Tabletop Gaymers at PaizoCon 2022
This memorial weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at PaizoCon 2022 for Tabletop Gaymers. I joined as an officer in the beginning of the year because I believed in the non-profit’s goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion by championing the visibility and recognition of the LGBTQIA+ community through tabletop gaming. Paizo has been an active supporter of Tabletop Gaymers and asked us if we’d like to come and run a table in the vendor area of their convention in Seattle.
I had never been to an RPG convention before and honestly felt somewhat lost in many conversations involving Pathfinder and Starfinder. As a board game designer I sadly have only dipped my toes into the water of RPGs. Due to most RPGs needing a larger time commitment and a group being available to consistently meet up this just hasn’t been an area of the gaming world I’ve had a chance to explore. But after coming to this Con and seeing the excitement the attendees felt I am remotivated to try and play!
According to Carrie, an amazing volunteer we had, this year's convention was significantly smaller than previous years thanks to Covid. There were times when we just hung out at the table and chatted or talked to the Paizo Employees. Other times we had people coming up to the booth to ask for our rainbow “gaymer” and “ally” ribbons as well as our neon green pronoun ribbons. The amount of “thank you’s” I heard from attendees filled my heart. It was amazing to see how many people donated and shared their stories of realizing they were a gaymer or of having a friend that was.
Over the past few years I’ve become aware of how important RPGs are in helping people explore their traumas, sexualities and sexual orientations. Roleplaying in a safe space allows players to create characters that are as similar or different as they please. You can try on a new pronoun as your character. Using Roll20 and other online sites players can add their character names and pronouns to their signature. This helps remind players during the game similar to how our pronoun ribbons at conventions can help attendees appropriately identify themselves.
While talking to attendees I heard stories about men creating female characters to allow them to help express their more feminine side. Their characters charged into battle in a new outfit every time streaming things like “if I can wear this, you can too!” Promoting the body positivity of the Pathfinder cow people. But also, I learned about the darker side of the online RPG space with people propositioning players to go into different chat rooms to do questionable things in exchange for valuables used in their games. One man I met told me that people assumed he was a girl like the character he had created but because his voice function wasn’t working on his computer he was unable to prove that he was a male behind the mic. He experienced harassment and propositions until he finally was able to get his audio working on his computer to prove his gender. The experience was eye opening to him and made him feel for all the females that want to enter the RPG space.
As a girl I have felt uncomfortable at times in new spaces but I can say that this convention was incredibly welcoming to gaymers and newbies to RPGs. Attendees were more than delighted to answer my questions about how they create their characters, choose their campaigns and build their groups. One other vendor explained to me that RPGs are on the rise and they are experiencing a shortage of Dungeon and Game Masters to the point of it becoming a paid gig at some of his local game stores. One Paizo employee said the first game of Pathfinder he ever played he GMed. He started too ambitious with a group of 12 then broke them off into two smaller groups and by the end of the year when both campaigns ended he felt like he could conquer any challenge!
It was amazing to have such detailed conversations with strangers. Most were self-proclaimed introverts but when they were with their people they blossomed into conversations about all things Paizo and beyond. It was also really cool to see people’s excitement in Tabletop Gaymer’s new Pride Flag ribbons. Attendees donated to collect ribbons that they felt described them. The ribbons also caused interesting conversations of which ribbons were collected the most. The answer was asexual, nonbinary, trans and bi were a 4 way tie with others closely behind. I also had many people proclaim they were still figuring it out. Which I get. I wear the “lesbian” ribbon but I don’t think anyone is 100% anything. So sometimes I still struggle with choosing the appropriate label for myself. In person I typically stick to the term “gay” until further pressed. Then I use “lesbian”. But at gaming conventions thanks to organizations like Tabletop Gaymers I feel more comfortable wearing these fun colorful ribbons.
I did have someone come up to the booth and ask about the ribbons. After recognizing they weren’t a gaymer I offered him an ally ribbon. In response, I was given a speech on how he didn’t feel comfortable labeling himself an ally. That it felt fake in a way. I’ve heard this argument before and do understand that “ally” is a term that should be given. But as a gay girl I can say that seeing those ally ribbons on people makes me feel safe, supported and more comfortable in a space with people I don’t know. I’m an extrovert but I still feel intimidated at times wanting to sit down at a table of men. Seeing that rainbow ribbon really does ease the tension. Similar to when I see pride flags outside of different shops. It makes me know that it is a safe and welcoming space. We all need a safe space and that’s what our organization works to do at conventions. I am so thankful for Paizo promoting us and allowing us a chance to share our message with the attendees of PaizoCon!
Also, I did get a chance to play one game while I was here and that was the Steve Jackson and Paizo crossover game “Pathfinder Revolution”, the board game. I got to play the first game outside of development and it was great! It’s officially added to my must buy list. We played the 4-player game but the game scales to a higher player count. I’m not sure how that goes since the rules change but for the game I played I really enjoyed the refresh on an old Steve Jackson game. Apparently, this game was a surprise even for many of the Paizo employees that saw the game appear in the glass case.
If you’re a fan of Pathfinder and Starfinder I highly recommend checking out this very friendly small convention hosted by Paizo in Seattle, Washington. This may not have been as large as Gencon but the stories attendees shared about how these games helped them learn about themselves was amazing. I especially liked that Paizo updated their starter characters to include lesbian characters that honestly motivated me more to learn more about the system and world. I would 100% attend again. So thank you Paizo for having us! And for anyone looking to find our Tabletop Gaymer ribbons you can find us at Origins, GenCon, DragonCon and PAX Unplugged this year! Plus, our online store stocks up on all things rainbow so check it out and donate to a great cause that helps gaymers like me feel safe and excited to be in this amazing community!