Controversy Over GenCon’s Industry Insider List

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Gen Con recently announced the selections for it’s Industry Insider Program for 2016. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Industry Insider committee for a doing a great job of bringing greater diversity to the program. I was part of the program in 2015, and was grateful for having had the honor. I decided shortly afterwards that, though it was a positive experience and I would happily participate again, trying to be involved two years in a row would selfish on my part, so I opted not to submit my name for consideration for the next couple of years. I’ve been involved in the tabletop games industry in one capacity or another — sometimes several at once — since 1984. I’m acquainted with a LOT of people in the business, and I can honestly say that 99.9% of them don’t get the credit or accolades they deserve.

I was particularly delighted to learn that friend and colleague Monica Valentinelli was selected this year. Monica is — among many other things — the editor of the anthology Haunted: Eleven Tales of Ghostly Horror which includes a short fiction piece of mine. She was also the developer for the Firefly tabletop RPG line for Margaret Weis Productions, and recruited me to work on Firefly: Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim. We’ve worked together behind the scenes on several other projects too, and I can say from personal experience that Monica is not only a very talented and skilled writer, but she puts in a lot of hard work on her projects, and is entirely deserving of this selection. Monica is far from the only person on this list, and there are more than a few I’m genuinely glad to see getting some notice. Many of them I don’t know at all, but I’m looking forward to meeting them at GenCon this year.

That same pleasure at the success of others is not shared by all gamers, however. Practically from the moment the list was announced, there was outrage over the fact that women make up just over half the list of Industry Insiders. A number of industry pioneers and veterans wrote some rather clueless things, some calling into question the credentials of those selected. The sub-text here, besides obviously being entirely about women ruining the ‘boys club’, is also “If I haven’t heard of them, they must not be any good.” With the tens of thousands of people who work in this industry, it would be impossible to know of, have met, or have played games by all of them. Also, a quick read of their bios should tell anyone that there is no one — NO ONE — on that list that does not deserve to be there. This is not some sort of cheap ‘everyone’s a winner’ scheme to prevent hurt feelings: this is a way to give some of the many, less well-known lights of gaming a chance to shine at tabletop gaming’s largest event of the year. There are very few venues for creatives in this industry to get their name out in front of an audience, and most of those are filled repeatedly by a set of one to two dozen of the same big-name designers.

Monica put up a blog post recently that also addresses many of these issues from her perspective, and does so beautifully. Here’s the link to that post.

It is mind-boggling to me that today, in 2016, we need to hash out this stuff all over again. Women contribute to the games industry in meaningful, important ways, same as men, but there are still people who refuse to give them any credit simply because of their gender. It’s all over the Web. I’m not going to link to the vitriol, because, quite frankly, I don’t want to give these apes any publicity. When I was an Industry Insider last year, I didn’t hear any denigrating comments like “Who the hell are YOU?” like many of this year’s folks have already been subjected to. Maybe those comments WERE out there and I just didn’t hear them; I’m not particularly well-known in any of the fields in which my writing appears, so it’s not only possible, it’s likely such statements were made about me. I heard THESE remarks, however, and Uncle Bill is here to tell you it’s past time to knock off that juvenile crap and start acting like an adult, but more importantly to act like a human being. This may well represent a microcosm of what’s happening in other industries throughout the United States and the World, but gamers have always been early adopters of new ideas: maybe the new idea we need to embrace now is “don’t be a jerk.”

Update:
Since I posted this around 3 PM CDT, I’ve had over 1,300 views – more than 20% of the total views I’ve had on my blog in three years. Time to do some good with all this bonus traffic: wish I’d thought of it sooner.
Speaking of Diversity, how about swinging over to this GoFundMe page to take a look at a campaign to raise funds to help Queer gamers of color to get to GenCon. They’ve described the situation far better than I can. Go take a look. If the spirit moves you, give them some money. If not, thanks for stopping by!

10 thoughts on “Controversy Over GenCon’s Industry Insider List

  1. Does GenCon have standing policies in how they invite their Industry Insiders? And what do they get — honorariums or free meals or anything?

  2. People have to apply for the Industry Insider Program. The Application process begins in late winter. A panel of judges selects the best possible mix of experience and capabilities to offer the most interesting panels they can.
    What I got in 2015 as an Industry Insider:
    -Free 4-day badge
    -Access to a reserved bloc of rooms close to the convention center. This was a HUGE convenience, given what a cluster of suck the hotel room acquisition process has become in recent years. Many vendors have had bad luck and are stuck with hotel rooms out by the airport.
    -Invitations to several special, invitation-only events (with free food/drinks)

    So it’s not a fabulous deal, and you aren’t treated as well as a full guest of honor, but it sure makes getting to the convention easier. Plus, you are featured on panel discussions, which is a great way to help build an audience.

    • Maybe I’m just not as far into the gaming industry as some others, but I would almost have to look at this as a “tempest in a teakettle” situation. Could it just be a vocal minority, as us good Southern folk would say, showing their asses? Seriously, I’m not a rabid activist of any kind, but come on! Just because a select group of gaming professionals tapped to speak to hundreds (Thousands? How many go to see those panels?) of gamers is made up of over fifty percent women, some neanderthal(s) just clear-cut a whole forest and handed it over to man-haters as fuel for their misogyny bonfire.
      *And just to be clear, no, I do not believe that all or even most feminists are man-haters.

      • Hard to tell, but the “vocal minority” seems to consist of, at least, several hundred gamers. (Not necessarily all involved in this particular campaign, but across the board.) So while it’s not a tidal wave, it is certainly much more than a “tempest in a teapot”.

        • And with Theodore Beale having (apparently) exhorted his followers on the subject, many of the Industry Insiders have already received threats of harassment, stalking, and even death. Tempest in a teapot indeed.

          • Beale doesn’t need to exhort his followers. All he does is imply that something might be slightly amiss and his followers go nuts all on their own.

            Which doesn’t make him any less of a toxic blight on humanity.

    • Sorry Pierre; I could not disagree more.
      Right now, there are a dozen or so big names in gaming that get invited to conventions as guests. If it came down to a popularity contest like that, I, relatively unknown, would never even have been selected, and there are too many like me to count. This is a chance to bring lesser-known designers to GenCon so they can meet people who didn’t even know they were fans of those designers. That kind of stuff happened to me last year; I met people who didn’t realize I had worked on some of their favorite games, and it made for some great moments.
      As far as PC (Politically correct) goes, Pierre, if you see it that way, that’s your choice. Again, GenCon is giving a voice to people who don’t get invited to conventions as guests, and it makes a big difference, both for the designers themselves and for fans. It helps show everyone that the gaming community isn’t so very big — or unapproachable — after all. If that’s your definition of PC, there are plenty of other guests you can try to hang out with at GenCon instead of the Industry Insiders.

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