Mar 5, 2020

MagicGate: Toxic Misogyny Invades Tabletop Gaming

Tabletop gaming has always had its share of women-hate and male toxicity.

Sexes were historically separated from playing together for thousands of years in order to avoid licentiousness. This was simply an extension of the general separation between the sexes. By the 19th and early 20th century, at least in Europe and the US, the sexes had found ways to mingle by means of parlor games, many of which we would consider overly racy today (a great many of them involved kissing and/or groping, for example).

The last hundred years of tabletop games saw women relegated to "women's divisions" (in Chess, for example), "girls" games (aka pink and/or about makeup and jewelry), or even the kitchen in the belief that they don't have what it takes to play at a man's level. They often don't, if you exclude them from serious training opportunities, exclude them from playing against top players, diminish their desires, goals, and accomplishments, require them to deal with unchecked harassment, and require from them a fanatical devotion to play for endless hours with unwashed, excruciatingly rude, and sexist jerks. Despite this, there are always a few women who are able and willing to complete with many of the top men in any game.

I had hope that in our little corner of the world, harassment would get no worse than that, and hopefully better. While anyone of any sex might get killed playing Dominoes in a Jamaica coffee shop or throwing dice on the streets of Taiwan, tabletop games remain a relatively safe, family-friendly, and gender-mixing activity. Chess, Go, and Bridge have women's divisions, but the majority of their competitions are mixed and relatively safe. Wargaming is a men's club, but it's not toxic to women as far as I know. CCG and RPG events are/were known to attract mostly young male jerks, which scared off some women (see above) but I hadn't thought that these jerks' behavior rose to level of toxicity associated with Gamergate. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Women are not only harassed, but sexually assaulted at these conventions; the organizers and police are often unable or unwilling to help them. Apparently the CCG and RPG players who grew up  in their little boys' club are now adult enough to feel entitled and powerful enough to join the ranks of the male toxics, white nationalists, and "pickup artists", just like the Gamergate folks. And just as in Gamergate, douches post harassing videos and posts claiming that woman who complain about harassment are lying for the attention, as a result of which teeming hordes of similarly minded jerks harass them more, and more seriously. And when called on it, of course, they post endlessly, harassing everyone with why they are right and everyone else is lying and "missing the point". Ho hum, how familiar.

Seems like this behavior is getting worse, not better, and I can think of a few reasons why. I just wish that they didn't infect my hobby.