Gaming Ballistic’s welcomed ConTessa founder +Stacy Dellorfano to the Firing Squad, and we chatted for well over an hour. As mentioned previously, my lack of headset caused issues with Stacy’s audio feed, which was recorded to the Hangout On Air. Nonetheless, we managed to get a good transcript from the interview, which is below.
I’ve still gone through and edited the video to match the transcript, and you can watch it if you like – but I strongly suggest that you have the transcript to hand if you do. It’ll help.
Thanks again to Stacy for a very engaging conversation! We cover how she started gaming, her founding of +ConTessa, online gaming in general, and the always engaging subject of, well, read, listen, and find out.
Enjoy the discussion. I did.
Welcome to Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad. Today we are joined by Stacy
Dellorfano, the founder ConTessa, an online gaming convention which has a
couple of unique attributes that we will get to a little bit lady…errr later
[both laugh] Ha! I gave it away right there, getting to it a little bit lady,
as Freud just leaps into the fray
Stacy, thank you for joining us and giving us some of your time today.
tell me, just before we get into the convention and some of the things that you
are doing with it…tell me a little bit about who you are and how did you get
into role-playing games it’s still, much as we’re trying, not exactly as
popular as the NFL [Stacy laughs].
Dellorfano, and I’ve been gaming for over twenty years – which is painful to
started when I was sixteen, and I was a band geek and we would all gather in
the foyer, or the actual band room, before band and between lunch. Boyfriend,
he actually became a boyfriend later, he was a friend because both of our
parents were cops . . . and that happens.
always kept talking about AD&D. Constantly.
it sounded so much like the kind of free-form writing/roleplaying that my
friends and I would do. We had these notebooks filed with loose-leaf paper and
we would take turns writing in between classes.
I was “Oh! This is awesome. This is a game that does the same thing, except
there are dice involved and there is actual stuff instead of us making
everything up, and that sounds really cool.”
I kept trying to get him to lend me his books and to run a game so I could
play. None of my friends…they all promised that they would, they kept saying
that they would, but nobody ever actually did.
I finally said “All right, fine I’ll step up and do it.” And that was kind of
how it started and it really hasn’t stopped since then.
the nineties I lived in San Francisco for a while and a big part of the Vampire
scene there. What else? I run MUSHs and MUXs, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard
of them, but for anybody else who’s listening who also hasn’t heard of them,
they are online text-based role-playing games. A lot of it is free-form and a
lot of it has stats associated with it where you’d have a character sheet and
actually have rules systems put in place. There is code put in place to
actually handle basic rolls and stuff like that. It did all of that.
played Magic [the Gathering]. I played weird, all sorts of card games here and
there and it just been part of the fabric of my life.
passing notes in class to an entirely
huge 3 inch binder completely full.
can’t just like sneak around and pass that to the person behind you.
between classes we’d be passing it. Okay! Or we’d meet each other in the
hallway, “Now it’s your turn.”
espionage thing going on. You can do the brush pass like nobody’s business.
it sounds like between the freeform fiction and the type of games you were
interested in, were you more of a rules-light, rules-heavy, did you just play
whatever? D&D you can go either way with.
that I ran were pretty rules-light, but I don’t really have a preference one
way or the other to be perfectly honest.
more like one of those things where I play what is interesting to me at the
time. I’ve played both.
have to say that if we have to talk about rules-light and rules-heavy, say
between D&D 3.5/3.0 and old school D&D, I prefer more the old school D&D
approach because I don’t have any miniatures, and it just sounds too
complicated. I have never gotten through any of those books actually, entirely.
the Pathfinder Core Rules set and I got to the 110 pages of magical spells, and
just hit a wall.
. . . I’m a GURPS player I get it, it’s just…and to be fair, that didn’t
have so much . . . it’s a great platform, and the detail that you can get with
that many spells…I wasn’t going to do a page by page review…so I was going to
pick out a couple of them. And I did do a “How to structure magic” and then I
was going to move on, but I got distracted.
right, smiles, throws hands into the air] Squirrel!
you sort of alluded to it in terms of complexity, or what you have to keep
track of, or what feels good at the time for a game. Is there anything that
makes you run screaming in terror from a way a game is played or a rules set
games make me run screaming. Mainly because…just the ones that are centered
around exploring your feelings and your emotions on a particular subject. That’s
not really what I game for.
when I see those kinds of things it’s kind of a alien world to me entirely and
not one I terribly want to visit.
Vadar] “Search your feelings: You know it to be true.” Bite me, Dad.
that in my days MUSHing and writing fiction. That’s all we were about. I played
a lot of X-Men games too, and the X-Men are very angsty. Very.
don’t really see…Oh, I guess there have been a couple iterations, and I’ve
never been that into comics, although I like them. Though I am getting more into comics with
Short Stack (who was behind me). Who really loves the comic books.
think she would turn herself into Wonder Woman if she could. Occasionally she
has tried to turn me into Wonder Woman which is slightly more problematic,
because I don’t fit well into the suit. My wife on the other hand, a little bit
better [both laugh].
the one thing about the Marvel guys they’ve got real psychologies behind them, usually
they’re complicated and occasionally painful. Batman has I guess taken that a
whole different way, but I’m not really qualified to do literary criticism on
comic books. I just occasionally enjoy reading them I suppose [Stacy laughs].
opening, so I’m going to take it. It sounds like you get into game mastering
early on largely because you couldn’t find someone to play with.
person that’s Always The GM™ – yeah, that was me.
I always wanted to play. I always got mad. I’d go to the game store and find a
new game I wanted to try out, and I always wanted to play in those games, but
then I couldn’t find anybody to run them, so I’d have to run them myself.
kind of annoyed me because I wanted to have the experience of playing it . . .
GMPC [Gamemaster Player Character] or did you know that that was a bad idea or
how did that go?
Sometimes it actually happens without me trying to. Most of the time it happens
without me trying. Most of the time it’ll be like a NPC that I’ve introduced in
the game, usually one of the first things that they do they’ll for some reason
they’ll latch onto that character and that character will stick with them for
the rest of the game.
when the players will somehow promote a barmaid, or bar owner, and she’s the
innkeeper, and all of the sudden she’s coming frying pan in tow like Sam in The
Hobbit and just bashing people in the head.
is a character-type which Sean Punch deliberately wrote into one of the Dungeon
Fantasy volumes. The innkeeper who hits people with the frying pan – just to
show that he could, I think. [both laugh]. Combat innkeeper I guess.
sort of leads into . . . did the…what lead you to start ConTessa.
let’s back up. What is ConTessa, and what led you to start it?
online convention that is run exclusively by women.
by that, I mean that every event there is either GMed or moderated by a woman. Somebody
who identifies as a woman. We’re not picky about that part of it.
apolitical in nature, and by that I mean we don’t ever have any panels or
discussion that fall into the broad category of “Women In Gaming,” which tends
to be discussing the more political aspects of both feminism and gender
politics, and those kind of things.
whole apolitical purpose of it is those discussions can get so fired up, and
they can get so negative, and they can get so downright mean, that it takes a
lot of the fun out of what gaming actually is, out.
it’s supposed to be…it’s like an oasis, an island in the middle of everything
where everyone can come together in one place and we’re going to agree not to
talk about these things. We’re just going to have some fun, we’re gonna play
some games, and talk about some cool stuff.
gaming convention? I’ll be honest with you, I’ve heard of GenCon and other
stuff, and I saw it on the G+ feed and I saw “ConTessa, roleplaying game
conventon.” No, wait . . . an online roleplaying
I’m like “click-click click-click oh that’s really interesting” because I don’t
get out much these days because, you know: Short-Stack. It’s hard.
to say “Well oh, I’m going to go to GenCon for a weekend” or ComicCon, or
anything like that. Or heck, even to have five or six or seven people over,
when they have kids and I have kids and whatever, is challenging.
to do an online convention like that…it seemed very convenient, and I was wondering if ConTessa was the first? The
before. IndiePlus ran a convention before. They don’t do it anymore. They don’t
do it anymore, they ran two versions of their convention before ConTessa. There
is one called L-U-G Con or LugCon, that Trey – I can’t remember his last name –
I think it’s Grisby – runs, I think the last I heard was they were on hiatus. The
last I heard they were running one every there – four months or something along
those lines. They were doing a lot more often.
EtherCon happened, but that wasn’t actually on Google+ that one was run via a
different…it was a virtual table top system – I can’t remember which one it is
that they used.
there was EtherCon, which happened off of Google+, and then a few months before
us, RPGGeek ran theirs which was called VirtuaCon – and they had a pretty big
one actually. No, it was after ours that they ran it. Right around the same
time, we were all kinda planning the same thing.
had been a few before, and I think it’s really blown up a bit more since then,
and it’s also calmed down a little bit more. We’ve all experienced the same
kind of problems.
to the next kind of question, and just to cover it, in case people are joining
Gaming Ballistic Firing Squad for the first time, I always provide my guest
with a copy of some of my questions, which is a discussion guide and, well,
it’s also polite.
a gamer. I’m interviewing gamers, or authors who game, or gamers who author,
and we’re here to boost the hobby. Talk about things that are interesting. But
. . . the next question is:
of all, it seems that maybe all of these gaming conventions came up sort of all
at once because the technology matured all at once. You have massive video
conferencing, you had all of the webcams get cheap, bandwidths got high enough
to where it wasn’t “Just laaaaaaggggging” [mimes slowed speech]. And it became
possible to do something that wasn’t entirely crazy. Do you think it was just a
convergence, so to speak?
Google+ introduced Hangouts, and it’s free,
unlike a lot of the other video systems. Even Skype if you want to have more
than one other person on, you have to pay to use their service. It’s a very low
barrier to entry.
lot of people who actually don’t have webcams will still game, they don’t have
a webcam so you can’t see them, but you can hear them and it works just fine.
don’t know what was the catalyst other than “Hey let’s do this convention
thing!” There was something called ConstantCon actually which still runs – a
little bit – it spawned something called “Flail Snails,” Have you heard of
Snails game with John Henry once. It was almost like bring any character, and
we’re going to battle monsters for an hour or two.
kind of came from ConstantCon, and that was the idea that a Con that runs all
the time, forever. And you can do this thing where you can take your character
from game to game to game and system to system to system, and they’ll adapt to
each one. I think that probably was what
it…it seems like with the convention that runs all the time, that eventually
someone would make the connection to +Steven Brust’s Dragaera series, and the
party that is always going on at Castle Black. Maybe that’s a little obscure.
That’s really a reference for +Peter V. Dell’Orto who loves all that stuff [both
you decide to run a online convention, and you’re going to do it on Hangouts.
It can’t be “that simple,” because I know it’s not that simple. But what did
you do to first figure out how to do it, and then get it done, and what
challenges did you run into staging it? Technologically, Organizationally,
getting the word out?
what we end up doing when we’re actually preparing for the convention.
tricky, because you have to agree to do something online months before they
actually do it. They have to be able to remember that the thing is coming up,
so you constantly have to remind them about it.
well it can be kind of difficult to get people to commit that “In four weeks,
on a Sunday, I’m going to be at home and online and ready to do that kind of
we got over. Mostly by being constantly communicative, constantly talking to
people right up to the beginning of it. Reminding people that it’s happening
and verifying that they’ll be there.
part of it. But the more difficult part of it – and it’s a tiny little detail
that bugs me, but it’s still there – is that what we had to do first, was we
had everyone create these Hangout events so that people can sign up for the
event by having people going to it.
difficult part of that is that a lot of people say that they’re going to it,
when they really just want to watch it. It’s hard to tell who’s actually
signing up. And . . . it’s just a thing with Google+, you can’t tell who signed
up in what order . . .which is really weird. Because you’ll come into your
event, and see a bunch of people signed up, but you have no idea what order
they’ve actually signed up in.
technology challenges, because it sounds like a combination of getting artists
to organize, and getting organizers to be artistic, which is kind of a great
Catch-22 for you [Doug laughs]. You summed it up initially with herding cats.
in one place, at one time, ready to run everything, and especially in a online
environment where it is easy to forget things, easy to space out on it.
can be tricky to do that. It’s probably the hardest thing we had to deal with.
And all our technological fixes that we put in, really had to address that. To
make sure that the GMs know who signed up, and that they are actually signed up
for the game, and even if they’ve been approved for that game.
last time we went with TavernKeeper, who actually became a partner of ours, and
they wrote out an entire API so that we could connect from our website to
theirs. And we could actually send in
the information where somebody registers for a game as well as people who come
up and sign in for a game. They actually have a real sign up process instead of
this weird kind of “You say yes to the event” and if you want to go, and we ask
you if that was really what you meant in the first place.
worked really well.
worked really hard to get all of it done I think we got it done by the skin of
our teeth. There was a Hangout App we made so that it would be really easy for
the GM. They could go in and click one button and invite everyone who’d been
approved into the Hangout. Which is another problem: If you go into a Hangout
and you don’t have someone in your Circles it’s hard to actually find them to
invite them specially if they have a common name.
I was trying to give some props to a famous author, maybe it was Elizabeth Moon
or something like that. And there are a lot of people with that name, or they
have a group called Elizabeth Moon because they love her so much. They just
decided to name themselves after this person. So lather, rinse, repeat. I have
no way of…linking in to Jim Butcher or Elizabeth Moon or (who did I just drop a
nice note to?) Lois McMaster Bujold. Really hard to find unless you already have
been friends with them.
that with GMs who were…some of them at least who are brand new to GMing. Many
of them are brand new to doing it online. So trying to get over those technical
barriers to make sure they knew how to do things, was difficult.
this year we actually made it so that we didn’t have to worry about that so
much, because they could just go in and click a button and it’s done.
have any other, kind of a wishlist for other developments that would make
online gaming, or online gaming conventions even easier?
could use a lot more support around it. Since Google+ changed the way that
Hangouts On Air is done – it’s even caused a few more problems in that now if
you share a Hangout On Air event it asks you if you want to watch it, rather
than attend it – which is a little bit different.
the first time.
it is like that.
of the other ones are…oh! Because of that . . . we have a ConTessa community.
Because I don’t like spamming everybody with inviting them to all of the events
and the whole public, what we do is invited everyone to the ConTessa community.
anyone who wants to be invited to a ConTessa event, and wants to participate
and come and game, they can join the community. And then they get invited to
all the games.
what I found this year, was that the way that they scheduled the Hangouts, if
you don’t invite the ConTessa community as
you’re creating the event, you can never go back and reinvite the community,
and it’ll never show up in the events list.
something that Google would have to fix [laughs], because there is not much I
can do about that.
this kind of virtual presence, whether is like telepresence, like we do in my
company where you get these awesome three 72” TVs where it’s basically, they’ve
got the cameras set so that the people are actually 1:1 scale, so it’s huge. It’s very expensive. It’s got to be.
it’s like a couple rows of conference seats, and as your looking at each
individual person, it’s true fidelity, so it really works out.
from kind of the “at the desk” thing, but it is that sort of thing, where you
say “Hey, in order to make this work, you need to feel like you’re there . . . with
the addition of being able to do maps
or die-rolling, or have people observe, but not eat up too much bandwidth. So
it is kind of an impressive wishlist.
is an old joke when I was consulting, that pornography drove technology,
because it was the first online secured…
online e-commerce, it was video streaming, livechat, all kinds of stuff that
are now kind of a part and parcel with the business climate, and business
almost wonder if this kind of massively parallel communication, online
convention, virtual convention, will just get bigger and bigger, until this is the type of event that drives
the technology . . . because honestly a virtual orgy just wouldn’t work.
your brain. I apologize.
technology will eventually get
wrote that, but he should have [both laugh].
the most, I think, about face-to-face gaming is that you can have people go off
and have side conversations.
know, they go off into the kitchen to get some Doritos™ (if I’m being
stereotypical here), and they can have a conversation about whatever is
happening, but you can’t really have those kind of side conversations in a
video setting, because everyone hears it, because the volume is up all the
could do it in chat, but it’s not the same kind of experience.
don’t even know if that’s possible.
interesting, because I bet you could do it. Because you’ve got the video
streams along the bottom, you could probably “tap” somebody, click on them, and
say “Invite to Sidebar.”
it would be obvious you’re having a sidebar, but you could go into a
mini-Hangout that would form just for the two of you, until one or both decide
to end it.
passing notes, and sidebar conversations, and stuff like that, it seems it
would be doable.
would be nice to see that.
difficulty is that the stuff really evolves on what sort of games you want, and
conventions evolve on what businesses want, or whoever is making money on it.
When there is no money…
having a conversation with somebody else, and someone was saying “Somebody
should do [write] this or this or this…” and it happened to be for Steve
I replied: “You know, go onto e23 and download the reports and look at what
they’re doing [for revenue] and…yeah…No.”
just happy that they’re really still interested in doing the stuff. Because, honestly?
Do the math.
is still interested in doing this stuff at all. And I say this as somebody who
is writing a game right now.
I do want to talk to you a little bit about…we did talk a little bit about the
challenges. So you decided to run it . . . was 2013 the first year?
designing it at the end of 2012.
think it the idea came when I was on a trip to Phoenix with my husband over
Thanksgiving, and there was another huge online gender wars happening at the
would be so great if women could get together and run games, and run an event
like this without all the heaviness of the politics, and without this
expectation that if you’re a women in gaming that has any feminist inklings at
all, that that’s the only thing you want to talk about.
for a really long time I started getting invited in on all these conversations
on Google+, which was mid-2012 or maybe early-2012. I was there longer, but I
started actually using it in mid-2012.
started getting plussed into nearly every conversation that had anything to do
with gender politics. And getting invited to panels talking about gender.
didn’t want that, I’m a gamer, I write games, I run games. I want to talk about
I’m a developer, so that’s another field I have to deal with being in a
male-dominated environment, and even there I want people to see me for what I
can do and what I have done not necessarily what my politics are, or what my views
are, or any particular gender-associated thing.
was right around then that I just got fed up with it, and I wrote this document
that was . . . really raw, and it showed my emotions far too much.
I kind of got the idea out there, and seeded it . . . and I actually called it
“LadyCon” which is a horrible name.
Just awful. Awful.
away from politics with a name like that.
title more than anything, and I had people actually come up with ideas [to
replace the working title], and somebody actually come up the name “Contessa”
and then somebody else came up with the idea of capitalizing it like we do now
was pretty awesome. I liked it.
get into something that’s going to be hard to talk about, in a way.
the one hand you say: All right, so you’re in a situation where potentially
everything has to do with gender politics. So, you’re trying to create a
environment that is something where people – women – can be gamers. Not women
yet, by saying that we’re going to create an environment where women can be
gamers, it’s going to wind up being political, even though…or it’s going to seem political.
can be identified political because “Why if you are just being gamers can’t you
just go be gamers?”
the answer is “We can’t. Because we haven’t”
every time I go online to game it’s as a ‘woman who games’ rather than a gamer
who happens to be a women, it’s not relaxing. It’s no longer a game and it’s
the other thing it seems to me that’s interesting about ConTessa is that you
find yourself saying “Okay, damn it! I’m going to run games.” And so you did.
ConTessa, one of the nice interesting things about it is that it says “Okay,
we’re going to offer that opportunity up to everybody. Any women who wants to
run a game who can meet the schedule, who can be creative, who can commit the
time, bring it on.”
2013 and 2014?
all the breakdowns, but we had 42 or 43 total events.
those, 38 or 39 of them actually went off. There were only a couple of them
that got canceled and they were mostly technical difficulties that caused the
cancellations. Somebody’s Internet went down and somebody’s computer’s
microphone stopped working altogether.
were the only real problems that we had. The only games that didn’t get enough
people were those on Monday. Nobody wants to play on Monday for some reason [both laugh].
talk at the convention that’s Thursday after lunch.
was the very first paper that I ever gave. It was at TMS – I can’t remember
what it was – it was in Denver, and it was my talk, and I was an undergrad, and
I was giving a talk on metallurgy and it was twenty minutes at 1:30 the last
day of the convention. And if I was talking to myself, it would have been
crowded [Stacy laughs].
the professor that I had collaborated with. It was not exactly something to
give you the warm feeling that you’re making a contribution to the sciences.
so there is a challenge in running a convention that is basically all women in
the captain’s chair – I don’t have a problem with it, it’s a great opportunity.
But it is saying “To discriminate is to choose” and you’re choosing to have
people running those games who are women.
became aware of you was because of the most recent brouhaha over the
interpretation of monitoring the games so that people who were unruly could be
kicked out, and there is always going to be someone.
of the things I want to compliment you on [teasingly] because I’m sure that you’re fishing for them [Stacy laughs] is that you really handled it
well. People were slinging a lot of crap your way. Some of it more rational
people were trying to draw meaningful distinctions, some people were just getting’
their troll on, and some people were on your side. Those things, like any
political conversation, never end well.
I thought that you came in, said what you needed to say, and when things got too
heated, you were like “I got a Con to run. Thanks.”
someone who has a little bit of thin skin, occasionally (that would be me): I
was impressed. You kept your flame retardant suit on for an awfully long time.
do you draw the distinction . . . is ConTessa always going to be a venue for
women to sit in the captains chair?
as it exists yeah. Really . . . I’ve been attacked from both sides.
been attacked by both sides and both sides have attempted to use ConTessa as a
point in their discussions against each other, and it gets old quick.
of being apolitical is “able to be used as a offensive weapon for both sides.”
are some people who are like “this is how feminism is done right!” and others
are “stick it to those feminists!” “This is why we need something like
ConTessa” and I’m like “Okay…we’re in the middle of a political [waves arms in
worst thing that happens when those things happen is I have to spend a lot of
time correcting the misinformation. That’s probably the most hurtful thing for
me, is that it takes time away from me working on the Con if I have to sit
there and answer people saying “No. Being on air, kicking out creepy guys isn’t
the only reason we want to be on air. That’s just the reason I happened to talk
the beginning of the year, someone had insinuated that ConTessa had denied
access to or left purposefully out prominent women in the industry because of
never happened. We’ve never done that or anything like that, and they’re
perfectly welcome to come just like everybody else is. We don’t do that.
they tried to put in a “Woman in Gaming” event then I’d say no, but as long as
everybody participating put in and followed the rules, and they have, then it’s
really not a problem.
really kind of a tricky thing to deal with, and it can be painful at times. I
don’t understand –one of the criticisms that we got was (and you kind of
touched on it a bit) a gaming convention that’s specifically made to be run by
women cannot be apolitical. That it is a political act in and of itself to
create a convention that was made to be run by women.
has ever really explained that to me, or why they feel that way, they just say
that, and everyone around them nods their heads and say they’re right. And I
really don’t understand it.
doesn’t care what your politics are. ConTessa doesn’t care where you came from,
or what your views on gender equality are. It doesn’t care that last week you
got into a fight with somebody on the internet with someone about it. It
doesn’t care if you do it tomorrow as long as you don’t do it on our forums or
anywhere on our games. It doesn’t matter who you are outside of ConTessa, as
long as you abide by the rules. And you have to do that at any convention you
is absolutely no difference in our convention and a lot of others. This is an
anime convention, you’re not going to come in and talk about westerns. This is
an anime convention.
kinds of things are a little bit weird.
get back to the discrimination issue a little bit: the thing that bothers me
about that a lot is that in no way is ConTessa denying opportunity to people.
worst parts of discrimination – particularly when it affects women – is it
denies them opportunity. Whether that
opportunity is getting a home loan, or it’s getting a job, or it’s being
knowing the right people. That kind of discrimination stops women from living
their lives fully. And that has a truly, really big impact on someone’s life,
when they can’t get the financial things that they need or cannot support their
family because they cannot get a job that pays them enough. All of these kinds
of things roll into that.
does not deny anybody an opportunity
– that’s not the point of ConTessa – ConTessa’s point is to celebrate women. To
bring women together, and to give them a space where they can do whatever it is
that they want, any event that they run is totally their event. The only thing
that we ask is that it’s not a political event. That’s it.
else they want to do, if they want to do an event, or show some art, or a game,
or run a panel. We had a group of people who came in, actually, a bunch of
people who came in and ran board games this last ConTessa. It was awesome, it
was brand new, and it was something that hadn’t been thought of. I didn’t even
know there were systems that were out there that let you play board games
online. So they did it. It’s awesome and I loved it.
the great thing, is that you open it up to everybody, and you say you can do
whatever you want and come up with really fantastic ideas.
to claim it’s discrimination, to claim that we’re denying men the opportunity, puts all of the focus on men. It’s
again, why are you not letting me do
something, rather than we’re celebrating women.
is about celebrating women, it’s not for the men, it’s not for anybody else who
are watching, it’s for the women who participate, and it’s for the guys who
play the games too. But really, the purpose of it is for the women and it’s to
give them that space that they don’t always get.
a lot of the panels I see, a lot of the “Women in Gaming” panels . . . are
moderated by men…which is weird to me.
guess I harken back a little bit, because you asked a question, so I’m going to
attempt to answer, or give an answer:
Why would something like this be called political.
going to go back to whatever grade, maybe it was junior high school, where Mr.
Mullholland – I actually remember his name – where he says “What is politics?”
where I cynically offered up the answer of “Politics is getting somebody to do
what you want them to do, and make them think it’s what they what to do.”
he laughed and said “that’s not bad.” But then he said that politics is just the
distribution, management, and allocation of power.
to say, well, what we’re going to do is to give power, control . . . we’re
going to give the GM chair to women – is allocating power and therefore
a definitional stand point, if that’s where you want to go, you can do it that
I don’t have a problem with it. If you want to give somebody an opportunity to
something unusual – great. It’s not like there aren’t quite a lot of
that. To say “Look, we’re not going to have something where the fact that
you’re a women that wants to run a game is going to make someone look at you
like a talking dog.” [both laugh] [Doug mimics a character from Shrek:] “Oh,
look, isn’t that interesting. It’s a talking flying donkey.”
are a lot of conventions out there, and they’re all open for women to come in
and GM at those conventions, there is not a single one that says you are not
allowed, yet last year at GaryCon there was no women GMing and this year at GaryCon
there is going to be one.
online, is there is kind of the same experience. If you look at VirtualCon they
had over 80 events, and they had I think two women. You look at these kind of
things, it’s not that they’re not being told they’re not allowed to come in and
GM – they certainly are – it’s that the environment isn’t always friendly and
it can be really terrifying, and I can understand why because I felt the same
that I want to talk to you about. I know you said you get pulled into all of
these “women in gaming” conversations, and you’re a little tired of it, but I’m
going to do it anyways for which I apologize. [Stacy laughs]
only a little bit.
I’ve been playing roleplaying games since 1981, about. But really in any
serious way since high school. But when I got to college, at Rice, I can’t
remember a gaming group that didn’t have women in it. And eventually we had
like 20 people playing Star Wars game and there were girlfriends and
not-girlfriends, and who cared because that seemed a way to do it.
the biggest part about playing that particular game was you were a Star Wars fan, and that’s not exactly uniquely
ever since then, I’ve always had women in my gaming group and I’ve seen all
wife, when she played games, she wasn’t the character with Flower-Arranging –
she was the character who shot people in the head from 1,600 meters – and she’s
still that person really [both laugh], unfortunately I’m just the one in the
target. She’s a martial arts instructor.
I injured myself a little bit, and then she gave birth, and then she still came
back worked to come back as a instructor [Stacy laughs]. So she wins that overall – that competition.
wake up every morning I have to bow her because I am still training. The usual
response is “don’t you do that anyways?”[Stacy laugh] If I know what’s good for
me, yes I do.
people say women play differently, or men play differently. I’ve not seen it.
you experienced the kind of blatant discrimination or “Girls only game this
way” or “Get out of my game” or whatever, that seems to be the prototypical
fear of what women would expect to see in a hostile environment? Or is it more
a kind of a soft thing, where if a women is playing a role and she’s playing to
type, are they going to force her to be a exaggerated part of that type. Or if
a women is wanting to take on a feminine quality it’s an eye roll and here
comes the woman doing this.
have you seen that has made you say “Damn it! I’m going to run, not just my own
game, but a national convention for women in gaming.”
stuff, not in role-playing, not tabletop games. I worked in the videogame
industry for about a decade, and I saw a lot of the real visceral, immediate
“Girls don’t play games” reaction, but even then, it was still kind of…it was
almost tongue in cheek. You know, they knew that girls played games, but I had
a marketing director once (and it was a woman) tell me that they know their
marketing is always 18-35 males and they have no reason to attempt to market to
women. Which is funny.
MMO and I’ve seen more women in the videogame world playing MMOs then I’ve seen
pretty much anywhere else. It’s kind of a weird thing to say for that.
haven’t really had that experience because, maybe partially because I sit in
the GM’s seat an awful lot. I always tell my husband, it’s so easy to deal with
guys who are overtly sexist, because they’re simple to dismiss. In this day and age, if someone acts like
that, most people are like “What is wrong with you?” and if they’re not and
there are people who insist on hanging out with them, they’re definitely people
I want to have nothing to do with. It’s easy to figure that out, and say “Okay,
you’re completely clueless, and I’m going to find somebody else to play a game
harder is the softer stuff. What’s
harder, is the kind of things that you see, like for instance:
I post a question on Google+, and I do this frequently because I’m in the
middle of designing a game, where I ask for people’s opinions on how they liked
instance, I’ll ask “In games with combat systems do you prefer games with dice
pools or do you prefer games where you only roll one or two dice? Which do you
get a few people who actually respond to the question I asked, which is to
actually ask their opinions “Here’s what I like.” But I’ll always get quite a
few guys who come in, who think that they’re being helpful, but what they
actually do is patronize me by telling me “this is what you should do with you
don’t answer the questions you ask they answer the question that they think I’m
asking. and the reason I’m asking the question. “Oh, you’re designing a game,
so let me tell you how you should do it.”
if you look at it, when I see a lot of the men asking the same questions, the
answers are completely different, there’s a little more of a camaraderie. “I
was in this game and they did this,
and I hated that.”
in many cases because we’re in such a small community, it’s the exact same
people responding differently to two different genders really.
that’s one of those little “soft” things that you hear.
there are other things like a guy will swear or he’ll do something crude or he’ll
swear, and then he’ll suddenly stop himself and say [Stacy whispers softly]
women can’t possibly handle somebody swearing or being crude in a game. I hate
that, and it’s something that I have to deal with all the time. Some of the
smaller things are being marginalized so you’re not actually listened to when
you talk, being talked over, having to really assert yourself when you act. Or
you’re being annoying when you assert yourself. I’ve had people argue with me
about the mechanics of my own game.
not unique to you. [Doug laughs in a painful way]
had people tell me…I had to reply on a forum post once saying “Are you really
trying to tell me that the game I wrote, and the rules that I developed…that
when I’m speaking with Authorial Voice, saying that
this is how I intended it to work,
that I’m wrong?” [both laugh] You may
do it a different way, but don’t tell me that what I’m saying about my own
rules . . . is wrong.
one of the things that scare women from GMing that we hear stories about that all
the time from the guys that introduce it to us. Two of my best friends would
constantly tell me about rules-lawyers and the worst people that they’d ever
had in their games that would argue about them with anything or the people that
are plain anti-social and would make those characters that would never do
anything with the party. And you hear about them….
to both genders, but when they happen to women it’s a little bit more – it feels a bit more personal because that
happens in every other part of our lives as well. And a lot of times it’s very
patronizing and very condescending and as soon as you start feeling that it takes
you out of the fun entirely.
that you did say that struck me a little bit is saying a curse word and then
saying “I’m sorry.” I think some of that . . . it is a little bit weird, but on
the other hand it’s one of those perverse things where it’s supposed to be
taken as a bit of a compliment, I’m supposed to be on, you’re going to be on better behavior in front
of people of the opposite sex than not.
sort of the last vestiges of chivalry or manly behavior. Whatever you’d want to
call it. I guess what you’d really
like to see is people on their best behavior all the time or none of the time,
and it’s the oscillation that is jarring.
whole idea of “Why do you need to be more polite to women then you are men? Is
it because we’re the gentler sex? What is it? Why do you act differently around
me, than the rest of your male friends?
don’t want to be treated special. I wanted to be treated like your friend. I
want to be treated the same way you treat your other friends. That’s part of
started out as a systems administrator, and I worked my way into a software
engineer and I’m a front end developer now. But through all my stages of my
career in tech, I’ve experienced every single time coming in having my boss
talk to the other men and say “Now, a woman
is going to be joining this team” and other guys who I become friends with on
the team would tell me these things. “This means you got to be less crude. You
got to be nicer. You can’t say the things that you do normally. You have to
tone it down.”
got labeled as “one of the guys,” because when that happens, I tell them I
don’t want you to act any definitely around me than you would anyone else. I’m
a person just like everybody else here. We’ll all a part of the same team, and
I want you to treat me equally in every possible way, and that means not toning
down you language just because I’m in the room if that’s the way you’re going
who know me when I’m not on the air. I swear like a sailor, it’s F-bomb this
F-bomb that, it’s constantly all over the place and I say nasty things all the
time. When people tell me they’re going to tone down their language for me, it
seems more hollow. Fine, I’ll be the one swearing up and down, and you can just
sit their quietly.
the opposite experience, in that I’m a manager and I was giving a female
employee of mine a team lead position. I was like “Now look, you talk over these people if you need to.”
lots. And I always get looked down on when I do that too. A guy can yell at
everybody in the room about whether or not you’re following this standard or
that standard. But I raise my voice and the guys look like…
told the same person “Look, I may come to your meetings that you’re going to
hold, but don’t expect me to do a lot of talking and don’t expect me to sit at
the table. I’m going to be in the back. You get your authority from your skill,
not from me sitting in the back of the room. If I’m absent it’s not because I’m
not interested – it’s because you don’t need
me there” and I don’t want people turning from the team lead to me, the manager,
and saying “What do you think?”
think I delegated this for a reason.”
had a lot managers who don’t do that and then question everything or override
me whenever possible.
just not going to do it in public.
exactly it. If you need to question somebody’s ability to do something you do
it in private, not in front of the team where it’s going to undermine their
authority to do their job. Not everybody actually gets that. [Doug laughs].
one. I feel the horse has gotten mostly skeletal.
few times that you’ve got a game underway, and we’ve got the playtest guide
“Precious Dark” is what you are developing and you’ve got a playtest guide. So
is this your first effort?
I’ve written from the ground up.
my game, as it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a game, and it’s a setting that
has gone through several iterations, and the first of which was when I ran
MUSHs in the 90’s was a World of Darkness MUSH set in post-apocalyptic world,
where, the . . . I can’t really remember how it all happened, but California
fell into the ocean basically. And that couldn’t happen, but we’re in a fantasy
setting so it’s possible.
a city grew on top of this very large mesa and then went underground and since
it’s World of Darkness there are vampires, werewolves, mages, and all sorts of
things which got progressively worse the lower you went.
rest of the world was almost uninhabitable and there are like islands of
civilization and this was one of them.
I loved playing around with the idea all the different levels of the
underground so what I did was took World of Darkness and I hacked it together
with Cyberpunk 2020 . . . which I loved the hell out of, but never played or
ran Cyberpunk 2020, but I knew the books in and out. That’s for sure.
I added in the abilities to have tech
and there were all of these kinds of things in a World of Darkness kind of
setting. So I hacked the game together, and created all sorts of houserules for
the games that I ran – usually I create them on the fly. This was the first
time I spent building something completely from scratch that I hope to actually
magazines, or playtested, or what other sort of pseudo-industry experience. I’m
not looking for your resume so much as I just want to see where you’ve dabbled.
I have a regular Tuesday night group that we play via Hangouts and we’ve
playtested a few things for Lamentations [of the Flame Princess], I think it
was all for Lamentatons . . . no, we did also Machinations of the Space
Princess. It’s always a lot of fun doing that kind of thing.
one of those things where I’ve never actually thought of doing this in a way
that was more than me and my friends hanging out and making stuff. Coming
online was a catalyst for me.
just finished a article – but I don’t think I’ll be allowed to talk too much
about – it’ll be published in another book.
else have I done? A lot of little things. Right now the big thing that I’m
putting a lot of effort in is a zine I started and published called Randomosity.
pretty cool. It’s all full color, full professional print, and it’s more than
your average zine and I wish I’d realized that after I published it. “No, zines
are usually photocopies and all kinds of stuff.” That’s fine. I just wanted it
to be all color.
to one page and I was like “that is one of the best pieces of artwork I’ve seen
in any roleplaying publication ever.”
It was a full face lizardman or dragonman or something like that, and it just popped! And she threw this together and
graphically very well laid out. It’s very well done.
editor and she’s also one of my best staff members on ConTessa. Her name is +Sarah Richardson and she is absolutely incredible. She has donated so much time
to me that I feel guilty a lot, because we don’t get any money off it.
it’s gotten her freelance jobs, and it’s kind of one of the goals of Randomosity is to pull people out and
show them to other people who might not have otherwise seen.
was our first issue and quite a few people have actually gotten work out of
that issue – which is fantastic.
I do is I handpick the people who contribute to it and I go to them and ask
them if they would like to contribute to this particular issue. The issue has a
one word theme associated with it. The first one is “horror” because we put it
out at the end of October so it generally fit.
then the next one we’re doing is “lust” and it actually was supposed to come
out at the same time as ConTessa. But, I overestimated . . .
we’re in the final stages of layout and I think Sarah is really waiting for my
contribution which is a letter and a setting which I hope to put in there but
haven’t finished it yet.
that one features all women contributors, every contributor is a woman and that
was to align with ConTessa, a kind of nod to ConTessa, we’re going to do this
next one after “Lust” will be “Resurrection” and after that will be
“Revolution” and we do a quarterly so at the end of the four quarters we’ll put
together a book with all those in it so you get a compilation.
long time ago, and it was Red, White, and Blue, the movies . . . you could sort
of think of it as, you’re almost at the seven deadly sins but not quite.
have…role-playing is storytelling and storytelling is conflict. At the core of
most stories you got something that it revolves around, and there are those
classic seven archetypes that usually work where things go off the rails and
lust comes in or horror or whatever. Well, horror is not one of the seven
deadly sins, it’s probably what happens afterwards.
like that idea because then you can look on your shelf and say…the purpose of
it is to be inspirational more than anything, because when I ask somebody to
contribute, all I tell them is make something that applies to horror and is
something you can use in a game.
don’t give them any other directions other than how many words they get. We got
to have that.
then I let them do whatever system they want or no system. Christopher Helton,
the first one, wrote a game. He had only 5 pages and in those pages he wrote a
bringing sex into your games, so some really fantastic stuff came out of it.
only that, the art is amazing, and there are tentacles all over the place
that lust and tentacles … I’ve heard of lust and tequila … lust and tentacles,
just, seems like . . .
things that people come up with when we said “lust” is just incredible, and
there are a couple of monsters in there. I haven’t even read all of it, because
Sarah has had it for layout and she hasn’t shown it to me yet.
read some of the submissions that came in, but some of them she got, and I
haven’t gotten a chance to see yet and I’m kind of excited to see it myself.
really cool stuff. Resurrection, I planned to release around Easter, but it’ll
probably come out a little later, because Lust was supposed to be released on
Valentine’s Day. It didn’t hit the mark.
but it came out three days later?”
yeah. [laughs]. It came out after Easter, yeah. That’s when we ship.
we’ll just go right into religion as well. We’ll just get totally in trouble
actually put into the submission guidelines for Randomosity is that we like
controversial, avant garde,
off-the-cuff things that you’re not going to see in the typical book. So I hope to see something like that.
things up a little bit.
that everybody contributes, they keep the rights to their work. It doesn’t even
have to be the first publishing that we’re asking for. If somebody already
matches something they’ve already written us and they want to give it to us,
fine. And that way they can take their work and actually get it published for
pay or they can use their artwork elsewhere. Emily has these two, if you saw
them, these two images of this serial murdering queen and princess in there.
She takes those and built greeting cards on those.
which pay they’re on…Smack dab in the middle I think. That’s actually
Christopher’s thing in the middle. I had one here but I’m not sure where it is.
this one up, do you mind? This picture, right there [shows a screen shot of a
lizardman in profile]. That one, I just stopped at it and I stared at it for
about 60 seconds.
That’s not your typical staple it
through a book]
page eighteen. This one here was a little disturbing. Let’s through that up
there for a little fun. [shows screen shot of a young princess and the
decapitated head of a queen on a chopping block].
on Greeting Cards she sells.
to see ya” like a women beheading another woman with a convenient spiked mace
under the table.
found most interesting and twisted about that, is these two feet down here.[
shows another screen shot, this time of various body parts and a hacksaw with a
young woman sitting on a table] They’re almost the classic trucker mudflap babe
leg thing. That’s about as twisted as you could possibly get! Mission
actually runs the International Geek Girl pen pal club and two of them came on
and talked about it at this year’s ConTessa, which was really cool little
awesome set up they got going.
love to talk about +Wil, but I notice +Felicia Day has like five times the
number of people in her circles. She’s got like 5.5 million people in her
circles, I think Wil was pushing about 1.5 or 2 [million]. Have you reached out
to Felicia? It seems like she and your event would be made for her.
reach out to her. It’s not really hard, there is this kind of thing that women
find hard – like asking for these kind of things and I actually fall under this
stereotype really well.
get really anxious sending emails to gaming industry professionals and asking
them if they would just donate their time to use.
Felicia Day is like [looks nervous] terrifying to me even though I would love for
her to support it and be a part of it.
a part of it is thinking…I spent a long time letting the controversy stuff get
to me and this isn’t the first time it happened. It happened the first time I
announced I was going to do it, then for the first ConTessa, and it happened
for this one and none of the things that have been said are new. By the way the people who have spent a
lot of time talking about who we are and talking about what we are have talked
to me for any reason. Especially in regards anything they’re going to post so
there seems to be a lot of confusion around. It’s strange to me that if you’re
confused about something, wouldn’t you ask
the person who is responsible for it?
has. But it’s basically the same thing that comes up every year and I try to do
my best but I let it get to me too much.
last thing that happened, I don’t know what happened, but I suddenly came calm
and collected. I was not as cool and poised in real life as I force myself to
be in comments. I kept my opinion about all these things to myself for the most
part because I want ConTessa to shine on it’s on merits and I don’t want it to
be about me or my feelings – I don’t want to take away from what ConTessa
already is so I’ve been pretty quiet about things.
personal thing that I do – or specifically don’t do. I absolutely don’t put any
political opinion ever – left, right,
center – I don’t put it on my blog or the interviews . . . I just don’t do it.
It’s not that I don’t have them, but it’s just that I don’t want to talk about
them. This is my hobby and I don’t
need to get spun up about something, or not, and it’s gaming. I’ve sat down
with people from all kinds of political stripes and orientations and opinions
or whatever, and you know what? We go and kill orcs together, damn it. That’s
the point. [both laugh]
brings us all together: orc-killing.
sorry. I’m going to get us in so much trouble [Doug and Stacy are giggling]
dressed in human skin. It was the way
that they were dressed.
you know, it was . . . anyway. [laughs].
too much, and I don’t think I reached out to the amount of people I should, as
a result. They’re going to read the controversy and have negative opinions of
me as a result and I don’t want to deal with it.
that it is something that I started to do recently. I sent out three emails
recently, that have all been politely declined – which is as I expected. The
one thing I realized in gradschool – and I’m not trying to be patronizing or
anything – there was this woman who was running the food services.
the first time I ever saw her, I just stopped walking. My heart stopped. I’d
just never seen anybody who just….and I was like “wow.” You know what? Whatever,
I came up and said “Hi, I noticed you’ve been running this place for a while and
do you want to go get dinner?” And you know what? She was interested, and then
she realized I didn’t have a car, and she wasn’t interested.
And it was a real big difference between “Hey I’ll pick you up at 8” and “Hey can you
pick me up?” It just didn’t have the right thing going on, but I got over that
when I got a job.
know, if you don’t ask you don’t go to the dance.
I was reading some stuff that was inspiring me, the Vorkosigan series, or I was
rereading the Paksennarrion series, which is my favorite paladin story, ever. You finally get to see them done
right, and not be goody-two-shoes about it. Or I love the Dresden Files.
of these things have been influential to my gaming and how I game and I’d love
to talk to the authors. So I sent an email that said “Hey would you like to do
a Firing Squad interview?” and they were all busy and way famous. But I don’t
get told no . . . I can’t even have the opportunity of getting told “yes”
unless I ask.
one of those things that if something scares me then I need to do it. And I
need to do it as often as I can until it doesn’t scare me anymore. And I must
have sent hundreds of emails about things for ConTessa and I’m beginning to get
over it a little bit, but it’s rough and I haven’t really got a lot of
rejections and most people are willing to help out, and donate something and
sponsor these sorts of things. I’ve had a couple of people who I’ve wanted to
run things say no, but it’s always been “I’m too busy” or “I’ve got other
plans” or “I’ll be on vacation.”
I don’t worry about it too much.
like we’re winding down and I’ve enjoyed talking to you, and I hope you’ve
mildly enjoyed the experience.
I always give my guest the last word so is there anything you want to close
word? I don’t know.
will be a next ConTessa, I think we’re going to change the format a little bit.
The physical items and we’ve done a crowdfunding campaign for all the stuff we
had. We’ve got physical items I’m still getting in so that I can actually get
sent out again. All of the contests and all of the kind of things – the extras
we’ve been doing, I’m going to get rid of the frills, just because it takes me
and my staff a ridiculous amount of time in order to administer that kind of
stuff or put it together and get it all done and there is the fact that I have
to do the physical work, and get all the books that I’ve got to mail and I’ve
got t-shirts and I’ve got like 70 Lamentations of the Flame Princess t-shirts
that I have to find a way to give away to people. [laughs].
I’ve just got a ton of stuff to do, and I can’t keep up with this pace, and the
thing is that between the first ConTessa and the second ConTessa there is about
six months worth of time and it felt to me when I started the second ConTessa
that it had been long enough for people to have forgotten about the first one,
and so it was like starting all over again and trying to get people interested
feel like if we had a more continuous presence throughout the year – little
things here and there – that would have worked out.
we might try to do on a six-month basis. And I haven’t told my staff yet, but
I’m trying to see if we can do a ConTessa weekend, at the beginning of August?
Before GenCon? Come warm yourself up for GenCon, and we’re going to try to have
a kind of meet up at GenCon, to see how many people we can get together for
just before your call came through to start the Hangout, one of my GMs
contacted me and said “You know what would be great if we had a community for
women in gaming that was connected to ConTessa, but people could come in and
talk about that.” And I was like “That’s fantastic! Do it!” And I actually
convinced her to be a staff member.
about doing it, she’s come up with a great name and then she went on to say
“What if we did something monthly?” And she wants to do an event monthly, and
I’m all for it and we’re going to see where it goes and it’ll change format a
bit more. You’ll see some things coming up ConTessa as soon, as I tie up
Randomosity and I tie up the last ConTessa [laughs].
to think you for your time and I enjoyed talking to you.