Origin Story

On Monday, I wrote that I'm doing this series to talk about how sexism permeates tabletop games in every angle. Diagramming sexism and holding up examples of when we haven't got it wrong, because it's not a full story without both sides. But I forgot to mention how I got here.

In 2010, I started working for writer/editor/game designer Jennifer Brozek. We'd met at a live-action role playing game, were friends, and spent a number of years playing in weekly tabletop games. Jennifer had an opening for an intern. I applied. She rejected me for the internship, and asked me to be her personal assistant instead. I said yes.

I did eventually do work as an editorial intern for her, and I went on to become her social-media manager. Jennifer encouraged me to do whatever I put my mind to, and often used her resources to help me. Role-playing is a hobby we both share incredible love for. When I was interested in learning more about how role-playing games were put together, she introduced me to Jason Hardy at Catalyst Games Labs. From that introduction, I had the opportunity to be one of the proofers for Shadowrun: Attitude (if you own a copy, flip to the front page with all the contributor/editing info. You can find me on the proofers list.)

I went with Jennifer to cons. I took notes and went to meetings and met a lot of people. I kept working in genre fiction and journalism, as a writer and editor. In 2011, I had a chance to be the co-editor for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. In 2012 I'd get to co-write a Fiasco playset with my friend Logan Bonner, Kickstart a role-playing book called Guide to the Village by the Sea, and write for Convention Book: New World Order. That was all done in time I could find around writing fiction and commiting acts of games journalism. At the end of 2011 E Foley at Geek's Dream Girl had asked me to write a weekly column for 2012 about games. I said yes.

image of a press pass for Norwescon, resting on a table

So I spent all of 2012 on the road, crashing in guest rooms, attending cons, sharing hotel rooms, carpooling across state lines, and toting a laptop everywhere I went. The sometimes dubious joys of that travel aside, spending a year writing about games was a gift. But I was covering events and achievements, reviewing and critiquing products largely not for problematic content, but their execution of form and function. The same went for the conventions.

The ubiquity of Twitter and social-media entwinement made me a recognizable presence to a lot of people, which had the side effect of lulling most people's brains into remembering me as a creator and editor in games. To date, my games journalism more than outnumbers my credits as a games designer or editor, and that includes projects still in development.

I'd started out life as a kid who read the newspaper every day and could wipe the floor with her friends in board games. In my teens I was a blogger and in my 20's I got mixed up with op-eds and editorial boards and there was that one time I worked in a newsroom, and there are stories I can tell you sometime about the day the lockdown light came on and how very, very scared I was.

I have wound up, somewhat by accident, with games evolving into a very strong facet of my professional life. I got here in a roundabout way, where what I thought was going to be my path wound up something completely different.

In college, I trained as an oral historian. It's something that's coloured my interviewing and my critique of culture. The experts on cultures are their members, they're qualified informants whose language must be translated with care and honesty.

Games say important things about who we are and the cultural lessons we have learned, subconsciously or not. When a game breaks from the larger narratives of culture, it is because its creator has chosen to tell a story rarely heard. Unless you're involved with games, deeply, sometimes daily, some of the stories I have to tell will not be ones you know.

So, that's the basics of how I got here. Thursday, I'm going to ruin some of my childhood memories by pointing out where and how some of my favorite board games as a child were incredibly sexist. Be seeing you.

Previously: Save vs. Sexism: Why I'm Here


by Lillian Cohen-Moore
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