Everyone to the Table: a Woman and Mom on Gamergate — Judy Schatz, Director of Communications, Flying NightBear Games

#Gamergate, #StopGamerGate2014, #EverybodyGames

I’m a woman, and I have been playing role-playing games (RPGs) for 36 of my 60 years. It has been a shock to me to hear about “gamergate,” and all the hostility that is directed at women in the gaming world, because gaming has been an integral part of my adult life.

About the time I graduated from college, some role playing games hit the market. I tried it with some friends – female and male.  I loved it!  The giddy sense of creating stories with my friends, the laughter, the on-the-spot problem solving – the possibilities were endless.  I wanted to do it again and again.

Eventually my boyfriend Robin (now my husband) created the game that would become Beyonder (then called simply, “The Game”). We introduced it to our friends. We played it on family vacations, staying up late into the night with aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings.  A couple of years later, we played it on our wedding night – a rare opportunity to play with people we loved who hadn’t been together for a long time.

Then we had children, and full-time jobs.  With new responsibilities and demands on our time, we put The Game away.  It stayed in our attic until after a fateful family visit to my cousin, who had played “The Game” with us, and still played in an ongoing RPG.  He introduced RPGs to our sons. That was all it took: they were hooked on RPGs! Before we set off for home, he told them, “You know, your dad has a game that he created …”

When we arrived home, our kids began their first campaign:  to convince their dad to find his game! Soon they were playing. Thus began Beyonder, the second generation. They invited their friends – boys and girls – who begged for more gaming time.  They played on weekends, and their birthday parties became occasions for sleepover Beyonder games played into the night.  When they were younger, they played mostly with boys; as they got older, girls joined the game.

After years of playing, my husband, sons, and friends formalized the game of Beyonder so that they could put it in printed form. They imagined a world into being, one that appealed to a broad variety of people and passions.  It was an organic process – this was the world they wanted. This inclusiveness was evident in all phases of game creation, from the artwork that we chose for the books to test plays that included women and men. The test play groups were an organic offshoot of the games my sons played in college – all of which included women.

As both the editor of the Beyonder books and as a mom, I was a sounding board, giving feedback on everything, but with a special commitment to the part women played in this world. I am very proud to say that there were almost no issues to resolve. I and the other moms – and dads – had raised young men who were thoughtful, inclusive, and undeterred by traditional social roles.

This excerpt (below) from a recent blog post from the FNB partners (parent company of Beyonder) describes the inclusivity of the Beyonder world:

…all genders and sexes contribute powerfully to our world. Two of our Ten Races reflect this in their essential makeup: Heola, the star-born desert wanderers, have no biological sex; Kamaris, children of the forest, can be a tree as well as a man, woman, or any other point on the wide and wonderful spectrum of sex and gender (just as in the real world, a character from any race can fall anywhere on those spectrums the player desires).  The in-game “author” of our Bestiary, an intrepid zoographer, is a male zweyjen  (one of the Ten Races of Beyonder); he and his same-sex partner give glimpses of their long and loving relationship in the commentary they write about the creatures they have discovered.

We want everyone to see themselves in the world of Beyonder.  As with so much of life, the more variety you bring to the table, the better the end result will be.

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