Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sexism, misogyny, racism and bigotry in Android:Netrunner

As I write this my computer is quietly dinging at me every few seconds to let me know that new comments are appearing on a post on the Netrunner Facebook group. I started to write a long response of my own when I realized that it needed to be longer than just a few words.

The original post the person made isn't that important except to say that a commenter made a casually sexist remark and then defended it by saying that he was joking.

I love Netrunner. It's important to me. It's the first game in years that has gone from being just a game and into full fledged hobby for me. Part of what attracted me to it was its diversity. In the game, Runners come from all over the world and are often not male. Hell, they even have a 'Natural' tag (to differentiate from genetically modified, cyborg, etc.)

For all intents and purposes, I'm a straight white male. But having been an outsider in other ways for much of my life, gaming is something that I *need* to feel is inclusive. Netrunner became a beacon of maturity and thoughtfulness as well as creativity and theme and it wasn't hard for me to step into the role of a league and tournament organizer, which I've been doing for more than a year now.

I'm proud that we have plenty of people who aren't white men in our league and that we held what may have been the first Ladies Netrunner event.

That said, I've had to deal with sexism in our league on two different occasions and I'm here to say that I have absolutely zero tolerance for that shit and if you love Netrunner, you shouldn't tolerate it either.

In both cases, I had female players approach me and detail an uncomfortable situation. In both cases I asked what I could do to ensure it didn't happen again to them specifically. I also sent out a general email detailing my lack of tolerance for any kind of sexism, bigotry or other ugly behaviors.

The reason I'm writing this is because it's important that we call it out. Loudly. Call it public shaming. Call it whatever you want. It needs to be called out because it is corrosive, divisive and deadly to the community and the game. Netrunner is too important and too good to let it be dragged down by backwards, outdated thinking.

Netrunner is a game about the future and it's a game that portrays a role for all people in that future. I want to play Netrunner with everyone - straight, gay, Ugandan, Russian, female, male, cis, trans - everyone, except assholes.

So, I'm challenging all of you Netrunner players to either stand up and call this shit out...or quit playing my fucking game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Richard Marx Is Punk as F**K

I realize the title might elicit some extreme reactions, but before you completely dismiss me, hear my tale.

In the 90s, I was heavily steeped in the goth and industrial culture, crowd surfing and moshing to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and the like. In the 00s, I embraced post punk and indie sounds. But my musical evolution had a clear and distinct beginning: pop rock.

For a good chunk of the 80s I was an avid fan of Huey Lewis and the News, Bryan Adams, The Cars, Tom Petty, etc. In fact, up until 1988, I'd only been to three live shows and they were all to see Huey Lewis.

In August of '88 I was just out of high school and planning on going into the military. I was a naive little nugget and the world seemed like a very big place that I was about to be thrown out into, head first. I'd also really been enjoying Richard Marx's first self-titled album. Its first big single, "Don't Mean Nothin'" was on regular rotation in my car's cassette player, the volume cranked to the maximum my little Datsun B210 could take.  If you need a refresher, here it is:

Anyway, once I heard Mr. Marx was coming to the Ventura County Fair, I was in like Flynn. I lived in Ventura at that time and it was rare to have artists that I was interested in come up our way. I bought a pair of tickets, hoping to take a girl that I liked, but after getting the 'I like you as a friend' speech, I asked my friend Rob to go with me.

I'd been to a few fairs and I expected it to be an open, standing room only kind of situation. What we were greeted with was something that was closer to a roving evangelical revival tent; neatly arranged folding chairs with letters and numbers stenciled precisely on the back, a rope barricade separating the front row from the stage by a good twenty feet. There were would be no unruly behavior at this show, by god.

I hadn't noticed the pre-ordained seating notations on our tickets up until that point, so we took our seats near the far back on the left side, a distinctly deflated slant to our posture. We were still close enough to catch a glimpse of RM's stylishly feathered hair, but certainly not close enough to distinguish any actual expressions on his face.

He and his band came out on stage to a sold out and well-seated, well-behaved crowd. There was enthusiastic applause and a few people stood and cheered. They quickly seated themselves again when they realized that this wasn't going to be that kind of show.

Or so we thought.

Mr. Marx stepped up to the microphone with classic rock star enthusiasm. But the words that came out of his mouth were like nothing I expected and to this day, remains one of the most rock and roll things I've ever been witness to. He said something to the effect of (and I'm pretty sure I remember this almost word for word), "Hey! Good to be here. When I came out for sound check and I saw all the seating, I spoke to the management and said that I usually do the kind of show where people are on their feet and dancing. They said something about safety and regulations. But you know what? They're not up here with a microphone. I am. And I say, there's a whole lot of you and only a few guys down in front of me here. I bet that if you all get up and move forward and come through that rope, they'll get out of the way."

The security at the front of the stage did a double take. The crowd stood and cheered and moved forward like a human wave. The security got out of the way. The chairs were discarded, tipped over and forgotten. The rope was pulled down. The crowd pressed right up against that stage for the next hour to sing along to their favorite songs and rock and roll lived on for another day.

I haven't listened to Richard Marx in years. Really, decades. A few years ago, I came across his Twitter and I clicked 'follow'. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it was a sense of nostalgia, maybe it was that I was curious to see what someone like him would tweet about. He seemed smart, funny, self-aware. He seemed like a good guy. Life moved on.

Where this story ends is today. As I write this, I just got home from making an unplanned stop at a fast food restaurant. There were extenuating circumstances and I had to eat in the dining area. I'm sitting there having my chicken sandwich and through the PA I hear a voice. I didn't think about it, not for one second. There was no questioning. I just immediately knew, "That's Richard Marx." I didn't recognize the song, so I brought out my smart phone and called up Shazam. The song was "Nothing Left Behind Us," from his 2008 album, Paid Vacation.

I'm not here to tell you that I thought, "Oh my god, I love this. What have I been missing all of these years?", because that's not what went through my mind. My musical tastes have moved on in the years since that show and I'll probably not go back. 

But I smiled. I felt good. Because his voice somehow tapped into some deep part of my brain, my 18 year old psyche that was still there. It wasn't conscious at all, I was just automatically transported back to that great memory of getting out of my seat and saying, "Yeah, screw these seats!"

I'm glad Mr. Marx is still making music, still doing what he loves. And I'm glad that 18 year old me is still in there.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top 100 Songs (76-100)

Wrapping up my Top 100 favorite songs list! 76-100! (Okay, 101, but I couldn't decide between the Shatner version of Common People and the original by Pulp, so both are included!)

YouTube Playlist:

76 Cactus - David Bowie
77 Policy of Truth - Depeche Mode
78 Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
79 Planet Earth - Duran Duran
80 Straight On - Heart
81 The Killing Moon - Echo and the Bunnymen
82 Destroy Everything You Touch - Ladytron
83 Love Like Blood - Killing Joke
84 Missionary Man - Eurythmics
85 Tribulations - LCD Soundsystem
86 Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
87 The Kids From Orange County - Moving Units
88 What You Need - INXS
89 Such Great Heights - Postal Service
90 Heartbreak Beat - Psychedelic Furs
91 Lucretia - Sisters of Mercy
92 I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty
93 Attitude - Suede
94 Run To You - Bryan Adams
95 Money Changes Everything - Cyndi Lauper
96 You're No Good - Linda Ronstadt
97 True Faith - New Order
98 Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
99 Common People - William Shatner/Ben Folds
99 Common People - Pulp
100 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes

Maybe when I hit 90, I'll put out another top 100 list. ;-)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Top 100 Songs (51-75)

Continuing my list of my top 100 favorite songs! Today is 51-75.

Here's the YouTube Playlist:

And in case you don't want to listen or some get removed, here's the list:

51 Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
52 O Fortuna - Carl Orff
53 Tragedy - Bee Gees
54 Hot Hot Hot!!! - The Cure
55 New Moon On Monday - Duran Duran
56 Worked Up So Sexual - The Faint
57 Love is the Slug - Fuzzbox
58 Train - Goldfrapp
59 Damage I've Done - The Heads
60 Anyway You Want It - Journey
61 Disorder - Joy Division
62 Everybody Knows - Leonard Cohen
63 No New Tale To Tell - Love and Rockets
64 Just One Fix - Ministry
65 Age Of Consent - New Order
66 Supersonic - Oasis
67 No One Lives Forever - Oingo Boingo
68 Heaven - Psychedelic Furs
69 Tits on the Radio - Scissor Sisters
70 The Spy Who Loved Me – Carly Simon
71 Red Light - Siouxsie and the Banshees
72 This Charming Man - The Smiths
73 We Won't Break - Zoot Woman
74 20th Century Boy - T. Rex
75 Dear God - XTC

Tomorrow, I'll post 76-100

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Top 100 Songs (26-50)

Continuing my top 100 songs from yesterday, here's 26-50:

YouTube Playlist:

Here's the list in case you don't want to listen:

26 Taxman - The Beatles
27 Space Age Love Song - Flock of Seagulls
28 We Want Revolution - Covenant
29 In Shreds - The Chameleons
30 (Birds Fly) Whisper To A Scream - Icicle Works
31 The Man With The Golden Gun - Lulu
32 Wrong - Depeche Mode
33 Government Hooker - Lady Gaga
34 Pop Goes The World - Men Without Hats
35 Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson
36 Ribbons - Sisters of Mercy
37 Invisible Light - Scissor Sisters
38 Pieces of the People We Love - The Rapture
39 You're So Vain - Carly Simon
40 Ballroom Blitz - The Sweet
41 American Music - Violent Femmes
42 No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand
43 Love Cats - The Cure
44 All Women Are Bad - The Cramps
45 Misunderstanding - Genesis
46 Strict Machine - Goldfrapp
47 Regret - New Orlder
48 Sin - Nine Inch Nails
49 Your Retro Career Melted - The Faint
50 Queer - Garbage

51-75 for tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite 100 Songs (1-25)

I'm 45 and it's New Years, so time for lists, right? I thought I'd throw out a list of my favorite songs of all time. At first I thought it would be daunting. How do you categorize, quantify, sort and sift all of the amazing music out there and come up with just 100?

Well, here it is. I shot from the hip. There's no rhyme or reason. Some of these are perfect to dance to, others are nostalgic. Some are new, some are old. Some are obscure, others infamous. I don't care. I just went with it. These are songs that always make me smile, always make me sing along, always raise my pulse, make my feet move. There are plenty of other songs that could have made this list too, but they didn't. Don't read too much into it.

Also, these 100 songs are in NO ORDER whatsoever.

This is #1-25
The link straight to the YouTube playlist:

In case any of those are dead or you don't have time to listen/watch, here's the list:

1 Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
2 Glory Hallelujah - Frank Turner
3 So Whatcha Want - Beastie Boys
4 Evil Woman - Electric Light Orchestra
5 Beautiful Ones - Suede
6 Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
7 English Summer Rain - Placebo
8 Instant Karma - John Lennon
9 Ode To Joy (9th Symphony) - Beethoven
10 Everybody - Madonna
11 Head On - Jesus and Mary Chain
12 It's No Good - Depeche Mode
13 The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
14 Ghost Inside - Broken Bells
15 Don't Change - INXS
16 Ok...This is the Pops! - Tones On Tail
17 Clark Gable - Postal Service
18 You Got Lucky - Tom Petty
19 6 Underground - Sneaker Pimps
20 Must Be The Moon - !!!
21 I Didn't Mean To Turn You On - Robert Palmer
22 Controversy - Prince
23 Easy Lover - Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey
24 Wish - Nine Inch Nails
25 Heads Will Roll - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Even if none of these are to your tastes, it certainly gives you some insight into my brain.

#26-50 Tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Android: Netrunner Ladies Night Thoughts

I'm going to jump into the details of this event shortly, but I wanted to give some quick background on myself and our league.

Our Android: Netrunner league, the West Seattle Cyberpunks, is only slightly more than a year old and I've only been the league administrator for just over a year. I started playing Netrunner right around the time the league was formed, in early 2014. One of the things that drew me to the game was its view of the future, which included a beautifully diverse cast of characters. In fact, I'd just completed writing my second novel, set in a near future in which the main character had a job as a 'runner' (no relation to hacking). It was an amazing coincidence and one that pulled me into the game very quickly.

A year later, after finishing an 8 week league cycle, we decided to have a series of one off events mixed in with some casual play and learn to play events for awhile. That's when the idea for a ladies only event was born.

I've been a gamer my whole life and I've been the type of gamer who has almost always played games with my female partners. I also typically play with men who include their partners. So for me, it feels natural to game with women, whether it's a board game or an RPG. Having never played in a league setting (I didn't come from a M:TG background), it felt strange to me that so many men played A:NR, yet so few women. Especially since women are so well represented in A:NR.

Our league has had a few female players over the last year, but two that have been with us almost since the start: Hilary and Emma. Both of them are smart, fun players and I knew that as soon as I thought of the idea, that they'd be the ones to take the reins and handle this right.

Anyway, we had a total of seven ladies show the evening of the event and another three said they wanted to come but couldn't make it. We let them take the leagues main play area (we have a tournament space we regularly play in called the Thunderdome). The boys all played in the cafe.

Everything seemed to go well. We heard lots of laughing and yells over in the cafe. Someone called out, "I'm never playing against Jinteki again!" which made us all laugh.

The next day, I sent out an email to all of the ladies that came to the event and that I had contact information for and asked a few questions about their experience.

There was a mixed reaction as to whether things felt different without the boys present. Some women felt it was exactly the same, other said they did notice a difference in a positive way. No one reported a negative change.

There was a general sense that the more experienced a female gamer was, the more likely it was she experienced what Hilary referred to as 'micro-aggressions' when playing in predominantly male groups. For the most part though, most everyone seemed to think that while this was still the case in the A:NR community, it was less prevalent than in other game circles. (Just a note to fellow league admins out there - in the year that I've done this job, I've had two incidents where female players have come to me to complain. I chose to send out a blunt email that made it clear that there would be zero tolerance for any kind of harassment or discrimination. So far, so good.)

When I asked about future events, most of the women reported that while the event was fun and that they'd attend another similar event, some missed playing with familiar male players or that the level of competition was more significant than the gender of the players. I'll also note here that the ladies got along well enough that there was talk among them of organizing their own separate meetups again.

Lastly, when asked about things that might draw more women to the game, pretty much everyone reported the same thing. That is, just expose more people in general to the game and more women will be drawn to it.

I have to agree. While I think having a ladies A:NR event was a great move and we may do more of them, the best selling point to gender (and racial) diversity in the A:NR community is the game itself. I'm going to call the night a success and I highly encourage any and all female A:NR players out there to work with your local groups and get your own ladies A:NR event going. I think we can all agree, more nets must be run.