GaymerX is a gaming convention designed by and for LGBTQ gamers, with the tagline “Everyone games!” It’s officially a fan-facing event, but many of the panels and talks were geared for game devs just as much as gamers. I took notes, and you can click here for my other GX4 notes.
GaymerX speakers: Please contact me (carolyn at sibylmoon.com) if:
- I included something you said that should not be included, or
- I quoted you without attributing (when you would prefer attribution), or
- I made a factual error (I take notes by hand, and I make no pretense of infallibility!)
Fans Vs Creators: Is There A Better Way?
(This panel primarily consisted of recollections about how fans had influenced creators and vice-versa, both positive and negative. The attributed notes below are paraphrased summaries rather than direct quotes.)
Some recollections about times when fan voices changed creative worlds:
David: After Dragon Age 2, a fan pointed out that trans people in Dragon Age had always been sex workers or played for laughs. This directly inspired the character of Krem.
Donna: Chuck Wendig was the first person to create a gay Star Wars character. There had been a lot of hints before that, but nothing stated outright. This led to forum wars, but the straight community eventually came to support the gay community, and their combined support brought gay romance to Star Wars.
Crystal: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous had the first open trans character in Pathfinder. There were others after that, but all of them were trans women. There were no trans men in Pathfinder until a fan pointed out the problem at Paizocon.
Katherine: The Baldur’s Gate Siege of Dragonspear expansion included a trans NPC named Mizhena. It became a highly toxic situation centering on the writer Amber Scott (which is a common sequence – mythologizing 1 woman developer as the person who ruined a game.) Part of the backlash included the point that Mizhena was a very one-dimensional character and not very well-written. Beamdog agreed with this assessment and made plans to expand Mizhena’s role in the game.
Tanya: Tanya (who started #INeedDiverseGames) gets constant, warm feedback about the importance of prominent POCs in gaming.
(I didn’t capture the next question, but I think it had something to do with negative experiences leading to positive impact.)
David: David kept a Dragon Age tumblr that became a sounding board. He got a question about why minorities were underrepresented and answered it. He was talking from his personal position and the company position simultaneously (which was a mistake) and the answer was not well-received, but it led to internal conversations about artist representation – maybe the default shouldn’t be white? – and changes in concept art. “When you’re a creator, the default is so obvious that it’s invisible.”
Tanya: As a fan, Tanya got to sit down with Dragon Age writer Patrick Weekes and give feedback on the characters of Vivian and Mother Giselle. She also wrote an Offworld article giving feedback on how race was handled (“In fantasy worlds, historical accuracy is a lie”). This led to a bad interaction with a Dragon Age fan who reduced her entire article to “‘You hate Mother Giselle'”. Fans should think about how they treat other fans.
Donna: In Guild Wars 2, there’s a character who’s a disabled young girl (Taimi). The disability community came out of the woodwork to cheer, and Taimi became a fan favorite. Donna got a PM from a fan about how the fan was inspired to become a game dev by Taimi. “The things you make have a huge impact on people.” On the less-great side, a hostile fan doxxed Donna because she was a community manager for Guild Wars 2.
Katherine: Katherine wrote an article on the Siege of Dragonspear (“Opinion: The Siege of Dragonspear drama and the video game community”) and got horrible article comments, including someone who attacked her for “throwing fuel on the fire”. It’s bizarre how some people demand respect even as they’re posting abuse. Why do we always treat fans with kid gloves? Developers should not be in fear of their fans!
(The panel shifted off questions and more into conversation at this point.
Katherine: There are two core kinds of complaints re: representation: people who want more representation, and people who want to maintain the status quo. The hostile fan base dominates the community conversation, but it’s time to stop treating the fan community as a monolith. It leads to frightened creators and a toxic community for non-toxic fans.
Donna: Handling toxic communities is what community managers are for. It is a skill and should be respected as one.
David: It’s difficult to watch the community attack colleagues. It leads to a huge feeling of helplessness.
Tanya: As a creator, reach out to people and be transparent. Fans are passionate about what’s being created and they want to help. The deification of game devs is a serious problem. Don’t be scared to talk to people.
David: Deification of devs and dehumanizing of devs go hand in hand.
Tanya: Fan hostility and toxic environments are chasing women, people of color, and trans people out of development.
David: Writing, QA, community management, diversity consulting – these are all skills that are underappreciated. They are skills and should be respected as such.
Crystal: Bracing for problems and backlash is in and of itself stressful, before the backlash ever happens.
Donna: In Everquest, the community is made of grognards, but they don’t hate the developers, so interaction continues. Devs won’t post in toxic and scary environments, so by making the environment toxic and scary, you lose dev interaction.
(didn’t capture attributions)
As a dev, block toxic people (or mute them, because blocking can provoke more hostility) and move on. Do not engage with toxicity. No one is entitled to your time and energy.
Communication is a skill. Practice it mindfully.
It would be a better world if we had mandatory Internet citizenship classes.