Thursday, July 24, 2014

GamerX2 - Merrily We Roll Along - By Malkontent Blizzard

When Mike approached me to write a piece about GaymerX2, a convention about gaming and panel discussions where I didn't play a single new game or attend a single panel, I thought he was more nuts than usual. Then Jarys helped reframe the topic as what people brought back from the event.
So here goes, my biggest takeaway was community.

Not that one -Mal

I mean the type of community that comes from 20 odd (and at our CaH games evidently very odd) geeks banding together for a common purpose...and pizza.

Yes, that one -Mal

From the very beginning of the training on the Wednesday before the con I knew this wasn't the same type of operations staff, either in composition or in mission that I grew up with, and I couldn't be more excited. Our training consisted of an operational briefing of course but then our moderator Brian a youth worker from Texas began our Safe Spaces training which leaned heavily on the experiences of “Cosplay is Not Consent” and the microaggression project. The discussion was lively and educational for everyone I spoke with that night myself included even after 12 years of assisting with this type of training.These are the principles we were trained to model, not enforce but model.

This was made manifest at the registration table the next night when we put out the Preferred Gender Pronoun tags for anyone that wanted them.
You read my mind, oh magical editor -Mal
And further reinforced by the turning of our restrooms from Men's and Women's rooms into Gender Neutral restrooms which, since each only had one wheelchair stall and I have a rather relaxed view of my own gender identity, made my life immeasurably easier.

Friday morning the self described “protective mother octopus” of the Sprites (our name for Gofers) Soraya Een Hajji (who, as the Media director for Extra Credits had 18 other things on her plate preparing for her panel the next day) approached me on my break to assist in establishing accessibility zones in all the function rooms.

 Now this may seem like a form of tokenism but it actually showed a dedication to one of the geekiest forms of management technique I have ever seen “Person As Expert”. Put simply a person is always the most senior expert on their own experience. So we went to the various rooms all 13 of them of varying dimensions and configurations and set to work.  Soraya listened intently and engaged constructively with me about turning radii and chair width. After we did this I got breakfast and decided to go look at my handiwork after the first panel...and then the real work began. It turned out that the hotel had helpfully reset all the chairs to maximize the seating...after my 15 seconds of growling I grabbed the Sprites at the doors and reestablished the seating.

When I returned to the Sprite Castle (our name for the operation centre) I briefed Brian about what happened and I then learned a second very important lesson about this type of community.

Not again -Mal

That lesson is “When everyone's expertise is utilized horizontal command structures are preferred”. Brian asked me what I thought was the best way to address this and we decided to just scrap my job profile and put me on floor checks. What this meant was every hour I would go one floor downstairs (taking about 10 minutes thank you for attending "ElevatorCon") and if the chairs had been moved grab the door Sprite and have them help me move them back. No easy task when the panel rooms were spread across the entire level and we only had a 15 minute turnaround between panels. But we did it. And on each of my checks I saw people with various devices leaving at least one of the panel rooms without any obvious frustration, which was a surprising and refreshing change of pace since I am so used to myself and others being unable to attend a panel that has become standing room only. At the group photo taking the Convention Chairbeing Toni Rocca (thank you Avengers for the term) told us that she thanked the attendees with ability concerns for attending and sticking with us the entire weekend since even with all of our work we still had issues, she then told us that several people got misty eyed and one person thanked us for making them feel welcome.

This isn't to say that all our accommodations were born Athena like on Friday. One of the other major measures taken was the construction of ramps to the stage for the Cosplay contest. With these we were able to have a wheelie John Stewart and our Audience Choice award winning Drider be able to enter and exit just like every other contestant.
Drider, a new symbol for gender-inclusivity? More at 11:00 -Ed

And it wasn't just us that were looking for ways to address these and similar issues. I would like to continue my habit of singling out people for well deserved praise with Jenn Bane from the Cards Against Humanity (yes that game) customer service team. Cards Against Humanity curated the “Some Games We Like” space where they brought in various games from small publishers that wouldn't be able to get much exposure otherwise. In their rooms they decided against using the hotel chairs, they instead used easy to move and safe to collide with inflatable furniture. Jenn also on Friday asked us to particularly describe what we were looking for in terms of accessibility she then made sure that all her team was aware of our concerns and kept the space open.

So in conclusion (cue the 1998 DNC standing ovation) my biggest takeaway from the convention was this, “When geeks help geeks miracles tend to occur. And one of those miracles can be the birth of a new community.”
I give up. I guess I need to watch the show now -Mal

MalKontent Blizzard signing off.

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