Daniel & I

It is moments after I’ve conducted an interview with Vander Caballero, and I stare at the phone in my hands, silently weeping. As the tears track down my cheek, I absently wipe at them with the back of my hand, sighing in disgust as drops starting splotching my glasses. The last portion of the interview was an offer of help: if I needed to discuss my own father, I just had to pick up the phone and call. Caballero insisted he could be an ear for my own words, he would be the interviewer as I waxed on about my own life and how it has shaped what I’ve created of it.

It is moments after I’ve finished the story Papo & Yo has to tell, and I slowly look back and forth from the television to the controller in my hand, which is clenched around the controller not in grief, empathy, or mourning for the similar past I have experienced, but in anger.

PapoAngry

It is a handful of minutes after I hear the phone ring at an obscenely early hour of the morning, a time when the sun has not risen, and the only people awake are stumbling home from the bars. My mother is yelling, grabbing her keys, and is out the door, running barefoot to the bar across the street, where my father has pushed my brother through glass and is punching him as a piece of glass cuts his eye.

It is a blink and then I meow, my father standing across from me right after I’ve loaded the last of my luggage into the car. He does not realize it, but those are the last ‘words’ I will speak to him (he always hated it when I meowed). He thinks my German weaker than it is, and he didn’t realize that I understood perfectly well that he was talking to his mistress yesterday, a woman he met while getting high with the uncle who serves as the inspiration for my middle name. 2005, and I am headed off to my senior year of college, where I will eventually be part of a documentary of the different types of lives that walk across Wabash’s campus.

It is half an hour or so after the screening of Thy Loyal Sons, said documentary, and a gentleman asks if the director meant to show me in such an isolated light, or if I perhaps did feel isolated on the campus. I mumble some response about my family living on another continent, though not mentioning it is due to economic hardships. I don’t mention the alcoholism of my father’s that thrust my family into poverty and made me feel an outcast in a high school of mostly upper middle class and upper class teens. I was just busy, I proclaim, hoping to deflect any more insight into my loneliness.

It is a few months after I placed that call to Caballero and due to professional courtesy, I feel I cannot call that number. I do feel I need help, but it’s all connected, and my father is only one of those aspects. I realize Papo & Yo does and does not tell my story; it tells only a small portion of it.

It is a few seconds after I wake up in the dark. We have been living without electricity for most of my senior year in high school and I hear my parents fighting in the other room. The question is whether foods or cigarettes will see the last of the money in the bank account used. I think back to the crackers and tomato sauce I had for my last meal and debate whether or not I wish to have that meal again. My father is not an alcoholic — not only an alcoholic. My father is an addict.

It is an hour since my boyfriend has fallen asleep, and I carefully try not to toss and turn so that he stays asleep. I have been thinking about writing this piece all week, trying to exorcise whatever demons I can to hopefully put me in a more ‘positive’ mood, wondering if it will really turn a year of unemployment around and make things work this time. I wonder where the phone number to call to get my life back on track is. Slipping out of bed after kissing said boyfriend on the forehead (and gently meowing at him, imagining the ghost of a smile he’d give me), I sit to write a blog post.

Posted in Papo & Yo, personal | Tagged

Let’s Discuss: Apologies

Oh no! Suddenly your social media feeds and inbox are full of irate people peppering you with accusations of being insensitive, a bigot, all because you used a sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/etc. word, image, or phrase. What do you do?! Fret not, I will go through a list of actions you should take and avoid.

DO: Apologize
“I am sorry for <insert thing I did/said/insinuated here>.”

DO NOT: Shift
“I apologize if I hurt or offended you.”

Why?
It may come as a surprise, but people are not always collectively unintelligent. Indicating you are apologizing for offending shifts the blame on the people to whom you are offering the apology: “I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those knee-jerky, want-to-be-offended kids! Ooooo!” Instead, apologize for what you did, which can help the conversation move forward.

Note, the longer this process takes, or the more steps you toss in along the way to an actual apology, the more difficult it will be for some to take the apology seriously.

DO: Understand and listen
The world is a big place. You do not know everything. You will make mistakes. When someone is angry, try and listen to the words they are saying.

DO NOT: Think you understand
Making assumptions about what people are saying, rather than actually listening, can cause problems. If you receive a variety of complaints, take a moment to look into the common underlying themes, try searching the internet for resources, and learn what it is that went wrong.

Why?
Very few of us are perfect. When I was a freshman in college, I said some pretty heinous things to a black friend of mine regarding Egypt and its ancestry. I was just parroting back what I’d learned in school, and only a year or so later did I educate myself enough to learn of the historical significance of discounting Egypt as part of a rich narrative of black accomplishments — a tactic often used to belittle African Americans as ‘obviously’ inferior, as they had no culture that was noteworthy.

I felt like a tool. My friend was incredibly patient, and when I apologized, and explained why, he was glad that I had learned from the experience and that I had taken the initiative to educate myself (largely because he realized sometimes we have to come to something ourselves, and he didn’t want to argue over this — it was not his responsibility).

DO: Show consistent actions
It’s difficult, but once you’ve made one mistake, people will look out for others. If you take what you hopefully learned and make sure to educate anyone else on your team about this, slip-ups may still happen, but you can easily and quickly rectify course on the matter in the future.

DO NOT: Apologize and go do it again and again and again
Drat! We totally just did the same thing again a month later. Oh no, now we’ve happened to do this wrong! It’s a cascade!

Why?
Just because you apologized, someone does not have to accept it. By showing consistent actions, you can help repair any harm done. The focus is not necessarily to make sure everyone likes you, it should be to do no harm. That person who won’t accept the apology may never come back, but you can make sure you do not replicate that instance.

Also, whether unfairly or not, the internet is a place that can dredge up past mistakes. If you’ve been suffering foot-in-mouth disease multiple times over a short period of time, it will be that much easier to bring up past mistakes and transgressions. Remember that bit about learning? Please go look over that again.

Again, we all make mistakes. The question is whether you genuinely apologize and see what you did as wrong, or if you dig in your heels and alienate potential customers, friends, users, or whatever your case may be. While the impetus for this is the numerous game companies I’ve seen this apply to, I believe it is much more general than that.

Posted in Community, Inclusiveness, Politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Love Life Released

Content Warning for HIV/AIDS and related deaths.

For a while now, off and on I’ve been working to create Love Life. This was an idea that grew out of one of Corvus’s Blogs of the Round Table, back in 2009. I keep coming back to it to tweak it, but international moves and not-nice recessions have made it something that almost feels a luxury to spend time on in any way (on the other hand, I get excited about people playing it). It was played once in 2010, though the approach was less than serious, and I have made some tweaks since then.

For the past month, I’ve been tweaking it more and more, and having various people test it and report back to me. I cannot promise this to be the final version (as I see how people tweak it themselves when more people play — I do hope people play it).

Without further ado, here are the instructions (and its new, permanent home is here):

So, what you need to know:

First, this is a game that requires storytelling. If such makes someone with whom you are playing uncomfortable, or if they are not the type to want to engage in such in front of other people, please be aware that it may make the experience not as engaging.

Players: 2-6, split off in pairs. You will be playing couples. Choose who you are (i.e. student, CEO, politician, activist, vagabond, criminal, etc.), how you relate to your partner, and then get ready. I would like you to try it with non-fantasy people.

Necessary components: These rules. The board (to be printed, at the bottom of this post). A d6. Tokens for each player.

Setting
: Between the 1980s and ’90s. Pick anywhere from 1981 to the end of the millenium. Can be anywhere, but all couples are in the same geographic location.

Gameplay
: You are telling a story. The goal is not to win, but to tell your story. The game ends when everyone has told the story they wish to tell.

Rules:

Start: Everyone starts at the top of the board (the board has two lines that extend: choose one to be the top). The board itself indicates time passing. The right half can be morning to noon, the left can be noon to evening — use this to help guide your storytelling, though you do not have to rely on such.

On your turn, one of you will roll the d6, which indicates how many spaces your couple will move (move both tokens). The color you land on indicates what this part of your story will be about (you decide whether it is positive or negative):

White (&): Relationship-oriented
This can be a date, anniversary, sex, conversation — something that tells the story of your relationship. Does not need to have both people be active participants equally (can be jealousy, neglect, surprise gift, marriage proposal, etc.).

Blue (#): Education-oriented
This is general knowledge gathering or education of some sort (is one of you in school, perhaps?). Training of some sort, a class, etc. You can do this together, or individually.

Yellow ($): Wealth-oriented
Anything to do with money. Inheritance? A raise? Pay day? Money woes? Bills?

Red (!): HIV/AIDS
A chance for one of you to test positive for HIV. Upon landing on this space, roll another d6. If you roll a 1, choose on of you to test positive. From now on, when rolling to move, the partner with HIV subtracts one (1) from the roll and moves separately from their partner. If a 1 is rolled, they do not move.

The rest of the journey for this couple is the time period during which the one partner develops AIDS. You will often have two different space colors, so can mix and match how your stories are told together, or tell them separately. From now on, when landing on a red space, roll the d6 again to see if the other partner tests positive for HIV as well. This partner does not have the same movement changes.

Once the uninfected player passes their partner, the lagging partner dies of AIDS complications. Once this occurs, the partner is alone on the board. The players can decide if they have a new partner, or continue solo.

Additional rules:
When landing on the same color, and on the same half of the board as another team, you are encouraged to join in on the story the first couple told. Be creative. Do not try to ruin their story: add to it. (For example, if the previous couple had some adventurous sex, one of you could have spoken to the other couple about it, and wants to try it with your own partner. Or you could be all in the same restaurant on a double date.)

Board:
Below find both an already colored in version of the board. If you feel adventurous, you can color your own board, using your own symbols, or the ones I have outlined in the rules.

An already colored board for you to print out.
An already colored board for you to print out.

Blank Love Life Board (PDF)

If you have any feedback, or wish to relate the story you told, I’d be happy to hear it!

If you appreciate the experience, a donation would also be lovely.

Posted in Love Life, My Games

My Issue Is With Gearbox

Hemingway said some stuff. It’s an indication of a wider problem with casual sexism, sure.

I’ve slowly been building anger over how the issue has unfolded, but largely because there is a request from some quarters that the tone of the argument be dialed back a bit for an honest mistake. Perhaps? There are arguments to be made about what tactics work best when, though I tend to view it as take all the approaches, use what works for you (I do not operate under the assumption that all activism is to win hearts and new recruits: sometimes it’s just to give myself some fuckin’ catharsis), and let others sort it out. No movement is ever one with one brilliant tactic, after all. You didn’t build it on your own and all that jazz.

No, the issue is that this is a year where we have seen constant furors over issues of sexism and general cluelessness when some privileged party says something insulting and is surprised when they are called out on it. While there are certain folks who want to hand wave this as everyone just being too “Politically Correct,” I’ve stated my opinion on this asinine defense and stand firmly behind it. It reeks of hand wringing and whinging by people who don’t see what all the fuss is about, and can’t we just focus on the real issues here?

However, on top of this, I don’t have much patience when it comes to Gearbox opening its maw and firmly sticking its foot in there, slavering over it in some disgusting display of its sexual politics. Considering Duke Nukem in general or its use of fags as hur-hur we made an ‘edgy’ joke that has no relevance or real context? Or taking journalists to a strip club as a press event? While I applaud the addition of Ellie as a seemingly positive portrayal of a plus-sized woman who doesn’t give a shit, I’m still wary of the company’s overall culture and marketing.

Therefore, it isn’t about making sure Hemingway has proper PR training. That’s just admitting that we need to put a piece of furniture of that nasty stain on the carpet. Let them air their opinions so I can rightly decide how I wish to approach their company. They also do not have a blank slate, and if they want people to not throw the word sexism around, they might actually want to work at combating that label.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , ,

Marriage Equality

When I was seventeen I started up a LiveJournal. Part of the reason behind this was I had a close friend with whom I IMed, and he would constantly send me links to his, so I wanted that social aspect of it; the other part was that I wanted a place where I could just dump my thoughts, every thought no matter how inconsequential. There was also wanting to record my life in a diary of sorts. Among my first entries was despair that I knew the country in which I was living had no care for me in its systems of equality for discrimination, marriage, or life.

Eleven years later, I am not entirely sure whether my opinion is more favorable, though the needle for such equality has surely shifted toward my desires a bit. Of course, the difficulty is that I myself have changed, and what I believed about life, love, and the world at the age of seventeen does not hold true for myself at twenty-eight. I now find myself at an odd intersection of holding opinions that don’t hold up well on a national stage because they are not simplistic enough, and are generally not regarded in the fight for marriage equality.

Here’s the thing: I believe in marriage equality. If we’re expanding that beyond just same-sex marriage, I also believe in marriage beyond just two consenting adults, to include polyamorous relationships.

I also don’t believe in marriage for myself and never plan on getting married (I say plan because I already know how I can change in eleven years). Instead, I would prefer a system whereby I could choose to enter contractual agreements with any close friend, and end them just as easily.

In the past I’ve had roommates with whom I would have wanted to share such, particularly as I have no close relatives anywhere near me in the country. The longer I look at it, the more I wonder what marriage’s function in society is anymore.

The exchange of property? Ensuring a place for a woman in society? Finally giving into to literary romantic themes of love? Keeping together a family and encouraging it to stay together?

It’s an institution I just don’t see fitting anything I desire, even if I do want a long-term committed relationship. I just do not see that desire for a relationship meaning I have to enter marriage to ensure that I can share all manner of benefits others can have simply by signing a document. It seems a bit daft, really.

In my increasing desire to understand the world and privileges around me, I wonder why we give so many benefits beyond just hospital visits and the like to a couple that is wed. I would like to see more debates on what marriage means in these contexts. I certainly haven’t figured out my own feelings towards this, but entering the debate is quite draining these days.

As that is a conversation that will not be happening, and I do not absolutely oppose marriage (the benefits are benefits, and we make do with what we can), I find myself fighting for marriage equality for the LGBT community.

The other part of it is also naturally that I do find myself a bit at odds with cultural norms and expectations. I have been fascinated by the history of the LGBT community in the past, where groups existed that believed we did not have to conform to the relationship power structures that existed at the given time. We did not need have the same families, lives, and expectations. Being queer was a celebration of the fact that we could break from the mundanity of what was expected to be a contributing member of the world.

This desire of mine is a desire of mine, and even I must eat. I want to contribute to society, though I often find myself (even when I do have a job) valuing my outside hobbies and volunteer work as more defining of that contribution. Life is full of compromises, and other such adages. Though I say the desire is mine because I recognize there are many who just want to be a part of society, feel welcomed, and to live the lives they were promised growing up.

It was in my sixth grade social studies class that my teacher talked about how the average family unit in the US has 4.2 family members, and in my mind, I pictured having such a family. When I was disillusioned of the fact that I would grow up to have a wife and children, I realized I had no interest in the dream at all. There are times where I wish I could have held on to that vision and pursued it, even if just changing out a wife for a husband.

I am often critical in my life. Of the institutions around me I think could do better. Of the communities for whom I believe the same (and the LGBT numbers among those). And of myself. However, while I can critique the institution of marriage and how we privilege couples over individuals, I find that I want to support those who want to be a part of the system that currently does exist.

In another decade, perhaps I’ll join them. Or perhaps I shall remain a stubborn, curmudgeonly single gay male writer who thinks and opines too much.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Gotta Keep ‘em Segregated?

Back when PAX was being started, I recall that it was frequently said this needed to exist to fulfill a need. E3 was not for fans, necessarily, being focused as a trade show and somewhat difficult to attend unless a journalist or in the business. PAX, and later PAX East, was meant to give the fans a convention to attend that was for them. The focus was on them. That need was being filled.

This week we saw the launch of GaymerCon’s Kickstarter, and I have been happy to see the games news outlets covering it. Having attended other conventions where I had fun, but was aware of my own presence and who I represented at the time (GayGamer), GaymerCon sounds like a place I  wouldn’t have to debate whether my identity is an issue. I do have further questions about it, but as it hasn’t fully formed, I am willing to see what it has to say about harassment policies, how it plans to cater to the full spectrum of the LGBT community, etc.

When I wrote ‘Yes, It’s Fucking Political‘ earlier this week, I was making the point of my mere existence in non-LGBT spaces being political. When I attended PAX East and E3 in 2010, I was quite aware that I was representing GayGamer. Thankfully the PR I dealt with never blinked, had anything to say, and when it was remarked upon, it was friendly and led to more conversation. Among some other press that were there, I was the odd man out, however. Particularly as the games I covered included Assassin’s Creed II: BrotherhoodGears of War 3, and Bulletstorm. Machismo galore.

This mostly manifested in trash talk that was at times specifically aimed at me and my outlet, due to assumptions about my gaming capabilities. It created an atmosphere where I felt I had to prove my right to even be there with other outlets, which left me a little sour about the affair (I more than excelled, but I shouldn’t have to feel the need to do so).

What has been curious about some reactions to GaymerCon is the perceived ‘segregation’ that gay people are trying to establish in games conventions. This argument confuses me, because GaymerCon sees an unfulfilled niche and need and is trying to fill it. This really is not too horribly different than when PAX formed, but instead of just being focused on fans in general, it wants a place that is specifially LGBT-friendly. This is not segregation, it is safety, it is comfort, and it is community.

It may be difficult for those not in a minority to understand not necessarily feeling safe due to one’s perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, but it is a very real thing. However, even in an ideal world where discrimination, hate, and long lines coming out of Chick-fil-A to prove a point weren’t a thing, there would be nothing segregationist about wanting a convention for LGBT people.

There have always been LGBT people who stuck out and sought to be just outside of societal norms. Increasingly we see LGBT people also trying to fully integrate by having traditional family structures (monogamously married with kids), passing fully in society, etc. I am not one of those people, but I understand why they wish to do so. I also understand that due to my rejection of such, I am often in a position that I find myself wanting to go to specifically queer events so as to find others like me.

That’s what this is about. A safe space to find other people with similar interests. It is not segregation, it is a common ground. Particularly as GaymerCon is open to allies as well. Just because something nifty is coming into being and it doesn’t target you doesn’t mean that it is trying to exclude you. If we want to go by that logic, E3 is definitely not for me with its booth babes and heterocentrism. A niche was not filled, and now it may be.

Posted in Conventions, Politics | Tagged ,

Yes, It’s Fucking Political

With Facebook’s advent of being able to be placed in groups/pages, I somehow found myself in three different groups: two for the graduating classes of the high schools I attended and one for my graduating class at Wabash. In an attempt to keep us abreast of where everyone is, the latter asked us to share a short synopsis of where we are, encouraging us to list if we had married, where we were, what jobs we’re holding, etc. Shortly after such, it then asked us not to get into politics/religion on the page.

That last bit caught my eye for a number of reasons. Is marriage divorced from religion? If so, then what is the fuss about same-sex marriage again? If it isn’t, then isn’t that encouraging people to post about ‘religion?’ The honest answer is that marriage is many different things to different people; not everyone who gets married is religious, not everyone who is religious and married went through the same process, etc.

Then, the thought occurred: what if I were married? People are talking about their lovely wives and such. If I mentioned my special guy friend, would that cross the realm of religious/political? Having graduated with those men, and having been vocal about LGBT issues while I attended Wabash, I doubt anyone would pick a fight over such, but any relationship I publicly share is by default political.

Granted, any relationship is political and is saying something about the culture in which it occurs, but I am always constantly aware of when I am advocating for LGBT issues and how what I share is considered more political than the average. This even filters down to wondering what public PDAs are acceptable in the area I may be in, as well as what reads as me being a couple with a close straight male friend, just because I am gay and not exactly quiet about it.

Which is not to call out this particular group or the moderator in charge of it, but to serve as a reminder, for some of us, living our daily lives is a political statement. Every time I send out a résumé, I debate whether or not to list my work with GayGamer. While a person needn’t be queer to work at GayGamer, most people will make that assumption anyway. This is particularly noticeable because there have been recruiters with whom I’ve spoken who refer to my ‘latest work online’ and do everything they can to even avoid saying GayGamer, as if that is breaking some taboo.

This even breaks down to my writing, where I am often afraid of pigeonholing myself into being that writer who only writes about gay things, though I have a wide range of interests and topics on which I consider myself knowledgeable (currently I’m working on a piece about how Brecht’s principles can be used to understand some games in a different light). The work that most often gets recognized is that which concerns LGBT issues, because for the longest time there was little writing on it, and ‘political’ issues tend to get discussions going on all sides.

Oftentimes, it becomes difficult to parse what of my life is my own and what is pure politics. More often than not, it’s a mixture of the two, serving as the gray area between ‘just the facts’ and ‘political!’ in a way that makes me constantly conscious of how I say things on Twitter, in my job applications, and in groups of people who are not close friends.

And yes, I realize exactly what the group was asking: we have connotations for what we mean by religious/political, but in a year where the DNC is seriously considering putting marriage equality as one of the planks, it is difficult to divorce such thoughts from my life.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | 2 Comments