Guest post by Indie Game Designer and founding member of New Agenda Publishing Misha Bushyager.
I’m just back from Dreamation, a lovely con in picturesque Morristown New Jersey, hands down one of my favorite cons consistently. I get to reconnect with so many of the people I usually only get to interact with electronically. Saturday nights are often couch cuddle parties with my harpies and harridans around me (and a few guys we like) swapping ideas and stories about everything from makeup to games to laughing at mansplaining and more.
It did get me thinking about player bases and parity though. For reference, I played in 6 sessions worth of games. (I bowed out of my Saturday night game due to mood issues following a really poor dinner experience but that’s a rant for another time). In those 6 sessions I played with one other Black person. In the 4 tabletop slots (2 long con and 2 one-shots), only 1 game achieved gender parity but I was the only PoC at the table. In the other of the one-shots I was the only woman at the table and all of the pre-gen characters were male. Granted, I had fun at all these games, even accounting for differing definitions of fun. (I laughed, I cried, I was a poo flinging chimpanzee.)
But this is not that rare of an event for me. The first time I got to play with another Black woman at the table was at a small 50 person house con. All but one of the times was where I was playing a Black female designer’s game with her. (The 4th was serendipity and knowing both the GM and the player well.) And the fact that I’ve been gaming since 1994 and can count all the Black women I’ve played with and still not have used all the fingers on one hand is telling. If I include Black men I still only fill one hand. It’s not for lack of their existence. I’ve worked with and for other designers, but at cons their games are full, or conflict with when I’m running, or a million other ships crossing in the dead of night reasons.
This gets me to another point. Over the years I have come to recognize a few other Black women and other WoC at various conventions and I greatly noticed the absence of many of them this year. I’m not sure if circles are contracting or shifting or the Trumpian nightmare we find ourselves in has made people less likely to travel or what but I noticed. Your absence was noticed and you were missed.