking for volunteers and sponsors, so feel free to e-mail me at cassandra dot lease at gmail dot com if you want to help in any way.

I’m capping this event at 80 people, as that’s pretty much the maximum comfortable capacity of the space, so please be sure to register ASAP. I’m also attaching the FAQ I posted on the PAX forums.

I am so frakking excited for this event. I am Kristen Bell faced with a sloth excited, which is pretty much going to be my yardstick for maximum excitement until it stops being hilarious. I really hope to see you all there.

How can I help?
Bless your heart. I’m going to need volunteers for setup and cleanup. This will probably mean arriving up to an hour before the event and staying up to an hour or two afterward. My budget is really, really limited, but I’ll see if I can do something special for our volunteers in return.

Aside from that? We’re going to need some stuff. A drum set for Rock Band. An extra guitar controller. A keyboard stand, with or without keyboard (I can supply the keyboard). Extra mikes for harmony parts. Soft drinks and/or juice. Veggie platters. Possibly other kind of platters. Maybe some sweet stuff, like a cake or cookies or a bowl of candy. Coolers. Ice. If you can volunteer these or other resources, please let me know.

No booze? Boo!
That’s not really a question. But yes, sadly, no booze. There will be people under 21 at this party, and I do not want to deal with the logistics of serving alcohol in that situation. The big gay party at the first PAX East was a 21+ affair, and while I didn’t attend and wasn’t involved in organizing it, I felt bad that there were attendees who were left out. When I organized the 2011 meetup, I was determined to open it to all ages. That determination hasn’t changed. That said, if anyone else wants to organize a 21+ GLBTQA affair at some other point in the weekend, go for it! I’m not saying you can’t drink, I’m just saying you can’t drink here.

What if I bring my own alcohol?
Please don’t. Again, sorry, but that opens up a can of worms that I don’t want to deal with. You are welcome to drink before the event (though…please don’t show up obviously drunk or high, as this may make other attendees uncomfortable) and certainly welcome to keep the party going at a bar afterwards, but I want to make this event a safe, comfortable space for everyone. By the way – that goes double for illicit drugs. Please don’t bring them. I don’t think anyone here would, but that would cause serious trouble.

I’m bisexual, can I still attend?
Yes!

I’m transgender, can I still attend?
Yep!

I’m still figuring out my sexuality, can I still attend?
Indeed!

I’m asexual, am I welcome?
Completely!

I’m straight but gay-friendly, can I still attend?
Indubitably!

I’m gay, can I still attend?
…I…uh…what? Yes.

I’m a honey badger, can I attend?
Are you a gay, trans, bi, asexual, questioning or GLBTQ-friendly honey badger? If so, yes. But please don’t maul anyone.

I’m not really into labels, can I still attend?
Look, seriously, as long as you’re down with the GLBTQ crowd, aren’t looking to troll us, and don’t harass anyone, you’re welcome. In the words of Wil Wheaton, just don’t be a dick.