25 June 2008

Getting ready for GenCon

JiffyCon, yay! I did two games of Tales of the Fisherman's Wife, which went amazingly well. I got some excellent feedback, and when we go to Maine next week, I hope to spend a nice chunk of time working on the TOFW text. I'm going to take it to GenCon as an ashcan and be part of the Ashcan Front booth.

I also got to play Steal Away Jordan as a player and not GM for the first time. My character was a 30 year old pregnant runaway seamstress, and one of my goals was not to give birth on the road. I completed my tasks and failed at my goal. Evan Torner, the awesome GM ran a game that was the funniest Steal Away Jordan ever. It was certainly a tragicomedy. There was a sacrificial suicide, a haint induced birth (my character's), a terrible betrayal which caused another character to get caught (we were runaways), and the hope and promise of freedom for a nine year old. It rocked! I like playing my game!

I'm also going to be working at the Indie Press Revolution/Forge booth, working the cash register and stocking the shelves. I will not be demoing Steal Away Jordan. SAJ is my first attempt at game designing, publishing, and selling. What a long strange trip this past year has been. I mean that in a 75% good way, and the 25% unpleasantly strange trip has been character building, to say the least.

All that to say that I do not plan to demo Steal Away Jordan at GenCon. First, logistically it just wouldn't be fun. I really want to push Tales of the Fisherman's Wife. Demoing is emotionally and physically draining. This GenCon I want to work my ass off and have fun, too. Secondly, demoing Steal Away Jordan is particularly emotionally taxing, and not in the positive character building way.

Okay, I'm going to say it, and gentle reader, especially you gentle gamers out there, please don't take this the wrong way. I am well aware that SAJ is not for everyone. I get that some folks out there find it off-putting to game race, and no matter how many times I deny it in a podcast, in a 15 minute demonstration of my game, race is what a good number of people will focus on even if I say, "this is a game about historical narratives and [African American] folk tales..." And I'm well aware that my skin color and gender are not typical among gamers and game designers. Last year at GenCon I felt my blackness and womanness--my otherness--more than I've ever felt it before.

Steal Away Jordan was not meant to be an "educational" game. African American history is rich in adventure, drama, and story, which to me seems to be perfect material for a role playing game of the "story game" type. It's not a game designed to make people feel bad or guilty about where they come from. Steal Away Jordan is not a game about hopelessness.

In other words, I don't want to spend my weekend explaining and defending my work (a celebration of my American cultural heritage) to people who glom on to my otherness. I was described as a "nice black lady" in one review, and my ethnicity was mentioned in several other reviews of the game. It would be naive of me to say I don't know why it matters, but the uppity part of me says, why should my race and gender matter? And maybe I'm actually a mean black lady! I don't think the writer meant it to be patronizing, but... Anyway, I'm taking myself out of the equation with the hope and fear that my otherness may be a barrier to some people's interest in reading the text and trying the game.

That said, I'm really looking forward to GenCon. I'm excited about seeing and playing with the kind people I met last year. I'm looking forward to buying some cool games and eating sushi.


Seth Ben-Ezra said...

I'm looking forward to seeing you at GenCon, too! We should play games!

Parthenia said...

Seth, you are certainly one of those people I look forward to seeing and playing games with!