Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Harassment in gaming


Graphic by Tom Mouat.

Recently PAXsims explored some of the barriers to women in wargaming. While our initial focus was on professional educational and analytical gaming (a topic we’ve explored before), discussion soon moved on to address those factors that might deter women from entering or enjoying the wargaming hobby. It’s fair to say that I was taken aback by the vitriol that was generated by some hobbyists when I suggested more female wargamers would be a desirable thing. (Conversely, the professional national security gamers who commented universally agreed.)

Since then, a Tumblr post by Emily Garland entitled “Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem” has sparked much discussion in the boardgame and RPG communities. It details her experiences of harassment, sexism, and gender-based intimidation, including a successful sexual harassment case she brought against the gaming shop where she once worked. You’ll find some very thoughtful discussion of the issues she raises in this very long thread in the forums, at the Ferrett Steinmetz blog, and in an excellent article by Aja Romano at VOX which should be read by everyone in the gaming community.

Sadly, debate on the topic at BoardGameGeek was much less helpful and was ultimately locked down by the moderators, while some the sexist responses on wargaming forums are too depressing to even link.

3 responses to “Harassment in gaming

  1. brtrain 08/04/2016 at 5:21 pm

    Several times a day I shake my head and think WTF is wrong with people. There’s so much to do and see in the limited time we have in this world, and people spend it making death threats over imaginary offenses.

    I came to the conclusion some time ago that wargamers are generally intelligent people, in that they can grasp and use complex concepts and procedures.
    But in many, the use of that intelligence is limited to a narrowly defined range of interests and knowledge, and further manifests itself as a simple-minded, small-c conservatism driven by fear of the Unknown and the quest for stability, certainty and absolutes (not being explicitly political here, but I realize I am using terms that have political attributes).
    They like what they like and they are difficult to move from those entrenched lines; they also don’t like what they don’t like, and in large part that includes uncertainty, ambiguity, and the shades of grey demanded by the real world.
    Even further, many of them are not emotionally intelligent, mature or stable enough for what we used to call “mixed company”.
    Playing games offers them a manageably small and predictable social circle and set of personal interactions, consistent rules and standards, little puzzles to solve, some temporary agency over their lives and time… how fragile this must seem to them, how easily threatened.

    Of course I am generalizing, right – YOU aren’t like that, nor is anyone you know, of course.
    But someone is like that, and he has company.
    Those Facebook and BGG posts didn’t write themselves.
    This issue is tied into a lot of other aspects of our society, obviously it’s far broader than just games.
    How we live and work and treat each other has changed, it’s had to; how we play must change as well.

  2. Rex Brynen 08/04/2016 at 3:28 pm

    Indeed, I’ve been following some of them!

  3. Brant 08/04/2016 at 3:27 pm

    You should see the debate currently raging among the wargamers on FaceBook. The beauty of it is that I can use it in my public speaking classes as so many examples of fallacies of logic! :D

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