Marking a year of…changes.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of getting canned from my day job. At 1 pm this day last year, I was in tears, unsure about everything. I’d not been back one day from GX3, before I got that call to come into a conference room. Where I was given a bullshit reason & let go.  When I say BS, I mean ex-boss tried to reach back 3 years to justify her actions. If I’d been that bad an employee for that long…wouldn’t I have been gone long before that? Even if she thought she had given me so many chances, or whatever lie she told herself to justify what she did.

No one would let someone in my position screw up that long term & still have a job. Also who cans someone 10 days before xmas? But yeah, I was in tears in a cab that I shouldn’t have gotten but I wasn’t thinking clearly. Was too angry & frankly? Hurt.  It also didn’t help that I’d just got back from a trip, didn’t have a lot of extra money & due to timing? My last check was for 6 days. I had to go through a bunch of hoops with unemployment too. It took a month but finally got that going.

No lie, though I was gonna be homeless once unemployment ran out or before. Those two weeks right after we’re pretty bad.Worse than I let on in public that’s for sure. But y’all came through. People who believed in my work helped me out. Always grateful. I looked for work for a while before I realized I could try to do full time. It had become a second job anyway.

So I did the thing, and it’s worked. Somehow, it’s worked. Patreon is covering rent & a couple bills. Been very lucky to have travel paid.It’s been hard and I’ve wanted to quit so many times over the past year. So many. But I’m still here. I’ll stay here too cause I’m ornery and it’s been too much work put in to give up. Long as I can I’ll fight.

Thank you, every single one of you who’ve held me up when I’ve fallen or stumbled. Who’ve been a voice of reason when I was lost. Thanks to those who pushed against me. Can’t grow without a bit of pain or misstepping. Not perfect & I’m doing the best I can. Thanks to anyone who’s invited me to panel with them or accepted an invite from me to join a panel with me. To anyone who’s taken a pitch and published me.

Thanks to all my Patrons, those who’ve sent some much needed funds my way in the clutch. Or bought me a ko-fi. Thanks for a year of support that I would haven’t thought possible before. For tears, laughter & friendships made & lost.

Thank you. Here’s to another year. Thanks y’all, I mean it from my heart 💜💜

My Day 2 of @GaymerX aka I’m on ALL THE PANELS

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Saturday, October 1

When Fandom Ain’t Fun – A Frank Talk by QPOC 12:00 pm Panels Room B

Queer fans of color are often left out, pushed out and talked over in our chosen fandoms. A lot of times the discourse becomes more about hurt feelings than actually listening to those affected by the racism and racist actions.

(Unofficial description: SALTIEST PANEL EVER)

Panelists: Bianca Anderson, Katherine Cross, D.J Kirkland, Rokashi Edwards, and I’m moderating.

Playing With Pride 2:00 pm Panels Room B

Join us for a group discussion on coming out, finding community, creating avatars, hosting inclusive events, & more. The conversation will also feature video clips of diverse LGBTQ gamers sharing their stories from across the country.

Panelists: Matthew Baume (Moderating), D.J Kirkland, Lauren Comp, and me

Creating Inclusive Gaming Groups & Events 4:00 pm Panels Room A

Want to know how to find inclusive groups for gaming? How do you create your own gaming meet-ups? Many game groups play in public, but they’re not welcoming.

You need anti-harassment policies, a game host welcoming the new players, and relationship building with the business owner. You can do it! Our panelists will give you tips on creating safe & welcoming spaces for new players in public places.

Panelists: Joseph Carriker, Donna Prior, Jessica Price, and me

Gatekeeping and Geek Policing  5:00 pm Panels Room B

Geek policing and gate-keeping happens when someone shows interest in something of the nerdy persuasion, and “true fans” chase them away or “cred check”, especially towards marginalized groups.

You’re not a REAL geek if you don’t like Firefly” “FEMALES don’t like strategy games” “OMG WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU LOVE 4TH EDITION, IT SUCKS”. These are all examples of gatekeeping & geek policing.

Panelists: Donna Prior and Tanya DePass (moderating)

How to Twitch Safely as a POC/LGBTQIA/Female ID’d Streamer 6:00 pm Panels Room C

Streaming on Twitch can be fun, but it can also be perilous for some of us. This panel will bring you some tips and tricks such as using bots, human mods and other methods to make your experience as stress free as possible.

Panelists: Simply Undrea, D.J Kirkland, Carolyn Petit and I’m moderating

Final @PAX West schedule!

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Here’s my final panel schedule for PAX West, which is next week! EEP!

If you don’t see me running around from panel to panel, then I’ll be at the I Need Diverse Games table in the Diversity Lounge.

Diversity Lounge PAX West

As always, have a handy, 100% free guide to interacting with me in meat space at conventions. https://cypheroftyr.com/cypherinteractionguide/ 

Friday September 2nd, 12:30 pm Sasquatch Theatre

Ask the Game Masters

Tell incredible stories. Host amazing games. Strike fear in the hearts of players. Veteran game professionals Tanya DePass (I Need Diverse Games), Amanda Hamon-Kunz (Pathfinder RPG), Ryan Macklin (Dresden Files, Fate), Rodney Thompson (Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars Saga Edition), and F. Wesley Schneider (Pathfinder RPG) answer all your tabletop roleplaying game questions and share tips for taking your game to the next level.

Panelists include:

  • F. Wesley Schneider [Editor-in-Chief, Paizo Inc]
  • Amanda Hamon-Kunz [Developer, Paizo Inc]
  • Tanya DePass [Creator, I Need Diverse Games]
  • Rodney Thompson [Senior Designer, Bungie]
  • Ryan Macklin [Indie Creator, The Ryan Macklin]

 

Friday, September 2nd 4:30 pm Chipmunk Theatre

Challenging Assumptions about Diversity with Data

Gaming has a problem with being inclusive and with diversity. While industry is working on it, discussion can generate an ideological divide. We will start to move beyond this with good, hard data: demographics, how often people have unwelcoming experiences, what impacts that has, and how people have made change. We will involve the audience to check our collective assumptions and see what quantitative empirical evidence says about diversity in gaming and about how to improve inclusivity.

Panelists include:

  • Tanya DePass [Founder, INeedDiverseGames]
  • Trevor Murdock [Founder, Planeswalkers for Diversity]
  • Glenn White [Director of Marketing Infrastructure , EA Games]
  • Matt Baume [Host, Sewers of Paris Podcast]
  • Aurora Walker [Instructor, Ladies Learning Code]
  • Cherisse Miranda

 

Friday September 2nd 7:30 pm Sphinx Theatre

Get your politics out of our games!

We think of video games as an escape from political campaigns and presidential elections, but games have a long history of reflecting the world around us. Come join Aevee Bee (ZEAL), Austin Walker (Giant Bomb), Katie Williams (PC Gamer) Tanya DePass (I Need Diverse Games, Fresh Out Of Tokens), and Zach Alexander (Games and Food) as we discuss the history and future of politics in games.

Panelists include:

  • Tanya DePass [Freelance critic and diversity consultant, #INeedDiverseGames]
  • Austin Walker [Editor, Giant Bomb]
  • Aevee Bee [Editor-In-Chief, ZEAL]
  • Katie Williams [Freelance Journalist, Critic]
  • Zachary Alexander [N/A, N/A]

 

Friday, September 2nd 9:30 pm Chicken Theatre

Sexy or Stupid? The Great Video Game Sex Scene Debate – NSFW Content, 18+ PANEL

Sensual, smutty, or silly? Video game sex scenes are often one or the other… or even all three! Come join a group of game industry professionals as they dim the lights, play some smooth jazz, and offer their expert critique on a few of gaming’s more explicit moments. Then cast your vote for what’s hot and what’s not! DISCLAIMER: actual panel may not involve dim lights or smooth jazz. (Want something a bit more innocent? Check out our companion panel on romance scenes in games)
Panelists:

  • Michelle Clough [Co-Founder, Writer, Editor, IGDA Romance and Sexuality SIG]
  • Chris Avellone [Writer, Designer, Freelance]
  • AJ Glasser [n/a, Facebook]
  • Tanya DePass [Founder, Community Organizer, I Need Diverse Games]
  • Matt Baume [Writer, Filmmaker, Freelance]

 

Saturday, September 2nd 2:00 pm Hippogriff Theatre

Making and Promoting Non-Traditional Characters in Games

Games are finally starting to reflect their diverse players with more types of characters, scenarios, and approaches to gameplay. Whether it’s writing a one-eyed pansexual bull and his trans lieutenant; featuring non-white main characters; showcasing the female option in marketing; creating an entire cast caught in a web of gender, sexuality, and ability; acquiring unusual indie titles; or keeping the conversation going; it’s crucial. Hear from those who did it and how they’ll do it again.

Panelists:

  • Patrick Weekes [Lead Writer, BioWare]
  • Hilary Heskett Shapiro [Sr. Brand Manager, Bethesda Softworks]
  • Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows [Creative Director, Gorgeous Robot]
  • Arden Ripley [Writer/Developer, Date or Die]
  • Steve Gee [Senior Manager, Developer Relations, Adult Swim Games]
  • Tanya DePass [Freelance critic and diversity consultant, #INeedDiverseGames]

 

Sunday September 4th, 4:00 pm Chipmunk Theatre

Git Gud, Ally

Ever wonder how to create and play games your way and still be an awesome ally? Is this even a thing? In this panel, we discuss the awesomeness that is our gaming community and unpack what it means to make it inclusive. What are we doing well and where do we need work? We’ll look at these questions and how it benefits everyone. To follow with a #realtalk Q&A.

Panelists:

  • Tanya DePass [Freelance critic and diversity consultant, #INeedDiverseGames]
  • Kathryn Storm [Interaction Designer, Xbox]
  • Bryce Johnson [Interaction Designer, Microsoft]
  • John Porter [PhD candidate, Human Centered Design and Engineering, UW, UW]

Upcoming Convention Shenanigans…

I’m finally slowing down, a bit on the convention circuit. In a couple of days I’ll be on my way to CONvergence with GeekMelange & JesseLex for a few days of fandom, friends and tomfoolery.

If you like seeing me on panels, or hey just want to see what these are about, here’s a link to my CONvergence panel schedule.  You can follow along via twitter, @cypheroftyr and the official convention hashtag is #cvg2016

I get back for a couple days rest, then Podcast Movement! I’m going mostly because it’s in my city and I don’t have to travel far, pay for a hotel or anything like that. It’s also going to be awesome to go to a convention and not be a panelist. Excited to go and learn from folks, learn more stuff to make Fresh Out of Tokens better for y’all.

That’s it until September 2nd when I head to Seattle for PAX West; where #INeedDiverseGames will join the Diversity Lounge and (hopefully!) I’ll be on panels for  stuff besides diversity 101 chat. I get a couple weeks off, then off I go back to the west coast for GaymerX 4 in Santa Clara.

I’ve got a week or so till I head back to Cali for Big Bad Con where I’m a Special Guest and I’ll be doing some panels, and hanging out with cool folks. Super excited for a panel on the Fake Geek Girl fallacy I proposed.

That will pretty much round out 2016 for my convention attendance, and I start it all over again in 2017 with OrcaCon and my first Guest of Honor gig! ❤

So you want to describe a POC character…

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Ok, so I get asked for advice and my thoughts on a lot of things relating to diversity and representation. Lately I’ve been getting asked about the proper/authentic/least offensive way to describe or write POC characters.

There’s been a tumblr post going around about not using food as descriptors for non-white characters. Some people don’t understand why this offensive and a racist action. There’s so much to unpack in why you shouldn’t use food words as a descriptor of POC characters, that this could be a long post; but here’s trying after a disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to speak for all POC, all black people, all women. This post is informed both by my personal experiences as a US born and raised black woman who has spent a lot of time discussing, writing about, talking about race, feminism and representation. Do not take this post as your get out of fuckery free card, with the claim a black woman said X so it’s ok! I will not be happy with you at all and woe unto you if you do this and try to use my words as a pass to be wrong.

Take my words as you will, understand that I, as a marginalized person have experiences that you (privileged folks reading this) do not. This is not a time or a place for well, actually in the comments. Nor is it the time or place for countering with your one black friend said Y in response to my Z. So with all that being said, here we go.

So I often get asked about describing POC accurately, authentically and the like.  What follows is an excerpt of an inquiry, with no names attached as the net can be vicious. But I wanted an example. This is a great question, it wasn’t worded in a way that screams EDUCATE ME, (well not to me, but YMMV)

“…on the description of skin color/tone while avoiding anything that might end up being racist. For example, some sites I’ve checked have said to stay away from food related analogies (“caramel colored skin” for example) while others have said that describing it that way is fine. In the absence of using food related descriptors (unless that’s acceptable) what WOULD be acceptable? Or should you always stick to literal colors?”

So let’s break this down. First and foremost, do NOT describe people of colour with food words. Just no, not coffee, caramel, cafe au lait, chocolate, cinnamon, or other descriptors such as that. Let’s leave dusky off that list too, or tanned. We’re not tanned, sun kissed, toasted. We’re lovely, lovely shades of brown, you can use that word as a descriptor.

Why not you ask? I mean people like food right? Well, let me tell you a thing.

Well, to describe People of Color, going forward referenced as POC, emphasis on the PEOPLE part, at the least it is othering non-white characters in your narrative, and at the worst, you are fetishizing non-white characters by giving them exotic descriptors that don’t tell you anything about them besides they remind you of a favorite desert or your am cuppa.

It’s tied in to the dehumanization of people of color in media, in life and history. If you can imagine for a moment,   (assuming you are not a POC and reading this post) how would you feel if you were always described as milky, mayonnaise, mashed potato, and other kinds of food words as stand-in’s for your skin colour? You wouldn’t would you?

I know some white people get bent out of shape when described with such words, even as inoffensive as ‘mayo’. I mean mayo isn’t a great condiment, but no one has died from being called mayo-white. So consider the weight of words, the cultural ramifications tied to describing a POC as sinful as cinnamon, luscious as dark chocolate, or worse, tying food descriptors to moments of intimacy in a work.

I’ve seen too many people describe fair skinned POC (assuming they actually are writing them as a POC) as lapped up like cafe au lait, devoured like a chocolate bar, etc etc. Just stop. Additionally, it’s tired, it’s cliched and shows me you can’t play with words well enough to come up with a new way to describe people. It’s laziness, and if you as a writer can’t come up with something better, it makes me wonder about the rest of your word crafting.

Secondly, there are plenty of ways to describe POC with words like brown, dark brown, light brown, sandy brown, so many words that can be used to describe us that don’t need to be related to food, again it’s delicious but we’re not edible. We’re people, people! That would like some depth in our descriptions.  We’re not coffee brown either, considering coffee can be had from a milky white with enough extra cream to a very, very, dark black. We also don’t taste or smell like chocolate, coffee, or cinnamon. No person does, even if they work in a coffee factory with a chocolate shoppe across the way.

Third, and it might seem repetitive but this is important. Do the work, look to authors you feel have done character description well and learn from how they do it. Look up resources on writing the other, especially if you get a second or hell a third set of eyes on your work and get feedback on the descriptions. Or use Google, it’s there for a reason. It’s a SEARCH engine, so search things. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus bookmarked for your use.

That doesn’t mean use 10 dollar words and three paragraphs to lovingly attempt a non-racist description of your POC characters. A few words will always do instead of purple, flowy, overdone prose.  Lastly, ask a POC to review your work. If you don’t have any POC friends that’s another matter for a different post. But if you don’t have someone you can trust to review your work? Pay someone to do so, because this is one of those free emotional labor things we often get asked to do.

Speaking of resources, here’s a few to get you started:

10 Great Resources for Writing Cross Culturally (which has it’s own listing of good resources)

Relevant to this post: Writing with Color Tumblr: Description Guide, Part I – Food descriptions

Writing with Color tumblr: Description Guide, Part II – Describing Skin Tone

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach- Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

Writing the Other workshops – Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford Brownpaper tickets. Check their sites for up to date schedule and availability

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My @Penguicon schedule!

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April 29th, 7:00 pm – When Being ‘On’ Is what people Expect

A panel where Mark Oshiro (Mark Does Stuff) and Tanya DePass (I Need Diverse Games) speak about the performative aspects of their work, including the need to entertain while doing blind reads and reactions to media and for Tanya; while streaming on Twitch/YT Gaming.

April 30th, 3:00 pm – Creating Safer Spaces

How do we define a “safe space” in fandom and at conventions? How can we work to create safer spaces for all attendees at Penguicon and other conventions, and in our lives outside of fandom? Join a discussion with Penguicon staff (including the con chair) and our guests about how the Penguicon community can work toward greater safety, diversity and inclusivity to make this a space where all feel welcome.

April 30th, 6:00 pm – Diversity in Geek Media

The push for more diversity has become a regular topic in the world of genre media and games, from calling out instances of white-washing and queer-baiting, to protesting the inevitable and often inexplicable deaths of queer characters and characters of color. It’s an exhausting road, but is it actually leading to more diverse and inclusive media?

April 30th, 8:00 pm – Geek Girls are here to stay

Every few years it seems there’s a rash of discussion, usually shocked, that women create and consume all the things long considered the domain of men: science, technology, science fiction, comics, games and more. But women have always been there, from the earliest Worldcons to the Save Star Trek campaign, from fan fiction and fanvids, from Ada Lovelace to Shirley Ann Jackson, from Frankenstein to our awesome slate of Guests of Honor. Will we be stuck having this conversation forever?

May 1st, 11:00 am – Crowd & Alternatively funding your career

Our panelists discuss their experiences using entrepreneurship opportunities like Startup Weekend and Global Startup Battle or crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon, to supplement or make a living, or start a new project.

The full Penguicon schedule is available online, so choose sessions! Hope to see you all there!

ICYMI – I’ll be on the Geek Show – Videogames edition

A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!

…and it is VStheUNIVERSE with their hit variety show “The Geek Show!”

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Next month the VtU crew are celebrating everyone’s favorite pastime: Video Games!

Join VStheUNIVERSE as they welcome guests Tanya DePass from#INeedDiverseGames and local Robomodo studio developer Josh Tsui as they talk about the current gaming scene! VStheUNIVERSE will also be premiering a brand new video sketch, welcoming a vocal performance by Matt Payne, and giving away some great games from local developers!

As always, tickets are FREE! Show starts at 8PM but get there early to grab a seat and a drink from the bar!

Let’s see how many Bioware Hoodie changes I can pull off in one appearance!

—- VStheUNIVERSE includes:

Aaron J. Amendola
Chris Chapin
Sam Begich

—- and are joined by:

John Craig, Rachel Goffinet, Jessica Kent, & Jamie McCabe